came back to the Hub with Jack. He was quiet all the way. And when
they came down from the Plas on the pavement lift, he gave only short,
simple answers to the others when they asked if everything went ok.
“You need a drink,” Jack told him and
steered him towards his office where he poured two measures of whiskey
into the pair of crystal cut glasses he kept for occasions like this.
“I miss him already,” Alun admitted. “I
know, I’m a wuss. But I do. And…we don’t even know
for sure… Jack, what if it went wrong? He has no way of contacting
“Yes, he does,” Jack answered as he turned
to his personal archive safe. “We can’t contact him, but
he found a way to contact us – or you, anyway.” He opened
the safe and pulled out a large metal box with the Torchwood logo
on it. He brought it to the desk and put it down in front of Alun.
“I was given this to look after in 1946 when I came back to
Torchwood after the war. It was found among Lydia’s things after
she was killed. It had a note to say it was non-priority timelocked
data and that it was to be given into the custody of Captain Jack
Harkness for safekeeping.”
Alun looked at the label on the box. “Personal,
to be opened by Alun Llewelyn on November 9th, 2009.” He glanced
at Jack. “It’s Ianto’s handwriting. And ‘LC’
– Lydia countersigned it.”
“Another bit of destiny sliding into place.
Another name I knew long before I recruited you. It made the selection
process easier, anyway. I knew you were the right man for us. Anyway,
if you’d like to be alone when you open it…”
“No,” Alun replied. “Please…
I don’t think I want to be alone right now. I don’t know
what this might be… but I think I need a friend near me right
It could have been anything, from funeral ashes, the
last mortal remains of Ianto Jones, killed in action in 1940, to…
What it turned out to be, was a box full of letters.
Hundreds of them, with dates in the top left hand corner of the envelopes
which all had the Torchwood logo printed on the rectangle where the
stamp would go. They were all unstamped and all addressed to Alun
Llewelyn, c/o Torchwood, Cardiff.
All in Ianto’s handwriting.
“He wrote to me,” Alun said with a choked
voice. He looked at the dates on the envelopes. “Every day he
was away, by the look of it.”
“That’s love,” Jack said with a
reassuring smile. “Are you sure you don’t want to be alone?”
“No, stay, please,” Alun insisted. “Besides,
it’s your office.” He picked up the first letter, dated
October 18th, 1940, the day that they predicted he would arrive in
the past. He picked up a dagger shaped letter opener from the desk
and slit the top of the envelope carefully. He took out the sheet
of Torchwood headed notepaper and steadied his hands before he began
to read it.
Alun, my Husband.
I miss you already, and I’ve only been
here a few hours. The time slip went exactly as planned, obviously,
or I wouldn’t be writing this letter to you. Lydia was waiting.
She looked older, of course. Still a pretty woman who dresses down
and tries not to be noticed as a woman in a man’s job. But
I think she has more confidence and self-assurance, now. She was
so excited to see me. She talked such a lot in the car back to the
Hub. She told me how, whenever she typed a file and put her initials
on it, she thought of me, reading it in the future. Funny, that,
because whenever I have read those files, I have thought of her.
It was as if we were communicating with each other over the years.
Anyway, it is what made me think of writing to you, like this. I
can tell you everything that has happened to me in the course of
my days. You can share the experience with me. And when I get home,
we can talk about it.
Anyway, so far there isn’t much to say,
except that Torchwood is a familiar, yet unfamiliar place. It’s
a little over a year into the war, so the personnel are reduced.
Most of the younger men have gone to fight. Even some of the women
are seconded to the MOD. I am the only man over 17 and under 40
in the place. Come to that, I’m going to be a rare sight in
Cardiff itself, I think. So many of the eligible men are already
conscripted. The fact that there are so many women in Torchwood
now, compared to how it was in 1919, gives it a bit of continuity.
Most of them carried on the work they were already doing and took
over the duties of the absent men on top of their own.
I had an interview with the director as soon
as I got there. Ask Jack if he remembers Mrs Gladys Powell? There’s
a picture of her in his office, I think. She’s middle aged
with her hair in such a very severe bun it looks as if she’s
trying to give herself a facelift. She was quite decent to me. She
told me I was very welcome to join them in Torchwood operations
until it was time for me to return. She gave me ID papers, a ration
book, and of course a card designating me as in a reserved occupation
and exempt from military service. So, here I am, doing the same
job I always did, but nearly half a century before I was born.
I’m staying in a room at the same boarding
house where Lydia lives. The landlady is a widow called Mrs Bydder.
She seems to have taken a shine to me. She said she was glad to
have a man about the house, in case the Germans invade. I don’t
know what exactly she expects me to do – guard her honour
against the Hun, or something. She’s not a bad cook. The rations
are pretty sparse but she made a good, filling supper for us all.
Anyway, that’s about all for now. I’m
going to sleep now. My first full day starts tomorrow. I’m
looking forward to it.
Missing you in my arms now as I turn in to sleep.
Nos da, cariad.
Alun smiled. He looked at Jack and then showed him
the letter. Jack read it and smiled, too.
“He really loves you.”
“Yes. I’m thinking of him… in a
strange bed, alone. I hope he doesn’t regret doing this.”
He put the first letter aside, folding it carefully
back into its envelope and slit open the next one.
