Fic: Chosen. (Part I)
Spoilers: All of Torchwood - if you've seen all three series you are fine. If you haven't seen Children of Earth - don't read this. It'll spoil it.
Disclaimer: It all belongs to R. T. Davies and the BBC
Pairing: Jack/Ianto, Gwen/Rhys, Johnny/Rhainnon - all canon
Word Count: 22,000 (plus a few more...)
Summary: They stole him. Just a little. Seconds of him, snatched out of time, out of space, taken beyond the World. To protect it. To protect Him.
A/N: I took part in another Tardis BigBang - they are so much fun. Some excellent artists and authors have put the time and effort in so go have a look ... Especially as you have to check out the gorgeous artwork that goes with this fic. Seriously, it is beautiful.
A/N 2: This is the way COE should have gone.
The world seemed unnaturally quiet as Steven Carter's slight body made its soft death drop to the floor. Blood dripped slowly, quietly, from his mouth to the floor, the chanting stopped and flames tore across the skies. One little life ended, exchanged for millions. The deal is just. It is worthy. The moment Steven's body hit the floor the Earth was saved... and Worlds fell. Lives that had existed mere moments before winked out of existence, swallowed effortlessly up by Time, as if they had never been. The Future shifted, buffeted by the ripples of one boy's death, and shadows rolled...
The second hand moved, just once...tick... and Time snapped. Like a ball of yarn, spinning and whirring, Time unravelled, spooling all the way back to the Beginning. Humans, proud and tall, fell back through the Missing Link, twisting like Alice down the Rabbit Hole, crawling back into the primordial slime that birthed them. Planets collapsed, imploding into mere fragments of rock and dust free floating in space. Gravity fell away from stars leaving just hydrogen and helium spinning around in the vast emptiness of the Universe. The Black crawled forwards, gaining momentum, and atoms raced towards one another, contracting, faster and faster until...
A heartbeat. Two. The flutter of a butterfly's wings and then...
Someone flicked a switched.
It all raced back. Stars bloomed into life, forcing the Black back and away. Rocks and dust swirled into typhoons of gravity and planets were born, once again, colossuses in the vast nothingness. The old races roamed once more, the Time Lords, the Guardians, the Osirians. The Daleks came, created angry and thirsty for blood and power. Gallifrey rose and fell like a Sun and the Moon spun around a small planet called Earth.
The twentieth century arrived with a herald of gun-fire and violence as fire rained from the sky. Twelve children were rounded up by a man who couldn't die but whose heart had faltered long before and promises were made, deals were bartered and the cries of the innocent fell on deaf ears. They just wanted Them to go away.
They came back. There was no warning: they crept out of the blackness they had hidden in for decades, breaking blackened promises, and their war-cry was the staccato chanting from innocent mouths rolling over the world, its hypnotic beat surging through the lands:
"We. Are. Coming."
This time it was met.
"We are waiting."
There are forty-two cracks in the tiled wall. Jack is quite sure, he's been sat in the cell long enough to count every single one of them. Long enough for Gwen's mole to stop screaming his name from the cell next door. He can't answer her; he isn't Captain Harkness anymore. Captain Harkness died in Thames House and the man who woke up was a stranger with a hole in his heart. He can still taste – Him – on his lips, warm coffee and bitter-sweet chocolate and Jack can't decide whether or not he wants to scrub his lips right off his face, He is gone. Preserving his taste isn't going to bring him back. He doesn't even have enough for a cloning sample.
There is the squeak of rubber-soled boots on the laminate floor and there is a voice asking if he wants anything. He doesn't answer.
If he concentrates very hard he imagines he can see the damp patch on the ceiling growing. If he concentrates even harder, he can pretend he is dead. It doesn't take much. He slows his breathing, clears his mind so all he sees is black and slowly reduces his heart rate. It was something they taught Agents at the Academy. High heart rate indicates stress, or nerves and can get you killed. They all knew how to control their hearts.
Jack wishes he'd controlled his a bit better. Not let it get away from him so easily.
The sky was blue. A brilliant blue, dotted with candy-floss clouds of white. It reminded him of his childhood summers, the days stretched on and on and sometimes it seemed as if they would never end. The air smelled sweet, like freshly mown grass, and he could feel the velvet blades poking between his fingers. The ground was soft, the grass cushioning and welcoming, but he didn't know where he was and he couldn't just lie there doing nothing. Bracing his arms, he levered himself up and looked around.
