At any rate, Ayashi's had her final edit, and has threatened to keelhaul me if I dither any more. She's scary when she's mad. I did not get this out by my birthday, like I planned, but I figure it's close enough for government work. And, best of all, I managed to get to the part where Ianto wakes up!
*crosses fingers* Here's hoping it doesn't disappoint. If you could take just an extra moment to tell me what you think, I'd be greatly indebted.
*wibbles some more* Oh well, damn the torpedoes! ^_^
Edit: Thanks to msemmaloo, albichorizon, and captanne for catching my remaining dopey spelling errors. X_X;
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.
Prologue | Chapter One | Chapter Two | Chapter Three | Chapter Four | Chapter Five | Chapter Six | Chapter Seven | Chapter Eight | Chapter Nine | Chapter Ten | Chapter Eleven | Chapter Twelve
In Amnion 13/?
by Meredith Bronwen Mallory (garnettrees)
The rain itself had passed, but the storm clouds lingered dolefully over the whole of the city. Each one still held a darker gradient of gray, they seemed to hint that they could let loose another downpour-- if the urge struck them-- but they certainly weren't going to help diffuse the heat. Dawn came, trying for pink and blushing the sky briefly, before it settled back into a silvery patina, like the blind eye of the typhoon itself. Jack left the windows in the apartment open as long as he could bear it, finding the humid, faintly metallic smell of the city far preferable to the ghosts of lemon and myrrh from Lan Wei's ritual.
The morning did the Captain no favors. In spite of the growing light, he felt trapped, as if the night before had lengthened impossibly. Crouching, refusing to be banished. He looked at the wan beams of illumination on the floor, blinking harshly. For a moment, every color seemed waxy and wrong, before his stomach cramped painfully. He located the cold, leftover noodles in the refrigerator, supplying his body with them distractedly. The noodles themselves felt slimy; they stuck to the chopsticks and his tongue. He ate standing at the kitchen counter, watching the mist recede through the streets. The buildings in this district were packed together tightly, not even offering the pretense of geometry. Alleys and side streets met each other at arcane angles; paths with no exit jutted abruptly, like knife wounds. The eighth floor's vantage point offered just a few tantalizing puzzle-glimpses-- a scrap of bay here, a derelict warehouse, the odd slope of concrete steps. It had all the innate sense of an Escher drawing, the funhouse mirror reflecting throughout itself, and yet it seemed deliberate as well.
'Ley lines and traffic lights,' Harkness thought with dim amusement. 'Neon markers of the gods.' Somewhere, a truck's horn gave an indignant wail, and the buzz of thoroughfare drivers increased as morning rush hour crept nigh. Conscientiously, Jack washed his chopsticks, disposing of the empty styrofoam container in the rubbish bin. That was the last of the food he had in the apartment, but the thought of leaving Ianto in search of more hardly seemed worth contemplating. Lan Wei had insisted he would sleep-- and she, of anyone, would know-- but a part of Jack railed against her careful instructions, desperate to keep watch.
That's what this was, sentry duty. He barely trusted his own senses, muddled with exhaustion and grief, let alone the capriciousness of his good fortune. Jack's psyche had brushed lovingly against Ianto's sleeping consciousness; he'd spent several hours resting with his arm thrown over the Welshman's hips, feeling the shallow motions of breath and pulse. Yet it simply wasn't enough. Everything seemed so thin, as if events could easily fold back in a Mobius strip. If he woke in that gymnasium again, if he had to find Ianto's limp form under that thin red sheet, he was sure he would scream and scream and never stop screaming. They could put him in the room next to Jonah, and the two of them could cry out endlessly together for the very same reason. Gwen, and even Jonah's mother, had assumed that the boy had been driven insane by the things he'd seen. That was the easy explanation, the one that let you sleep at night.
The other, deeper diagnosis, was simply that the teen had seen the black, bare universe in its entirety. Horror upon horror; plain fact with no escape. He was, simply put, too sane.
Numb relief and expectation were holding the immortal together now. Unwanted memories like pins put through bone. In truth, Jack had barely thought past this point. Once the plan had risen-- seemingly whole and unblemished-- from the depths of his mind, he'd been primarily concerned with logistics. Getting out of England; getting Ianto into Macao. Bartering with Wei, and covering his tracks well enough that Gwen, Martha, or even UNIT would not find a ready scent. The Doctor could not be guarded against half so easily, but Jack had formed plans to remedy that, too.
