Rating: If you're old enough to watch Torchwood, you're old enough to read this (Teen)
Summary: Sometimes Ianto forgot he was in Torchwood Three now. Sequel to We Don't Ask, meta about Retcon.
To: Ianto, Jack
Subject: INSTANT MESSENGER TRANSCRIPT
Date: Wednesday 29th March 2008
JACK: You retconned Nikki.
JACK: She didn't want to go back to hoping in vain.
IANTO: She won't. Jonah died. Funeral on Monday, probably.
IANTO: She'll mourn and move on with her life.
JACK: Is that why there's a corpse defrosting down there?
IANTO: Lot of paper trail to manufacture by morning.
JACK: Come up here.
Jack had the whisky and two glasses out when Ianto arrived, so at least he wasn't being called on the carpet for following standard procedure. He'd already been yelled at for giving Gwen the location of Flat Holm, if only briefly and half-heartedly. He hoped whatever it was wouldn't take too long; he wanted to get some sleep before sending the body to the funeral home, but he needed a death certificate, police reports--Gwen's friend Andy would be a good author for the reports, Ianto had his signature on file and he already knew of Torchwood's involvement--and the DNA profile. Falsifying documents was an art form, not something to be practiced while rushed or sleep deprived.
He waited for Jack to speak first, but Jack only poured Ianto a finger or two of whisky, with a glass of water for himself, waving Ianto to a seat. Ianto sipped, waiting. Jack wasn't good at silence.
"The twenty-first century is when it all changes," Jack said at last. His voice was quiet, not angry. Contemplative. "People will have to learn about us, about aliens. How do we know when it's time to stop hiding the truth from people for their own good?"
"When it stops working," Ianto said easily. Jack had spent too much time around Gwen. Leaving Rhys with his memories made sense, if not good policy, but Nikki was a different story. At least he hadn't hesitated at Gwen's wedding.
"Gwen would call that excessively cynical," Jack said.
Sometimes he forgot he was in Torchwood Three now. Torchwood Three: too busy with the Rift to read the bleeding reports. "You told me once that you'd Retcon and fire me if I mentioned Torchwood One," he said, knowing that Jack wouldn't, not now and probably not then.
Jack gave him a look, puzzled but amused. "That was a long time ago." Two years, not even, but it felt like a lifetime.
Ianto smirked. "I wasn't aware rules came with sell-by dates."
"They all do. Or should." Jack grinned, leaned back in his chair. "One planet I was on had all their laws expire ten years after they passed. Kept the government busy and out of trouble renewing them. Major holiday when the law against murder came up for renewal--people had parties in the street, made lists of people they planned to kill if it lapsed, sent friendly little death notes to each other--great fun. The senators drew lots to see who got to argue against it, but it always passed on the second vote."
Jack was full of bullshit, as always. "Retcon," Ianto said in his best lecturing tone, "only really works if the recipient wants it to. On some level at least." The look of surprise on Jack's face was classic. "It works, but it doesn't last. If I had given you Retcon after your birthday last week you would have remembered again within two days."
"Two days." Jack leered cheerfully. His birthday, like his age, was a moveable feast, occurring an average of once every two months. He claimed that he was born on a world with a short year, but Ianto disbelieved everything he said about his past on general principles.
"Or less," Ianto agreed. "Especially given the...evidence...the next morning." Jack had spent the morning driving everyone crazy: standing around talking to Tosh while she was trying to work, fiddling with things in the medical bay, trying to make the coffee himself. Anything that kept him on his feet. "On the other hand," he said firmly before Jack could suggest a re-creation, "last month we lost two days. Unless you remember more than I do--" Jack shook his head. "--somehow I don't think they were spent having kinky sex followed by Retconning our traumatized colleagues. Not unless you have a thing for weevils I don't want to know about."
Jack actually looked like his mind wasn't on sex for the moment. "Every time I try to remember I get the feeling I'd really rather not."
Ianto nodded; he felt a little queasy just thinking about the possibility of trying to remember. "If Nikki wants to remember that her son is alive, horribly maimed and irretrievably insane--" Jack flinched but Ianto continued relentlessly, "--after having fallen into an alien dimension for forty years, she could remember in a week or two. But she won't. Gwen wanted to know about Torchwood, wanted to work with us, and she started regaining her memory after only twenty-four hours, though seeing you and Suzie again speeded things up quite a bit."
Ianto tossed back the rest of the whisky and stood up, stalking around the desk towards Jack. "The stories we tell are crap," he said softly, in the dangerous tone that he knew got and kept Jack's attention. "Terrorists. Hallucinogens in the water. Teen tearaways in cheap Halloween masks." He stood behind Jack, leaning down to whisper against his ear, "Blowfish driving sports cars through the middle of Cardiff. Alien spaceships crashing into the Thames. Weevil fight clubs." He reached around Jack to the computer keyboard, knowing Jack wasn't hearing the words any more. "Anyone who doesn't know what Torchwood does, doesn't want to know." The report he wanted came up on the screen and he stepped back, rounding to the other side of the desk. Jack noticed his absence and gave him an accusing look.
He backed up to the door, hiding a smirk at Jack's expression. "I have documents to forge. By the time you finish reading that," he nodded to the screen, "I'll be finished." Jack turned to look at the screen, then turned back to glare at Ianto. "There may be a quiz later," Ianto promised.
The Usage and Limitations of Retcon, by I. Jones, Junior Researcher, Torchwood One, London. 15 April 2005.