Alun 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 us.”

“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 now.”

It could have been anything, from funeral ashes, the last mortal remains of Ianto Jones, killed in action in 1940, to… well, anything.

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 mine,

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 have to.

“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 those premonitions.”

“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 culling.”

“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,

“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 bedsheets.

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 to him.

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.

“Alun, Cariad,” 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 me down.

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 or cycle.”

There was a more serious anecdote a few days later.

“Bad time here, Cariad,” he wrote.

“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 problems.”

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 doing.

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 kill me.

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 slip.

“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 letter.

Alun, Husband,

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 is important.”

“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 you again.”

“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, too.

“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 him tightly.

“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 down.

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 it.

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 live.

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 tears away.

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.

“I’m alive?”

“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.”

“My 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 life threatening.

“Nos bore, Cariad,” Alun whispered. “Welcome back.”

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