There was green as far as he could see. Rolling hills and open vales, dotted with daisies and buttercups and broken up with twisting trees of willow and oak. There was a stream a little ways off, the sunlight tripping over its surface as it tumbled over the rocks; he could hear it babbling to itself. The wind brushed by him, soft and sweet, caressing his face with gentle fingers. He closed his eyes and took in a deep breath, savouring the freedom.
It was a mistake. The moment his eyes shut he saw it all playing out on the back of his eyelids like an old film, staccato and scratched.
He'd died. In Jack's arms, lying there as his heart stuttered out its final beats... He should have known, the plan was flawed from its inception. He'd known that, but he was tied to Jack with heart-threads of gossamer and nothing in the world would have stopped him following Jack. He'd needed to be by the man's side, prove that he believed in Jack after all the doubt that had been thrown their way. After all the secrets. And he'd died for it.
It wasn't worth it.
The door opens with a clang of metal, the key in the lock draconian and loud. He doesn't open his eyes, chooses to remain focused on the black that is promising oblivion, although he learned long ago that promises are shiny and insubstantial and it's a correlation: the more shiny and attractive they seem, all the more elusive they become. But he still keeps his eyes closed and his breathing shallow as he chases the darkness.
A warm hand burns a grip into his shoulder and his eyes flutter open. He doesn't know the face but the uniform is immediately recognisable. UNIT. The United Nations Intelligence Taskforce. A fancy acronym and pretty uniform but Jack's seen prettier and they all die in the end anyway. The man is young, too young for this life and if Jack were in the mood to escape his side-arm is within easy reach. But he's not and the boy lives to see another day. Jack's eyes flick from one uniformed man to another, there are five in total, before landing on the bureaucrat standing behind the soldiers. And further back, Lois Habiba, still handcuffed and looking very small between two burly soldiers.
His gut clenches at the irony. Now, now, after he has lost so much, now they are coming to ask for his help. He knows what the folder the man clutches contains. Orders. Not the Blank Paper that orders executions, that never exists as a hard piece of data. That is just an illusion that can be explained away and forgotten about. Other orders are real. Made of tree pulp and ink and carried around in fancy black leather folders.
Jack closes his eyes and leans back against the tiled wall. He doesn't care what they want and if he ignores them, maybe, just maybe, they will go away.
"Captain Harkness I presume?"
Jack cracks one eye open and it is enough to glare the man down. He proffers the folder and Jack lazily takes it.
"You need to come with us."
He'd always thought that Jack was wrong, that there had to be something more than darkness after death. He was not a man of faith, the idea of God seemed too small for the universe they lived in, but looking around at the picturesque valley he couldn't help but wonder, "Is this Heaven?"
His voice was unrecognisable, scratchy as Death's icy fingers slipped from around his vocal chords, and it wasn't until it came back at him, bouncing off the rocks and waters that he realised he'd spoken out loud. Or that he was completely alone.
"Hello? Is anyone there?"
He didn't expect an answer, but he couldn't shake the chill that trickled down his spine when one didn't come.
There was a buzzing by his ear and he snapped his head round. His hair ruffled as something flew over his head and he looked up. He could feel eyes on him, pin-pricking his skin, and he shut his own suddenly scared that maybe it wasn't Heaven after all. The buzzing came again, not quite the deep drone of a bumblebee and not the high pitched squeal of a bluebottle; something in-between that was as familiar as it was unnerving. Something alighted on his hand, feather-light and delicate, and Ianto's eyes snapped open.
The saliva drained from his mouth, his heart hammered – making him suddenly aware that it was beating –
On his index finger perched a fairy. It was not the horrendous visage of war-mongering demons he had seen in the archives. Nor was it the sparkling image of the Cottingley photographs. They were not magical in any way he could discern; he could feel the creature's weight, see the tiny veins in its butterfly-delicate wings and feel the heat against its skin.
Whether it was male or female, Ianto didn't know, its androgyny foiled any attempts to tell, but it was beautiful. It wasn't beautiful in the way a person was but in the way a storm or a volcano could be. There was the feeling of barely restrained power that had the potential to be raw and unforgiving. It was a terrifying beauty that was sharp and precise and it hurt Ianto to look at.
There was a whirring and more fairies appeared around him. Gingerly, careful not to disturb the little being on his finger, Ianto got to his feet. Standing he became aware that he hadn't just been laying on the ground. He'd been laying in a Fairy Ring. His heart leapt. There was a chance, an infinitesimally small possibility, he could be in England still. Even Wales. But he didn't dare to hope, because with hope came heartache and Ianto had had enough of heartache.
"Where am I?"
"This is the Wild," the fairies whispered.
Turning slowly, Ianto looked around. The green rolling hills and rippling waters he'd earlier mistaken for Heaven where indeed Wild. The grass waved in the wind ready to ensnare the unwary, like kelp that entangled divers and drowned them in dark waters. The trees were old and gnarled, their bark weathered into horrific faces and their branches grasping fingers that he automatically shied away from. Nothing was calm; not even the babbling brook that had become torrential.
It was frightening. Even the most benign flower suddenly looked alive and angry; like guard dog lurking in a shadowed corner.
"This is Ours."
Ianto turned to the voices, but it was like trying to talk to fireflies. They were everywhere, hanging from the grass blades, fluttering around his head – their wings vibrating against his ears – behind him, above him, on him. He settled for focusing on just one: the one still settled on his finger.
"This is where you bring them? The Chosen Ones?" Ianto didn't know why he had asked. He already knew the answer. But it was better than standing and gawking.
"Yes," they hissed. "They are Ours. We bring them to the Wild."
Ianto's expression crumpled. "I don't understand. Why am I here?"
"We Chose you," they answered as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
"I'm a Chosen One?" he asked, all at once stymied and worried. As far as his experience went, Chosen Ones were pre-pubescent girls with curling blonde hair. They only interacted with adults long enough to kill them.
The fairies giggled. It wasn't like tinkling silver bells or whatever crap Disney fed small children and their naive parents. "No! No! No!" they laughed, tumbling through the air like swallows. One pulled at his hair in gentle rebuke. "We Chose you long before there were Chosen Ones."
Ianto rolled his eyes. His heart might still be hammering away, adrenaline flooding his system, but they weren't telling him anything and Ianto was infuriated. His hands tightened into fists and he willed his breathing to even out.
"Understand! You don't understand!" they mocked, although there was nothing malicious in their tones. They were understanding – as much as they could be – yet amused. "You can't understand. You don't remember."
For a moment Ianto worried that he'd been retconned, but then he remembered. These weren't Torchwood. They were worse. Fear curled in his belly and his mouth ran dry. The fairy on his finger stroked the hairs that were standing on edge, its little fingers leaving trails of static as they passed.
"What-" he coughed, swallowed, let his mouth flood with saliva and tried again, "What don't I remember?"
They giggled. Ianto had never thought that the sound of childish laughter could ever be horrifying. He remembered hearing Mica giggle when she was just an infant, in her nappy and blue jumper-suit, crawling around the play-mat on the floor of his London flat, chasing the sunbeams reflecting from Lisa's art deco mirror. He'd smiled, exchanged a fond look with Rhiannon over Lisa's head as she cooed at the flaxen haired baby. The sound had been happiness, pure and sweet. It wasn't anymore.
"The first time you died."
Whatever Ianto had been expecting them to tell him that was not it.
General Pierce's uniform is immaculate. The brass buttons shine, every single medal is in place, all present and correct, and his jacket is laced with that much starch it's a wonder he can breathe. Jack's met soldiers like him before. They think in straight lines and follow orders no matter the fallout. He used to be one of them until the Time Agency stole a part of his life. When you are thirty-three, two-years feels like an impossible loss. After over two thousand, with millennia more to come, two years is petty and insignificant. But it's still enough to keep him questioning orders. Pierce has obviously never met an order he did not like and it sets Jack's teeth on edge.
He's never been inside COBRA before, he avoids politicians like the plague - they only make problems - and is rather disappointed to find it is just a room; albeit one drenched in the stench of fear. The metal of his handcuffs clank against the table, scuffing the high polish and there is a part of Jack longing for a snide rebuke. Naturally it does not come, and Jack's heart hurts just that little bit more.
They are looking at him, all of them, a curious mix of hope and fear in their eyes, like he is going to save them. They don't seem to realise that he just doesn't care anymore. The only person not looking at him is the Prime Minister. Jack knows how hard it is to look a man in the eye after you've tried to have him killed but he is strangely lacking in sympathy. None of them are speaking, they won't talk first. Breaking the silence is tantamount to rolling over and baring your throat, so they all sit, in silence, whilst an invisible clock ticks down the seconds until the Earth is robbed.