Find Ianto. Find him. He'd let that though drive him, pull at him mercilessly. It was overwhelming, and far better than actually examining his grief. Now, Jack stood in the kitchen doorway, looking out towards the wide living space. Even the flat, gray light of morning revealed the living color in Ianto's face. He thought of the old broadcasts-- 'living color', the carnival glass luster of new film. Hardly impressive to a boy who'd grown up with tri-feed holograms, but the phrase stuck with him. Brought to you in living color.
Rummaging in the cupboard, he located a few packets of green tea that had come with his dinner. He needed caffine, and he wasn't going to fool himself that he could even contemplate coffee right now. Instead, he heated his mug in the microwave, letting the tea bags soak. The sharpness of temperature and taste were welcome, and he sat staring into the swirling dark of the cup for a very long time.
Hua She Street Number 10 came to a shuddering, resentful waking. Jack heard the clang of the front gate at quarter to five and, shortly after that, the wheeze of the few cars kept in the complex park. Most of the remaining occupants lived within walking distance of work-- they labored in the warehouse district, or crossed the thoroughfare to bend their backs in piecework factories. Every now and again, a particularly loud piece of conversation floated through the boney structure. Jack blocked them out, unable to rouse enough interest in getting a sense for his chosen locale. The Agency's long-ingrained training was simply no match for the enveloping sense of disorientation. Something was off, something was shifting imperceptibly out of sync, even as the balance of Jack's personal world evened out. It wasn't Time-- if it was, Jack would have been fighting more than the minor psychic pain of being without shields. He didn't have the senses of a Timelord by any stretch of the imagination, but repeated exposure to the mechanics of nonlinear temporal context had given him something of an edge. A feel for Volcano Day, though-- and he winced-- he was just as capable of ignoring or belittling those hunches as anyone else.
Backwash from the ritual, Jack decided. The corners of the apartment felt as though they needed a bleaching and scrubbing, though the filth wasn't physical. The smell, at least, had dissipated. The heat pulsed higher, blanketing the whole of the port-- already even the memory of cool rain seemed gone, and the early hour felt just as abysmally sweltering as noon had the day before. The Captain closed the windows against it, first the kitchen, then the wide, glazed pane that overlooked the courtyard. Tenants crossed the uneven cobble below, most of them dressed in coveralls or garish food service uniforms. There were a few students-- all of them high school age-- weaving sleepily as they hurried towards an early cram session. One woman, smooth ebony hair curved in an almost architectural french twist, made her way towards the gate with a palpable air of disdain. While the others offered each other distracted calls of 'jou sahn', she spoke to no one, hips moving in a practiced sway under her pencil skirt. All of these people, without exception, took a curved path through the courtyard, as if guided by invisible rails. For a moment, Jack's skin prickled unpleasantly, and he was reminded of pedestrians on the Plass, blindly avoiding the Invisible Lift. That seen-but-unseen quality of the perception filter, tapping into instinct.
They were avoiding the tree. That gnarled, anorexic trunk that stretched out of the open soil, fragile branches devoid of leaf or bloom. It had to be dead, possessed of no more sap or life than a piece of driftwood. Jack wondered that the pale carcass had yet to be torn down, though he supposed Mr. Yu wouldn't bother with the extra work in light of the upcoming demolition. It looked even more unpleasant than it had when the Captain first crossed into Number 10. Nothing else grew in the shadow of the three buildings-- not a bush, flower, or tuft of grass. With typical 60's efficiency, everything else had been paved. He strongly suspected the cobblestone had lingered with the housing project only because it was too expensive to dig up. Willing himself to look away, Harkness instead gazed at the two buildings that flanked his own. Save for sickly Ms. Chen, the entire eight story hulk was Jack's alone. The other two buildings, while sparsely populated, still held enough people to give the complex a sense of lethargic awareness. That shaky vitality of the elderly who feel death but stare at it, hateful and half-blind. A young mother in a worn green robe stood on one of the neighboring walkways, rocking and shushing the fussy infant in her arms. As the Captain watched, a heavily pregnant cat came into view, tangling between her legs, pawing at her slippers. She gently nudged it away with one foot, a look of mingled fear and distaste flickering across her features. The cat itself was black with white markings, the pale splotches so large they looked almost comical. In the West, black cats were unlucky; here, white was the color of death and disaster.
