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18 March 2010 @ 03:36 pm
[fic] In Amnion, 9/? (Torchwood; Jack/Ianto, post-COE, MA)  
AUTHOR'S NOTES: You know, I checked the word count on this the other day, and I discovered that this is now officially the longest story I've ever written. @_@;; It's daunting, but I know I owe a debt of gratitude to you guys for all your wonderful comments and encouragement. Lord, this thing is a monster! *crosses fingers* Here's hoping for your continued interest, and my continued strength to wrestle it into submission. ^_~ Well, Ayashi always has her frying pan, in a pinch.

As always, I have to thank you for just taking the time to read this. We're back with our boys now, but I can't tell you how relieved I was to have such positive responses to the last chapter. I was a little melted puddle of relief in my swivel chair, so I was. Hopefully, this chapter was worth the wait. If I could bother you just a bit more to comment, well... you know what a junkie I am. *blush*

Huge props to Ayashi for betaing on the fly, and Vivian for enduring college-flashbacks with me.

-Meredith


DISCLAIMER: Torchwood is copyright BBC, and Russel T. Davies. I'm making no money off this, and am not affiliated 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 | Chapter Five | Chapter Six | Chapter Seven | Chapter Eight









In Amnion 9/?
by Meredith Bronwen Mallory

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







("They say it was a pomegranate, in the Garden of Eden.")

Jack was still laying next to Ianto, arm gently curled around the younger man's waist, his breath the hushed stir of a mystic entering a sacred space. Briefly, he let his forehead rest against the Welshman's temple, and thought he could hear the far-off current of spirit unfurling in flesh. It sounded like Cardiff Bay the clearest of nights, when each wave and ripple seemed to have its own voice. He sighed softly, and closed his eyes to savor it.


(Faith is holding The Lover's card between two porcelain fingers, colors of the illustration gem-bright even in the smoke and heavy shadows. She's grabbing his shirt cuff, willing him to understand.
"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." It's always dark in the dusty, out-of-the-way chambers Faith frequents, but it shouldn't be so red. It's vibrant, this spreading stain-- vermillion swallowing the edges of his vision, but it cannot hide the familiar lines of Ianto's profile, captured in old ink. Crimson, scarlet, ruby set to burn; it's
(bloodlight) overwhelming, and he has to get away.
He draws a gasp, but it's in his mouth, and Faith says--)




"Are you listening to me?" For one firm heartbeat, Lan Wei's exasperated tone and Faith's far off echo were one.

Startled, Jack instinctively moved to shield Ianto's body with his own, glaring at his guest over a bare shoulder. Too full of relief, adrenaline and cresting energy of his own resurrection, Jack knew he hadn't fallen asleep. Not even for a moment, as clearly evinced by the fact Wei was just now exiting the kitchen. Never the less, he couldn't shake the sullen ache in his bones-- that jump in perception and consciousness , like the tiniest of fissures in time. The same jittery touch lingered over pilots when they reached certain altitudes; it fell against soldiers in the heat of battle, doctors when the surgery was at its most delicate; sages sought it at the core of each fast. It was there even for the most tired of grad students, filling their minds with the buzz of static as night deepened and the dorm lights seemed to gain physical texture. Nothing terribly unusual, but Jack distrusted it all the same. His gaze flickered automatically towards The Box, which sat unconcerned and pewter-dull on the workbench stool.




"Not listening, obviously," Wei answered herself, scrubbing tiredly at her eyes. Retrieving a small container from the valise, she approached The Box with the knife held as a natural extension of her other hand. "Is there anything between your ears to hold in my words?"

"Plenty," Jack replied dryly, turning his attention back to Ianto. He placed a soft kiss at the corner of that relaxed, vowel-rounded mouth, thumb brushing against the cut on Ianto's right cheek. Absently, he considered that it would probably scar.

"We are not finished." There was something hard underneath the annoyance in those dark soprano tones. Swallowing his own irritation, the Captain forced himself to roll off the bed and shrug on his shirt, barely bothering with a few buttons before returning to smooth the comforter over Ianto's sleeping form. Wide hands arranged the pillows and pulled the blanket down to cover the sleeping man's feet.

"You're right," he said vaguely. "Excuse me if I've been a little preoccupied." Standing straight, he made himself look directly into her black, ironwood eyes. Grudgingly, but with honesty, "Do jeh saai."

She waved his thanks away with an imperious hand, "I told you not to bother with politeness." He raised an eyebrow, but she ignored him, instead turning to The Box with a caution that surprised him. The burnt remnants of Jack's previous heart still lay atop it, jagged piles like a ruined city skyline. Movements precise, Wei took her knife and began to carefully scrape the ash and ruined tissue off, catching it in her plastic bowl.

"You and that knife of yours," he muttered, sitting down on the very edge of the bed. "I suppose you want your payment now?"



"No." Snapping the lid closed, Wei set the container aside and wiped the blade on the silky edge of her qipao. "I said to you, this is not finished. When it is, I will take this information you have stored, so I can be a true shadow." Her fingers trailed daintily along the sides of The Box, almost a caress. The sight made Jack's heart chill, but he didn't think Wei was even aware she was doing it. That impossibly youthful face had taken on a blank look, like the inward gaze of the alien thing she held. "Yes, I stabbed you again, but why be angry?" Voice almost a whisper, now. "I told you, the best currency is blood. I remember Canton when the Japanese came. Paper money, ha! Better for burning, to keep yourself warm-- worth nothing at all. Gold, gems and jade; those work only through the avarice of the human heart. What use do the gods have for such things? And nowadays!" She looked up at him, lip curling with disgust. "Riches stored in computers, all theory and plastic cards, little green numbers in a box! I say to you, this will not last. At the very end, only blood will do." A little laugh sprung from her and, though Harkness couldn't fathom why, it sounded strangled. "What is the English? 'To take it out in trade'?"

"Yes." The Captain responded, clamping his lips closed to keep it just that short. Behind his clenched jaws, there were other words. Oh, honey, you have no idea. He imagined the Toclafane, singing, laughing Martha's name from their shells of decaying flesh and steel. The longer his gaze unwillingly held to The Box, the more that opaque ebony seemed like the armor of those horrible, childish spheres. Mercifully, Wei chose that moment to wrap her artifact in silk again, swaddling it almost as one would a small child. Cradling it that same way, she lowered it back into the valise.

"This," she gestured towards the covered bowl, "I will cook for you."

Jack stumbled over this, blinking away the memories. "I'm sorry?"

"Aiya! Don't you know anything?" Her hands were thrown up in a gesture of dismay. "All those weapons, all that technology, and men know not even the simplest mechanics of power! This left over bit of you, your heart. Do you think I should just throw it away?"

"Frankly, I didn't think there'd be anything left at all."

"Well, there is. And it is not trash! Someone else could take this piece of you, and thus consume some of your power. Therefore, you must take it back into yourself." Jack nodded to show his comprehension, but Lan Wei was not impressed. Instead, a coy smile twitched on her lips, the sick flicker of a pinned butterfly. "Unless, of course, you'd prefer to eat it raw?"




"I'll pass, thanks." The Captain curled his fists against his knees, silently willing her to leave. In the candlelit darkness, the apartment still swelled with wax, the twinge of oily citrus, and Wei's disease-petal perfume; he wanted to snuff out those candles, open the windows to the humid but clean Macao night. With only the lights from the city to cast shadows, he'd sit beside Ianto and watch that beloved face. He had, after all, worlds and time to wait. Thrumming with tension and all its latest abuse, Jack willed his body to relax, but couldn't even uncoil a single locked muscle. Bleary, he glanced over at the clock, which etched time time-- 11:42 pm-- in little red blocks. Oblivious-- or simply unconcerned-- Wei finished packing and began slinking along the corners of the room, as if she herself was a part of the gloom. The candles were extinguished one by one and, without warning, Lan Wei almost viscously flicked on the lights.



Of their own volition, Jack's hands moved to shade his eyes from the artificial glow, glaring vaguely in her general direction. Pulse sluggish and wrist aching he felt almost certain she had broken some spell-- the same way jealous woman shatters her traitorous mirror. He disregarded the painful spots of color in his vision, turning violently towards Ianto. That newborn, almost translucent sensation of connection held, anchoring Jack even as he looked fully at his lover's form. The harsh lighting revealed a bit of dried blood clinging to the hollow of his throat, but that was all. It was Ianto, sleeping quietly in bed, brow furrowed ever so slightly as he dreamed. Jack's heart had known this while those beloved lips suckled at his wrist; known it, and rejoiced. Now his mind, the surface of logic and self-preservation coating his psychic instinct, knew it too. This was real, this was something he was seeing with his own two eyes. For the first time since waking after Thames House, the grate of reality against Jack's skin was gone. He hadn't even registered that painful scrape until it stopped, but he sagged gratefully all the same.

"Ianto. Ianto's here." His relieved laughter mingled with Wei's-- he knew her amusement was directed at him, and he didn't care.

"Now will you listen?" she said, hiding her giggles behind her hand in the manner of cultured ladies. "You must know how to care for your boy. Your..." A moment of earnest frustration with the sounds. "... Ee-ahn-tow."

"I'm all ears."

"Do not try to put English sayings into Chinese," she scolded, bending to collect the cooler as well. The green lid closed over the morass of melting ice and diluted blood, and she nudged it away with her foot. "I took four jars of blood from you when I stabbed you." There was a little flash of mental vertigo for Jack at the casual comment. He thought of John Hart, plucking a tiny key from the lining of his own throat, smiling and Gwen and saying there were no hard feelings. Wei had that same, business-pleasant mien. For all her hatred of the 'modern' era, it occurred to Jack that she had the heart of a true Vegas Galaxy bandit.

"Four jars," Jack smirked right back at her, keeping up the thrust and parry. "Busy girl."

"Very fresh. These will last four days, then the potency will go out of them. On the morning of the fourth day, you will come see me and we will get more. You will feed him with this." From somewhere in the slim folds of her qipao, she produced a small glass eyedropper. Handing it to him, she poked a sharp manicured nail against the fabric of his dress shirt. "Every two hours, as with an infant."

"Of course," he nodded, frowning down at the eyedropper in his open palm. His eyes ran naturally to the raised line of still-healing flesh on his wrist. "But why not--"

"Why not straight from the vein?" Oh, pleasant facade or no, those dusky eyes were lit with amusement. "Does it ache?" She moved as if to touch the wound, and he jerked away, surprised at himself. The skin did ache, but it was not with the familiar itch of his more than human resilience. This throb was distant but firm, the sensation of slow warmth right against the hip bone. His mind seized on the memory of Ianto feeding with tender clarity, and Jack felt again that rush of intimacy and giving that had swept through him. Like a match to dry grass, even the thought was enough to make the ache sweeten unbearably.

"It does," he admitted at last.

"And it will continue to do so." She arched an eyebrow back at him. "You will be tempted, but you must not do this. The connection is too strong, too raw. He has only just come back from the borders of No-Place, and you must not strain him."

"I understand," Harkness said, pulling his shirt cuff down to cover the sensitive skin.

"If you are tempted, go out. Walk, eat, do something until it passes." She rolled her eyes at his look of alarm. "He will be fine. Every two hours you must feed him, but he will not wake for a few days. Not everyone bounds back gasping like you do--" Wei's smile was sharp, "-- a vagrant kicked out by the Lords of Hell."

"Charming." He flexed his own con-man grin once more, before his tone became contemplative. "Why does it ache? Do you know?"

"I told you, he will only ever want to feed from you." Wei turned with a sigh, as if discontent with the direction of the conversation. Picking up with cooler with one hand and the valise with the other, she marched purposefully towards the door. Jack followed her in a mixture of fascination and polite habit. "But just as he will hunger to take, you will hunger to give." The Captain opened the door for her, never taking his eyes off that resentful, little-girl face. "This is mating, not marriage. Here, there is equality. Balance."


(Balance.
Mother worships at the altar of Science and Logic, the child of an in-world that glitters with its crown of towers and technology. Papa has occasionally been known to pray, somewhat distractedly, to Goshen, the Lady of Harvests-- inspite of the indulgent looks from Ahmah and Mother. And what of Ahmah, who left before all-consuming white of the crèche, before Mama knelt screaming in the sand, and even before Grey's hand slipped free? If she has gods, she hides them well-- she worships the freedom and clean air of Boeshane, and her curses always call back the mechanical drones and furnaces of her industrial homeworld. And yet... there's a disc of glass against her breastbone, black and white blurring like snakes devouring each other's tails. It is not a Yin-Yang, but Jack thinks, now, that might not matter.
She says the cosmos craves Balance above all else.)





"Binding and bound." Jack rubs the back of his skull, where the phantom warmth of Ianto's rhythmic, ocean mind seems to manifest. "More than you know, probably."

"More than you know," Wei spits, suddenly all offense, like a cat with its spine arched in anger. "I tell you now, to be careful of spirits and dreams. Care not just for his body in this world, but his spirit beneath the skin. You cannot enact sheng without also beginning the cycle of ke. There will be traps."

"I don't know those words." He repeated 'sheng' and 'ke', this time as questions.

"'Creation'-- as we brought your boy back. And 'destruction', which is the death we saved him from." Before the Captain could open his mouth again, Lan Wei stepped fully beyond the door and out onto the walkway. For a moment, she stood there, hands fisted around handles, glaring up at him mutinously. Then, she pulled her lips away from her teeth and spat, just outside the threshold. "I hate you," she said. "Do not forget this."

Jack wrinkled his nose at the pink-tinged saliva on the walkway cement. As the evening breeze touched against him lightly, he was even more aware of Wei's acidic smell, deepening to blooms so rotten they seeped into the tomb. "Forget? I'd say you make that awfully difficult, don't you?"

"When you feel you are getting what you want, Jack Harkness, you forget things." Her words were merciless, a reflection in her own selfish glass. "You see tools, not people."


(Ianto, kneeling in the darkened hub, amidst the debris of flesh, metal and misplaced hopes.
"I clean up your shit, no questions asked." Blue eyes so hard, the chill of the ice that would not know the sun. "And that's the way you like it.")



Jack's jaw barely twitched but, somehow, Lan Wei knew. She nodded to herself, as if confirming the clip of a bullet against the mark. Even in the poor walkway lighting, her neck flashed pale under the black Mandarin collar. Harkness held his anger in his fisted hands, and did not reach for it. The look Wei gave him in return was knowing, almost sultry, but Jack was certain she wasn't really seeing him. It suddenly came to him that she would sleep tonight on the same creamy, flowered quilt that Ahn Mei once shivered under. He did not know how he knew this-- Lan Wei was no more a psychic entity than she was a human one-- but he didn't question that it felt like fact. She had kept it, long after it ceased smelling of the woman she'd embroidered it for. From city to city, through the Japanese, the Kuomintang, and the Communist regime-- it traveled with her, just as Ahn Mei's portrait on its venerated shelf. Tonight, she would take it from its place of honor in a cedar-lined box and, despite the close and ungentle summer darkness, she'd curl around that fading memory of safety. The image was visceral, but it inspired no pity in him. The stink of her resentment was the stink of urine in a hospice ward, all humiliation and despair. She just... she needed to be gone. Wrung out, it seemed his new heart was capable not only of hope, but also of avarice. He wanted to look at Ianto, freshly ransomed from the Void, look at him and just know.

"You have your boy." Lan Wei said again. And what do I have? The words were palpable, but hung unspoken between them. Turning on her heel, she walked away briskly, never once looking back.


Jack closed and bolted the door firmly behind her.




* * * * * * * * * *





Though the bright, firm reality of the overhead lights offered their own brand of relief, Jack found himself dowsing them almost as soon as Lan Wei was gone. The darkness was a different sort of balm-- the busy neon glare of the city stole in through the glazed windows, throwing the faintest of blue shadows. He left only the bathroom light still glaring, closing the door but for a faint crack of illumination and very deliberately not thinking about how Mother used to do the same thing for himself and Gray. That bright band of light, falling across the dull chrome and woven rugs of the bedroom he'd shared with his little brother; a little ribbon of safety that seemed to soak into his quilts, even as the entire Complex groaned and shook with the worst of Boeshane's winter storms. Mother had always been bemused by this, shaking her close waves of blond hair and repeating to both her boys that nothing existed in the darkness that did not also exist in the light.

It was funny, Jack mused, how people so often lied without meaning to.


In the kitchen, the new refrigerator hummed in quiet, vacant contemplation, a low counterpoint to the creaking of the ancient pipes. Scrubbing his eyes tiredly, Jack turned in a slow circle, taking in the gloom as it rested over the landscape of the small apartment. Here, the rocking chair by the window, casting a jungle of black shade like the twist of tiny wires. There, his workbench, with his wristband gleaming, having gone completely unnoticed by Wei. And the bed, where Ianto lay sleeping, his soft sigh of exhalation loud and sweet in Jack's ears. Thoughtlessly, Jack came to kneel by the bed, propping his elbows on the mattress as he reached for Ianto's hand. Some things needed darkness, needed the illusion of warm depths like those which bubbled from the close Earth, carving space in an icy glacier.


He smiled mockingly at the turn of his own thoughts, but that could not dispel the truth. How many times had he opened his eyes, driven to wakefulness by the sound of the Master's drums, to savor the feel of Ianto as they spooned together in his tiny Torchwood bunk? It wasn't the lack of light itself, but the texture, the closeness. The sleepy rhythm of Ianto's mind brushed against him, instinctively soothing. The Captain sighed in pleasure, eyes rolling closed. Oh, the potency of that touch was new and startling, but the sensation itself was not. That unconscious caress used to wake him-- once upon a time-- on nights when he could rise to find Ianto still somewhere in the Hub. Drawn, savoring it even as he resented its growing strength, he would come into the kitchen or the antechamber off the Archives to find the young Welshman bent over some menial task. He'd situate himself, hips canted, propped against the door or the wall, and wait for those stormy eyes to rise. Every ounce of his body language had conveyed blatant invitation, especially in the early days, when Ianto seemed to slide along the edges of what was real, gradually fading into the background.



(Ianto, his face an exercise in rigid serenity, opening the door to discover Jack standing outside his flat. Two days into his suspension, two days after Lisa, and he looked like a man who'd forgotten the meaning of sleep, white as bone save for where anger flushed up against his neck. Jack, glancing around a living space that held no mark or hint of an owner-- just an empty space, a place of transience. So certain he'd been, when he'd set out from the Hub, that he could discuss this with Ianto rationally. His own calm had curdled, folding away on itself, as he realized that everything about Ianto being in Cardiff hinged on Lisa, and Lisa alone. The unadorned, furnished room was like Ianto's scream as they hauled her ruins away. Looking at the young man's face, Jack saw that the future was gone from it. Nothing in those ash blue eyes but the pain of stepping from one moment to the next.

"Have you come to Ret-Con me?" Ianto asked, voice passionless. There was the smallest of fissures in his calm, though-- a brief flash of desperation, as if part of him relished the idea. "I don't know why you bothered to wait. You should have done it that night and spared yourself the trip." A beat. He then asked, politeness laced with hysteria, if Jack wouldn't like some tea or coffee.

"I haven't come to Ret-Con you," Jack said, following the younger man into the equally spartan kitchen. The expensive coffee machine and neat row of cups were the only signs of Ianto's tidy, elegant touch. "You're not getting away that easily."

The Welshman whirled around, and Jack had been prepared for hatred in that gaze. Had steeled himself for it, envisioning it even as he shrugged on his coat and asked Tosh to mind the Hub, walking purposefully towards Ianto's neighborhood. Strengthening his own fortress walls, he'd reminded himself of every little deception, every lingering touch on his wrist, the buzz of the cyberwoman's voice and the sight of Rose's name heartlessly printed amongst the dead of Canary Wharf. There were strategies for anger and loathing, but not for the honest, hopeless confusion that animated Ianto's face.


"You can't punish me any more, sir." Formal and correct, even in his despair. "You can't hurt me any more than this hurts, knowing I failed. Knowing..." Ianto's gaze fixed on something far away. "... knowing there's nothing after this." Shaking his head, he'd returned to busying himself with the coffee, falling into a familiar rhythm.

The Captain's response surprised even himself. "I'm not trying to punish you."

A fake little cough of disbelief, from the man who did not stoop enough to snort. "You could have fooled me." Contemplatively, he added, "It's what the others want. Owen and Gwen, at least. Isn't that human nature? A pound of flesh."


"As you pointed out, you've already given everything you had." Jack watched those genteel hands pour a cup for each of them. Ianto set one on the table, close to his leader, dark brew fixed just to his liking. Harkness indulged in a sip, watching his companion carefully. The boy was hard to read, all the more difficult because he was adept at letting you
think you'd pieced together something. A sense of embarrassment licked along the anger in Jack's gut. "You did a lot of good at Torchwood-- with the Archives, the computers. Hell, even by simply getting the others to keep the place decent. And, clearly, you're far more talented with security systems than you ever let on." Putting the cup down, he reached across towards Ianto, forcing himself to move slowly. Even with the obvious intent, the Welshman still shook visibly the hand closed around his upper arm. Still dressed well, Jack observed with appreciative amusement, taking in Ianto's collared gray shirt and dark slacks. Pitching his voice low, he murmured, "You've been an asset to the team before, and you will be again."

The blank look on Ianto's face gave no warning-- he shoved Jack hard, and only the fact he was leading with his weaker arm allowed the Captain to turn the attack in his favor. His hand had been on Ianto's right arm, and now it slid down to capture the slim wrist, pulling it behind the younger man's back as he used his own body to pin Ianto against the white kitchen wall.
"Damn you!" It was a curse and a sob. Ianto brought his head down sharply, trying to knock their skulls together, but Jack ducked it easily. He pressed them chest to chest, not a breath between their bodies, mouthing words against Ianto's ear even as his opponent thrashed.
"Are you finished?" The blood in his own veins sang high, the fingers he held so firmly were the same ones that had teased, always darting out of range and the last moment.
"Was finished, am finished," Ianto snarled incoherently. "Can't you even comprehend that much? I can't stand this!"
Jack pulled away, so they were nose to nose. "You don't want to come back to Torchwood?"


"I don't want
anything!" Finally, finally the younger man went limp. The scent of sleeplessness and depression reached Jack's nostrils but, underneath that, the unmistakable aroma of cedar and sugarcane. Fresh, sweet and heady; and a touch against his mind, faint and elusive as breeze from the ocean. His eyes dropped automatically to the firm curve of Ianto's lips. A whisper came, "I know what you did. I don't know how you did it, but-- for just a moment, down there in the Hub-- I was gone. She-- It-- killed me. I was dead."
"Simple CPR." Jack was breathing far too heavily to manage a light tone, but he gave it his best shot. He smirked a little,"I got there just in time."
"You shouldn't have done." For a moment, Ianto sagged against his captor, before he leaned back more deliberately against the wall, still unwilling to give ground. "I'm a traitor and a coward. You said it yourself. You should have left me there, dead with the rest of the filth." He squeezed his eyes closed, as if smothering something inside. "And you're a liar. Your punishment was bringing me back."

"No." Even in the sudden, hurricane-eye of his rage, Jack was honest. "No." Angling his mouth, he took Ianto's, giving the young man that same burning kiss he'd bestowed in the Hub. Without forgiveness, he bruised Ianto's lips against his own, lingering soft for a moment before rallying harshly once more. There was a second of answering fervor, a brief return and cling of an embrace. One of the Captain's hands came up to stroke Ianto's neck, the line of his jaw, as if drawn by the racing pulse. He realized his mistake as soon as he felt the younger man's muscles tense, but it was too late. Right hand free, Ianto gained enough leverage to push the other man away, gasping for air. Jack stumbled backwards, narrowly missing the table, managing to right himself before he fell.
"Should have done that in the warehouse, straight off," Harkness licked his lips. "Would have saved us some trouble."
"Fuck you." Ianto groaned as if punched in the gut. Sliding down the wall, he rested his head on his knees, body shaking. The groan became something else, a sound Jack at first didn't recognize. It trembled in the air, it was the grimace of a smile on the young man's face.
"That," Ianto said, "was not CPR." He laughed hysterically, until tears rolled down his face.


Three weeks later, Ianto had calmly lied during Gwen's ridiculous campfire game. That face had once more been a mask, honest sadness mingled with challenging deceit.
"Lisa. Lisa was the last person I kissed." The tilt of his jaw had been for the team, but the darkness in his glance was for Jack alone. As though asserting that it wasn't too late for him to slip away again, as if he might still soak into the walls of Torchwood and become a ghost.)





"But I didn't let you, and you're not," Jack whispered presently, kissing Ianto's knuckles. The thrum of their psyches against one another was like the best of Kochab's liquored honey, sensuous and slow. Rationally, he knew he would need to build at least a few mental shields soon, for both Ianto's safety and his own. But, just as Ianto's body was already strained from the ritual, Jack knew in his heart that the connection between them required great care. He might have laid the foundations for it long ago, but the true binding was newborn and fragile. Squeezing Ianto's hand, he laid it back on the comforter. "You'll have to be patient with me," he told his sleeping lover. "We were never taught anything about this, except that it was..." Primitive, hedonistic, vulgar, gluttonous. "... forbidden." He chuckled dryly, "I'll figure it out."

Rubbing hard against his temples, the Captain found the need for sleep rushing over him in a relentless wave. He retrieved his mobile from his coat pocket and, forcing his eyes to focus, set the alarm for an hour and a half. Setting it on the nightstand, he found his gaze almost irresistibly drawn to the vacant space beside Ianto, sheets still rumbled from where his own dead weight had rested against it. Biting back his own sense of hysteria, Jack noted that Lan Wei had somehow managed to avoid splashing the covers with a single spot of his blood. Such a morbid talent, though he supposed she had enough practice.



It took every wrenching effort of his own will, but he did not let himself lay down with Ianto. Too soon, too vital-- he was afraid he would not experience the still sleep of old. The only rest he'd gotten recently had been filled with that clutching, violent dream of Lisa in the bathtub, voice filled with human longing and the metallic buzz of hate. Ignoring the pang of superstition that curled along his spine, Jack carried the rocking chair over by the bed, draping his coat over it and settling back against the wicker curves. He took Ianto's hand one more, needing that tether to a world that no longer burned with loss. He'd sleep here, a mirror of the way Ianto had, once. Sitting by Jack's bedside, accent thick and low over confessions he'd denied even as he spoke, a gift he couldn't bear to have acknowledged.

"Just rest," he whispered. "It's my turn to keep watch. I know what it's like, Ianto-- coming back. Like glass grinding between your muscles. That heaviness, as if the Void is trying to follow you back. But it's okay now. You were so good, you did just as I asked. Stayed still, and I came and found you, didn't I?" His fingers stroked Ianto's neck, lured back there as if nothing had changed. "My good boy. You know I wasn't trying to punish you, right? Not then, and not now. You were so angry, before..."


("Your punishment was bringing me back."
No, no. No.
Taking that mouth as if he had the right. Ianto, laughing and crying, and they'd sat there on the kitchen floor for what seemed like hours, caught in a stalemate that ended suddenly only when they reached to help each other up.
Another floor. Kneeling there, defeated.
"I love you..."
And I said 'don't'.)



"I didn't mean 'don't'. Not like that. And I won't insult you by saying it while you're still asleep." Stubbornly, Jack fought down the fierce surge of panic clawing at his insides. The memory of that angry, snarling young man strong, every line and color true. All that calm, polished demeanor, but no one fought quite like Ianto. Looking down, attempting to distract himself, held onto the idea that this time things were different. His gaze came to rest on a small stain in the hollow of Ianto's throat-- a single, drop that had somehow been missed, appearing black in the gloom.



Abandoning conscious thought, Jack leaned down and tenderly licked the blood away.




GLOSSARY:
Do jeh saai- Thank you (so) much. Particularly used for a 'gift'.
Sheng- 'Creation'. According to I Ching, Sheng (written with the same symbol as 'life') is the force that generates interaction between the five elements.
Ke- 'Destruction'. In I Ching, this is the force that overcomes the interaction of elements generated by Sheng. These forces are supposed to be kept in constant but balanced opposition.

+In the 1920's, Kuomintang (or Chinese Nationalist Party) were fighting against various powerful warlords in China. In order to further their goals, they came to an agreement with Communist forces also fighting in China. In 1927, under Chiang Kai Shek, they would become an opposing force against the Communists in an attempt to spread past the southern provinces and unify China. The Kuomintang (KMT) are still the dominant political party in Taiwan.

+In 1938, the Japanese captured Canton during a campagain to seize important port cities, thus blocking supplies and commincation to inner China, which was their next desired target.

... My Chinese History Professor would be so proud of me for remembering all that! Though I very much doubt he would have imagined this use for it. Opps. ^_^;;;



TO BE CONTINUED


Ah, the Daleks and Cybermen would conga like it's 1999 to the tune of your comments, except... it already was 1999. *sheepish* Well, we have a TARDIS! Problem solved!

Yes, I know I'm utterly ridiculous. You can give me feedback anyway. *puppy eyes*





.
 
 
Emotional Temperature: nerdynerdy
The Band Plays:: "Dance Inside"-- by The All-American Rejects
 
 
 
Silke: lossjimaine42 on March 18th, 2010 08:10 pm (UTC)
Meredith, I'm your No. 1 Fan....this is so freaking awesome... Your writing style applied to Torchwood - well, RTD, eat your heart out, this girl's writing season 4 single-handedly...(that an adverb even...? NOt sure...)

Any-whooo...got to ask: would you let me look it over with a fine-tooth comb once you're done? There are a few things - typos, stuff etc. - that I know are bound to register more acutely on a non-native-speaker's radar (you read through what you write and brain substitutes mistakes with what you want/expect to read/understand....) If it's okay with you, I volunteer to do that for you. The story's amazing and I'd love to get "closer" to it.

Keep at it, dear!
Meredith Bronwen Mallory: undyinggarnettrees on March 18th, 2010 08:58 pm (UTC)
Oh, shoot. I knew this chapter was going to have mistakes I didn't catch. Damnit! I wrote the first six pages last week, which Ayashi went over, and then added four more on Tuesday evening. She didn't have time to do more than glance over the end and catch any big errors. *snaps fingers* See, this is why I have to let at least a week pass before I look at my work again. As you said, my brain substitutes what I 'expect' to have written.

would you let me look it over with a fine-tooth comb once you're done?
I'd be honored. Really, I would. I have no idea how long this monster is going to be! But I want to make it as clean and shiny as possible before I post it anywhere outside Livejournal and FF.Net. Thank you so much. You may regret it, though, with this behemoth! ^_~

Your writing style applied to Torchwood - well, RTD, eat your heart out, this girl's writing season 4 single-handedly...(that an adverb even...? NOt sure...)
*blushes* You're too kind. And amazing. And all sorts of other adjectives I know I've applied to you a zillion times in the past. Have you applied your lovely, aching hand to Torchwood yet? *hopeful look*
-Meredith

Edited at 2010-03-18 08:59 pm (UTC)
Cat Moon: Kissmscatmoon on March 18th, 2010 11:30 pm (UTC)
Just want to say I LOVE you for updating regularly every week. I realize this may not always be the case, RL and story issues crop up unavoidably and that's understandable, but I do so appreciate being able to get my "fix" on time. ;)

This one line really struck me:

"When you feel you are getting what you want, Jack Harkness, you forget things."

