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Slip Of The Tongue by Nemo Baker

Title: Slip Of The Tongue
Summary: For the prompt from taamar: I wish you would write a fic where the Rift is somehow tied to Ianto's past.
Characters/Pairings: Jack Harkness/Ianto Jones, Gwen Cooper
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: None

The harsh glow of the television was the only thing interrupting the thick darkness of Ianto’s flat. It created flickering shadows on the sitting room walls, giving the greying plaster a life of its own. It shone on empty takeaway containers scattered across the coffee table, as well as two pairs of feet resting on the wooden surface.

Ianto and Jack, the owners of said feet, were curled up together on the sofa, watching the movie playing in front of them with the volume turned low. They’d both seen this one before, but Jack seemed incapable of picking any other film when it was his turn to plan their movie night.

“Really. Casablanca. Again.”

“It’s a classic!” Jack had protested.

Ianto just scoffed. “I’ve always said you were a creature of habit. No one ever believed me.”

They had been watching for a bit over an hour in near silence, with Ianto leaning against Jack’s shoulder while the other man ran his fingers through Ianto’s hair absentmindedly. A question floated to the forefront of Jack’s mind. He hadn’t decided whether he wanted to break the sense of contentment surrounding them with his words. Ianto’s breaths were steady, as if he was beginning to drift off. But Jack’s sense of curiosity was winning against his sense of decency.

“Ianto?”

“Mm?”

“Last night, I heard you talking in your sleep.”

“Really?” Ianto seemed surprised. “Didn’t know I did that. What was I saying?”

“I was going to ask you. You were speaking in another language.”

Ianto chuckled. “I still don’t understand how you could live in Wales for as long as you have, and never learn Welsh.”

“Actually,” Jack said. “It didn’t sound like Welsh.”

“Odd. I mean, I know a bit of French.”

“Didn’t sound like French, either.”

“Probably gibberish, then,” Ianto said.

“Hm.” Jack was unconvinced, but he decided to let the matter drop. Ianto turned slightly, placing a gentle kiss on Jack’s neck before settling again. Jack tightened his hold around Ianto, and tried to think of why the words Ianto had said while unconscious still sounded familiar to his ears. As if he’d heard them decades ago.
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“Step back!” Jack shouted, throwing an arm out to stop Gwen from getting closer.

Gwen stumbled, then looked toward the alien they were faced with in bewilderment. “What is that thing?”

Jack shook his head. “I don’t know… but I don’t like the noises it’s making.”

The unknown creature had fallen through the Rift this morning, and the team had gone in search of it among the quieter streets on the outskirts of Cardiff. Jack and Gwen had come across it first, and had found themselves faced with a slimy, geometric mass about the size of a pickup truck. When Jack had approached, it started clicking at him aggressively. And wobbling.

Now, it was oozing towards them with intent.

“It’s going pretty slow, maybe we can get someone else to bring the SUV around while we keep it here?” Gwen suggested.

“”Yeah that sounds–”

“Oh, you found it.”

Jack whipped around at the sound of Ianto’s voice. “Hey.”

“Hi. Heard you shouting from down the street.”

“We found the thing,” Gwen said, unnecessarily.

“I can see that,” Ianto replied. “Do we know what the thing is?”

“No,” Jack said. “But I think we should stay back, it didn’t sound happy before.”

As if on cue, the alien began its ferocious clicking again. Ianto’s eyes widened at the sound.

And then, to Jack and Gwen’s utter astonishment, Ianto started clicking back.

The creature was evidently startled, too. It paused its sluggish charge towards them, and listened as Ianto produced sounds that no human should really be able to make. The thing responded to Ianto, and the pair continued to click at each other for another minute while Jack stared at Ianto blankly.

With a nod, Ianto finally turned to Jack.

“They’re just a lost traveler. I told them we don’t have any means of sending them back to where they came from, but that we can find them somewhere safe to suit their needs.”

Jack gaped. “How…”

“How did you do that?” Gwen exclaimed, gesturing to the creature.

Ianto shrugged. “Found a file in the Archives that had audio clips, and a few documents.”

“So, what, you just decided to learn an alien language on your afternoon off?” Jack said incredulously.

“Yep.”

“Wow,” Gwen said.

Jack’s eyes narrowed as Ianto carefully avoided his gaze.
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As it turned out, their alien friend was quite content with simply sliding into the waters of Cardiff Bay, to live out its life in peace. The team waved one last goodbye as it disappeared below the surface, and then they drove back to the Hub.

Jack was fairly certain Ianto had lied. If not about the existence of the file, then definitely about how he had learned the alien’s language. Ianto had shrouded himself in formality since they returned, refusing to call Jack anything but ‘sir’, and hardly lingering in Jack’s office for more than a few moments when he had to.

It was a subtle change, but enough for Jack to see that Ianto was hiding something.

Eventually, his curiosity got the better of him and he wandered down to the Archives. He found Ianto pouring over papers scattered across his desk, sorting them into piles and slipping them into empty folders.

“Ianto.”

Ianto turned to look at him with a neutral expression. “Sir.”

“Do you think you could pull the files on that thing we caught today? I wanna see if I can figure out what it is.”

“Certainly.”