Bad omens and coincidence-- of course no one takes those things seriously these days. But you crossed your fingers all the same.
You're double damned, my friend, Jack thought at the retreating feline. The baby began to fuss more loudly, ignoring his mother's attempts to soothe. An image
(little steven when alice finally allowed Jack to hold him? melissa herself, wrapped in a pastel hospital blanket? or grey, too wide-eyed, face red and pinched while Ahmah showed Jamie how to hold him right?)
rose, felled just as swiftly as it came by Jack's vehement denial. He shook his head, as if to physically banish it. Somewhere, someone's forgotten laundry slapped wetly against a wall. Behind him, his mobile chirped, marking the next set of hours. A warm rush flooded through Jack, pangs of desire and hope that pooled in the cut on his wrist.
He closed the window firmly on the world.
Now with three more feedings under his belt, Jack felt he had begun to get a handle on the rhythm of his connection to Ianto, if not the actual bond itself. Each time, he cradled the young man against his own body, massaging the Welshman's throat and watching with relief as more and more of the red liquid disappeared. When the swallows slowed and Ianto's breathing evened, he knew the session was over, but he did not actually need those physical signals. It was there at the base of his skull, a sensation much like Ianto's hands slipping away from his neck after a particularly ardent kiss. A pleasurable feeling, like a caress, but not one he looked forward to. Like a sailor trapped on land, he gazed longingly towards deep indigo quay of his lover's mind, praying for the right sort of tide. He could feel Ianto, but he couldn't communicate-- trying produced powerful agony in his own mind and, just once, a little mewl of distress from his sleeping companion. It was this, more than anything, that made Jack stop chasing the ripples of association and phantom colors that came to him when Ianto fed. Instead, he tried to relax, let them wash over him, stronger each time but still somehow hopelessly ephemeral. That tide, Ianto's Quay, knew and embraced him without conscious effort. Some form of psychic instinct, the Captain was sure, for the patient lapping of waves brought him strange, glimmering shards of memory like eon-polished shell. Not all of them-- (none of them?)-- were things Jack thought Ianto would want him to see.
(Sitting in the Hub's tiny kitchen with Tosh. A late night project-- some rift-recalibration Ianto is assisting her with because it's better than going home and thinking. 'Blast thought,' is what he says to her, and it earns him a tired smile. The past few months have been rough on all of them, but Toshiko in particular seems to feel personally responsible for foreseeing every possible contingency. The new program is actually a flop-- it hasn't been long enough for them to have completely given up on the Captain's detection or return, though neither of them wants to admit it. Instead, they go back to her flat, drink and play Dirty Scrabble while sitting on her vintage throw rug. They cheat by mutual consent, mixing languages; 'zakennayo' crossed with 'damn', 'pidyn' sticking asymmetrically out of 'shit'. They laugh themselves sick with the deliberate vulgarity. He falls asleep on Tosh's sofa, and wakes up with a hangover that feels something like relief.
Months later; days and weeks pulling at the skin. Ianto watches as his teammates face the lengthening gulf in turn. The Captain is gone, and the only thing their search has managed to yield is more and more evidence that Jack left voluntarily. They make plans, they work around it, half out of spite. Gwen is nominally in charge-- she thinks she's the last one holding on to hope, and Ianto does not disabuse her of that notion. What he has cannot be called by that name. He wants and believes in spite of his own nature, constantly berating himself for it. He works hard, he never cracks, but he wakes at odd hours during the night, disoriented and confused. The blank ceiling sets him adrift and time seems malleable. Once, he wakes thinking he'd better go into Torchwood One early and finish that report, or the Case Archivist will have his head. Or that dream, almost a year old now, curls up with him-- he thinks he hears Lisa begging for meds.
On these nights, Ianto takes a warm shower no matter what time it really is, barely bothering with the lights. Sometimes, he takes himself in hand, looking for a distraction. That never really works; but he's a young, healthy male. It's the visualization that gets him; heart and cock pulse, two traitorous organs, until he focuses solely on the memory of touch and skin. No moments to relive, just the feel of a strong jaw, bruising grip on his own shoulders, Jack's eyes while he watches. This is what Ianto needs to take out of context. He does not want connotations, emotive echoes or particulars.
