Fic: Chosen. (Part III)
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.
Rhiannon has her arms wrapped around her husband, gripping onto him for dear life. She had always known, somewhere in the back of her mind, in a place she refused to acknowledge, that she would outlive her baby brother. It's unnatural. She is five years older than him, she remembers helping to change his nappies, squealing when they were dirty and smelly. She should have died first.
The woman, Gwen, all wide-eyed and dripping with sincerity, is trying to assure her that her brother was brave and died trying to save others but Rhiannon doesn't care about that. Bravery is just another term for idiocy and foolhardiness and she doesn't want to hear that anyone else survived where he did not. Johnny's arms squeeze her tighter, sensing that she needs something more than a hug, it's one of the reasons she loves him. Despite his rough edges and abrasive humour he always knows what she needs – just like Ianto does... did.
She'll have to get used to that now. Thinking of her brother in the past tense.
Because he'll never be there to see David get his GCSEs or his A-Levels and advise him on where to go to university – because Lord knows she and Johnny know nothing about getting a further education. He'll never see Mica grow up or go to her school play or be there to help Rhiannon calm Johnny down when some boy breaks her heart for the first, second, third time. Her kids might not even remember him and that just breaks her heart.
She sobs into Johnny's shirt, it was dirty anyway, and shrugs off Gwen's sympathetic pat. She doesn't want them, she just wants her brother.
The wind stops, dropping the dead men to the floor like broken rag dolls. It is eerie, suddenly everything is so quiet and still, as if the wind has taken every little sound and movement with it. Nobody moves. Nobody speaks. Nobody dares to even breathe.
"I thought you would have gotten my first warning. These men did not have to die." A familiar voice, reasonable and rebuking at the same time, cuts through the silence like a katana through silk. Jack jerks round, like one of Pavlov's dogs he reacts to Ianto's voice and Jack drinks in the sight of him. He looks different. His suit is torn, his tie askew and his shoes and socks are missing. His hair is a mess of curls and tangles and his blue eyes seem electric in the bland conference room. To Jack's eyes he is the most beautiful thing in the Universe.
Ianto's eyes don't stray from the General, his stare is cold and judging and Jack doesn't like that expression on Ianto's face. Of all of them Ianto never judges, he's never once judged Jack, not even the first time they danced with the Faeries and he let Jasmine go. That Ianto is judging these men so easily scares Jack. Makes him wonder what Ianto has thought of him in the moments Jack wasn't there to watch.
"Well General Pierce? Do you have anything to say?"
The General is stupefied, they all are. Ianto waits impassively for a few moments before turning from the men gathered around the ruins of the table. His body language dismisses them as insignificant, he doesn't care that there are still armed soldiers in the room; his attention is suddenly fixed unwaveringly on Steven. As he moves forward Alice jerks, an instinctive movement to protect her child from this new threat and Jack is confused. He can't work out why Alice is worried. Ianto would never hurt Steven. It takes him a moment to realise that Alice has no idea who Ianto is. He reaches out and gently pulls her back at the same moment Ianto reaches a hand out to Steven.
"Hello. You're Steven aren't you?" Ianto kneels before the little boy; his blue eyes are bright and cheerful. He smiles and hesitantly Steven returns it, but there is still a cloud of fear lingering around the boy and no one really can blame him. "Do you want to see a magic trick?"
Steven shoots a look at his mum and Uncle Jack. All day men have been pulling and pushing him around and this is someone new. Jack smiles at him, nodding him towards Ianto and Steven takes a slight step forward.
"Ok," he says his voice soft and sweet.
Ianto smiles and shows Steven his empty hands. He closes one fist, then the other before banging them together. When he opens them they are filled with white rose petals. Not red. There has been enough death. In the language of flowers white roses represent innocence and heaven and secrets. All the sweet things childhood should be. Steven giggles and Ianto throws the rose petals over his head. Lightening quick Ianto's hand darts out and plucks a stem of white hyacinth from behind Steven's ear and he presents it to the boy, tucking it into the pocket of his school shirt. The little white buds peak out over the collar of his grey jumper making him look like a schoolboy from a bygone age.
"You died." The accusation comes from the Home Secretary, Denise Riley, her voice wavering as she speaks. She is pale, a new horror etched on her face as yet another dead man walks before her.