Ianto rose stiffly from his seat and vanished down one of the many aisles of filing cabinets. Jack leaned against the desk, settling in to wait.

As he listened to Ianto rummaging around for the file, he noticed a label on one of the cabinets. He took a few steps closer to it, and frowned.

It was written in Sycoraxic.

He scanned the other shelves around him, and realized that Ianto had organized many of the shelves based on alien languages (Arcateenian, Golosian, Judoon), both alphabetically and by content. It was clear that he wasn’t just copying symbols. But how was it possible that Ianto could understand so many languages he’d never heard before?

“I’ve got the file,” Ianto said, and Jack startled.

“Uh, thank you.”

“Of course. Anything else?”

“Can I come over tonight?”

Ianto’s features softened slightly. “Yeah.”

---

As Ianto drove them home, Jack watched the road fly by and began to formulate a plan.

Well… not a ‘plan’ as such. More of a shot in the dark.
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“Wow,” Jack said, peering into Ianto’s fridge. “You actually went shopping. For food.”

Ianto nudged his shoulder, reaching into a cabinet to pull out a couple of plates. “And you actually decided to check the fridge before calling for takeaway. We’ve both reached milestones today.”

“Want me to make something?” Jack said, already pulling a few ingredients from the fridge.

“Alright.”

With that, Ianto strode out of the kitchen and toward the bedroom, presumably to discard his shoes and Jack’s coat. Jack reached into the cupboard Ianto had left open and pulled out a pot.

“Do you want anything in particular?” he called out.

“I don’t remember what I have,” Ianto said, walking back into the room.

“Eggs?”

“Eh.”

“Potatoes.”

“Hm.”

“You’ve got a lot of vegetables.”

“Maybe.”

Jack hesitated for a moment, and let the next words fall from his mouth as fluidly as he could.

“Hu beut isom pust?”

“Sein gou,” Ianto said absently, then clapped a hand over his mouth in astonishment.

“Aha!” Jack said, gesturing with the empty pot.

Ianto looked at him, cheeks reddening. “I–”

“Now, before we get any further,” Jack interrupted, walking towards his incredibly nervous-looking lover. “I happen to know there isn’t any record of that particular language in our archives.”

“Right. That probably wasn’t my best excuse,” Ianto said, looking chagrined.

“Nope. Now, can you explain to me how you can speak a language that won’t be invented for another few millennia? And how you can sort the archives into several alien languages? And why you mumble Arcturan in your sleep?”

“Was it Arcturan?” Ianto asked. “I never knew what it was called.”

Jack looked at him sternly. “Ianto.”

“It’s nothing sinister,” Ianto said quickly. “At least, I hope it isn’t… I’ve been hearing little whispers of these languages all of my life.”

“How?”

“I’m not exactly sure,” Ianto began. “But I think it might be something to do with the Rift.”

Jack raised an eyebrow. Ianto sighed.

“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve heard voices. Sometimes speaking right in my ear, sometimes just a murmur from some distance away…And other times it was as if the knowledge of the letters and sounds was being poured directly into my brain. It wasn’t until I joined Torchwood that I realized I was hearing alien languages.”

Ianto paused for a moment, glancing down at the counter. Jack put a hand on his shoulder.

“It’s okay. You can tell me.”

“I think… I’ve got some connection to the Rift,” Ianto continued. “I dunno how it’s possible, but it’s like I’m hearing snippets of conversation from–”

“From other places where the Rift opens,” Jack concluded.

“Yeah.”

“That’s amazing.”

“It’s come in useful.”

“Hm,” Jack said, leaning against the counter and peering at Ianto thoughtfully.

They fell silent for a few moments, considering each other. Finally, Ianto spoke.

“The… language you were speaking just now. Is that your native tongue?”

Jack nodded. “How’d you guess?”

Ianto gave a nervous smile. “You talk in your sleep, too. What’s it called?”

“Boeshanian,” Jack answered, with a lot less reluctance than he expected to feel.

“That sounds a lot better the name I was using.”

“Oh? And what was that?”

“...Jackanese.”

Laughter bubbled up in Jack’s chest and escaped through his lips. “Really?”

“I don’t know what else you expected from the person who named the Risen Mitten.”

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
badly_knitted
Sep. 5th, 2015 02:25 pm (UTC)
Heeee! Jackanese! I love it!

I can totally believe Ianto knowing all these alien languages. It's cool to think that the Rift is leaking languages straight into his brain! Now more than ever, Torchwood can't manage without Ianto Jones!
nemo_baker
Sep. 5th, 2015 03:15 pm (UTC)
Thank you!! I can never resist a pun (even if it's a horrible one haha).

This is definitely a useful skill to have on a team that fights aliens, and I imagine Ianto will be called upon to translate quite a lot now that the secret is out =D
dylantoms
Sep. 17th, 2015 08:56 pm (UTC)
Loved this, such fun!
Can we have some more?
nemo_baker
Sep. 17th, 2015 09:13 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!! I haven't really decided whether I want to continue this or not. Originally I wasn't going to, but someone else messaged me on AO3 with some lovely headcanons, so we've been collaborating. No promises, but people seem to love this idea so its definitely possible.
I'm very happy you enjoyed this =D
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )