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18 February 2010 @ 03:41 pm
[fic] In Amnion, 5/? (Torchwood; Jack/Ianto, post-COE, MA)  
AUTHOR'S NOTES: I honestly didn't think I was going to have anything for this week-- I kept waffling when I'd sit down to write. However, since someone apparently picked Ohio up and moved it to Siberia, I've had lots of extra time to write. I can't see my fence, the snow drifts are so deep, and my poor puppy has to be carried when he needs to go out! X_x;; Insanity.

As always, I have to thank you guys for taking the time to read this. I really appreciate all the comments I've gotten so far-- they make me so happy, I could do Gareth's little Torchwood rap dance! But I wouldn't be as cute. ^^ Will you be patient with me in this chapter, please? I have a plot that needs to move a little (aside from the obvious plot, I mean-- I was surprised, too). Ayashi decided where this chapter would end, though, so you can blame her. *grins* I am sorry about the OCs. Will you believe me when I say they're nessecary? *crosses fingers* Here we go.

Thanks again!
-Meredith



DISCLAIMER: Torchwood is copyright BBC, and Russel T. Davies. I'm making no money off this, and am not affliated with the above. Why can't we have nice things!? The short film Dumplings was written by Lillian Lee and directed by Fruit Chan. No infringement is intended in either case-- only honest admiration.


Previous Chapters:
Prologue
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four










In Amnion 5/?
by Meredith Bronwen Mallory

mallorys-girl@cinci.rr.com
http://www.demando.net/







There was a knock on the door of Apartment 809. Just one-- light and barely discernible, but Jack Harkness was so keyed up he felt as though it vibrated through the marrow in his bones.


Scrubbed clean and divested of its cobwebs, the room had not only regained some of its color-- it had also acquired a quality of waiting. A texture of potential that was almost tangible, the same way the air outside swelled with the promise of rain. It had only served to make Jack more restless as the clock ticked on past eight. He had straightened the plain navy comforter, finally sitting at on the end of the new bed. It was sturdy, simple oak, the same as the workbench against the opposite wall. In the kitchen, the new refrigerator hummed in quiet, vacant contemplation, a low counterpoint to the creaking of the ancient pipes. In the center of the room, the crate sat open, seemingly mundane until you stood over it and saw the strange, polished casket inside. Breathing in and out slowly, Jack had felt the thinness of reality, like a border you weren't aware of until you brushed against it. That same jarring feel had been a part of life on the Rift. That blind, third eye sensed the difference, so that one could almost search out Rift fluctuations in Cardiff by gut as well as scientific instrumentation. Part of him had clamored to cross the room, to put his hand on the cool, unyielding black surface and know that Ianto was inside. From where he'd been sitting, the crate looked almost empty, as if it could be filled with anything; as if it were some bizarre escape hatch that was really a trap.

That's what this is, Jack, the voice of the Doctor spoke in distant horizons of his mind. His Doctor, all blue eyes and big grin, who'd never bent his Northern accent to that particular pronunciation of 'wrong'. Don't you feel the threads tightening, like the shift and shuttle of a loom? He did, the sensation tickled like the sweat, nightmare-fresh, drying on the back of his neck. For a moment, he thought he could almost summon the will to care. It was there, a brief flash of pain in necrotic tissue-- then the knock came, and the thought faded as the sound itself. Jack got up, and went to answer the door.



Lan Wei stood in the open walkway, surrounded by heavy air that refused to cool even after the sun had set. She wore a short black qaipo over a pair of dark pants, and her long hair was twisted back with a single lacquer comb. Devoid of bright colors and tinkling plastic jewelry, her smooth, youthful face took on dimensions of terrible beauty-- all the more discomforting because the eye was unable to place her in the context of time.

"Fun yihng," Jack murmured, holding the door and gesturing for Wei to pass. She stepped through the threshold quickly, bringing with her an old valise and the smell of her funeral-incense flowers. Without speaking, she helped herself to his workbench, pulling forth jars and paper packets seemingly without end. Silently, Jack watched her shuffle about in her low, sturdy sandals. No clunky neon heels tonight, he thought, not really aware of his own internal hysteria. Resurrections require sensible shoes. The sound of glass on wood, of dry herbs rustling, seemed unbearably loud, but she continued arranging things to her satisfaction, shoulders held tight. Finally, Jack turned, twisting the locks and bolts on the door. Lan Wei was facing towards him again when he finished, palms flush atop the bench as she leaned against it. He held her dark gaze, recognizing that look of resentful hauteur from so long ago. All she needed was an ivory fan, and she could have been greeting himself and Mrs Holroyd in the Huang mansion's spacious Western parlor.



"There is no need to be polite," she said, the Chinese syllables stiff. Flicking a gaze briefly towards the crate, she pursed her lips. Without the patina of girlish pink, they made a brown-red line, like a deep cut that wouldn't heal. "I am here, and you are here, and there is nothing that can be done about that." Unconcerned, he waited her out, ignoring the prickle of nausea that whispered about Time running in endless circles. "I keep my bargains," Wei crossed her arms over her small, high breasts. "But I want from you one more concession."

"Is that so?" Jack asked, raising an eyebrow. His hands hung at his sides-- all he was truly aware of was the beat of his heart and the distance between himself and the crate. Wei's use of the word 'concession', as if they were negotiating some sort of ceasefire, hung in the air with her stench. Suddenly, he had the horrible image of opening the preservation casket, only to have her smash the delicate alien machinery, cutting her tiny fists on the satisfaction of revenge. He held himself back from shaking the vision away, if only because she would misinterpret the gesture. "What else do you want, Lan Wei?"

"You say you will not bother me if I find Ahn Mei again. I want that." Her eyes closed briefly as the word 'want' passed her lips, a breathless little utterance. "But maybe that will not happen. Time here is not the same as it is there." She waved a limp-wristed hand, as if such a gesture could indicate the horrible, endless intimacy of the Void. "Already, my special tricks do not work so well anymore." That same hand came up to touch her own cheek, as if she was aware of some flaw no one else could see. "Someday, I will stop. Always beautiful on the outside, most important, while I'm breathing. But inside, the rot is starting. I feel it."

"I can't help you with that," Jack said, even as his inner eye presented another possibility. He'd been gone completely, when she'd slaughtered him in her apartment. Had she bent over his prone form, lifting a crimson-stained finger to her lips like a child liking away icing?




"I don't want your help!" Lan Wei spat, banishing the picture herself this time. "I am not ashamed to meet Yanlou Wang in the courts of Hell, when the time comes. I only made use of what was available." That terrible smile fluttered like a sick butterfly on her face. "A woman does what she must!"

Jack gave a little huff of laughter that was really only relief. "Then what do you want?"

"To take an apprentice, as I was taken once." A regal tilt of the chin, daring. The Captain breathed in through his nose despite the smell, honestly flummoxed. He had considered very carefully what sort of enticements would appeal to Wei before he'd shown up at her door-- he had, in fact, considered the deck almost certainly stacked against her venomous hate. This was something that had never even crossed his mind.


And if it had? John Hart's voice fairly oozed, the mental avatar of his own cynicism. Let's be honest, lover. Will you tell her 'no' now, when you're so close? Is it in you to care about the little girl out there now, somewhere, waiting for the taint of Lan Wei's wisdom? Hell, she probably would have been one of the ten percent, away. What was that word Forbisher used? Negligible! Nice, official word, that.


"Someone had to teach you what to do," Jack said, shaking his head at himself. For just a moment, he tried to picture the woman before him as she would have been long ago; alive, and truly human. A peasant girl-- the unbound feet gave away that much-- standing ankle deep in a rice paddy, tilting her young face into the wind. As unsuspecting as the boy who had raced, laughing at his speed and the feel of the sand, along the beaches of Boeshane.

Lan Wei rolled her eyes at him. "Of course I had a teacher."




"Fine, then," the Captain brushed past her, coming to stand by the crate once more. His hands itched, and he placed them on the casket's curved lid. "Have what you will."

(Pay, and pay, and keep on paying. Always in blood, always with other people's lives. Up, over the trench, boys! But the bullets couldn't even touch you; the Daleks couldn't exterminate you; Abbadon couldn't keep you in his grasp. And somewhere, spinning at the edge of entropy, there lies a Utopia of twisted human remains, waiting to welcome you to the End.)

"Done, and done," Wei said in English, and actually extended her hand. They shook, and her touch was cool, smoothly reptilian in his brief grasp. As if on some strange cue, they both came to stand before the crate.
She glanced meaningfully at the latches. "Shall we begin?"





* * * * * * * * * * * * * *




Six blocks away from Hua She Street, someone else had been watching the sun set with a careful eye. Now, amidst the illumination of the streetlights and neon signs, a tiny figure shifted restlessly, ignored by the adults that moved around him in the still busy summer evening. Sun Jun Shuang was seven years old, and he stood near the yawning entrance of an underpass as if it were a monster's den. He was small for his age; slight, with a head of fine black hair that ended just below his ears. Dressed in his soccer uniform, bookbag slung over one shoulder, he stood several feet away from where the sidewalk entered the tunnel, and shivered. The summer air was warm, and he hadn't worked up too much sweat during practice, but Shuang was very afraid. He'd worried his bottom lip nearly bloody, staring down towards the opposite end of the tunnel, and now he was sure he was going to have to make a choice. The underpass whispered to him, echoes of old screams like the grinding of some distant but terrible engine. He'd watched several adults go in and come out, but that didn't matter at all. They were undisturbed by the tunnel the same way blind people are undisturbed by the brilliant flash of a strobe light. They couldn't see.


Sighing, Shuang scrubbed a hand over his face in an unconscious imitation of his father. It was getting late, and Baba would be awake soon. Going through the tunnel was the quickest way to get back home, a straight line from the practice park to the building at Hua She Street Number 10. The only way to avoid the underpass was to go back the way he'd come, around the park and back towards the St. Andrew's Elementary. From there, he'd take the footbridge-- which went over the roadway instead of under it-- and walk home from the north. By the time he returned to the tiny apartment he shared with his father, Baba would most certainly be up, shaving and preparing for his third shift rotation. Shuang could very clearly envision the look on Baba's face if he did this. It would be that hurty, sad and worried look that pinched the big features, making a grimace. Shaking his head, Baba would button his uniform, put on his gun and badge, all the while wondering aloud what it would take for his son to grow up and act like a man.
It's a tunnel, boy! He'd say, cuffing his son-- gently, but with intent-- on the head. What's the matter with you? You are too old to be afraid of the dark!



Shuang wasn't afraid of the dark. There were, in fact, plenty of tunnels that didn't bother him at all, and he didn't need a nightlight for when Baba locked up and left him to sleep while he worked. It was this tunnel-- this tunnel was bad. The shadows liked to jump and move, there were cold dead fingers that touched your face but didn't have any hands. It smelled like urine and strangers with candy, like the breath of the boogeyman as he crouched on your stomach while you slept. Trying not to think about it, Shuang took a step towards the entrance, telling himself it would be okay.

Hey, hey, boy. Pretty boy. C'mere, sweet meat, here comes the boy.

Something white and not-real flashed in front of Shuang's eyes, and he jumped back instantly. These things were awful-- they were old, and they didn't understand that they were dead. He was afraid he would go into the tunnel and not come out. He was more afraid of that than anything. Even the past few days, filled with his father's panicky face, the television flickering images of other children speaking in dull unison, had not inspired this sort of dread.


Shuang supposed he must have been 'possessed' like the other children-- the despair and anger that radiated off the adults certainly said as much-- but he had no memory of it. The only time it had been real was when Baba had picked him up and hugged him hard, making an almost-crying sound, like he had at Mama's funeral. Shuang's concern then had not been for himself; it had been for big, strong Baba, who was not supposed to make such noises. Aside from that, he'd mostly felt curious and then a little bit bored with the whole situation. It certainly wasn't fun to sit in the stuffy apartment all day while Baba watched every move like he was afraid you were going to get sick. Going to the clinic had been even less appealing, and school had been canceled. Everything had stopped-- work, class, soccer practice, Math Club, going out to play-- and there hadn't even been any real aliens that he'd gotten to see.


Resigned to a grumbled lecture from Baba, Shuang was just about to turn around when he heard a light, airy voice call out to him. He whirled around, almost tripping, a bright smile animating his serious little face.
"Shuang! Hey, Shuang!" the voice called. Down through the mirk and whispers of the tunnel, the boy could see another small figure, standing in a pool of illumination from the streetlight.
"Ming!" He called back, cupping his hand to his mouth. "What took you so long?"
Ming spread her hands, a frown marring her childishly pretty face. "I'm very late and very sorry, Shuang!"
"Oh-kay, oh-kay," he said, too relieved to be bothered.
"Are you ready?" Ming hollered from her end. She looked around, checking for adults, but the side walk was empty. Shuang did the same, and finally gave her a thumbs-up.
"On three!" he shouted.
"Yat!" Ming almost sang, even as the things in the tunnel began to swirl and stir. "Yih! Saam!"



It was horrible in the tunnel-- Shuang ran faster than he ever did at soccer practice, and still the phantom touches of bone and slimy, unidentifiable other pulled at his cheeks and the backs of his legs. He kept his eyes focused on Ming, who was running towards him, hand outstretched as her little red plastic purse thumped against her stomach. She was taller than Shuang by inches, and she reached him before the halfway mark, but he didn't care. In the murky terror only they could sense, the two children grabbed hands and turned, rushing for the other side.

A shape rose, slouched and shambled. Hey, little girl, little candy girl , eat you all up.
It hurts, he keeps stabbing me, my eyes! Something else that looked like it had once been a woman moved against the tunnel wall, making wet dripping sounds.
There's not even anything in my purse! That one was like a grimy stain on the concrete; a wriggling, severed arm.

Ming and Shuang hurtled past it all, emerging from the tunnel just as an older man in a suit approached the underpass. They almost barreled into him, dodging at the last moment as they muttered 'mh goi' and kept their gazes low. The man shot them a look of annoyance, but entered the tunnel with his briefcase, completely unbothered. The children watched him, caught between youthful disgust and awe, as he was picked at, whispered to and oozed upon with no knowledge of the violation.
"I really hate that," Shuang said as they leaned against the lamppost, trying to catch their breath. His eyes burned for a moment, and he squeezed them shut. "Why can't they see it? Why is it just you and me?"
For what must have been the thousandth time, the reply came; "I don't know." Ming squeezed the hand he hadn't even realized she was still holding.



Shuang opened his eyes and looked up at her. In the unforgiving light from the high fluorescent bulb, he could see every angle of her moon-round face. Ming smiled, brushing away a lock of hair so black it was almost blue. She was, in moments like this, unspeakably beautiful to him, but he did not quite understand how or why that was. Even now, as his heart pumped and swelled, she was just Ming. Two years his senior, the girl who lived in the building across from his, and his best friend. He knew boys weren't supposed to have girls for best friends-- especially girly girls like Ming, with her sparkly barrettes and red plastic purse-- but there was nothing he could do about that. Adrift, like all children, in a world only halfway understood, Shuang accepted everything simply because he had no control. Baba was grumpy and didn't sleep much since Mama died.
(He has nightmares about the white banners from the funeral.)
Mama herself was gone, and he couldn't visit her grave because they'd had to move here for Baba's work.
(He dreams that it was all a dream-- that Mama is still alive and he still goes to his old school where he isn't the littlest one on the soccer team.)
There were awful things laying around-- not everywhere, but often in ordinary places-- that no one else could see,.
(They were blind! Why had he been born into a world where all the people were blind?)
Once, Mama had been alive, and she had also been able to see these things. He wanted her back desperately
(he was afraid she was somewhere as a dead-thing)
but at least he had Ming now.
(He knows they're going to have to move away someday-- he's heard Baba talking about it. He doesn't know what he'll do without her, either Her, the woman and the girl writ large in the book of his life. He tries not to think about it. )
That was just life.



As if she could hear how dull and low his thoughts were turning, Ming leaned over and tugged on his ear with her free hand.
"What was school like?" she asked, squeezing his hand one last time before letting go.
"It was fine," Shuang rolled his shoulders. "But all the teachers looked at us funny, like we were going to start doing weird things again."
"The television says the aliens are gone now," Ming said consideringly. She brushed at her sundress and, as Shuang fell into step with her, they began walking back towards Hua She Street. "Mama had the news on before she went to work." There was a heavy little sigh. "You're lucky you got to go to school today. Mine doesn't start until tomorrow, and it was very boring to be at Ms. Choi's all day."
"All day," he echoed, grimacing in sympathy. Ming's mother worked during the day, like most people's parents, and usually Ming only had to stay with the baby-sitter after school.
"I didn't even get to see any soap operas!" she shook her head sadly. Shuang didn't understand Ming's fascination with Chinese soap operas-- especially since nothing ever seemed to happen aside from people crying and girls dressing up-- but he nodded anyway. "Ms. Choi turned on cartoons because there were so many little kids. Why do you get to go to an all boys school that doesn't care about aliens?"



"I had to go to the clinic, too!" he protested. "The doctors poked me, and they asked me all kinds of questions. The lines were long and it was hot!"
"Mama took me very early this morning." Ming made a big show of yawning. "The doctors asked me if I remembered anything, and I said no, and then they stuck me with a needle. They asked questions again, then all I got was a dumb root beer lollipop."
Shuang nudged her with an elbow, "I got a cherry one. Wanna trade?"
"Definitely." She winked, before her face suddenly became still. "Shuang... do you remember anything about the aliens?"
Pursing his lips, the younger boy stayed silent for a long time. He remembered weird little bits, like static from a radio. Mostly nasty little goblin whispers of hungry hungry hungry, and a few other flashes of what looked like mist, which he didn't understand. "Not really," he said at last. "I just told the doctors 'no, nothing'."
"I said so, too!" Ming clapped her hands, clearly relieved. She studied the cracked sidewalk for a moment, before she whispered, "Did you tell them anything else?"
"No!" Shuang said very loudly. He stopped walking and grabbed Ming's wrist. "I wouldn't tell the doctors anything about... that... not ever! Mama told me never to tell anyone about being about to see, she made me promise." Tugging a little, he got Ming to step close to him, so that they were almost nose to chin. "Ming, I broke my promise to Mama by talking to you."
"I know. But I can see it too, so now we have to keep the secret together." Absently, Ming lifted a hand to brush a stubborn bit of grass off his shirt. He let go of her wrist. They simply stood there for a moment, united by their terrible difference.



"I'm sorry," Ming said at last. "I'm really sorry I was late today, too, but it was hard to get away from Ms. Choi."
"I'm not mad," Shuang said, finding this was true. He could not, in fact, remember ever being mad at Ming for more than a few minutes at a time. She smiled at him again, but this one was her secret smile, the one where she poked out a little bit of her tongue.
"Something exciting did happen today," she said when they started walking again. "You were at school and you missed it."
"Okay," Shuang said, rolling his eyes. "What happened? Did someone else move out?"
"No!" Ming fairly skipped in her delight. "Shuang, someone moved in!" He looked at her with obvious disbelief, so she leaned close, the way the apartment mothers did when imparting new stories. "He's an American, and he's very strange."




* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *





The latches were cool under Jack's fingertips. Feeling as though there wasn't a breath or heartbeat left in him, Jack put just the right amount of pressure on the sensitive grooves and was rewarded with a light, sibilant hiss. Like the sound of leaves on cold grave marble, or the tempting whispers of a snake in the garden, it rose with the lid, the smooth movement of technology lightyears ahead of the present. Inside, Ianto lay encased in a delicate webbing of glass. The strange, spidery cradle hummed with a faint gold glow-- it cast dustings of color that played across Ianto's pale, still features like the cruelest of tricks. Lan Wei regarded the casing, its glow, and the asymmetrical engine that powered it with cursory interest, disregarding it just as quickly. Jack stood with one hand fisted at his side, eyes burning with something divorced yet wild. Nails bit into the flesh of his palm, but he could only look at Ianto's face and experience that terrible churning, like the sea so angry it turned green with its storms. The younger man still didn't look like he was sleeping-- he looked quiet and dead, a totem robed of its holy core.


"You will tell me about him," Lan Wei said, far off to his side. Her form was only a shadow to him, but her light, powerful voice seemed to pierce the casket's illumination and stab into his brain.

I can't! Jack thought with sudden, visceral panic. He bent with the force of it, leaning against the crate until his forehead was almost touching the glass above Ianto's expressionless face. I don't have words that will hold this! This can't be talked about, it's eating me up from the inside! I can't piece it together without breaking the syllables with the force of it, don't you see? A sick prick of memory came to him-- Gwen's hands on his shoulders, those cloying murmurs of sympathy with all the wrong vowels. She'd said he needed to talk about it, she'd pleaded and cajoled, she'd all but commanded it as she plied him with food and those dark, suffocating eyes. The scent of beans brushed against him, he seemed to remember a bowl of them sitting steaming hot, on his makeshift warehouse desk-- he'd pushed it away in a fit of rage, leaving a shattered mess and pretending it was all an accident. He hadn't been able to talk then, and he couldn't talk now. Screaming would be better, the agonized ululation of those who walked amongst fallen bodies. He straightened up, opening his mouth with no idea what was going to come out, only to feel Wei's tiny hand clamp over his jaw.

"Stop!" she gripped his face with surprising strength, forced to stand on her tiptoes to reach. Her sharp elbows bore into his chest, not half as painful as her merciless black eyes. "This is the last chance, do you understand? We do this tonight, or not at all." She shoved him away, reached out and traced a finger along one of the casket's thin glass veins. "He wanders now, with just a thin thread to pull together body and soul. It grows more and more weak with each hour, and soon you will have nothing with which to pull him back. Even at this moment, he could be approaching the river that runs in the darkness. Meng Po will be waiting for him."

The Captain's dry tongue moved twice before he was able to speak, "Meng Po?"

Wei's chin lifted in familiar, nasty challenge. "She rules the crossing into new life. You said you don't have my faith, that you do not believe? Meng Po sends souls to their new bodies, after she gives them her blessing-- a drink from the river. To drink is to forget your old life, so you can be born again." The twist of her lips was so spiteful it could not be called a smile. "Would you like that, Jack Harkness? If your boy drinks, you will be gone from him. Banished. Perhaps Kwan Yi has granted this-- her heart is so big, she has mercy even for foreigners."

"That's not going to happen," Jack almost snarled. He took two steps towards her and, though Lan Wei would never be as world-wise or as calculating as the Time Agent before her, she did have excellent survival instincts. Quickly, she put a mortar and pestle in his hands, and his fingers curled around the tools with something like relief.

"Then we work," Wei said firmly. She opened one of her small jars, emptying the contents into the mortar's deep bowl. The sharp, achingly sweet smell of pomegranate reached Jack's nose, overwhelming Wei's acidic floral. It was surprisingly powerful aroma, and it filled him with a sudden sense of rightness.




(Vermillion and myrrh; the thick shadows and dark laughter of the den Faith liked to frequent. He'd sat with her there, twice. Once, while Owen lay still under Martha's shaking autopsy knife, and another time, long before. She'd turned over the Knight with his face, and then the Lovers. The heavy, medieval watercolors portrayed a young, dark haired man clad in the garb of a knight's apprentice. One could see only his back, and the hint of an elegant profile, as he reached up towards a branch heavy with dripping pomegranates.

"Some say say it was a pomegranate, in the Garden of Eden," Faith had murmured in her ancient, girlish soprano. "The knowledge of Good and Evil in each seed."

Jack himself had been restless, shifting uncomfortably in the booth. "I don't see what this has to do with my baby girl. I just want to know, is she..."

Faith sighed heavily, moving the Lovers to the left side of the spread. The next card was the Two of Cups, upside down. From his odd perspective, Jack could just make out the image of a woman and young boy, each holding a cup that spilled to the ground. "She's not like you." Narrow doll's eyes, resentful, because he wouldn't listen. "No one will ever be like you." She'd tapped the Lovers card again, sliding it towards him, but he was already rising, pulling on his coat.

"That was all I needed to know."

"The body is said to have six hundred and thirteen nerves, the same number as the seeds in a pomegranate." She'd actually tugged on his cuff then and, as always, her touch made him shiver. Holding the card between thumb and forefinger, she'd placed it decisively over Jack's Knight. "This boy, he reaches for the fruit, but he doesn't know. Not yet. The pomegranate is on this card because real love feasts on your heart."

"Like cannibalism," Jack had remarked dryly, thinking of his place on the Rift, tied down, waiting for the century to turn a second time.

"Not that," she'd banished the Doctor with a shake of her head. Her small fingers had left him, then, and he'd spared her only a glance as he left. He'd had the answer he wanted, and he would bring it to Lucia like the gift of someone offering penance. Faith was always right.

"Perhaps," the girl had called after him, "you should have been drawn as the Fool.")




In the sticky yellow apartment light, the pomegranate seeds looked almost garnet, like frozen drops of blood. Jack's mouth watered involuntarily, even as he felt tiny, cold fingers ghost over his heart.

"It's eating me up from the inside," he murmured, surprised by the sound of his own voice speaking. He thought of that card, sitting in Faith's deck, shuffled by her all-too-knowing hands. Threads closing in a pattern on the loom; time moving in concentric circles; the drawing of the handsome squire, whose hinted profile was a familiar mystery.

"Grind those," Wei instructed, unaware of the mirror in Jack's memory. "They say the taste of pomegranate is the taste of human flesh." Her mouth quirked again in that awful smile, but it could no longer stir anger in the Captain. "I do not find that this is so. Still, it makes for an excellent base."

"I'm sure," Harkness replied, carefully watching the seeds as he crushed them.

Softly, "Tell me how he died."




========================


GLOSSARY:
Fun yihng- "Welcome" (from the host)
Yanlou Wang- the King of Hell
Yat, Yi, Saam- One, two, three.
mh goi- I'm sorry (general)

+Jewish mysticism holds that the pomegranate (or rimmon) has 613 seeds to match the 613 commandments in the Torah. In addition, the 'nerve' connection of the soul to G-d is composed of 613 strands-- 248 from the 'parts of man' and 365 'veins'.

+The Two of Cups in Tarot is usually interpreted as love and patience working together to solve a conflct. When a card is reversed, the meaning is reversed-- so an upside down Two of Cups is a conflict that isn't solved, usually one inside the family. I've always loved that Faith's deck seems awfully specific to Jack (or maybe shifts to become specific to whomever she's reading for?).

+Yes, I researched some of this. Don't make fun of me! ^_~




TO BE CONTINUED
I don't have anything better than Daleks in a conga line, I'm sorry. But maybe we can have Dalek-shaped cookies for when this story finally starts cooperating and I get to bring Ianto back? *sheepish* Please don't hurt me. ^_~ I'd dearly, dearly love it if you have the time to comment.

I know, I'm a feedback whore. Just don't tell my mother, okay? ^^;;






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Sit-Rep: Feeding Janet
Emotional Temperature: worriedworried
The Band Plays:: "Nobody Flying This Plane"-- by We're About 9
 
 
 
Silke: jackharknessjimaine42 on February 18th, 2010 09:16 pm (UTC)
I'm so loving this story of yours, the narrative,the setup...everything about it. It made me rip open the Torchwood DVD box-set that I'd ordered in October. It makes me look forward ALL THE MORE to May's FedCon convention (basically on my doorstep...cast very BSG-heavy, some Trek and also Gareth, James Marsters....) And next month already my "sister" Filip (he's the little sister I never had and queer as the proverbial three-dollar bill) is hosting an evening-event with Kai Owen. Germany's going Torchwood - wanna visit??:-)

Meredith Bronwen Mallory: badgirlsgarnettrees on February 23rd, 2010 06:53 am (UTC)
Jimaine! *flying tackle hug* I always adore getting comments from you-- not only does it bring back the "old days" (*has a moment of MASH nostalgia*), but I've always been awed by the fluidity of your prose. I'm so glad you're enjoying this story!

Gareth... almost on your doorstep. *deeply envious* I just wanna take him home and feed him cookies. He's that cute. ^_~ I'd probably die on the spot if I saw Spike James Marsters!

already my "sister" Filip (he's the little sister I never had and queer as the proverbial three-dollar bill)
That's just darling! I have a "little sister" too, now. Summer is only five years younger than I am, but I'm just glad I don't have to be the only lesbian in the department any more. ^^; Plus, she's dating my friend Yumi's daughter, which makes Yumi "Mom" and ends in all sorts of dirty jokes. *grins*

Germany's going Torchwood - wanna visit??:-)
If only! We'd have all of UNIT on us, the party would be so wild. ^_~
-Meredith
cen_evanscen_evans on February 19th, 2010 12:47 am (UTC)
With each new chapter I grow more and more impressed. This is an incredibly well written piece- you should be proud of the job you've done. I loved this chapter and can't wait for the next!
Meredith Bronwen Mallory: partnersgarnettrees on February 23rd, 2010 06:55 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! You always say the nicest things. ^_^ I'm very reassured to hear you enjoyed this chapter. I was hesitant to put the kids in where I did, but it felt right. And I *do* have plans. (Or rather, the story does... seems to have a mind of its own, this thing. ^_~)

Thanks again!
-Meredith
stuffphilestuffphile on February 19th, 2010 06:13 am (UTC)
It's sooo good! I love what you've done with the tarot cards and the symbolism of the pomegranate.
Meredith Bronwen Mallory: gunslingergarnettrees on February 23rd, 2010 06:57 am (UTC)
Thank you! I've always had such a weakness for Tarot symbolism-- I almost screamed with joy the first time we saw Faith in "Dead Man Walking".
-Meredith
deepsorskiesdeepsorskies on February 19th, 2010 09:03 am (UTC)
This story is abolutely amazing. Your Jack is breaking my heart, and the imagery you weave is stunning. I'm ready to follow this story wherever you go with it.