“Alun, husband of
My first day working for Torchwood 1940 was
very interesting, if a little disturbing. Lydia and I were called
out by the police to a strange character who was found stowed away
on a boat that came into the port. He was German, and they were
ready to arrest him, but he said he had to speak to Torchwood. We
assumed responsibility for him and brought him back to the Hub for
interrogation. If you’re interested, you’ll find the
results of the interview in the file dated October, 1940, Ref 20x3F,
Ernst Lander. But in short, Ernst told us he had fled Germany six
weeks ago, because he had a strong premonition of what was going
to happen. He said he had been a bank clerk in Dresden, and one
day, in the middle of his work, he felt as if his head was going
to explode, and hundreds of images filled his mind like a newsreel,
but of things that were yet to happen, including his own escape
from Germany. That was how he knew he had to come to Cardiff and
look for Torchwood. He had seen himself doing just that. Anyway,
Lydia took reams of shorthand notes as he described all that he
knew. He cried when he spoke of the bombing of Dresden in February,
1945. Lydia cried when he described the concentration camps, the
Final Solution. And she was absolutely astonished when he spoke
about Hitler’s suicide and the end of the war with the Allies
as victors. His visions stopped there, but it was enough. I went
to Mrs Powell, to tell her what he had said. She asked me if I could
confirm that it was all true. I am the only person on the planet,
right now, who could possibly do that. Fortunately for Ernst. Or
perhaps unfortunately. For you can guess, there was only one thing
she could do. She ordered Lydia to type up her notes and then the
transcripts and the original notebooks were sealed in the archive.
And Ernst was taken to the vault. They put him in one of the cells.
He has to remain there until the end of the war. He’s our
prisoner. Of course, he would have been interned anyway. Our cells
are no worse than being in a prison camp. But I do feel for him.
It’s a sad existence. It’s sad, too, that there is nothing
in the information he gave us that we can possibly use to help the
war effort. It would create a terrible paradox. It all has to be
buried until it is no longer relevant. Rather like poor Ernst.
Anyway, that was my first day. I expect there
will be some quieter days when I have time to miss you even more
than I have today. Lydia is a star. She keeps me company. After
supper tonight we played chess and chatted together until Mrs Bydder
reminded us that coal was on ration, too, and we had to conserve
heat and light. So, an early night for us. I’m sitting up
in bed, now, writing this letter by a stump of old candle, and then
to sleep, to dream of you.
Nos Da, Cariad.
Alun asked Jack to look up Ernst Landers, but he didn’t
“I remember the poor bastard,” he said.
“He was still there when I got back to the Hub. After the first
couple of years of the war, they let him out of the vault. He did
odd jobs about the place and everyone treated him like part of the
furniture. When it was all over, they told him he could go home. He
told them he didn’t have a home and carried on doing what he
always did. He died in the 1960s, still here in the Hub. I think he
found a sort of contentment in working down here with us. He never
went above ground again, though. And we never found out why he had
“Poor sod,” Alun agreed.
“Keep reading,” Jack told him. “You’ve
got eight months of love letters from Ianto to get through. I’ll
go fix some coffee.”
Alun nodded as he opened the next envelope and smiled
as he read the salutation at the top. They called each other husband
in private, as a sort of joke, but also as an acknowledgement of their
vows to each other. It felt good to know that Ianto thought of him
that way, even though they were so far apart.
He read through two weeks of letters while Jack was
making the coffee. They described how Cardiff coped with the Blitz,
the intense air raids on the docks and the indiscriminate bombing
of ordinary homes, ships sunk at sea, casualties of war coming home.
He wrote about the work that went on in Torchwood, including logging
sightings of UFO’s that were mistaken for German bombers on
many clear nights over Cardiff. Alun enjoyed Ianto’s description
of going up Garth Mountain on a very frosty November 1st, with Lydia
and a small group of other agents. Around midnight they were rewarded
by the arrival of a large, cigar shaped space ship that hovered over
the mountain for at least twenty minutes before flying away again.
They didn’t find out anything at all about where it came from,
or why, and the whole exercise could have been accounted a complete
waste of time, except that the Torchwood people who witnessed it found
themselves feeling extraordinarily upbeat, as if that visit from extra-terrestrial
beings had confirmed to them that, in the midst of the greyness, the
fear, the uncertainty, life was magnificent and colourful and it was
all worth fighting for.
“They needed it,” Ianto had said.
“The war is barely thirteen months old and people are already
feeling the strain. But six of us came down the mountain feeling
ready for whatever was going to happen to us next.”
“Seven shades of hell is coming to them,”
Jack said as he brought the coffee. “That spaceship –
I think it was probably a Venessian survey ship. They think of themselves
as the park rangers of the universe, checking out planets to make
sure their biological diversity is in balance. They drop in on Earth
every couple of decades to make sure we still haven’t messed
the planet up completely. They would only be a threat to us if they
decided the Human race was having too severe an effect on the rest
of life on this planet. So far, they haven’t decided we need
“Lucky us, then!” Alun observed.
Jack made an appearance of quietly carrying on with
some paperwork while Alun continued to read the letters from Ianto.
In fact, he was watching him carefully, to see if there was anything
in the letters that upset him. For a half hour, as he ploughed through
November and December of 1940, everything seemed quiet enough. Jack
smiled as widely as Alun did when he showed him a Christmas card that
Ianto had enclosed in one of the envelopes. In black ink only, on
the thinnest card possible without being classed as paper, was a small
drawing of a candle with holly wrapped around its base. Inside, Ianto
had been fulsome in his season’s greetings to his lover.
“It seemed a frivolous use of paper at a time
when everything was starting to be short,” Jack said. “But
you can’t begin to know how cards like that boosted morale for
the men at the front when they received them from their loved ones.”
Jack was talking from experience, of course. Alun
asked him if he’d got one from anyone.
“No,” he answered. “I broke off
the few emotional ties I had before I went away. Nobody worried about
me. Nobody had me in their thoughts. Nobody whispered ‘nos da,
cariad’ to an empty pillow and cried over me. And I… kept
my mind on the job. I found it easier that way. But other men carried
those cards next to their hearts in their uniform pockets. War…
is like that.”