Two years compared to ten percent of the world's children, Jack feels oddly humbled at the comparison. But he still cannot find it within himself to care.
"Captain Harkness, I have heard interesting things about you." It is the American that breaks the silence, somehow Jack knew he would and Jack says nothing. General Pierce does not seem surprised at his recalcitrance; he merely focuses on the folder in front of him. "According to all current intelligence, you are the premier authority on alien life on the planet." Jack snorts. He's known that for years, it's about time others caught up. Pierce continues, his attention still firmly affixed on his notes, "It would seem that the entity known as the Doctor left instructions that UNIT should contact you if they came across anything beyond them."
Once more Jack finds that he hates the Doctor just as much as he loves him. Days ago such news would have stroked his ego nicely. "I'll bet that pissed off more than a few people."
"I'm sure it did." The General narrows his eyes. "But it seems as though we have reached that point."
"What point?" Jack isn't in the mood for games. In all honesty, he was more than content in his prison cell, counting the cracks and watching the damp spread across the plaster.
"The point at which your help is required."
Jack's eyes narrow and a brief spark of anger lights in his belly; but it is no more than a touch-paper: quick to light and quick to burn out. He leans back and offers a bored look to all present. "Now you want my help?" There isn't as much venom in his voice as he'd have liked but it's the best he can do.
"We admit, there have been some mistakes in the past few days—"
"A few mistakes?" Jack growls, very aware that their 'mistakes' cost him his lover.
"But to dwell on them would be inadvisable. At this point we must deal with the situation at hand. I trust you are aware of the 456's demands?"
Jack is still glaring at the man, his blue eyes bright with something feral and cold, but he isn't rude. He could be, a part of him wants to be: wants to rise from the table and punch the man in his politic mouth, lay him flat out over the shiny table and then go to work on him. But he doesn't. Instead he gives a curt nod and curls his hands into fists.
"They want ten per cent of the world's children. That means Britain would have to surrender three hundred and twenty-five thousand children. The United States has demands for two million more than that; two million, three hundred and forty thousand and France –"
"I can do the math General. I know what ten per cent of the children of Earth adds up to." He hadn't, Ianto had. It was one of those strange little statistics that the man has – had – stuck in the back of his head. But the General doesn't need to know that.
The General stares at him for a moment, his eagle sharp eyes are trying to weigh Jack up, understand him and Jack remains as he is. "What it adds up to Captain is a very large problem. On one hand we have a hostile with the capability of wiping out life on this planet in minutes if the disaster at Thames House is anything to go by." Jack grits his teeth at the mention of that place, which doesn't go unnoticed by the soldier. "On the other, all we know is that if we deploy nuclear arms we will poison the atmosphere and may not even manage to terminate the threat."
Jack rolls his eyes. He can almost understand the Doctor's aversion to weapons – once they are there it is so very tempting to use them to solve everything. He doesn't believe that nuclear weapons are the answer here. If their biological weaponry is anything to go by, the 456 are far more advanced than the human's they are attacking. Jack briefly wonders which other worlds they have poached from, they are obviously scavengers: they steal children so it is probable that they steal weapons and technology. There are thousands of species just like them out in the universe, too lazy to evolve the hard way. At least humans can be proud that they have taken the long route into space.
"What do you want me to do about that? Any weapons Torchwood might have had were destroyed when they came after me and mine." The Prime Minister blanches; obviously he underestimated Jack's intuition. Lois looks uncomfortable too, even though she had nothing to do with it. Bridget Spears shifts closer to Frobisher, both sitting in the back of the room and looking nervous at Jack's mere presence. He imagines that it is because you don't expect to have to face a man you've had killed, no matter how many times you send out that order. Jack has no idea why they are present, perhaps because Frobisher's office was the first informed that the 456 were back.
It doesn't matter. They are all guilty men at the end of the day. If only for keeping this from the world.
"Nothing," the Prime Minster asserts. He seems more composed, or at least he is trying to appear that way. "That is a matter for politicians not for you." His voice is all but dripping with contempt as he refers to Jack, he is not the first to done so. Politicians seem to have a natural abhorrence for the rogue Torchwood leader, and Jack doesn't care one whit for it.
"Yeah, because you're handling it oh so well already," Jack snarls. This was why Ianto always took calls from Downing Street. Brian Green was only a species away from Harold Saxon in Jack's mind.