I would comment more, but the amazingness of your story took all my words away!
Meredith Bronwen Mallory: kayleegarnettrees on February 23rd, 2010 06:59 am (UTC)
I'm ready to follow this story wherever you go with it.
Awww-- that's one of the sweetest things I've ever heard! I'm so relieved to hear that people enjoyed this chapter. I didn't want to put off bringing Ianto back much longer, but it was nessecary. I'm so glad to hear that you liked it!
-Meredith
deepsorskiesdeepsorskies on February 23rd, 2010 10:57 am (UTC)
>Awww-- that's one of the sweetest things I've ever heard!<

:D It's true, though!

>I didn't want to put off bringing Ianto back much longer, but it was nessecary.<

I tend to be very impatient to have my favourite characters appear in a story - well, I completely adore Jack, so that helps here ;) - Seriously though: The world you create here, your characters and language are so vivid and moving that I just want to read more and more, and you're building the tension nicely up the moment where - hopefully - Ianto will be back. I, for my part, don't mind at all that you take your time telling your story. It needs that. - As I was trying to say: I have the feeling that you know very well what you are doing here, where you go with your story, what it needs ... So: You lead, I follow!

:)

Cat Moon: heromscatmoon on February 19th, 2010 12:40 pm (UTC)
Another delicious chapter. Of course I'm looking forward to getting Ianto back, but I'm enjoying the suspenseful build-up as well. The introduction of the children is an interesting development... Their presence *could* be a good thing, although it vaguely disturbs me. There is a sense of fate at work here, that they were meant to play a part in what's unfolding, like Jack has already set certain things in motion. I'm uneasy like Jack. Knowing that bringing back Ianto from the dead like this is wrong, against the rules of the universe, yet needing to do it. Having no choice in the matter or control over it even though he's the one with the plan (but is it really wrong to bring Ianto back, or was it his death that was wrong? Do two wrongs make a right?? And finally, does it matter?).

Jack has no problem granting Lan Wei permission to take on a student to pass her knowledge onto. That's the problem with these kinds of sins/decisions. Once you start making them, they get easier until you've sold every last piece of your soul. Of course it started with a situation that was beyond his control where he had no choice: Ianto dying in his arms, and the impossible decision he had to make to sacrifice Steven and watch his own grandson die in front of him while listening to his daughter's screams. NO ONE should ever have to do that, and how could anyone remain sane after?! It'll be interesting to see how Jack is once Ianto's back, because I suspect that he's going to be *really* messed up, guilty, etc. It really is like a circle. He needs Ianto because he's doing this and he's doing this because he needs Ianto...

Oh, and I liked his thoughts about Gwen and her trying to get him to talk. Her behavior annoyed me to no end, because it was like she had no CLUE what he was going through, although if she was half as empathetic as she's claimed to be, she would've. Well, hope I haven't rambled on too much. ;)

Meredith Bronwen Mallory: teamgarnettrees on February 23rd, 2010 07:13 am (UTC)
And another delicious comment! *brilliant smile* Seriously, I can't tell you how much I appreciate the feedback.

Of course I'm looking forward to getting Ianto back, but I'm enjoying the suspenseful build-up as well.
Every time I think 'this time I'll bring Ianto back', the story takes a little twist. I actually did get to the pivotal moment in this chapter but, at sixteen pages, it needed to be divided up. I'm glad it worked for you-- I was really sweating!

There is a sense of fate at work here, that they were meant to play a part in what's unfolding, like Jack has already set certain things in motion.
This is why I love hearing from you-- you articulate things I was trying to do, and its intensely gratifying to know that they worked.

but is it really wrong to bring Ianto back, or was it his death that was wrong? Do two wrongs make a right??
That's something I struggled with just watching COE. I know RTD was trying to hammer home the point of Torchwood as a dangerous job, but there was something very unjust about Ianto's fate. Logically, I know death isn't fair, but isn't Doctor Who ultimately about sometimes being granted the chance to right cosmic wrongs? Rose did it with the Daleks; the Doctor did it with the hospital ship in 1941; and the trio of Jack, Martha and the Doctor did it with the Valiant. Ianto's death didn't just feel like a cheat, it felt like some form of moronic vengence. *sigh* Yes, I'm a bitter fan. ^_~

Once you start making them, they get easier until you've sold every last piece of your soul.
Exactly! I wanted Jack to agree to this as sort of 'the nail in the coffin'. Before, he was just offering to ignore Lan Wei's activity-- a sort of distracted negligance. Now, by agreeing to let her take an apprentice, he's actively participating in her evil. I'm glad that came across.

NO ONE should ever have to do that, and how could anyone remain sane after?!
Oh, but a drink in some Mos Eisley knock-off bar and a blind date set by the Doctor will fix everything. Nope, not bitter. Not at all. In all seriousness, Jack has been through a hell of a lot, especially for a character who can't regenerate or put any cushion between his experiences.

Her [Gwen's] behavior annoyed me to no end, because it was like she had no CLUE what he was going through
Nice to see I'm not the only one!

You're right about Jack needing Ianto-- Ianto needs Jack as well, which we saw very clearly in "Adam". Jack needed to be needed, not as a hero or an immortal, but for himself. Without someone who understands that, he's lost.