This is probably the truest observation anyone has ever made about Jack.

And that's one of the lessons he has to learn. For someone who's lived so long (by our standards that is), he's really only just beginning his journey, hasn't really accumulated much wisdom yet. It occurs to me that this, Ianto's return in these circumstances, is something that -- despite initial feeling of it being wrong & mad -- is maybe SUPPOSED to happen. So that Jack can move further along on his path. (Ianto's journey, I can't begin to see yet but will probably become clear later on...well, except for the part where Jack needs him, he really does. I know his path is entwined with Jack's, but he's also an individual with his own personal inner journey.). Just... Jack's attitude with Lan Wei when she lost her soulmate...and now he's in the position to know what it feels like and how far one would go for love. That's a valuable lesson in humanity for him, the darkness in the beauty. I love your damaged, mad Jack, have I mentioned that?

Life is about to change forever, for both of them. Right now Jack is focusing on the moment, just getting Ianto back. Even though he knows the strength of the psychic link between them now is what they were warned against at the Time Agency... he has no clue what is yet to come from these events he's set into motion ("consequences" as you've said). It'll be interesting to see how he reacts when the true reality of the new situation sinks in...



Edited at 2010-03-18 11:35 pm (UTC)
Meredith Bronwen Mallory: jadegarnettrees on March 24th, 2010 02:36 am (UTC)
Just want to say I LOVE you for updating regularly every week.
*grins* I try! I'm afraid of jinxing myself, but this story really has a rhythm going. I'm hoping I can keep pace with it properly. I had such a long dry spell, it's lovely to writing again.

I realize this may not always be the case, RL and story issues crop up unavoidably and that's understandable, but I do so appreciate being able to get my "fix" on time. ;)
It's been a crap week at work (I work Monday-Friday), but I'm hoping to put that behind me and just slip into the feel of this story. Keep your fingers crossed for me! *is dreadfully anal about jinxing herself*

This is probably the truest observation anyone has ever made about Jack.
Thank you for saying that! I worried about that line. But, Lan Wei has so much darkness in her that I think-- despite how much they dislike each other-- she sees and recognizes some of Jack's darker aspects. Unfortunately, since she's thrown away every pretense of decency, that's all she can see. Jack still has feeling and a code of honor-- no matter his mistakes, he'll always represent the heroic aspects of immortality, provided he has something (Ianto) to ground him. I wanted Wei to be the opposite end, base and petty, the parasitic side of long live. I hope that makes sense! I'm glad the few remaining bits of her humanity seemed to come through for you.

but [Ianto] is also an individual with his own personal inner journey
I'm hoping to be equal to the task of writing Ianto's journey as well. *laughs nervously* It's very daunting. I'm so glad Jack's half-rational, damaged thought processes seem in character. I'm so drawn to him, but he's very hard to write.

Thanks again for all the great feedback! You always make me think of new things and notice little threads that could use intertwining. It's great. *hugs*
-Meredith



Heather: ustheddychaa on March 19th, 2010 01:37 am (UTC)
Thursdays are like, my favourite day of the week because of you, just thought you should know.

This was an absolutely excellent chapter. So romantic, so many excellent turns of phrase. I think you're right about that "who was the last person you kissed" scene, too: there's subtext in the way Jack looks at Ianto after he says it that I think suggests they've already begun their relationship at that point, behind the scenes.

All the flashback scenes are so, so good. Especially the scene in the kitchen. So heartbreaking. ;_;
Meredith Bronwen Mallory: teamgarnettrees on March 24th, 2010 03:19 am (UTC)
Thursdays are like, my favourite day of the week because of you, just thought you should know.
I love Thursdays 'cause they're my day off work-- and because I get to hear from you lovely people! ^__^ It's good to know I can make the day as nice for someone else. Thank you!

there's subtext in the way Jack looks at Ianto after he says it that I think suggests they've already begun their relationship at that point
That look Jack gives Ianto is so oddly possessive and confrontational... challenging and very sexually charged. I absolutely agree with you. There was definitely something going on there. I'm glad my version worked for you!

Thanks again,
Meredith
cen_evanscen_evans on March 19th, 2010 01:45 am (UTC)
Oh wow. With each new chapter I find myself thinking that that was the best, surely none can top it... yet still I find myself amazed.

*shakes head in awe*
Meredith Bronwen Mallory: partnersgarnettrees on March 24th, 2010 03:21 am (UTC)
*blushes* Awww... Really, you're always too kind to me. Thank you!
-Meredith
alex_annnalex_annn on March 19th, 2010 04:25 am (UTC)
"the sullen ache in his bones-- that jump in perception and consciousness"

I know that feeling, for me it usually comes from lack of sleep. Crazily enough, I tend to have my best ideas then.

Anyway, another great chapter. I really enjoy reading this story.
Meredith Bronwen Mallory: rosegarnettrees on March 24th, 2010 03:24 am (UTC)
I know that feeling, for me it usually comes from lack of sleep
*grins* I think every dedicated college student knows that feeling. At least I remember it well! ^_~

But you're right, sometimes the best ideas come at that point. Something about the texture of the night, I think.

Thank you so much for commenting!
-Meredith
missthingsplacemissthingsplace on March 19th, 2010 05:44 pm (UTC)
I know i'm rubish at this commenting lark, i wish i could leave great long ones like others do but ...