"Gentlemen," Pierce cuts in smoothly, "Neither of you are handling anything at the moment. UNIT has sent someone to get more information out of the alien" he searches for the right word, "delegate as we speak. We have another problem."
Jack feels something cold run down his back. Something ticks in his head, something familiar, but it is a Will-o'-the-wisp of a thought and is gone before he can grasp for it. He raises an enquiring eyebrow. "Well?"
Jack recognises the oily man immediately and is filled with an incandescent rage. "How did you survive?"
"Hazmat suits in the basement. You could have gotten there, if you'd had thought." The man is arrogant and cruel and Jack wants to put a bullet in his gut. Not his head – that is a quick and painless death – but a gut wound... that can take hours to kill. And it's very painful.
"You mean if you'd have told us?"
Dekker smiles and Jack's skin crawls. "Semantics Captain."
"What do you mean, 'the first time' I died?" Ianto asked. He was somewhat sure that they hadn't heard the squeak of fear in his voice but their laughter indicated otherwise.
"The first time you died, curled in your lover's arms – filthy thing that he is. Sobbing and begging for love. Love he couldn't give. He isn't built that way."
Ianto flinched away from their words but it was no good, they were everywhere and their malicious whispers fed the part of his psyche that already thought those things about Jack. Not that Jack was filthy, but that Jack wasn't built to love.
"Couldn't even give you the words to cling to as you went into the Black."
Ianto refused to cry. He didn't care how much it hurt – how true their words were – he wouldn't show them any weakness. "Stop it. I already know about that death."
"No. You know about the second time you played that scene. The first was a rehearsal. Like a play."
Ianto spun round, his confusion and their flight making him dizzy. The Faerie on his finger lost its balance and tumbled a little way then its wings fluttered to life and it soared up into the open sky before spinning back towards Ianto in a dizzying dive. It perched on his nose, and beat a tiny fist between his brows. "Mean! Don't make me fall! I'll make you fall! And you won't get up!"
He tried focusing on the little figure but it made him cross-eyed, and his head started to hurt with the effort. "I'm sorry," he said, and he meant it. Whilst he didn't want them on him, he hadn't wanted to hurt it and hadn't meant to send it tumbling. He just wasn't sure what was happening and they weren't making things easy. "Just, please, tell me what is going on."
He could feel the tears building and Ianto suddenly felt very alone. He was alone in this alien place and the only familiar things were the Faeries, and they were not trustworthy.
"Want to know a secret?" the one on the end of his nose asked.
The others had stopped talking. Stopped whirly-gigging through the skies. They were hovering ominously around, as if waiting for something to happen. It spooked Ianto just a little.
Ianto fought the urge to nod. "What secret?"
The Faerie giggled and clapped its hands, childishly enthusiastic about whatever it knows. "We've changed the Future. Changed the Past. Changed the Present. All to change the Future."
Ianto closed his eyes, screwed them shut tight in a desperate attempt not to shake his head. "I don't understand."
A gentle hand stroked the furrow between his brows, "We'll show you."
Jack shakes his head, listening to Dekker's recording. He isn't quite sure who Dekker is, but obviously he spends a lot of time listening to things he shouldn't. He also cannot comprehend how the assembled officials in COBRA expect him to know who this second voice belongs to especially considering that he had no clue as to who the 456 were when he first heard their message.
"I don't know." His voice is flat, sounding every one of his two thousand years. Ianto's passing – he cannot, will not, dare not say death, even to himself yet – has drained every bit of life from him, as if with that final kiss Ianto took something with him into the Dark. Jack hopes so; he hates to think of Ianto alone in that place, hiding from whatever Suzie believed was waiting for them. His emotions come in flashes now, small sparks that break through his blanket of apathy like sunbursts through a cloud. It is interesting. He always considered himself a passionate creature, quick to rouse and quick to rest. He finds he quite enjoys the ennui.
"Captain," the American General glares at him, "I understand that you feel that you have been ignored by this government. However, now is not the time to be belligerent."
If he'd had the strength, Jack might have rolled his eyes, or even shrugged. He doesn't though. Apathetically he meets the general's stare and holds it. "This isn't belligerence. It's hopelessness."
The general's lip curls into a derisive sneer and his dark eyes fix on Jack like he is some sort of particularly repellent insect that has dared to mess up his uniform. "Any man wearing the rank of Captain – no matter how he got it – shouldn't give in so easily."
