Fic: Chosen. (Part II)
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.
He landed with a jolt, though it was on his feet, and his bones rattle with the impact. Somehow he had lost his shoes - and socks – in his tumble through the water and was rapidly coming to the conclusion that that was no ordinary water. The ground between his toes felt gritty and he wrinkled his nose at the sensation. Jack once said that he had OCD, Owen had thrown his opinion in too, but he didn't have that. He never did. He just liked things to be neat and clean. It made the world efficient and easy, not to mention hygienic. He didn't know what had happened to his footwear, but he was grateful that at least the Water left him with his clothes.
He looked around and it quickly became apparent that he was not in the Wild anymore. There were buildings. Shiny steel and glass monoliths stretching into the grey overcast sky. People hurried past, scurrying like ants, and they all seemed unaware of Ianto standing barefoot in the middle of them.
Ever since he was little Ianto had always had something ticking in the back of his head. He had always been aware of time. By the time he was revising for his GCSEs he could tell what time it was after only looking at the clock in the morning. This little clock was telling him that not only was it three minutes after one o'clock in the afternoon, but that he was in the year 3092. To be more specific, it was Wednesday, August the third and furthermore he knew that he was on Earth. He wasn't sure where but he was definitely on Earth and that was an important detail, the human race had already scattered itself throughout the Universe by this point. Small colonies cropping up on distant planets and colonised moons. Or at least that was what Jack had told him when he'd asked when the human race moved out into space. But then again, Jack hadn't believed in an after-life and, although Ianto knew he hadn't been in Heaven, he was in some kind of after-life. He was on Earth, a thousand years in the future, and Ianto was just a little scared that he knew all of that instinctively.
Something soft and light landed on his shoulder and out of the corner of his eye Ianto saw a Faerie, the same Faerie that had been perched on his nose minutes, centuries, before. He returned his gaze to the people hurrying about. Despite the passage of time, it still appeared as though people took lunch breaks. That was comforting.
"Where are we?"
"Paris, France. Or at least it used to be. Cities rise and fall, like bricks tumbling down, down, down."
There was no Eiffel Tower, no Sacre Coeur. There was no wafting smell of baking croissants or Gallic cursing. Ianto could have been anywhere, but something felt right. This was, this had been Paris, a very long time ago. "Why are we here?"
"For answers. You need to know. Need to understand."
Ianto could feel his irritation build. They talked in circles giving answers without really giving away anything at all. Obviously the Faerie on his shoulder felt it too because it patted him gently on the neck. "Need to start moving. Can't see if you're not there."
Frowning Ianto took a step forward. "Wrong way. You're going the wrong way!"
Gritting his teeth, Ianto politely enquired, "And which is the right way?"
Launching itself from his shoulder, the Faerie hovered in front of Ianto's face, and gave him a patronising look. "Forward of course. One foot in front of the other. Step, step, step."
"Of course it is."
"Come on Ianto! Things to see! Things to learn! Follow me!"
The Faerie zipped off, its wings buzzing in that distinctive way, in exactly the direction that Ianto had been heading. For the first time in his life, he knew the desire to punch something. It wasn't that he wasn't a passionate man, because he was. You couldn't be in a relationship – however lax – with Jack Harkness if you were anything other. It's just that for the most part, he could compartmentalise, keep his emotions and his work separate. But these Faeries were really pushing the limits. It was as if the recent events had blurred his thinking. Yesterday, today, hundreds of years ago, whenever it was that he had died, was the first time since Lisa he had let his heart rule his head. Any other time he would have had three, maybe four, plans and options for every scenario and even more get out clauses. But he hadn't. Jack had been so gung-ho Ianto had let himself get swept up in his wake, in a way he never had before.
He was beginning to think that the Faeries had been messing with him before he woke up in the Wild.
Nevertheless, he followed the firefly being as it effortlessly wove its way through the crowds of people. No one took any notice of it or the scruffily dressed man trailing faithfully behind it, they just seemed to move out of the way a split-second before the Faerie reached them. It was unbelievable.
