I can't thank you guys enough for the kind responses I got on the first chapter. It was really, really awesome, and I'm glad the darkness didn't turn too many people off. I promise-- no matter how dark it gets, I will always bring a flashlight, and put the boys back together (in every sense of the word *wink*) at the end!Plus, after 'Meat' and 'Adam', it's not as if the canon writers aren't turning the lights off now and again.
That said, I can only thank you again for taking the time to read, and tell you how very much I would appreciate a comment when you're finished. Really, they make my day! ^_^
Things Rank And Gross Possess It Merely 2/5
by Meredith Bronwen Mallory (garnettrees)
She managed to make it to the laundry detail before she truly began shaking. Grabbing one of the Master's expensive silk shirts from the hamper, Tish slapped it down on the ironing board and began smoothing it out with fingers that could not still themselves. She would not be allowed to eat until Master had finished his daily luncheon pantomime, but her stomach lurched in horror even as the rest of her body registered the need for nourishment. Vividly, her merciless mind's eye showed her the Master as he no doubt was at that very moment-- meticulously spearing some scarce Earth-meat while he considered aloud how to best enjoy his new prisoners.
'I can't watch again,' she thought as she fumbled with the iron settings, and immediately felt sinkingly, unrepentantly selfish. The man and the woman would die painfully, hideously. Harper had died... Tish grappled for a sense of time. She thought it was a month or so back, but could not be certain. Days and nights, seasons, carried little meaning as the Valiant rocked amongst the sky's waves-- there was only the countdown, which ruled over them all and knew nothing of mercy or hope. She *did* know it had taken Harper four days to finally succumb to the torture. (How the Master had 'tsked' over the dead body, sneering down his nose about 'so-called human endurance'!) The Welsh woman, before him, had taken almost a week. It had been the ax that ended her, the Master chopping artlessly as bone cracked, rather than a combination of wounds.
'They can' be lookin forward to it either, Tish,' Leo's voice in her mind, a belated reflection of that annoying older brother.
'Guess not,' she answered herself. She took a deep breath, which seemed to involve more effort than it ought to.
Martha's voice, this time; 'You're tired. Sleep is an critical part of the body's natural cycle.' That lightly fussing tone, the kind she wielded back when teasing Martha about her social life, or lack thereof.
Aloud, she said, "I'll sleep when I'm dead," and felt the truth of it. Slowly, carefully, she moved the iron along the shirt's tailored folds, blinking when the fabric seemed to writhe. 'It's made of maggots,' the thought came with frightening, impossible certainty. Fascinated, she watched the little segmented creatures slither, and burn under the touch of heat.
Awareness came back, like a snapshot. Someone was shaking her; she looked up in terror and saw her mother's concerned, careworn face.
"Sweetheart," Mum was saying. "Com'on, Letitia Anne!"
It smelled like something was burning. "Wha?" Mother reached over and turned off the iron-- she let her gaze drop down to see the scorched imprint on the bare ironing board. Bewildered, she looked up to see five of the Master's shirts hanging nearby, freshly pressed and waiting to be put in his wardrobe. There'd been none when she started, and now there were five-- the ivory one, on which she'd seen the maggots, was among them. "Did I ruin them?" she asked aloud, moving from her mother's arms to examine the laundry. The shirts were fine, perfect and unmarred, and she could have collapsed with the relief.
Mum came around, drew her to the corner and half-hugged, half-rocked her. "What happened, Tish?" As if ruining the laundry was unimportant, as if it were not a matter of being whipped, of having his hands on her.
"S'fine. They're fine. I didn't ruin them."
"Yes, love," Mum said, with a trace of old impatience. "But you weren't *there*... you were..."
'I think I'm going mad', she might have said. Or, perhaps, 'I wish I'd died with Leo.' As it was, she said nothing-- the Valiant's public address system overrode the words her mouth was forming, booming with the hideously cheerful voice of a sphere.
"Attention all staff! Attention all staff! Rejoice!" Short, declarative, like a child's toy. "Your Lord and Master reigns on high, and will hold audience on the main deck in seven minutes. You will attend to his majestic presence in seven minutes!"
For a long moment, Tish met her mother's gaze head-on, wondering what-- if anything-- those dark eyes could fathom in her own. Concern was written in the older woman's expression, exhausted panic, and a kind of white-knuckled desperation that filtered into even the arch of her eyebrows and the set of her jaw. Finally, Mrs. Jones drew her youngest child into a brief but almost painfully tight embrace.
Together, they went to answer their Lord and Master's call.
Now that she could see him properly, Tish was struck by how young the male prisoner seemed. He was a man-- out of his teens, fully grown, slim-but-strong shoulders-- but the handsome lines of his face held still held a vestige of boyish prettiness. He could, very easily, have once sat next to her at University-- perhaps a graduate student, idly tapping his pen while he waited for the other TA's. His eyes were strange, though; he stared at the floor with the focus of a soldier, and even from some distance away, Tish could see how very blue they were. Presently, he was kneeling beside his female companion at the bottom of the steps to the console, hands cuffed behind his back. The woman was also looking down but, every once in a while, would dart her glance around the room, as if searching and cataloging.
"Now we're all just waiting on Jack," the Master said with mock annoyance, tapping his wrist. "Isn't that typical? So rude, that boy." He smirked towards the Doctor, "Always showing up at the wrong moment, eh? No sense of timing." There was a long beat in which no one spoke. The Doctor looked calmly off at some point behind the Master's shoulder, while Lucy reclined almost bonelessly in a chair near by. There were guards, of course, towards the back of the room, and the people the Master called 'pretty minions'-- like Tanya-- as well as a few other servants. Tish stood off to the side with her mother, awaiting orders she prayed she would not receive.
The UNIT men brought Jack in with their usual lack of finesse, shoving him along while he made a show of chuckling, and whispered undoubtedly filthy comments under his breath. Tish knew the exact moment in which he saw the new prisoners-- he showed no fear, but drew himself up, became like a thing of always-cold stone. It wasn't just that there was no longer anything mocking or playful about his attitude-- rather, looking at him now, it was hard to imagine there ever *could* have been. More of his friends, then.
"There you are, Jack," the Master said, in that sickening aren't-we-golf-buddies tone. "Look at what I found in Nepal!" He gestured grandly, "These two actually gave us quite a turn. Took down three of my Troclofane friends with this little missy's electron disruptor." He patted the woman on the head as if she were a prize racing horse, then reached down and yanked so hard on her hair she could not help but make noise. "She made my poor babies very cross, she did."
"Tosh," Jack said, voice thick. "Toshiko, I'm so sorry." She nodded frantically, obviously not trusting herself to speak.
"Awww." An exaggerated pout from the Master. "But this one," he came to stand behind the man, trailing his hands along the prisoner's body, embracing him from behind. "Ianto Jones. Put up quite a fight, he did, even with the guards. I do believe you bit someone's ear off, didn't you, boy?"
"I scarcely had time for anything else," Ianto replied, deadpan yet sweet. His voice was rich, Welsh accent clinging along the vowels. Tish heard a bark of astonished laughter from Jack, and watched in amazement as Ianto flashed the Captain a brief, but stunningly beautiful smile.
"Oh, indeed," the Master said, his hands moving dangerously low on the Welshman's body, though Ianto gave no sign that he felt it at all. "Perhaps we can find something else for that busy little mouth, later on." Jack jerked roughly in his chains, grunting around words he would not let loose. The Master quirked an eyebrow, "Quite a pair we have here. The last of Torchwood Three. The others are dead, of course." The last was said to Toshiko and Ianto, as if remarking on the weather.
"But, you know," the Master drawled, redirecting his tone towards Jack even as he began unzipping Ianto's heavy sweatshirt. "I think we saved the best for last. That Gwen was so whiney, 'Rhys' this and 'Rhys' that. And Harper!" A dismissive hand-wave. "No stamina! Here," he grinned, popping his head between Toshiko and Ianto, "here we have the brains, and the... heart." Toshiko was crying now, body heaving against the chains. Ianto's eyes were shining, but he continued to look only at the Captain, even when the Master leaned over and licked his tongue along the scar on the young man's cheek with slow, obvious sexual intent. "I can see why you like him so much, Jack. Very pretty, and so sweet. Loyal, too. You know, I made a little recording of one of our nights together, Jack-- you, me and all that screaming." The Master laughed as a slow, dull blush stained Ianto's face. "Baited the trap with that, and he came running." Sneering, "Off to rescue his Captain."
"Sorry, sir," Ianto said, glancing up sheepishly.
"Ianto," Jack said, and Tish's heart lurched within her chest. Just a single word but, oh, the name, _ached_.
"Such a _devoted_ piece of ass." The Master stood, looking down at his new captive consideringly. Smiling, he shrugged towards Jack. "I'm really going to have fun killing him, you know."
"I'm going to kill _you_," Jack said suddenly. Firm, inflexible. "You can't kill me. If it takes waiting for the end of the universe again, I'm going to rip your fucking head off and stuff it up your ass."
"You've said that before."
"No less true now," the Captain replied blandly.
"And what would your _dear_ Doctor say," the Master asked, pretending to be scandalized.
Jack locked eyes with Ianto, and Tish heard a great deal of deliberation in the next words, "I don't _care_ about what the Doctor wants." Once, there would have been an apologetic glance towards the old man in the corner-- in fact, Tish waited for it, but Jack's gaze never wavered. Finally, Ianto nodded, a movement that was little more than a fractional lift of the chin. Whatever had passed between the two men seemed electric, causing a frown to flicker, like lightning in high clouds, across Harold Saxon's face.
"What's all this, then?" he asked, quickly finding the beat once more. That merciless pounding, the drumming of his fingers, the breath of the monster slithering underneath their lives. "Do you see, Doctor?" He came to touch the old man's wrinkled cheek in a parody of tenderness. "They are all going to hate you. They'll die cursing you. Don't you think that was Martha's dying thought-- loathing for the man who destroyed her family and her life?"
At last, the Doctor spoke, no more than a breathless movement of lips. "Martha lives." And oh, Tish knew better than to move her gaze away from the Master-- it took real concentration not to turn to Mum or look to Jack, to watch their expressions make the words real. Never the less, she felt her mother stiffen beside her. Without moving her head, she glanced out of the corner of her eye, only able to make out Mrs. Jones' strong profile, ebony and statue-still.
The Master laughed, humoring an older relative. "Does she? And for how much longer?" He shoved the Doctor backwards angrily, only becoming more enraged when the ancient man simply lay there in his overturned wheelchair, face as unreadable as depthless ice. "After all this time, do *any* of you--" he motioned wildly with his arms, "-- honestly think there's any hope at all?" When all was silent on the bridge, he barked towards the UNIT guards. "Well?"
"Sir!" they answered, seemingly as one. "No, sir!"
"And you, my dear Mrs. Jones?"
Mum waited just a beat, then spoke like a student learning by rote, "No, Master."
(martha. martha in a field of orange trees, flowers all rustling their petals like snow.)
Tish made her tongue move, "No, Master."
"Go to hell."
"Sorry, already have done!" The Master chirped, grabbing a rifle off the nearest guard. He turned the barrel on Ianto, jamming the black muzzle against the young man's jugular. "Try again, freak."
"Tosh," Jack said kindly. And, softer still, "Ianto. It's going to be okay."
"Wrong answer!" Moving like a snake striking, the Master whirled the gun off his young prisoner and onto Jack. There was a second in which Tish saw understanding flicker across Ianto's face, so naked that she had to look away.
"You bastard!" Tosh screamed, jerking in her bonds. The guards, stunned, lost their grip-- she moved forward on her knees. One step, another.
Then the gun went off, and single, perfect little circle appeared on Jack's forehead.
'Why was the blood in the movies always such a bright red?' Tish wondered, disconnected and woozy. A deep garnet liquid began running down Jack's face, even as his body fell. She heard him hit the floor, the crunch of bone and gray matter as he tripped back. The entry wound was almost always neat, but the exit... the bits of bone were whiter than even the bridge's white tile, stark against the bits of flesh and hair. Sound filtered back in slowly. Tosh was screaming, weeping, sounds that made Tish's throat hurt just to hear them. In between those guttural shrieks were words, some English, some foreign, all of them bloated with hate and fear. The guards re-secured the struggling woman, who suddenly went utterly limp. Like a bizarre porcelain doll, her body hung from the restraints at an odd angle, her cheek against the cold floor. Looking over at Ianto, it seemed to Tish as if he hadn't moved at all. The agony was on his face, though, breathless and endless and so complete as a few scarce tears rolled down his cheeks. He looked less like a prisoner and more like a mystic on his knees, waiting for death as his body and soul were ripped in two. The Master bent down, taking Ianto's chin in two fingers, tilting up his face.
"Is it okay now, Ianto Jones?" the Master asked, so close their noses were almost touching. "Tell me, is it really going to be okay?"
Feedback = Love. Seriously, the formula is in all the algebra texts. ^_~