Ianto turns slowly, eying the woman who is talking to him. Or rather, talking at him, as if he were something and not someone. Not a person anymore. He isn't sure that she is wrong. Ianto can feel everything. He can hear their hearts beating and feel the exhalations of their breath on his skin. Each one of them feels slightly different; Steven feels sweet and young, Johnson feels like a steel trap, cold but coiled with lethal power and Ianto sees the warrior Faerie perched just behind her, his hands full of red petals. Then there is Jack, his body barely containing the energy thrumming under his skin. The Faeries are giving him a wide berth and Ianto knows it isn't because they fear him, they have no concept of fear – they only know fun – but they don't know how to classify him. They can't work him out and so they will avoid him because he means something to Ianto.
Ianto knows the minute his back is turned they will turn on Jack, but for now they hold off.
But Denise has caught their attention and they are hovering around her like angry wasps. Ianto can't understand how she cannot feel them, they are so close and so angry and Ianto can feel them from where he is. Ignoring her he turns back to Steven, wanting the little boy away from the bodies surrounding him like some macabre wall of flesh.
"Close your eyes," he whispers and waits until he does so before scooping the boy up. Steven isn't small for his age but Ianto is surprised that he feels weightless in his arms. Carefully he steps over the dead men, watching Steven closely to make sure his eyes are still closed. The boy grips Ianto tightly, his fingers wrapping themselves in the silk and cotton of his torn waistcoat. His legs are clamped around Ianto's waist and the tension in them suggests the terror the boy has been living in.
It is unsurprising that no one moves to impede their progress across the conference room.
Alice's eyes are wide as they approach; she looks as though she is torn between wanting to greet Ianto as a saviour and grab her child and run far, far away. Her hands are only slightly desperate as she takes Steven from him, running all over his body checking for any possible damage. Briefly she glances at Ianto and whispers her thanks before murmuring softly in her son's ear; cooing words of comfort that a mother instinctively knows how to give her child.
Jack reaches out a hand, brushing it against the back of Ianto's, and his handcuffs tumble from his wrists forcing Ianto's attention to switch from Steven to him. Ianto's eyes are wide and he blinks owlishly, is if he doesn't recognise Jack.
"Ianto," Jack breaths, moving closer; he's never had a lover returned to him before and it feels sweet. But he is desperate to touch, check Ianto is really there and this is not some wild flight of fancy. Even if it is, Jack doesn't want to wake up. His hands move on their own, sliding up from Ianto's side, up his arm and over his shoulder until he is cupping the back of Ianto's neck. The wild curls are silky soft, tickling the back of Jack's hand and it's that electric touch more than anything that proves this is real.
He jerks Ianto forward, roughly, using his tight grip on the back of Ianto's neck to pull the young man into his arms. Ianto's hair smells of coffee and something fresh and he feels firm and warm under Jack's fingers – not cold and hard as he was the last time Jack saw him. Their reunion reminds him of Abaddon, only this time it is Ianto that has come back from the dead and Jack needs to kiss him, needs to taste and touch and he doesn't care that they have an audience that includes his daughter and grandson. His hand slides up to cup Ianto's cheek, its twin still at Ianto's nape and he remembers they did this before, back when Ianto was shy and hesitant about their relationship, offering his hand rather than his lips. Moving in for the kiss Jack is somewhat affronted to find that Ianto has a firm hand on his chest, stopping him and though Jack leans forward, almost desperate for his kiss, Ianto is firm in his resolve.
Ianto smiles at Jack's confusion, a soft smile that gently lifts the corner of his mouth, "Not now Sir, work to do."
Jack groans at his catch-phrase falling from Ianto's lips in those Welsh vowels and his head drops to Ianto's shoulder. He nuzzles briefly at Ianto's neck and starts, "Ianto I–"
Jack swallows his words. Ianto's reaction is completely fair, even though Jack is sure Ianto has no idea what he was going to say. What he wants to say. But then it is Ianto – he knows everything.
"Mr Jones, I presume?" Their brief reunion has given the room a chance to regroup and General Pierce is now stood, straight and tall, like the soldier he is.
Ianto turns his face into Jack for a brief second, long enough for him to feel the smirk on Ianto's lips against his cheek, before turning to face the General. "In the flesh."
Pierce's dark eyes narrow into slits as he takes in the unkempt man before him. He had been assured that Harkness was an aberration, an anomaly, but now there is another man with Lazarus like abilities and he is Harkness' lover no less. A lover who's body his men were supposed to have been guarding. It is all quite irregular but he will not let it show on his face. "I was lead to believe you had died in Thames House. I see the reports were wrong."
"Not wrong," Ianto shrugs, "perhaps merely – pre-emptive?"
His confusion must show because Ianto smiles and moves towards them. The politicians shrink back whilst the soldiers' stance gets stiffer, but Ianto doesn't react in any way. He keeps his focus on Pierce and the general is aware that something is not right with this man. Besides the fact that he has come back from the dead.