Alun noted Jack’s heartfelt words. He had been
a soldier in peacetime, so it wasn’t quite the same for him.
But he thought he understood.
A few letters further on, Alun opened a thicker than
usual envelope and found a bundle of photographs with the folded letter.
He smiled at first as he looked at them, but increasingly the smile
was struggling. Jack gently took the photographs from him and looked
through them. His own heart flipped as he looked at pictures from
what was obviously Torchwood’s office Christmas party. They
had held it in a nice hotel, and everyone was wearing their best clothes
and making the most of a few hours respite from the war, and from
the stresses of Torchwood work. He recognised a lot of the faces,
and with an effort, could have put names to them. He certainly recognised
Lydia Childs. And it didn’t escape his notice that Ianto was
with her in every single picture. Some of them he seemed very close
to her. He began to see why Alun was worried.
“He took her to the party. Sweet.”
“He’s very friendly with her,” Alun
said. “Jack… I’m being too suspicious, aren’t
I? I mean, Lydia is the only person he knows there. And they’re
working together all the time. It’s natural that he feels close
to her. There’s nothing…”
Jack looked at a wide photograph of couples dancing.
Ianto and Lydia were clearly enjoying each other’s company.
They looked good together, even allowing that, for the time, there
was a socially unacceptable age gap between them. They were smiling
at each other.
Or they could have been smiling at a joke somebody
had just told?
Besides, Ianto would hardly be so cruel as to send
Alun photographs of himself romancing the new love of his life.
Alun read the letter that went with it. It was dated
January 1st, 1941 and in brackets, 5.am.
“Alun, my husband.
I thought of you a lot last night, as we celebrated
the New Year. Celebrated isn’t quite the word, of course.
If you think of the sort of celebrations we have in our time, fireworks,
canons, church bells, people in the streets, lights burning all
over, then you can’t begin to get your head around how it
is here. No church bells, because they are kept silent to be used
as warnings of invasion. No fireworks, no canons, no lights. Public
gatherings in the street are prohibited. We had a very small, private
celebration in Mrs Bydder’s best parlour, me and Lydia, old
Mr Potter, veteran of the last war and an ARP warden, and Charlie
Dwyer, a young Irishman who works on the docks and really ought
to be investigated. I’m pretty sure he’s an IRA agent.
Mrs Bydder will have his guts for garters if he’s up to anything
in one of her rooms. But anyway, there we all were, with a glass
of sherry and a slice of home made laverbread, watching the old
grandfather clock in the corner as the hands neared midnight. Then
we all greeted each other in the first moments of the new year and
shared our hopes for the coming months. I know you won’t mind
if I tell you that Lydia kissed me as we drank a glass of elderflower
wine Mrs Bydder opened for the occasion. Charlie Dwyer kissed me,
too. That boy likes to live dangerously. But he’s out of luck.
Lydia is an exception. I am very fond of her. But Alun, cariad,
you are in my thoughts, always. I miss you all the time. Working
here is wonderful. I am glad I took the chance. It’s an experience
I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I feel such a part
of the Torchwood team here, just as I am with Jack and Toshiko,
Gwen, Owen, Beth and you. And we are always busy, so there isn’t
time to dwell on anything. But at night, alone in bed, I ache for
you. Even now, in the early hours of this first day of 1941, when
I am so very tired, and I ought to be asleep, I’m thinking
of you. Not just the physical love, the sex we have always enjoyed,
although I may disgrace myself between Mrs Bydder’s bedsheets
if I don’t stop thinking of that. But I miss being with you,
holding you close to me. Do you remember the first time we made
love, in that narrow single bed at your farm? What an uncomfortable
night’s sleep that was. But it didn’t matter, because
I was with you. I remember your body pressed against mine, the satisfied
feel of sleeping after mutually pleasurable sex. And I couldn’t
have been happier if we were in a king sized bed. I would be so
happy now, in this lumpy old bed if you were with me.
I shall sleep now, and dream of you, my husband
and lover, and never mind the consequences for the aforementioned
Bore da, Cariad. Blwyddyn Newydd Dda.
Alun blushed deeply and Jack made a guess at the contents
of the letter even before he let him read it.
“Well,” Jack said as he gave it him back.
“That’s definitely love. He’s risking the wrath
of Mrs Bydder, masturbating over thoughts of you.”
Alun laughed. Then he became serious again.
“Jack, is it possible that Ianto could lie to
me. About him and Lydia – or even Charlie Dwyer! Could he be…”
Jack thought about that question and decided honesty
was the only possible answer.
“He’s lied to me,” he admitted.
“He deceived me for more than a year. He asked for the job here,
he practically offered his body to me to get it. Then backed off like
a cold fish once he was in the door. It was only when Lisa went on
the rampage, trying to upgrade us all, that I realised what it was
all about. He needed Torchwood to try to save her. That was a pretty
big lie, and it had me taken in. It took a while to trust him fully
again. But as far as I know, he has never told even a white lie to
me since. And I don’t believe he would ever lie to you. That
letter is genuine. He’s not having sex with Lydia. And as for
Charlie Dwyer, don’t give him a passing thought. I know his
type. Ianto wouldn’t touch him with a ten foot pole.”
Alun was reassured by Jack’s words. He knew
all about Lisa, of course. Ianto had told that painful story to him
quite early on in their relationship. He had told him about how he
had deceived Jack, saying that he had not felt guilty about it to
begin with, because he was so angry about the way Torchwood had abandoned
Lisa to her fate, and felt that they owed her. Later, when he came
to know Jack and the others, he did feel conflicted, and in many ways
it was a relief when she was killed. He was able to make a fresh start
with them all.