Jack is surprised that he is not upset as his honour is called into question. This man has no right to judge him; only four people in the Universe have ever had that right and one – maybe two – of them is dead.
"Listen again," the PM insists, fear bleeding into his words.
Dekker quickly taps at his laptop, forcing the data to scroll back to the beginning and soon the droning of thousands of childish voices fills the room. Everyone, but Jack, shifts uncomfortably in their seats.
"We are. We are. We are coming"
He can feel all eyes on him, from the heavy accusing glare of the American, to the desperate gaze of Frobisher and Gwen's recruit, standing like a handcuffed wall-flower in the corner. Both of them are willing him to pull something out of the proverbial hat.
"We are waiting."
The speakers pump out static before the children speak again. The date and time-stamp of this recording are different and the list of numbers is both mind-boggling and sickening all at once. Academically, Jack knows that he should feel more horror at what he is hearing, but all he hears is a list of numbers, before...
"Zero. None. Nothing. Not one. You shall not take anyone."
There is power in that voice. It is defiant, strong for all its childishness and everyone in the room responds to it. Jack can see the shudders working their way up spines and the way Spears is gripping her pen is just as telling. Had Jack been a religious man he might have been tempted to believe that it was God's voice rolling across the world. But Jack isn't and really, what God would put them into such a situation?
"I don't know," he sighs. And he really doesn't. He might not care as much as he should but he is not childish, he will tell them the truth.
"Then, what species exist that could do this?"
Jack can only think of one species, or rather one being, that would have the balls to stand up to the 456 in such a manner, but he was far away, floating through Time without a care in the world. Or even the Universe. He's left them to burn, as Jack always feared he would and Jack cannot take his place. It doesn't matter how hard he tries he isn't the Doctor. Because if he was the Doctor, his half-baked scheme of taking the 456 on would have resulted in victory and not the needless death of someone he lov—cared for. The Doctor lost Rose, he didn't get her killed. He sacrificed Donna to save her and she is living happily now, she just doesn't know. The Doctor saves people, he saved Jack after all, but Jack just seems to curse those around him. Alex, Suzie, Tosh, Owen, Grey, Ianto; the Doctor would have saved them all. He might be Jack's hero, his salvation, but Jack hates him... just a little.
"None." He answers eventually, his tone final. There is no hope.
"Are you saying that there is nothing out there that could do this?" the incredulity in the General's voice is etched into every line of his face.
"I am saying," Jack explains patiently, "that there is no alien species living on this planet that has the numbers or the technology advanced enough to pull this off." He could explain that the only other species of significant numbers living along side humans are the Weevils, swarming city sewers, but he doesn't think that they need to hear that right now. Besides, he really can't imagine them crawling out of the filth for this. And they've never struck him as particularly altruistic either.
Ianto followed the Faeries, they didn't give him much of a choice. For all their small size, they were effortlessly strong and Ianto couldn't help but feel like a piece of china in their tiny hands. They could break him, so easily, smash him to pieces no one would ever find. Their tiny hands pulled at his hair, ripping strands from the roots – along with pieces of scalp if the pain was anything to go by – and he heard the ominous tearing of fabric as his sleeve was seized by a little fist. They propelled him along what could be termed a path, if one was very lax about definitions. Really, it was little more than a winding route of shorter grass, no less wild, which scaled the side of the tallest hill. They maintained a fast pace, forcing Ianto to make long quick strides that made his heart pound against his ribs and his lungs burn. Ianto didn't really care though, all the effort and pain just proved that he was alive, though they hadn't told him why that was yet.
He slowed for a moment, trying to catch his breath.
"So slow," they sang, flitting about his head. "Why so slow, sweet I-an-to?"
Ianto ignored them. Taunting was their way, Ianto had learned that much. They spoke in riddles and rhymes, and Ianto assumed that it was because they were, in part, eternal children. Doomed to play and tease forever, like Jack, and being serious forever would bore anyone. Rather than respond, he started walking again, one foot in front of the other, wincing as the dew-damp began to seep through his shoes.
At the top of the hill was a circle that reminded Ianto of the fairy-ring he woke up in, however, this one was made of roses. Deep red roses, the colour of blood and passion: all the primal parts of life. Their perfume hung over the entire area and the Faeries darted from flower to flower as though they were bees. Had he been anyone else, someone who didn't know what he knew, hadn't seen what he had seen, Ianto would have found the crown of the hill beautiful. Heavenly. As it was, it terrified him. These were the death flowers; they created the petals stuffed down people's throats so that they died unable to scream.
