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They all have to decide sooner or later, those who live. Stay or go. Death or retcon.

Gwen and Ianto have dates of release within six months of each other, but it's not something you usually think about until its right on top of you, usually, you're just trying to survive long enough to have to make that choice.

Ianto's date of release comes upon them suddenly. A week after Henry Jackson, the third medic they've had since Owen, is killed by a stray weevil; Jack takes him aside and gives him the choice.

Stay or go. Death or retcon. It's always one or the other. Except, Jack tells him, there will be no retcon, not for Ianto, not unless he wants it. Ianto wants to ask why, but he won't, not yet, not until he's made his choice.

It takes him three days and the sight of a stranger being torn limb from limb by something Ianto had never seen before and prays never to see again. Jack called it a 'Geth'. Ianto calls it a sadistic bastard.

"I'm staying," he tell Jack that night.

Jack nods silently and Ianto can tell, part of Jack was hoping Ianto would leave, so he asks the question he didn't ask three days before. "Why?"

Jack doesn't bother to ask 'why what', cat and mouse had long since ceased being their style. "I don't want to lose you. Not to Torchwood, not to retcon... I know it's selfish, but... we've made it this far and I hoped... I can never just walk away, Torchwood is my responsibility, but you could do anything and we could still... we'd have longer."

It's Ianto's turn to nod silently, contemplating Jack's words. "I'm still staying," he tells Jack a few minutes later.

"I know," Jack smiles a little sadly, before pulling Ianto into a kiss.

Ianto's made his choice.

*~*~*~*~*

Gwen is given longer to think about it, Jack reminds her a month before hand. Strangely, Jack makes her the same offer he made Ianto, release without retcon. She asks Ianto about his decision and although he tells her, he makes her promise to make her choice based on what she wants, not what he has said.

In the end, Gwen takes the whole month to decide and comes back with a decision the day their newest team member, another new medic, Jane Cullen officially starts work.

"I'm going," she tells them. "Rhys has been amazing, the last few years, but it's time I dedicated more of myself to him, we want kids and if we don't have them soon..."

Jack hugs her tight and kisses her, a kiss that would have made Ianto jealous once upon a time, but he knows better now and when Jack is done, Ianto does the same, whispering in Gwen's ear how much he'll miss her.

They'll still see each other, Jack stands by his promise not to retcon her, but it won't be the same.

*~*~*~*~*

Five years later, another release date sneaks up on Ianto. Gwen has had three children in the interim and they see her when they can, the oldest and only one who can talk at the moment calls them both uncle and they spoil all three of them whenever they can.

Torchwood three now has eight full time staff and four part-time, who help when they're needed. Jack and Ianto; two medics; a technician, who may not be as effortless as Tosh was with alien technology, but is equally brilliant; a weapons expert, who Ianto thinks enjoys blowing things up a bit too much, but she's damn good at it and it's saved his neck more than once and two 'general support' staff – because Jack tells him with a grin, "It takes two people to do all the jobs you use to do." And their four 'part-time' staff members, who'll pitch in with whatever needs doing, although one of them is officially their liaison to the police force.

Ianto's luck has been remarkable up until this point. When he decided to stay five years before, he'd expected to have another year, maybe two, but now Jack's sitting across the desk from him again with a release form and offering him an out.

Ianto thinks for a long time, sitting there silently with Jack. Torchwood is dangerous and it's nearly a miracle that he hasn't died already, but he's so embroiled in it, letting go is almost terrifying.

"What are the chances of my lucky holding for another five years?" Ianto asks. It's mostly a rhetorical question and Jack knows it, just shrugging in reply.

Ianto takes the pen, looking at it and the sheet of paper on the desk in front of him. He knows Jack wants him to sign it, knows Jack won't force it, won't even ask for it, but he wants it like he did five years ago. Ianto had said no then, Torchwood, his job, protecting the world, more important to him then than anything. But that was five years ago and things are different now.

A gold ring weighs on his left hand and a soft bump swells under Jack's shirt.

Ianto signs the form.

They all have to decide sooner or later, those who live. Stay or go. Death or retcon.

In a way it feels like cheating. No death. No retcon. Just him and Jack and their child and a long life in which to enjoy both.

In a way, it's not even a decision at all. But just the same, he knows he's made the right one.


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