Ianto could lie, but it didn’t come natural
Alun went on reading. January of 1941 saw increased
air raids on Britain, of course. Ianto described many weary nights
in the Anderson shelter in Mrs Bydder’s back garden, everyone
cold and scared. Nobody sang, like the films always depicted them.
They were too dispirited for that. They huddled together for warmth
and hoped that the bombs would fall anywhere but on them. Ianto admitted
in his letters that he really was genuinely afraid of dying that way.
he wrote one night.
“The bay is being
hammered tonight. We can hear the high explosives going off even
here, a quarter of a mile inland from the water. There are three
big freighters in dock just now, taking on coal to be transported
down to Portsmouth, Southampton, Dover, where the troopships are
always going out to Europe. If they hit even one of those, it is
a huge blow for the war effort. Lydia has been praying for our comrades
working overnight in the Hub. If there is a direct hit, it could
be breached. In our time, of course, the Hub is built to outride
a nuclear strike. But that all came in the 1950s. Now there’s
just a few feet of concrete above their heads. Of course, she knows
it won’t happen. Because I’ve told her about our 2009
Hub, and we know it was never seriously damaged, apart from losing
all the windows in the shop front on the quay a couple of times.
But when the bombs are dropping she can’t think of it that
logically. And I can’t help remembering that Lydia IS going
to die in an air raid not long after I’ve come home. I keep
thinking of her, cold and frightened as she is now. I can feel her
shaking. She’s sitting on the bench beside me, fighting off
sleep, because she says she doesn’t want to die and not know
about it, and she’s shaking with fear. That’s part of
the reason why my handwriting is so bad. Along with the bad light
from the one little stump of candle Mrs Bydder allowed because none
of us likes to be in the shelter in the pitch dark. She’s
not a coward. None of them are, but it’s impossible not to
feel a bit scared.
Mr Potter and Mrs Bydder are chapel goers. They’re
saying the Lords’ Prayer just now. Charlie is Catholic. He’s
fingering a rosary and saying the Hail Mary over and over. The sound
of the beads is a sort of rhythm to both sets of prayers. Lydia
just whispered to me, wondering if God can hear them over the roar
of the bombs outside. I told her my mam says God hears us everywhere.
That comforted her. I wish it comforted me. I have always put my
faith in my friends. I suppose I can take comfort in the thought
that Jack is up there somewhere, in one of the fighter planes that
are trying to stop the bombers getting through. He won’t let
Nos da, Cariad. Until tomorrow night.”
Jack was surprised by that last bit. He was touched
by Ianto’s thoughts for him. He probably had been up in the
sky that night, in dogfights with the Luftwaffe. It was strange to
think that there was, after all, somebody down there on the ground
who was thinking of him in that way.
Beth knocked on the door and came in with two fragrant
pizza boxes. Jack took them from her and she exited again. Alun looked
up at the clock and saw that it was eight o’clock in the evening.
“Is everyone still here?” he asked.
“Yes. None of them have any plans to be anywhere
else. We’re all here for you and Ianto. Toshiko and Gwen are
both watching the rift second by second, to be sure there are no re-entry
problems. Owen’s preparing the medical room – just in
case. He didn’t say what he’s expecting to be the case,
but he’s ready. Even Beth is on standby to make as much coffee
as Ianto can drink when he gets back. We’re all here, with you,
until the morning.”
“Thanks,” Alun said as he ate his pizza
and read the next batch of letters. Most of them were written in the
Anderson shelter, or occasionally on the late shift in the Hub, where
even Ianto felt the sense of terror as bombs dropped on the docklands
above and around them.
There were lighter moments, too. Alun put aside his
pizza for a moment as he read about Mrs Bydder knocking on Ianto’s
door late at night, bringing him plates full of baked potato and gravy,
or a mountain of potted meat sandwiches.
“It’s ok, she’s not trying
to seduce me with food,” Ianto joked. “She thinks I’m
looking too thin. She’s actually worried that I’m not
getting enough nutrition for a working man. It’s just me,
you understand. She’s not cooking extra rations for anyone
else. I think I’m her favourite. If you were here, Alun, I
might have competition, of course. She’d be all over you the
way my mam is. Anyway, the extra food is welcome. But I think I’m
only thin because I’m getting lots more exercise than usual.
I’m too used to driving everywhere. People here either walk
There was a more serious anecdote a few days later.
“Bad time here, Cariad,”
“Charlie Dwyer got
killed last night. He wasn’t in the house when the air raid
sounded at 2 am this morning. Mrs Bydder was really fretful about
him. As soon as the All Clear sounded I went out to look for him.
He was only a street away, o4utside what was left of a school. He
was just lying there. To look at him, there wasn’t a mark
on him. But he’d been caught in the blast. His internal organs
were smashed to pulp. Mrs Bydder was really upset. She kept on saying
she should have been kinder to him. She was always a little cool
about him being Irish, because they’re neutral, of course.
In the morning, Lydia and I went to his room to pack up his belongings.
I thought we should do it just in case he was in the IRA and had
a box of dynamite under the bed. As it happens, he had something
far stranger. I wonder what Mrs Bydder would think if she knew that
Charlie wasn’t Irish at all, but was a gap year student from
the Planet Versallia in the Orion sector, visiting Earth to study
our society. We brought all his stuff to the Hub. Mrs Powell gave
me and Lydia a dressing down for not spotting an alien living in
the same house as us. The techie bods all got excited about his
translation devices. I think some of the research Tosh does into
alien languages is actually based on the notes from examining his
stuff. I couldn’t think of anything but poor Charlie. He came
here to learn about another culture and got killed by it. And nobody
even knows how to tell his family that he’s dead.