Every chapter of this draws me in further, this fic is so truely amazing, rather on the dark side (Lan Wei scares me a little) and so engrossing!

Another fantastic chapter and that last line kinda broke me a little.
Meredith Bronwen Mallory: trek60sgarnettrees on March 24th, 2010 03:27 am (UTC)
I know i'm rubish at this commenting lark
Nonsense! I love hearing from you, any little thing at all. I promise, I grin like a loon when I see a new little comment in my box.

The darkness is hard to avoid, but I promise our boys will be okay. I make be an angst-addict, but I'm really a hopeless romantic underneath. ^^;

Thank you so much for the feedback! I actually had that last line written before I started the rest of the chapter, so I'm glad it worked.
-Meredith
lone_star_woman: lone_star_woman on March 21st, 2010 06:46 am (UTC)
Okay, so I am now caught up on this story, and I have to say that it is freakin' amazing. It is absolutely stunning. It's so creepy and fascinating. And I love the way you weave the flashbacks into the story. They are so well chosen and add to the story.

I am looking forward to reading more.
Meredith Bronwen Mallory: kaylee_inaragarnettrees on March 24th, 2010 03:38 am (UTC)
It's so creepy and fascinating.
*madly pleased* Thank you! I'm glad the creepy aspects add to it-- I was worried I was crossing a line. ^^; And it's lovely to hear that the flashbacks work. Jack and Ianto have so many pivotal moments in their relationship, it's hard to stay away from.

Thanks again!
-Meredith
(Anonymous) on March 23rd, 2010 01:50 am (UTC)
Good gosh, I love this. Just marvelous! I commented at length when you started your story and now I find myself checking the calendar to see when the next installment is due! I particularly like your rendition of what happened during The Suspension and Ianto's response to Gwen's game in "Countrycide." The way you play it out makes perfect sense. It may not be the only rendition but it's certainly the best, best, best written. I look forward to next week!
Meredith Bronwen Mallory: boomer2garnettrees on March 24th, 2010 03:29 am (UTC)
I remember that comment! I'm so glad you're still reading the story. It's always nice to hear from people-- makes me grin so as to split my face, so it does.

I particularly like your rendition of what happened during The Suspension
I'm really happy to hear that. I've never tried to deal with the events directly after 'Cyberwoman' and, actually, had no intention of doing so. It just sort of... crept in there. But it felt *right*-- I'm pleased others thought so.

Thank you!
-Meredith
badly_knitted: A Fic So Goodbadly_knitted on March 23rd, 2010 03:23 pm (UTC)
I'm speechless.... There's so much here, I don't even know where to begin, never mind how! The flashbacks to Ianto's suspension are some of the most realistic and believable I've read. People often seem to forget that Ianto must have spent most of his time at the Hub, and most of his money would have gone on the drugs and supplies Lisa needed. His flat would have been barely lived in, hardly more than a place to store things. He probably set up routines to help himself cope with everything that needed to be done each day; with Lisa gone, his purpose for existing would also have gone, so he'd automatically cling to what was left of his routines in order to keep going. I could never see Ianto letting things (or himself) become a mess. He'd probably get up in the morning, make the bed, shower, shave and dress on autopilot, without even thinking about it because he'd done it so often. The interaction between him and Jack seemed very in character to me.
I like that Jack's been ordered not to let Ianto feed from him directly for now. They have a newly-formed bond and the intimacy of the act would be too intense, but the desire for that intimacy would be hard to control and to resist. Jack will have to be very strong willed over the next few days. Will the link between them allow Jack to feel when Ianto is hungry? The parallels with vampires are very intriguing. Ianto will be dependent on Jack's blood to live, but I'm assuming he's not a vampire as such. Sorry, not really making much sense today, am I? I have too many thoughts that I can't find the right words for, which is a bit frustrating. Doesn't matter though, I love this so much, it makes me think and wonder about what kind of life Ianto will have now, just how 'normal' he can be. Looking forward to seeing where this goes next. I'll try to be a bit quicker with reading the next chapter!
Meredith Bronwen Mallory: undyinggarnettrees on March 24th, 2010 03:36 am (UTC)
I always look forward to your comments. Sometimes you pick up on things I was thinking so clearly, it's almost as if you're in my brain! *looks closely* Are you? ^_~

The flashbacks to Ianto's suspension are some of the most realistic and believable I've read.
I'm endlessly pleased to hear that. I didn't set out intending to write that flashback but, once it was done, it felt too right to question. I'm glad the emotions and interactions worked for you. Whenever I hear Ianto's line from Adam ("You... you gave me meaning again"), I can't help but think how much Jack must have been there for him when he was at his lowest. You can tell by his voice that it's an (almost unwillingly) honest confession, and it hurts.

Jack will have to be very strong willed over the next few days.
You are right on top of it, my friend! ^__^

Ianto will be dependent on Jack's blood to live, but I'm assuming he's not a vampire as such.
You're absolutely correct! Jack and Ianto form a closed circuit, where as Lan Wei is a traditional vampire in the sense she is only capable of taking. And you're right about the slim chances of a 'normal' life-- though I think normal takes one look at Jack and generally runs screaming from the room. ^_~

I'll try to be a bit quicker with reading the next chapter!
Take your time, love. You know I adore hearing from you. I appreciate you taking the time to comment on Shuang and Ming as well. I was so nervous about that chapter!
-Meredith