It's funny, because what he wants is Jack, outside of Time.
Very young now, snugly tucked in with Mam's old quilt. His shoulder hurts, red pressure, but not half so much as his head from Da shouting at him. Ianto shivers in his warm flannel pajamas-- Da is still shouting, both of them are. Mam's voice has that tight control to it, she's trying to be quiet, but the acoustics of the house bring everything through quite plainly.
"Don't you ever touch my son like that again, do you hear me?"
Da, louder, booming, "Did you not see the mess he made of my papers? Thoughtless brat."
"That's what a time-out is for, you great oaf!" Mam's voice quavers with emotion. "You're not to raise a hand to my boy! Are we clear?"
"Are you threatening me?" Ianto can't see it, but he knows Da is crowding her. Mam is small, and Da likes to corner her-- loom in her space.
"I'll handle the discipline from now on." Quiet, almost feline rage; then, suddenly, she pauses and takes a deep breath. Mam's voice acquires a tone of perfect, polite reason, as if she's at a garden party. "You have to sleep sometime, Vaughn."
Older. London, say 'thank you, god', and he's making a home of his own. That first flat with Lisa, trying to arrange everything perfectly, anticipate how she would like things. He's in jeans and a t-shirt, wrestling with the kitchen cupboard the landlord claimed would be easy to fix. Unpacked boxes crowd around him, reminding him of how much more there is to do.
"Just leave it, love," Lisa says from the doorway. She sounds at once amused and exasperated. "We can finish unpacking tomorrow."
Ianto squints in at the rusted hinge, not raising his head. "I just want to get this sorted."
"You can't organize the whole universe." Closer now-- her shadow crosses over him.
"Don't want to organize the whole universe," he tells her absently. "Just my little corner of it."
A flutter of something. Gingerly, Ianto straightens and looks down in his lap. Her underwear-- the fancy, lacy scrap of silk she wears when she has a particular plan.
"So tell me, O Archivist-- do you have a special filing system for that?" Lisa chuckles richly and takes off for the bedroom. Ianto turns around just in time to catch sight of her retreat, completely bare but for her self-confidence.
Rocking back on his heels, Ianto stands quickly, biting his lip against the wide smile that wants to take hold.
He goes to her.)
Jack accepted these things as they came to him; he guarded them because they were part of Ianto, no matter how much they might sting. He was equally careful not to probe any more deeply, mentally keeping his hands clasped as if he were even now standing in Ianto's beloved Archives.
'See?' he remembered saying once, watching Ianto file a newly recovered artifact. 'I'm on my best behavior.' Here was a bin for 'Unknown, But Not Obviously Dangerous', here one for 'Individual Storage, Extremely Volatile', and then rows of alphabetical categorization for things they could actually identify. He'd folded his hands behind his back, winking.
Ianto had rolled his eyes. 'That, I'll believe when I see it.'
"I'm not doing it on purpose, you must know that," he told his sleeping lover presently. Gently, he thumbed away a stray drop of blood, settling Ianto back against the pillows. He took the mug away for another cleansing, but left the small glass of water he'd taken to keeping on the nightstand. Though the young man was not feeding from him directly, the Captain still found himself strangely thirsty during these sessions. Ianto's steady swallows inspired phantom tugs on his wrist, little bits of sympathetic magic. Already, his mouth was dry again, and he'd balled his free hand into a fist to keep from scratching at his wound. Too much, dancing on that line between pleasure and pain; cut from within and without. Jack pictured Ianto's polite, attentive expression during briefings. The Captain always knew Ianto was listening, but there was that odd tilt of his head, those solemn blue eyes, and sometimes he wasn't sure just what the young man was listening to.
What you said, as opposed to what you meant.
These little shards of memory offered insight, yes, but they could not explain. If anything, Ianto seemed more difficult to divine without the few assumptions Jack had held. A being cast of a single stone, his boy, no seam or groove to get inside.
Closing the windows had necessitated use of the apartment's boxy, lurching AC unit. Outdated but serviceable, it cast a low insect-buzz throughout the flat, adding to Jack's growing unease. The numb exhaustion of the early morning had given way to the certainty that he must rebuild his shields-- cautiously, to avoid causing Ianto pain-- and begin thinking ahead. The weight of it seemed to settle on his already tense shoulders, refusing to budge. To that end, Jack had smoothly dismantled his wrist-strap, motions so familiar they required no conscious thought. He examined each piece, assessing the Doctor's damage, frowning over the blackened field for the fluctuating teleport base coordinates. At one point, Jack had to shove himself away from the workbench in disgust, all too able to picture how he'd allowed the Time Lord to wield his sonic screwdriver. Time Agents were taught that the wrist-strap came off only when the body itself was cold and dead.
Jack paced. He organized the components according to what was salvageable. He lingered over Ianto's feedings, like resting in the welcome shade, and he liberally applied cold water to his wrist when necessary. He made a mental list of anything that could be of use from his steamer trunk, loathe to actually disturb that particular boneyard.
In this way, he passed the first day.
Barefoot, Jack settled himself cross-legged on the floor. His dress shirt clung to his skin-- the predawn heat was already potent, almost viscous, but the material still served to shield the hungry cut on his wrist. It had been centuries, from any perspective, since Jack had needed to do this, but time felt just as fickle as the warmth of the growing day. Resting his elbows on his knees, Jack pressed the thumb and forefinger of each hand against the opposite palm. Nearby, the AC hummed laboriously, running against the high temperatures with uneven success.
(Breathe in, then out.)
He aligned his spine, gaze moving reflexively towards Ianto's still form. From this angle, it seemed as though the young man slept upon an altar. As quickly as that thought occurred, Jack superstitiously dismissed it. Altars were for sacrifices, or else for gods, the later of which were naturally just as devoid of life as they were of death. There was Ianto, in Jack's bed-- surely he would roll over any moment and fuss at the Captain for lurking about in the dark.
'If you're going to keep me awake anyway, popping floor boards and rummaging through my cupboards,' he'd say, 'then I think I can come up with something to keep you occupied.' Those vowels, like rough velvet with sleep. It was the archivist's affectionate contention that there were few things in the Universe more dangerous than Jack Harkness when he was bored.
Unconsciously, Jack's shoulder's slumped. Ianto's breathing was still unnaturally soft, and anyway the young man tended to rest on his side. His sleep was usually deep but watchful, knees bent, arms folded near his head, as if to ward off some sound only he could hear. Those arms would find Jack if he was near-- not clinging, but acknowledging with faint brushes, fingers occasionally resting on a thigh or hip. For a moment, the Captain fought the urge to rise, to cradle those hands again and wait. Searching that face, as if the very force of his own desire could summon Ianto into full wakefulness. His heart clutched, his wrist throbbed, and it felt as though bright, burning shards of iron had become lodged in his skull. Jack forced himself to stay still.
(Close your eyes.)
He did, and the years fell away before him. Oh, that traitorous perception of the mind! The sound of his respiration swelled; there was the hard floor beneath him, and the blistering sensation of his Esper points pressed together. The two 'divining' fingers of each hand pressed against the Mound of Venus, meant to balance the body and the mind. He could almost be in the Morning Pavilion, first year of training at the Agency.
("It is no longer enough to simply maintain your psychic 'self' amidst day to day interactions." This is not the feathered Rigelian from the Creche speaking, not now. It's the Esper Defense Professor, all sibilant vowels and fleshed violet skin. "As an Agent, you must be able to bolster your mental integrity against attack.")
Jack felt it now, the utter vulnerability of his mind, like flesh suddenly exposed under armor. Shame, old and internalized, twined with the awe of sensing Ianto so near. Like a caress under the skin, that same lunar pull that always made him so readily aware of the younger man's presence.
'Take a step back,' he advised himself, groping for calm. 'Regroup.' He imagined blocks of stone, thick vines, seamless stretches of heat-scored metal-- all the earliest tools for building shields.
("Humans, and variants on the species, are particularly visual." The Professor walks between the rows, sharp hooves oddly quiet on the deck. "Picture it. Will it."
This is a cue. The class murmurs the correct catechism in response, eyes closed. The observation panel runs the length of the room-- the students sit on their simulated reed mats, awash in the twisting, yellow-white light of Poxima Centuari. There's Jamie and Etan, John and Kri, Cal and Jess, with Boyce and Dan'el nervously poised in back. Each student tries to focus, but they are all afraid. The Professor corrects their form and posture with flicks of his stinger appendage against the back of their necks-- another vulnerable psychic spot. Worse still, the Polaran ranks worlds beyond human psi measurement. He attacks at random, wielding vivid impressions of hot needles, the cold press of a sealed tomb, ceaseless vertigo, and maggots writing on the tongue. Already this semester, he has reduced Etan and Jess to tears.