When I finished feeling sorry for Charlie, I
had a bit of a low point, feeling sorry for myself. I got to thinking
how easily I could die in the same way, here in 1941. And who would
tell you and my mam that I was gone? I suppose a message could be
left for Jack to find. I know he’d be kind to you. But the
thought of you, grieving for me, makes me feel a bit sad tonight.
It makes me miss you even more than ever.”
“He’ll be ok,” Jack assured Alun.
“The war did that to us all from time to time. Even I got moments
like that. What he needs is something to take his mind off his own
And he got it. Jack was as interested as Alun in Ianto’s
description over several letters of the alien phenomena that occupied
the Torchwood team in the spring of 1941.
“Weevils,” he wrote. “This
seems to be the earliest recorded outbreak of them. So I think this
is the first time they came through the rift. The staff here were
surprised when they took possession of three bodies. They had been
shot in the vicinity of the Naval docks early in the morning. The
techies found traces of rift energy on them, so we think they had
only just arrived. Dr Quinn autopsied them and drew some conclusions
about their anatomy, but there wasn’t much else he could do.
Then, later in the day we got one alive. The police called us out.
It had killed an ARP warden down by the canal - at the back of where
the Millennium Stadium is now. Weevil hunting with this lot isn’t
quite as much fun as it used to be with Jack. You can tell him that.
But, anyway, we got it back to the hub and put it in the vaults.
Well away from poor Ernst, of course. He doesn’t deserve that.
I’m a bit worried about what they intend to do with it, though.
I have a suspicion Mrs Powell might say it has to be killed once
we’ve studied it. I don’t like that idea.”
“They had no choice,” Jack said. “It
costs us a fortune in raw meat to feed our resident weevil population.
They couldn’t have done it in wartime. And they couldn’t
let it go free. Does he say anything about the research? Do they have
anything useful about when and where they came here? It might help
us work out Weevil migration patterns.”
“Here,” Alun said, passing him another
of the punched computer data cards. “He says Tosh should enjoy
sorting this out.”
Weevils took up a lot of Torchwood 1941’s
attention during the next couple of weeks. Ianto wrote about them
in almost every letter. Apart from the problems of catching and
incarcerating them, they were also the centre of a controversy that
split opinion in the 1941 Hub.
“Dr Quinn wrote a
paper in which he theorised that Weevils come from the far future
and that they are humanity devolved into raw aggression and basic
primal instincts. He pointed to the basically Human anatomy, the
shape and length of the limbs, the shape of the thorax, and even
their reproductive organs. I know Owen considered the possibility,
once. Though he dismissed it when he examined their actual DNA.
But Dr Quinn doesn’t have that kind of technology and he is
quite convinced that he is right. And when you look at the world
right now, in 1941, and all the violence we’re getting inured
to, it is a convincing enough argument. But it’s being bitterly
opposed on what would seem to us, in 2009, as the most extraordinary
grounds. At least half of the staff here at Torchwood don’t
believe in evolutionary theory. They don’t accept that man
ascended from the Ape, let alone that he could descend into Weevil.
They believe that mankind is the perfect state of being that God
created in His own image and the very thought is anathema. Mrs Powell
has come down on the Creationist side, surprisingly. I actually
think she is doing that because she wouldn’t feel right about
euthanizing them if she thought they were in any way Human. But
others would rather accept that they come from another dimension
in time and space than from our own future. Lydia is one of them.
We actually argued about it walking home tonight. She was in tears
about it. I felt terrible. Especially since I don’t think
Dr Quinn is right, anyway. But I DO believe in evolution and I am
afraid I rather implied she was stupid not to. That was cruel of
me, and I tried to make it up. We at least agreed not to talk about
it in the boarding house. Not that I would, anyway. Mrs Bydder would
probably send me to my room without pudding if I discussed Darwinism
over her table.
Lydia and I made it up, later. Mrs Bydder had
just been to my door with a huge plate of pressed tongue sandwiches
when Lydia knocked and I let her in. We sat on my bed and shared
the sandwiches and talked together and put all the bad feeling behind
us. She kissed me very sweetly before she went back to her room.
Don’t be jealous, Alun, if I tell you I rather enjoyed it.
Lydia is a fine woman. I would be lost here without her. And I think
I want to kiss her. She has had rather a lonely life, and I can’t
help remembering that she is going to die later this year. I want
to be able to show her a little affection. Don’t worry, gwr.
I shall never do anything that compromises the vows we make to each
other. But I hope you won’t mind if I give a few of the kisses
I can’t give to you to poor Lydia.”
Alun read that paragraph through several times. Jack
did, too. They both agreed that Ianto was not being entirely sensible.
“She comes from a time when our kind of relationships
are incomprehensible,” Jack pointed out. “She can’t
conceive of you and Ianto as married. So he is single, available,
in her mind. He needs to be careful that his affection isn’t
misinterpreted. He could hurt her, and himself… and you…
if this backfires.”
Alun nodded glumly and hoped Ianto knew what he was
Weevils continued to dominate the next few letters. They seemed
to be arriving in Cardiff in increasing numbers. Jack made notes
on the influx to share with Toshiko. Both he and Alun, though, were
disturbed by the conclusion of the 1941 Weevil ‘season’.