As he passed, Ianto took time to study the world a thousand years in the future. For a start, everyone was speaking English, or at the very least a version of it. He imagined that the French of his time would be horrified to learn that they would eventually be speaking English and not just to humour ignorant tourists. They were all dressed similarly too. It wasn't like something out of a science fiction movie where the future was painted with skin tight lycra in varying shades. It was more that the clothing felt the same; individuality had waned away since Ianto's time. Trousers and shirts, well more fitted tops, of varying muted colours but all similar styles, and glasses. Everyone appeared to be wearing glasses.
"It's the Ultra Violet light. Lots of rays in the atmosphere. And dust. Ozone crumbling and repairing, but has to crumble first."
The Faerie was quite a way ahead of Ianto, but he could hear the little being as clearly as if he had been stood next to him. Ianto nodded non-committally, accepting the fact that the ozone layer would be a problem for humans for years to come and tried not to think about the fact that Faeries were apparently telepathic.
The Faerie paused for a moment, giving Ianto chance to catch up to it, before ducking through a doorway. There was no door, not even a glass sliding one with motion detectors; it seemed to be an open doorway – which Ianto couldn't imagine was very secure – until Ianto moved through it after his guide. There was a tingling, like static dancing across his skin, and Ianto turned in time to see that there was some type of force-field covering the door that shifted as he moved through it. He couldn't help the smile that broke out on his face; of all the things he'd seen during his time with Torchwood this was the first thing that the movies had gotten right. He felt like a kid and swiped his hand through the force-field again, just to see it flicker around his flesh and then drew it back quickly as there was a sharp tug on his ear. The Faerie was frowning sternly at him and Ianto felt absurdly abashed that a being a tenth of his size was rebuking him.
"No time to play! Naughty!" it hissed, before flitting off down a corridor. "Follow!"
Scratching his head and hiding a small smile, Ianto did, imagining that, had the little figure been standing, it would have been stamping its little foot in temper. They wound through clean white corridors with bright strip lighting, passing officious men and women in sleek white uniforms with a blue Rod of Asclepius on the left breast of their fitted tunics. He was in a hospital, or a medical centre of some sort, though other than the uniforms there was no way to tell. Nor was there anything comforting about the environment. No strategically placed chairs for visitors to wait in, no soothing wall paintings or potted plants just white corridors with strange symbols at every junction. The NHS may not have been perfect, but at least it was friendly. There weren't even information posters and leaflets littered about. The place was sterile, cold and whilst he imagined it probably functioned very well, it was in no way reassuring.
Ianto was relieved that the Faerie seemed to know where they needed to be because he was quite lost. He could find his way back out, of course, his sense of direction was as immaculate as ever but as he had no idea where he was going it didn't really matter that if he could get back out. His feet squeaked slightly on the highly polished floor, but as in the street no one noticed him and he was beginning to tally a mental list of things he needed the Faerie to clear up.
Just as soon as it stopped.
"Nearly there. Hurry Ianto. Can't miss this!"
The voice floated back to him, meant for his ears alone, and something about its tone compelled him to run. His feet slapped against the floor as he dashed down the corridor, not sure where he was heading and not even needing to watch out for the other people milling about as they moved out of his way just before he reached them. The Faerie was waiting for him outside a windowed room, hovering by the shoulder of a sandy haired man, though the man seemed unaware of his companion. He didn't even flinch when Ianto drew up and used him as a prop to catch his breath.
"Can't see you. Can't feel you. You don't exist."
"What?" Something squirmed in Ianto's stomach at the Faerie's words.
"Outside Time. We stole you, seconds of you, just a little. Snatched from Time just in time. You don't exist."
Ianto's mind ticks the words over, rolling them around until they make sense. "I don't exist," he whispered, "I'm not dead because I'm not alive."
"Clever boy! Now work out the rest."
"How long?" he begged, "Tell me how long?"
"'Til this is done. 'Til he is safe."
"Who? Until who is safe?"
The Faerie cupped Ianto's chin and turned him so that he was looking through the room's window. On the bed, tended by numerous physicians was a woman. From her positioning and the tiny swaddled package in her arms it was obvious that she has just given birth. "Him. And all that come before."