The students do not support or comfort each other; in fact, they never speak of this class, no matter how freely drink or drug flows. Someone-- Jamie thinks its Boyce-- breaks position and vomits, cursing low in their native tongue. He keeps his focus on his own shields, which he has erected as smooth iridium with sharp bulwarks, like the Citadels of Boeshane. No one can afford to think outside themselves. This only purgatory-- three more years of it, and counting.
Hell will be Final Trial.)
"All energy is Will," Jack murmured to himself. "Will is rooted in my mind, and my mind is the barricade." The central aphorism of Defense class was as fresh as if he'd spoken it yesterday. These things-- memories, old lessons, grudges yet unformed-- dogged him down through the twisting avenues of Time, hungry ghosts demanding their fair share.
Aloud, but barely more than a whisper, "Will you give me no peace?"
(Breathe. Your mind is the barricade.)
TSAZHAO, writ large in his mind. It was an old word, one he'd carried with him like precious contraband, and it belonged to the young man sleeping nearby. And there it was, the red-gold cord stronger than Jack's pride.
'I pulled you back with this,' the Captain thought, the silk-steel texture almost tangible in his hands.
('Red is the color of your honest feelings.'
That's Papa, a face Jack knows but cannot bear to remember when awake. Sunset in Boeshane, and Mother is sitting back against the curved lounge. Ahmah's head is in hear lap, inky black locks spilling everywhere.
'And what, then, is the gold?' Mother asks, and the fading light turns her short hair just that color. The women smile indulgently at each other-- they know the answer, but they like to draw their husband out.
'Ah,' says Papa, winking at Jack. 'This is the color of your better self, drawn out by your partners.')
'I can build with this,' Jack thought, affectionate and profoundly raw. 'Ianto, I've broken all the rules, but what does it matter? It's all gone to hell anyway. I know my histories, and this wasn't supposed to happen.'
(Alex, bloody and slumped with defeat on New Year's Eve.
'We made a mistake, Jack.')
Jack laid the foundation with careful visualization-- strong Welsh rock, gun casing from his Webley, the scorched shell of a brass stopwatch. Distantly, Harkness heard the faintest of movements from Ianto, as if the other man's soul had somehow shuddered in relief.
'Better, better. Fill in the gaps, now.'
For mortar, his own blood and sinew, for hadn't he proven he had plenty to spare? He remembered the perplexity on Johnson's face, when she said he'd started screaming before he'd actually had all the proper organs to do so. Endless loops of screaming, and gallons of blood. Not all of it was his.
('Do you even understand what its like to feel guilt?'
That's Lucia, fierce dark eyes and perpetually unhappy mouth. She's loaded down with overnight packs and the diaper bag, tugging Melissa along by the strap on her romper. This is the first time-- but oh, not the last!-- she'll run from Torchwood and the aura of Death. His deaths, so peculiar and plural, which she treats like some sort of infectious disease, refusing to let him touch her. It's on the tip of his tongue to point out she didn't have these objections when she came to his bed, but his adopted chivalry prevents him. It's all some bizarre, cautionary fairytale-- he looks at Melissa's solemn eyes and knows it never occurred to either of them that this was a remote possibility.
'Would you be sorry?' Lucia demands. He's never thought about it before but, in his memory, she looks a lot like Gwen. 'And then they died,' her voice is dripping vitriol now. The baby stares at Jack, thumb solidly in her mouth. 'We'd just be a footnote in your life. Hardly worth mentioning. Oh well!")
"SHUT UP, ALL OF YOU!"
Jack kept his eyes closed, though he knew he'd shouted aloud in tandem with the desperate psychic broadcast. All of this, he'd buried-- Boeshane, Grey, the Agency; Lucia, thoughtful Alex and trigger-happy Emily. Even his parents, the happy days before a shadow fell over their courtyard, snuffing them out one by one. He'd torn it down, sewn it over, for the simplest of reasons; to save his own mind. He could not be Jamie, son or brother, Daddy or even Uncle Jack-- not if he expected to stay sane. Their names were carved on his insides; he sometimes thought he was their living, breathing memorial. It fucking hurt, until their was nothing but acid in his gut. If he needed-- if he wanted-- to wall it away, that was his right.