You haven't rambled too much at all! Look at how I went on! Sorry 'bout that. ^_~
-Meredith


Edited at 2010-02-23 07:14 am (UTC)
Heatherheddychaa on February 25th, 2010 10:14 pm (UTC)
Just stumbled upon this today, and it's honestly the weirdest and most engrossing post-CoE fic I've seen. I anxiously await the next chapter. :)


jsks on February 19th, 2010 08:32 pm (UTC)
feedback to keep the daleks in the conga line dancing.
loved the thought that the cards change to match the person the reading is for.
Meredith Bronwen Mallory: evendeathdiesgarnettrees on February 23rd, 2010 07:18 am (UTC)
The Daleks dance for you most vigorously, so they do! ^_~

I'm glad you enjoyed the story and the Tarot deck. I'd love to have one like that myself!
-Meredith
Missus Howardsyien_island on February 19th, 2010 10:26 pm (UTC)
Another great chapter! I love how you've captured Jack at his most desperate.
Meredith Bronwen Mallory: kaylee_inaragarnettrees on February 23rd, 2010 07:20 am (UTC)
Thank you! Jack has such deep reserves of emotion-- and JB does such a great job acting-- that every time I see Ianto's death scene, I can't help but think that something like this is the only logical outcome. *heartbroken little sigh*
-Meredith
blipxinxtime on February 20th, 2010 01:23 am (UTC)
This is probably (and by probably I mean definitely) the best story I've ever read! I can't wait for more, you're amazing.
Meredith Bronwen Mallory: unapolgeticlesbiangarnettrees on February 23rd, 2010 07:22 am (UTC)
*blushes furiously* Thank you so, so much! You're amazing. Thank you for commenting!
-Meredith

Ps. Your icon makes me giggle inappropriately. Love Tosh's body language. ^_~
definehomedefinehome on February 22nd, 2010 11:42 pm (UTC)
This is great. The research you've done adds an air of believability and lets you write in specifics, rather than generalities, and it's the specifics that make this piece. I'm really enjoying your prose!.
Meredith Bronwen Mallory: ayufuturegarnettrees on February 23rd, 2010 07:23 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm kind of a research whore, to tell the truth-- I've been in love with weird and esoteric myths since I started reading Lovecraft in Junior High. I'm glad the elements work here!
-Meredith
mcparrotmcparrot on February 23rd, 2010 10:24 am (UTC)
Hi, I just love this fic. It is so creepy and atmospheric and different from your usual COE fix it. I'm glad Jack's feeling disturbed about what he's doing because in this universe it is a deeply disturbing thing to be doing.
This kids and the creatures in the underpass is interesting.
Really looking forward to the next chapter
missthingsplacemissthingsplace on February 25th, 2010 02:10 pm (UTC)
Another fantastic chapter, looking forward to more :)
badly_knittedbadly_knitted on March 3rd, 2010 02:29 pm (UTC)
I'm running a little behind, but I'll always get here eventually. My one regret is not thinking in time to nominate this for the Children of Time Awards, because someone really should have.

I'm intrigued by your new characters and wondering how they will fit into the story, but I'll find out in time and right now that's all I need to know. Once again, you create a powerful sense of place - not just the apartment but also the very eerie and unsettling underpass. Jack's emotions are so raw and desperately conflicted, knowing perhaps this is something he shouldn't do, but knowing at the same time that he doesn't really have a choice, he's beyond being able to choose because he needs to do it. I feel like the possibility of getting Ianto back is all that's holding Jack together. Love the flashback to Faith, trying to tell Jack something important, but he's not willing to listen beyond getting the answer to his question about his daughter. It must be frustrating for Faith trying to get through to him. It's a wonder she didn't just give up on him. Heading for the next chapter now.
Meredith Bronwen Mallory: teamgarnettrees on March 4th, 2010 11:35 pm (UTC)
I'm running a little behind, but I'll always get here eventually.
Awww! Thank you! I'm sorry your RL was hectic, but I really appreciate you taking the time to comment, and on both chapters too!

My one regret is not thinking in time to nominate this for the Children of Time Awards, because someone really should have.
You're so sweet! I'm blushing at the thought, but I'm really just glad people are enjoying this. It's dark, even for me, but there's an element of darkness in 'real' fairytales, and I wanted that here. ^_^

I feel like the possibility of getting Ianto back is all that's holding Jack together.
Yes! I'm convinced that, on the lowest days of the Year That Never Was, that the possibility of erasing the Master's damage and getting his team (family) back was all that held Jack together. To die as many times as he must have, just for the Master's entertainment... I think it had a profound effect. We didn't see much of it overtly after "Meat", but even Jack's hesitance in asking Ianto out was a symptom. After COE, I can only imagine it would be ten times worse, because it's so personal.

It must be frustrating for Faith trying to get through to him. It's a wonder she didn't just give up on him.
I love that look she gives him in "Fragments" when she sits down with him in the alley-- like she really, really wants to smack him. It's an adult look on such a child's face, but it really speaks volumes. Watching that scene inspired the bit with the tarot, because Jack had obviously seen her since and knew where to find her.

Thanks so much for commenting!
-Meredith
(Anonymous) on May 22nd, 2010 05:36 pm (UTC)
I have just found this fic and am astounded. You, my dear, are truly talented.
I cant wait to read further.