Ianto looked at the baby, cradled in his mother's arms. He could only see the child's forehead, with a tiny mop of dark hair, and one tiny fist peeking out from amongst the blankets so he has to take the Faerie's word that the child was a boy. But there was something about the child. His skin... it was almost glowing. It wasn't ruddy, the way a newborn's flesh usually looked, it was almost golden. "What the –"
"You can see it can't you? We made it so you would see! Made you a part of it."
Ianto was bewildered by the explanation. "Made me a part of what?"
"The Wild silly! Took you out of Time, beyond Time, to the Wild. Like us." The Faerie gleefully fluttered around his head, singing as it went, "Like us. Beyond the world, outside of Time, part of the Wild! You can see!"
Shying away from the idea that they have changed him, Ianto focused instead on the baby. There was only one thing that they would protect. "He's a Chosen One."
The Faerie clapped. "Clever Ianto!"
"I thought they were all girls."
"It's not about gender. Gender is ephemeral – that is something Humans care about. It's all about energy. Sparkling sweet energy. All a part of the World. A part of the Wild. All linked, like a spider web."
"And occasionally someone has too much." Ianto could see it. Now that he knew what he was looking for, he could see the energy thrumming through the people in the room. But for everyone else, the energy was contained, under the skin. For the baby it poured over it, dusting it with gold dust – fairy dust. "And you have to take them. They power the world."
"They hide behind the wind."
"They keep us alive."
The soldiers are dead, rose petals pouring obscenely from their mouths. Suffocation is not as quick as the movies make it seem. It's painful and ugly to watch, eyes bulge and veins pop and both men have scratched welts on their throats, which is probably why most of the people in the room are studiously looking elsewhere. Jack chances a quick look around, viciously satisfied at the horror on their faces, Gwen's little helper even has her hands over her ears, her eyes wide and white. Gwen was very wrong, she isn't Torchwood material, she's too soft. Softer than Gwen, for all her bleeding heart and feelings, ever was.
"What, what was that?" Bridget Spears asks, her hand wrapped round her throat. Jack isn't sure if she's preparing to save herself from a similar fate or trying to comfort herself.
They turn to him, accusation and terror in equal parts. Even Alice is scared, her knuckles white as she grips her sides. Jack holds out a hand to Steven, encouraging him to come away from the twitching dead bodies, but another soldier grabs him before he can move.
"I wouldn't do that," Jack warns, feeling safer than he has done in days. It's all manner of perverse. The Faeries are cruel and unforgiving, immoral and childish with an obscene penchant for torture. But Jack is grateful they are here and somehow he knows that the 456 cannot defeat them. Nothing can.
The soldier spares him a glance, his fist tightening on the scruff of Steven's school jumper and Jack gives him a shark like grin. If he doesn't let go of Steven, if he tries to remove him from the room, the man will die. Jack knows this. Oddly enough, he doesn't feel any sympathy. He seems to have lost the capacity for it.
"What are Faeries?" the Prime Minister asks, sinking back into his chair. He has aged at least five years in the past few days and is looking more worn by the minute. It is perhaps a blessing that his regime will be over as soon as this debacle is.
"Didn't your mother ever tell you fairytales?" Jack mocks.
"They can't be real," a generic suited man breaths.
"They are. Very real. Very powerful. Older than anything on Earth. Talk about a rock and a hard place."
"You said," the American begins, attempting to gather some indignation, but it's like trying to grasp smoke: his voice is too shaky to hold it. "You said there was nothing that could do this."
"You were asking about aliens," Jack points out reasonably, "Faeries are not aliens."
"Then what are they?" It is Alice who asks the fear in her voice cuts into Jack, like tiny razorblades. He's been killed like that before; Emily Holroyd tried out hundreds of different knives over the years, so he knows it's an apt metaphor.
"They are Faeries. Some call them Mara, and they are part of the Earth." It is not an explanation, but it is all he really knows about them. Everything else is just hearsay and half remembered stories. "I've met them before and they've killed everyone that's ever gotten in their way."
"So, Steven's..." she trails off, looking at her son.
Steven's looking at them both curiously; he seems so innocent even though he is stood between the bodies of two men who died because of him. It's probably why he looks so innocent; he is untouched and unmarred by the carnage carried out on his behalf. He is entirely blameless.