When he confided in Ianto, it was small things-- broken, blunt-edged moments. His lover kept secrets like priests kept confession. There would be understanding in that blue-gray gaze, strength offered in a touch, but never any words. Then he could get up in the morning and be Jack Harkness, who began with Alice Guppy's Victorian script and now ended with the documents transferring Torchwood authority to Gwen.
'I couldn't let you go, Ianto', he thought, his mental touch reminiscent of the times he'd greedily spooned behind the young man's warmth in bed. 'I've been yanking you back since before I had any real understanding of why.'
Back straight, shoulders so stiff they seemed brittle, Jack felt what that admission had cost him. Not the pound of flesh Wei had so eagerly extracted, but the painful relief of a long-warped bone finally snapping back into place.
The walls in his mind were uneven, solid but incomplete. Exhausted, the Captain pitched forward, barely catching himself to rest his forehead against the floor. He was covered in sweat, shaking, having bitten the corner of his mouth bloody. He felt at once deliriously free and hopelessly lost, memories and years settling like ash across his psyche. It was like that very first time on the Game Station, gasping, filled to the top with vitality but surrounded by rust and rotting flesh.
Was he praying? The Doctor had said she looked like a goddess, ablaze with the Time Vortex. An avenging angel with no need of a sword. Sometimes, the Captain still dreamed that her voice was right next to his ear, soft, deadly.... far too loud.
(She says, 'I bring life.')
'Rose, I wasn't built to for being alone. I'm never going to apologize for this.' Stumbling, he forced himself to stand, and made it to the bed to grasp Ianto's hand. The Bad Wolf existed throughout time-- he thought he could hear her screaming in between the nanoseconds. 'Little sister, sweetheart, why did you do this to me?'
He already knew the answer, though. It was the same, insufficient handful of syllables he would offer Ianto when he woke. Those damn words.
(Because I love you.)
Someone sobbed; once, twice, dry but wrenching. Jack knew the sounds belonged to him, but he couldn't own them. He settled next to Ianto, unrepentant but bloated with guilt, unable to reconcile his newly rebuilt shields with the maelstrom whirling inside them.
The hand he held suddenly clutched back, not weakly or tentatively, but with the force of a gut reaction. Lifting his head, Jack vaguely realized he was holding Ianto in much the same position as they'd fallen in Thames House. The young man was pulled across Jack's lap, supported tightly by the Captain's arm, opposite hands clasped. The sense of synchronicity was nauseating, but he did not have time to contemplate it. Ianto's hold tightened almost inhumanly, fingers flexing as he drew in a shocked, willful gasp of air. That was a sound Jack knew, but never outside the roaring in his own ears as he shuddered back from the Void.
"Ianto," he whispered, elated. Panic followed close behind, and then an all-consuming blast of pleasure-pain from the cut on his wrist. The thrill was solid, edged with sexual excitement yet at the same time almost transcendent.
Those blue eyes opened, dark but fully sentient. Ianto looked out from them, somehow intact, body seizing with fear and confusion.
"Jack." Not a question, but a raspy exhale, almost burying the name. The young man blinked rapidly, struggling to keep his eyes open, but his gaze never left Jack's face.
"Right here," the Captain assured him, vision blurring as he caressed the young man's cheek, his jaw and throat. He felt the muscles under his hands twitch with outdated adrenaline, the rapid-fire pound of blood that echoed in his own wrist. Almost desperate, Ianto tried to sit up. Jack helped him, dividing support between the pillowed headboard and his own shoulder. For a brief, infinite moment, Ianto continued to stare up at his leader as if anchoring himself against an internal chaos. Then he turned violently away, thoughtlessly pressing his face against his lover's neck. Jack pulled him closer, carding fingers through the short, dark hair. He felt lips, unconsciously pursed, touch against the pulse point in his neck. Groaning aloud, Jack rocked them together, emptied of rational thought. His mind's eye quickly presented him with options, brief and decadently visual: Ianto might bite, or suck, or both, and Jack would let him. Jack would give gladly, until the body in his arms stopped shivering from shock or remembered cold. Or else, the Captain could bare his own teeth, worrying the cut Lan Wei had made until it bled once more. He'd tilt the younger man's chin up, kiss him, press the wound to those lips like an offering.