“It was nothing to do with us,”
Ianto wrote. “Torchwood, I mean. Mrs Powell was as horrified
as the rest of us, even though she had ordered the killing of the
individuals in our vaults. It was the civil authorities, the police
and ARP, who set about herding every Weevil they could find towards
the docks. They shot those that retaliated or wouldn’t be
shifted. The rest they put into a warehouse and threw mustard gas
canisters in. God Almighty, when we got there, when we went in there,
it was like the images we’ve seen of Hitler’s death
camps. That was my first thought. It was mass extermination, for
little better motive than those who are killing Jews the same way
right now in Europe. It was terrible. Dr Quinn called it murder.
He was outraged. So was Mrs Powell. She spent hours on the phone
arguing with the authorities who ordered it, but it was too late
for the Weevils. I know they were dangerous to the public, but it
was still a sickening way to deal with them.”
“We need more coffee,” Jack said quietly.
He looked out of the office and Beth at once ran to fetch some. Alun
glanced at the clock. Ten o’clock. Ianto was due back at six
o’clock tomorrow morning. Eight hours. He looked at the pile
of letters left to be read. Another three months of them. Ianto hadn’t
missed a single day. Funny to think that it was just one long night
for him, but eight months for Ianto, lived one day after the other.
Reading the letters in order like this, he actually felt as if he
was living through each day with him. He had travelled the emotional
roller coaster with him, feeling his fear, his joys, feeling the twinge
of jealousy over his close relationship with Lydia, his shock and
disgust at the Weevil incident.
It was getting to midnight by the time he had slowly
read through another month of Ianto’s letters. Life seemed to
settle into a pattern of air raids and more UFO sightings, food getting
scarce, and Mrs Bydder finding enough of it to give Ianto his regular
late supper. He wrote about going to the cinema with Lydia on Friday
nights, sometimes interrupted by air raids, sometimes warm and comfortable.
Alun noted that most of the films they saw were ones he and Ianto
had seen in the old retro cinema behind St. Mary’s street, or
cuddled up on the sofa with their classic DVD collection, and he felt
more than a twang of envy for Lydia, sitting with him in the old Electro
in its glory days.
Then he came to a letter that froze his heart.
“Alun, mau gwyr.
Something has happened that makes it doubtful
that I will be able to come home. It is devastating news. I have
been thinking more and more often now of the end of my time here
and getting back to you, but now, all is uncertain.”
“You know, of course,
that we tried this experiment based on research done by the Torchwood
rift expert here in the 1940s, Gilbert Hardinge. He made the first
successful time slip in the summer of 1939, going into the rift
on July 28th, and emerging unscathed on September 1st, his body
being unaware of the intervening passage of time. That was when
they calculated that the two fixed points in 1940 and 1941, connecting
to 2009 would allow somebody to come back here and then return.
And of course, I jumped at the chance of such an interesting experience.
But there was something we didn’t know.
The effects of repeated time slips on the Human body. Alun, Hardinge
did two more time slips this year. The latest one sent him forward
from March 28th to today – May 5th. I was there at the rendezvous
point, with others from the team. He came through as usual, but
immediately collapsed and died. Doctor Quinn performed a detailed
autopsy and concluded that his death was as a result of repeated
exposure to the rift. Mrs Powell has ordered that all further Human
experiments into time slip travel are to be abandoned, with the
single exception of sending me home.
But, the thing is, Doctor Quinn reckons it could
be dangerous for me to make the return journey. He has calculated
that two such journeys are safe, but a third time is fatal. Hardinge’s
body was affected on his third time slip journey. I thought I was
all right, having only done it the once, but Doctor Quinn pointed
out that the technology that accidentally brought us both to 1919
was very probably something based on the same principle, and therefore
my body has already been subjected to it twice. A third trip could
Mrs Powell had a long talk with me about my
options. There are two, of course. And both are cruel ones. I can
stay here, working with Torchwood in the 1940s, and make whatever
life I can after the war. Or I can risk my life trying to come home
to you. She told me she would not stand in my way, whichever decision
I make. Even one that sounds like suicide. She said she would support
me if I choose to try.
Either way, it is hard for you, cariad. If I
don’t come back, you will have to consider me dead to you,
just as if I had been caught in an air raid like poor Charlie. You’ll
have to find a way of breaking it to my mother, and grieve for me
in your own way. If I do take the risk, if I am as badly affected
as Hardinge was, I would just about have time for one kiss in your
arms before it was over.
I don’t know what to do. I don’t
want to die. But I don’t know if I really want to live here.
It has been an interesting experience, but I never considered staying
here for good. Alun, I would be in my 90s before I could hope to
see you again, even if I lived that long.
I am sorry to bring such bad news to you. But
you have to know the truth. I have missed you every night I have
been here. But tonight, knowing I might never see you again, the
feeling is like a physical blow to my heart. Even my dreams won’t
comfort me tonight.”
Jack knew there was something very wrong just from
the expression on Alun’s face. He came around the desk and sat
on the edge of it, holding Alun’s trembling hand as he read
the letter for himself.
“Shit,” he said. “Shit, shit, shit.”
“Jack,” Alun managed to whisper in a choked
voice. “Have we lost him?”
The ‘we’ was not lost on Jack. Alun always
acknowledged that Jack still cared for Ianto even though their physical
relationship was long since over. This news cut him deep, too. The
more so because he had given Ianto the go ahead to try the experiment.
“If…” Jack looked at the remaining
envelopes in the box. There were only about two weeks of them. The
last was dated on the day Ianto was due to return through the time
“He must have decided to try,” Jack said.
“If he had stayed, there would be more letters. He would have
continued to write to you, I am sure.”
“We don’t know. We won’t know for
another…” Jack glanced at his watch. It was midnight.
Another six hours. “Keep reading. There may be something in
his letters that could help. Something we can use…”
“To save his life?”
“I’m going to talk to Toshiko,”
Jack said. “She might think of something. She knows more about
the rift than anyone.”