In the middle of the roses was a pool. To his eye it looked as though the walls had been woven together with something like willow, long thin branches petrified over the years, twisted and twining to form a perfect circle that cupped the water like a bowl. It was a beautiful structure and Ianto was quite aware of the reverence that the Faeries seemed to have for this place. None of them were perched on the pool rim. They were hanging off the roses nearby but seemed to be making a concerted effort to avoid the water. This pool was the nearest these creatures came to having a place of worship.
Following their whispered instructions Ianto moved closer until he was standing over the pool, staring into his own eyes reflected in the obsidian depths. The water was calm; not a wake or ripple breaking the surface, it was like looking into a mirror; every detail was perfectly reflected back at him. He looked a mess. He leaned closer, careful not to touch the surface, and examined himself closely. They'd caused a lot of damage. The collar of his waistcoat had torn, his tie was mostly undone, and his hair looked like it did after Jack had spent hours running his fingers through it. It looked Wild.
The longer he looked at his reflection the more he became aware that something wasn't quite right with it. The scratch on his cheek was gone for one thing. His hair seemed slightly longer and much curlier than usual; he doubted that the Faeries managed that just by tugging him along with it. His eyes were brighter, clearer and... He looked younger. He looked like he did just after he had finished university, fresh and alive and ready for a new experience. It wasn't nice, realising the toll only five years had taken on him. Torchwood had stolen more than his life from him; it had taken his youth, his vitality. The pool was showing him what he should have been, what he could have been, without Torchwood, and Ianto did not like it one bit. The slap of realisation over what he had sacrificed hurt.
There was a light touch between his shoulder-blades, almost a caress, and he pitched forwards into the icy water. His body tumbled down, like a stone in a well, falling though the water as if it were air. His lungs burned, bubbles streamed from his mouth as he screamed into the inky blackness. He'd believed them. He'd trusted them, followed them willingly to the pool and now he was going to drown in its depths. The cold water pricked at his skin like thousands of tiny needles and Ianto flailed frantically trying to right himself, find which way was up. But it was black, black, black. Everywhere he looked was black and it was so cold, he was so tired...
The General is a patient man. It is how he has gotten his position in life, out waiting his competitors, procrastinating until all the evidence is in. He is a patient man, but Harkness is testing the limits of that patience. He was informed, whilst his men were out collecting the Captain, that Harkness pushed people's boundaries, that he was a wild card. He is sure, looking at the man across from him, that they were talking about a very different man. This one is broken.
He's seen the footage of Thames House. At the very least the Captain lost a member of his team, and that always hits a leader hard. What separates the good leaders from the great ones is how they bounce back from such events. The Captain might be a good leader, but all the evidence suggests that he isn't a great one. It also suggests that Ianto Jones was perhaps more important to the man than anyone thought. His death seems to have stripped the Captain down to the bare bones and the General is somewhat relieved that he thought to have Jones' body swaddled and transported and placed under guard. If all else fails, his lover's body might provide necessary leverage.
He smiles and leans forward, folding his arms on the table. It is a calculated move, one that usually invites trust and cooperation. "Captain, I know that this is a difficult time for you. That the last few days have been, shall we say, an ordeal?"
Jack scoffs and narrows his eyes. Placation suggests that his captors are running out of ideas and are about to do something very nasty indeed. It was how it always went. It was how he'd played it when he'd worked for the Agency. First the hard act, demand the answers you want and leave no quarter for obfuscation. When that failed, which it always does, move on to seeming reasonable, kind, wanting to help them out and then in that moment when they soften like butter in the sun, you hit them with whatever nasty little surprise you've dredged up to shatter them into pieces. He's played that game a thousand times.
"It hasn't been the best of weeks, I'll give you that." He smiles at the General and leans into the man, mirroring him perfectly. "But I've had worse." And he has. He's had two thousand years of worse buried beneath Cardiff. The General cannot beat that, no matter what he pulls.
"Maybe you have." Pierce is magnanimous in his condescension "But I believe that we can work this out, together."
Jack shakes his head. "There is nothing to work out. I don't know that voice. I've never heard it and nothing like this has ever been reported in the history of the Earth." And Jack means the whole history right up until the fifty-first century, not that Pierce is aware.