Ianto made a small, distressed sound. For a fraction of a second, his lips did close around the skin of Jack's neck, before he wrenched himself away. The young man's skin was freezing, despite the close warmth of the night and the sheets tangled about his waist. Grabbing Jack's shoulders, he looked around the room frantically, eyes darting to each unfamiliar threshold and corner.
"Wh--" Ianto's voice failed him. Gently, Jack pried the Welshman's hands away, rubbing his own in strange, soothing patterns against his lover's bare back.
"Shhh," he advised, kissing the half-healed wound on Ianto's cheek. Groping blindly, he felt for the nightstand. His mobile fell to the floor with an irreverent clatter, but the Captain successfully located the glass of water. He moved so Ianto could use both hands to grasp it, but those elegant palms were shaking so badly he still needed an extra hand for steadying.
"Oh," Ianto said after drinking deeply. He seemed relieved, but a frown marred his features, as if the taste had confused him. "Jack." Giving up the glass, he pressed back into the older man's warmth, radiating bright, broken-colored images across the link.
The impressions passed almost too quickly for Jack to register-- the ones he did catch were blurry, as if turpentine had been thrown against a wide oil canvas. There was fear, of course, and an inky black that made the dim apartment seem to the Welshman like an unbearably bright cage. The cold that wracked his frame came from within, something so beyond freezing that it burned.
"You're alright," Jack said, thoughtlessly using a tone that spoke of willing it to be so. "You're fine."
"It was dark." There was no wonder in that beloved voice, or even fear-- just flat, horrible knowledge. In the next breath, Ianto contradicted himself. "It wasn't dark... it was worse than dark." He looked up at the Captain searchingly. "You said to stay still. So... I did."
"Yeah," Jack forcibly smothered a hysterical chuckle.
("Oh, be good for me, Ianto. My good boy. I'll come find you.")
"Yeah." The impulse was in him to kiss Ianto with grateful fervor, but he managed to curb that, too. "I did say that."
Squinting against the painfully blazing shadows, Ianto worried his lower lip. He seemed torn between pressing closer and pulling away-- Jack held him and left him no room to make the choice. "No. That's not right," the archivist shook his head, "what you said was--"
(Oh, that comes through loud and clear.
'Don't'. Jack says 'Don't' and his lungs are burning.)
"I didn't mean it like that," Jack swallowed painfully, pressing a firm finger to Ianto's lips. There was an anger in his tone he had not intended, but he couldn't seem to keep it at bay. The young man's eyes fluttered closed for a moment, but he rallied quickly, forcing them open wide. That came through plainly, too-- the utter exhaustion, the chill echoing through them both.
"Jack." Those vowels hardened with determination, never mind the state of his body. "Where are we?"
Jou Sahn- "Good morning".
Zakennayo- Japanese. Usually translated as 'don't fuck with me' in subtitled films. Japanese can be a difficult language to curse in; most often the words themselves are relatively harmless (in this case, 'zakennayo' comes from verb fuzakeru, meaning 'to romp/joke around'). It's the level of politeness, or the extreme lack of it, that makes it rude or inappropriate.
Pidyn- I had to ask for help on this one, but I have it from a reasonably reliable linguist friend that this is Welsh for 'penis'.
+'Poxima Centauri'- a flare star traveling near Alpha Centauri (the closest system to Earth). It has sudden increases in brightness, reaching the next magnitude, that last for several minutes. If the Time Agency built an outpost on the edge of that system, they'd have a pretty neat view. ^_^
+"Mound of Venus'- from palmistry. The pad of the hand between the base of the thumb and articulation of the wrist. Said to indicate emotional responses, sensation and action. The forefinger leads to the line directing purpose/will, and the middle finger connects to the lines for intent.
... oh, Meredith, is there no end to your bizarre trivia? (The obvious answer is, 'no'. ^_~ 'Cause I'm lame like that.)
Lame or no, I'd very much appreciate feedback, if you have just a moment. *puppy dog eyes* Not only does it inspire Daleks and Cybermen to dance, it also makes those Rhino Soliders from the Shadow Proclaimation less cranky. A miracle in and of itself! ^_^