"Safe, completely safe." It's sort of heartbreaking to realise that those soulless creatures can protect his grandson better than he can.
"I'm sorry," Pierce blusters, "You're telling me that Tinkerbell and her little friends are going to sort all of this out. How? With fairy dust?"
There is a smattering of laughter; more a breaking of tension than real humour and Jack feels his mouth twitch into his first real smile in days. "Don't underestimate them. You have no idea what they are capable of. This," he says, pointing at the dead men, "is child's play to them. This is fun."
He feels the disbelief his words engender, it pricks at him, and part of him hopes that they don't need a real example of the Faeries power in order to be convinced. A larger part of him, one he thought he buried long ago wants to see what the Faeries will do to them. Obviously they are watching things carefully; Jack isn't sure how they do it. He is sure they don't have satellites, always recording and seeing and listening, floating around in space waiting for things to happen. But, does that mean that they are always on Earth? Always watching and waiting for a Chosen One to appear? Or do they just know? Can they simply feel it when one of their own comes into being? Jack knows he doesn't know anywhere near enough about them to judge how they will handle this, handle the 456 but he knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that at the very least the children will survive.
The adults are quite a different story.
Ianto felt the tears as they rolled down his cheeks. They were hot, and tasted salty on his lips. He knew now what the Water was for. What it did. His clothes were still damp, his shoes and socks were still missing and his hair felt longer than before.
His heart was broken.
He hadn't lied when he told Jack he loved him. He did. He hadn't chosen to, he hadn't planned to and a part of him really hadn't wanted to but he did. It was a consuming love, one that had snuck up on him and wrapped its coils around his heart and head and seeing Jack broken had broken Ianto.
"Will you do it?"
There was no choice. "Not for you. I am not doing this for you."
The Faeries laughed, for the first time since Ianto had arrived in the Wild it sounded sweet. "But you are doing it. That's all we want."
"This is ludicrous! You're asking us to believe that fairies are going to save us!"
"Not us. Them," Jack points at Steven. "They are going to save the children."
"Every time a baby laughs a fairy gets its wings is that it?"
"Don't mock them," Jack warns, his voice thrumming with all the tension of a brewing storm. He doesn't know how to warn them with anything other than words. Words they don't care to hear.
"I do not know what game you are playing Captain but it ends here. Take him."
The soldiers seize Steven once more and the world goes to hell. The lights flicker, a false lightening, that streaks across everyone's faces bringing with it a calm terror. A wind, fierce and forceful rips through the room, flipping the highly polished mahogany table and all its chairs like they are nothing more than leaves on a blustery autumn day. Someone screams and laughter rings out, high and childish and bordering on maniacal. The soldiers are swept up, the wind taking them prisoner and these ones are not going to be granted the mercy of a quick petal-lined death. Jack can see it, the way the wind funnel is squeezing the air from their lungs and suffocating them. And so can everyone else.
The terror in the room is thick, like tar, and the smell is similarly appealing. Even the battle hardened soldiers are pale, agape and wide-eyed. They've shot aliens and humans alike, tracking down their frail fleshed out bodies before riddling them with bullets, but they can't understand how they are meant to fight the wind. It's like an ancient Chinese conundrum that philosophers have puzzled over for millennia. They point their guns, a fruitless gesture that seems to bring them no comfort. One tries to shoot at his comrade dying in the wind but the bullet merely falls from his gun with a thunderous crack before he is flung into the wall.
Alice is screaming and it is then that Jack notices that Steven is in the centre of the wind funnel. Elbowing Johnson out of the way, he grabs his daughter and forces her to see what is going on. "Look!" he hisses, his voice low and urgent. "Look at his hair."
The fine blond strands are lying limp against his head, not even tickled by the cyclone he's trapped in.
"It's not moving." There is a question behind Alice's statement.
"No, they won't hurt him. He's a child. They don't hurt children."
The laughter rings out again, more gleeful than before. They are obviously enjoying their little show and Jack wonders whether he should ask for mercy. Scream at them to stop like the others are doing. But he doesn't. He stands, holding his daughter and watching his grandson as the wind howls and the Faeries laugh and the humans scream.
It's the end of the world.