Alun nodded and waited until Jack had gone out of
the room before he took the next envelope. He opened it and noted
that it was dated the day after the previous one, but with a time
of 5 am – only a few hours after he had written his bed time
It’s just past dawn here. Daylight. I
haven’t slept much, even though this was a rare air raid free
night. I’m sitting by the window looking out on Mrs Bydder’s
back garden, the dig for victory vegetable patch and the Anderson
shelter. Lydia is sleeping on my bed. Alun, first let me assure
you nothing has happened between us this night. Nothing of a sexual
nature, anyway. She came into my room a little after midnight. I
wasn’t asleep. I was hurting too much for that. I felt her
slip into the bed beside me. She said she wanted to comfort me.
And she did. It was a comfort to feel her close to me. But if she
expected anything more, I couldn’t. She promised to stay beside
me, and she did. She asked me if I would be happy to stay in this
time if I was with her. With her, in the sense of in a relationship,
she meant. She said she understood how much I loved you, even though
the nature of that love was strange to her. And she knew I couldn’t
forget you. But she would try to make me happy. Oh, Alun, answering
her was absolutely heartbreaking. I said no, of course. I had to.
Not because I love you, though I do, or because I don’t love
her. I know you understand, cariad, that there is a kind of love
between us. And what she was suggesting was a sweet idea. It really
would have made not being with you bearable. But I said no because
I know we have no future such as she imagined it. Lydia is going
to die only a month after I am supposed to return to you. I couldn’t
bear that. I can’t stay here without you and without her,
either. I have to risk coming home to you. Because it is the only
thing I can do.
So, I’m going to talk to Mrs Powell later,
and Doctor Quinn, and we’re going to prepare for my return
in two weeks time. I’m telling you so that you know. So that
you’ll be prepared.”
Nos Bore, Cariad.
Alun bit back his tears as he re-read this letter.
It was the most bittersweet yet. Ianto loved him and wanted to come
home to him. He would rather die trying to reach him than stay in
a loveless world without either of the people who he cared for. A
few seconds in his arms, after risking the time slip, was better than
the month he could have been with Lydia before losing her.
He swallowed hard and reached for the next envelope.
“Alun, husband, this
“You know, of course,
that Torchwood in the past only had three live cryogenic chambers,
for keeping a living Human in suspended animation. The others were
for cadavers to be kept for further research. And you know that
all three of the chambers are occupied right now in 1941. Michael
is in one of them, of course. And the other two are being used by
me and you in our attempt to get back to 2009 from 1919. Otherwise,
of course, there would be no problem. I could sleep until I am with
“Anyway, there is
one thing we can do. Doctor Quinn has put Gilbert Hardinge’s
body in the cryostore, along with the organs and tissue samples
he took for autopsy. Get Owen to look at him, and Doctor Quinn’s
notes. You’ll find them in the archive. Medical science in
our day is far more advanced than it is now. Owen may find the solution
where Doctor Quinn couldn’t. I know there isn’t much
time. Perhaps only a few hours. But I trust Owen. He’s a good
doctor. The best. He’s my hope now.”
Lydia remains my rock, as always. I think we
are closer now after last night. I intend to make these remaining
days before I return special for her. Cardiff in the Blitz is not
exactly the most romantic spot, but I want to spend as much time
with her as possible. When I get back, I intend to do the same with
you. Do you think Jack would give us a bit of compassionate leave?”
Alun ran out of the office, yelling for Owen, who
charged up the steps from his medical room. Jack and Gwen came running,
“There’s a body in the deep freeze,”
he said, breathlessly. “Hardinge… the one who… Owen…
it’s Ianto’s only chance. I’m depending on you…”
“Depending on me for what?” Owen asked,
trying to decipher Alun’s largely incomprehensible babble. He
tried again, but he still wasn’t making any sense.
“Pull yourself together, Lieutenant,”
Jack said in a commanding manner that surprised everyone. “Is
that any way to present a verbal communication? Take a deep breathe
and then explain yourself calmly, clearly and coherently.”
Alun did just that. Owen understood now. But he reminded
Alun that it would take at least thirty minutes to fully defrost the
cadaver before he could start to do anything. And even then there
were no promises. There wasn’t a lot of time. It was nearly
one o’clock. Five hours until the rift opened for Ianto to return.
“I’ll do my best,” Owen promised
and turned to get on with it. Gwen dashed to the archive to find the
medical file. Jack put his hand on Alun’s shoulder soothingly,
before he abandoned any pretence of being calm and objective and hugged
“There’s reason to hope,” he said.
“As long as we have that…”
They both sat on the sofa in the office and read the
last few letters together. Most of them were lighter in tone. Now
the decision was made, Ianto was determined not to waver, and not
to dwell upon it too much. He described, instead, his efforts to give
Lydia a few pleasant memories. He took her to the cinema and theatre,
afternoons in the park, tea in the ABC restaurant. On the last weekend,
he borrowed Mrs Powell’s car and drove to Porthcawl, for what
might be called a romantic weekend in any other circumstances. They
were in separate rooms, of course.
Alun looked at Jack and bit his lip thoughtfully.
“A couple of hours ago, my worst fear was that
he was going to be unfaithful to me with Lydia. Now, I almost wish
he would be. They both would be comforted by it.”
Jack nodded. He knew what Alun meant. But the weekend
remained platonic. Ianto sat up in his hotel room alone, writing his
love letters to Alun by lamplight with the blackout curtain fixed
The very last night he wasn’t in bed at all
when he wrote. He was sitting up on Garth Mountain under the awning
of a small tent he had erected just to keep the wind off them. He
and Lydia had walked up to the summit to watch the sun go down over
Cardiff bay and to wait for it to rise again. In the meantime they
witnessed another cruel air raid on their city and cried together
as they watched fires burn in what they knew to be residential areas.