"Then you won't mind if we mind if we make doubly sure?"
His tone alerts Jack to the fact that something is off. He looks round, Frobisher is studiously looking elsewhere, as is the PM. Spears and Lois seem as confused as he is, whilst Denise Riley looks viciously satisfied by something. The hairs on the nape of Jack's neck begin to rise, slowly, like a storm brewing the static forcing them upwards crackle against his skin and he knows that something is coming.
"Bring them in please." Pierce is talking into a small intercom unit to his left, but his eyes are on Jack. Watching. Waiting.
The door opens and Jack's head whips round just in time to see his daughter and grandson being, unceremoniously, shoved into the room. Johnson, the agent that destroyed his home – though Jack has not even begun to comprehend the ramifications of that – and tore up his body, is holding Alice's arm. Her eyes are sharp, predatory, and Jack can see that the gun on her hip is primed and ready for action. It is the most Jack has felt since yesterday, the anger that surges through him that his family are about to be used against him jerks him out of his torpor.
He snarls, like a caged tiger or maybe a lion, he's always seen himself as a lion, and his eyes flash a warning to anyone who is bothering to look. "Leave them out of this."
Pierce smiles, his white teeth all the brighter against his dark skin, all the more menacing, "They are merely here for insurance purposes Captain. Nothing more."
Jack doesn't trust him. He's never trusted bureaucracy, it has too much to lose to be truly truthful but he has all Jack has left at gun point and Jack feels just a little lost. He'd always believed, back in his Time Agency days, that emotions, feeling for people, was the most foolish thing a being could do. It left you weak, vulnerable, it placed a readymade hole in your armour waiting for the right person to exploit it. But Jack had still be drawn like a moth to the light of other souls and here was the right person ripping that little hole open, stripping Jack bare and there was nothing he could do about it.
"I've told you everything." His voice is strong, but the note of pleading undermines his words and the General catches on pretty quick.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes!" Jack clenches his fists so tight that the knuckles crack. Steven looks bemused, not quite scared but not exactly comfortable either and Jack wants him away from the soldiers. Alice, on the other hand is glaring at him accusingly. Her dark eyes are fixed unwaveringly on her father and recrimination burns bright in their depths.
The guilt wells up in him like Bay after a storm. They are here because of him and Alice knows it. She's proved him right; all those years she kept him at arm's length because of Torchwood and its inherent dangers, all of them have come crashing down on them now. And it isn't just her paying the price.
"I'll make this easy for you. You tell us what is standing up to the 456 and we won't have young Steven here sent off to join the other children."
"You can't!" Alice screams. "He's my son!"
"He is just a statistic. Unless 'Uncle Jack' decides otherwise."
"What's happening?" Steven asks, looking scared for the first time since he entered.
General Pierce leaves his seat to stand before Steven. His hands are clasped behind his back and there is a small smile on his face. "Hello Steven, my name is General Pierce. We have a problem and your Uncle Jack can help us. Do you want him to help us Steven?"
Steven nods dumbly, not really understanding what is happening. All he knows is that he doesn't like the man in the uniform.
"Well Uncle Jack? Are you going to help us?" Pierce's glittering eyes are fixed on Jack now, but he is still hovering over Steven.
Jack's eyes are full of tears and he shakes his head. "I don't know."
Pierce sighs, his shoulders heaving with the effort. "That is a shame." He signals to two of the guards and they step forward, their heavy hands gripping Steven's thin arms. "It was nice to meet you Steven."
"Wait! He's innocent!"
"You knew the deal Captain."
"I can't tell you what I don't know!" Jack all-but screams at them. "I don't know who they are."
"Then we have nothing more to discuss."
The soldiers holding Steven begin manhandling him towards the door. Alice surges forwards but Johnson intercepts her, digging a gun into the soft flesh just above her hip. She shakes her head, a warning that she will pull the trigger if pushed. Jack automatically reaches for his Webley but it's gone, they took it off him at the police station. He doesn't think, he reaches out and grabs the soldier nearest to him, head-butting the man before punching him with both handcuffed fists, sending him crashing to the floor. Steven screams and begins to thrash, calling for his mum and Uncle Jack and the soldiers are forced to lift him, one by the legs and one by his arms. Two soldiers are restraining Jack, who snaps and kicks and twists like a live-wire and Johnson's grip on Alice just gets tighter.
They almost have Steven through the door when the soldier holding his legs begins coughing.