A few hours after the skies cleared of German bombers, as the fires
still raged below, they watched a meteor shower that reminded them
both that there were other things in the sky than the Luftwaffe.
Alun put down Ianto’s description of their night’s
vigil and picked up the very last letter. He held it in his hands
and didn’t open it just yet. He, too, had a vigil to keep. He
pressed the envelope to his heart and held it. Jack slipped his arm
around Alun’s shoulders and said nothing. There was nothing
to say. They both sat quietly as the hours ticked by. Beth brought
coffee in, but it went cold. They neither of them could have drunk
Finally, as the last hour approached, Alun slit open
the final letter and read it.
Alun, my dear husband.
I’m here in the Hub, waiting. Lydia is
with me, of course. Everyone else is trying to look busy, trying
not to think about what might happen. I know they’re all worried
about me. They have been my friends and colleagues for eight months
and they care. Most of them are convinced that I’m going to
my death. Maybe I am. I still hope that Owen has found something
that might help. I hope that I am coming home to you. I want to
Anyway, there is just an hour and a half to
go. I’ve settled all my affairs here. Mrs Bydder thinks I
am going on some kind of SOE mission. Lydia as much as hinted it
to her. She thinks her favourite lodger is going to be a war hero.
She packed what looked like a suitcase of sandwiches for the journey.
I shared them with everyone at the Hub. We don’t waste food
here. I can’t eat anything. All I can think of is going through
the time slip. Going home to you, either to live, or to die, but
to be with you. I’m trying to be optimistic. I’m thinking
of you waiting, hugging you, kissing you, everything back to normal.
But then the dread comes over me. I think of dying in your arms.
I don’t know why, but I’ve got that bloody Tom Jones
song stuck in my head, Green, Green Grass of Home. The one about
the man dreaming of going home, only to wake on the morning of his
execution. That’s how I feel now. Only I don’t know
which is the dream and which the reality.
If all is well, then this letter won’t
be necessary. Because I can tell you all I feel. But if it goes
wrong, then I want to tell you, Alun, how much I love you. The best
day of my life was our wedding. The second best was the day we first
became lovers. And every day since has been wonderful. I love you.
Tell my mam I love her, too. And Jack. Tell him I have never stopped
caring about him, even if you’re the one I wear a wedding
ring for. He’ll try to be cool and hide his feelings, being
the strong one for everyone else. Don’t let him. Owen, Gwen,
Beth, give them my love. Toshiko and little Etsu, hug them both
for me. Let them know I’m thinking of them right now. But
mostly, Alun, I’m thinking of you, my husband.
An hour to go, and we will know. Either way.
Nos da, cariad. Wait for me.
An hour. Alun looked up at the clock. There was an
hour here, too. He put down the last letter on top of the others.
He hadn’t even noticed, but Beth had neatly collected them up
into the box again.
He stood up. Jack stood with him. Ianto was wrong
about one thing. He wasn’t holding it in. His sapphire eyes
were glassy with tears. They hugged again, wiping each other’s
As they did so, the office door crashed open. Owen
was there. He held up a phial of blood.
“Hardinge died of renal failure,” he said.
“Every single mineral in the blood that the kidneys are supposed
to filter - sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, hydrogen ions -
was double or triple the accepted rate. His kidneys packed in.”
“Ianto…” Alun gasped.
“Ianto will probably be the same. I think the
repeated trips through the time slip cause the build up. But he might
be ok. Jack, we have an hour. If you can pull the tightest strings
you ever pulled in your life, if you can really prove that Torchwood
has power, and get an ambulance with a mobile dialysis machine to
ground zero, we can save him.”
It was three hours later. Thanks to Jack’s string pulling the
only mobile dialysis machine in South Wales had been on stand by when
Ianto came through the time slip. Alun had not been able to hug him,
after all. Jack held him back while Owen and the paramedics took control.
Ianto’s treatment began in the back of the ambulance and continued
when they reached the hospital. It would continue for several hours
more, but the prognosis was good.
Alun watched as Ianto opened his eyes and looked up
at him. He smiled weakly.
“Yes. Though you gave us a bit of a scare for
a while.” Alun leaned forward and kissed him.
“Is everyone else ok?”
“Course they are. Owen and Jack are lurking
outside the door. Tosh is there, too, and Etsu, but they’d both
fallen asleep last time I looked. They were up all night. Beth and
Gwen have gone to pick up your mother.”
“They’ve told her you’re a bit unwell.
You said you wanted to see her.”
“Yes,” Ianto answered. “Oh, God,
yes. I… want to see her. I want to see Jack and Owen in a minute.
But right now, I just need you. Alun....”
“I’m here, cariad. But you’re still
sick. Keep still and quiet and don’t pull any of those tubes
in your arm.”
Ianto raised his hand a few inches, despite the dialysis tubes still
cleaning his blood and the wires monitoring his heart rate and blood
pressure. He noticed his rings were missing. He had worn them all
the time he was away, and now they were gone.
“Standard hospital procedure,” Alun said.
“Removing tight jewellery. I’ve got them safe. Jack’s
got his wristwatch back.”
“Put them back,” Ianto said to him. Alun
nodded and found the rings in his pocket. He placed one, then the
other on his lover’s finger and kissed his hand before leaning
over, carefully avoiding all the wires and tubes. He kissed him on
the mouth. Those monitors recorded significant increases, but nothing
“Nos bore, Cariad,” Alun whispered. “Welcome