"Time isn't a fixed construct General. The sooner you learn that the easier life becomes." Ianto looks around the room. The Faeries have made quite the mess in their fit of pique over Steven and Ianto feels his not-OCD need for neatness rearing its ugly head. "I'd suggest we sit and discuss things civilly but..."
"Yes. You made quite the entrance."
"That wasn't me. That was them."
Ianto laughs. "You don't believe? Even after all of this?" He gestures to the mess and the dead men.
The General shrugs. "Torchwood. Who knows what little toys you've got?" Pointing at a couple of guards he gestures to his dead men. "Get them out of here."
The dead men are dragged out; there is little reverence for the bodies of their fallen comrades. Despite the fact that they were brothers in arms, their dead bodies only serve as a reminder of the strangeness of the day and their bodies are just as chilling as the manner of their deaths. They were good men, they fell in combat but this isn't the time to honour the noble dead. That time will come later, when peace falls and the war is done. A couple of men move to right the tables, leaving the politicians to pick up their own chairs and gather their notes.
"You destroyed Torchwood." Ianto notes, moving to an empty chair. He is the first to sit, sprawling elegantly into one of the chairs, leaving the others to hesitantly take their seats.
The General chooses to sit directly opposite Ianto and he shakes his head. "That wasn't me."
"No, it was them," Ianto's attention turns to the Prime Minister and Frobisher, who freeze. "But you play with them so I am holding you responsible too."
"That hardly seems appropriate."
Ianto's eyes glitter dangerously and he turns to where Jack is still stood, protectively hovering over his family. "It hardly seems appropriate that you would hold a man's family hostage to get what you want."
The General swallows, Ianto has him there. There are no innocents in this room except the child, and even he has blood spattered on his hands. The General steeples his hands, resting his elbows on the table, it is similar to the pose he adopted with Jack. "What is it that you want Mr Jones?"
"Me? I want nothing. I'm just the mouthpiece." He stretches, linking his hands above his head as his body arches in its chair. Ianto has always dealt with the bureaucracy but he has never had centre-stage before, it was always occupied by Jack's shining star. He finds he rather likes this little taste of it. "They on the other hand have already delivered their demands."
"And by 'they' you mean the fairies."
"Faeries. And yes."
"Faeries," Pierce says slowly. Almost mockingly.
Jack guides Alice and Steven to a chair in the corner before moving to stand behind Ianto. It is a reverse of their normal positions, him not leading, but Ianto is quite capable and he seems to be the only one who knows what is going on so Jack does the only thing he can: he offers support. His hand slides up to rest on Ianto's shoulder. "They don't believe."
"So I see, Sir." He looks up at his captain and raises an eyebrow. "Perhaps I need to do another magic trick? Steven?"
"Come here," Ianto holds out a hand and pulls Steven on to his lap, looping his arms loosely round the boy. "Have you read Harry Potter?"
Steven nods, looking over his shoulder at Alice. Jack follows his gaze. His daughter is wringing her hands nervously, her face is wan and Jack's heart goes out to her. She spent so long cultivating a life that would keep her son safe and it's all been blown apart. Seconds, mere moments, have destroyed years of toil. He offers her a comforting smile, "its ok," he mouths, running his hand over Steven's blond head.
"Mum read it to me."
"Did she? That was nice of her. Which was your favourite book?"
Steven thinks for a moment, chewing on the corner of his lip as he does so. "Prisoner of Azkaban," he whispers, aware that everyone is watching him.
"Why?" Ianto is genuinely curious. He's read all the books himself, they are on a shelf in his bedroom next to his Bond DVDs and he knows that Jack has at least flicked through them during his nights at Ianto's house.
"I like the Marauders."
There is a huffed sigh from the corner of the room. "Is this relevant?" Brian Green asks, his tone petulant and displaying his disregard for all childish things.
Jack glares him into submission whilst Ianto carries on as though nothing has changed. "Did you like their Map?"
"Yes! It's really funny when Snape tries to find out what it is and the Map talks back." He leans closer to Ianto, "Mum even tried to do the voices," he confides.
Steven nods. "She wasn't very good though."
Jack laughs, as does Alice, though it sounds like more of a sob than anything and she covers it with her hand.
Ianto smiles indulgently. "Do you remember the spell to reveal the Map?"
Steven nods furiously. "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good!"
The second the words leave his lips the room is filled, Faeries fluttering everywhere and the smell of roses blooms bright. Most of them are in their warrior guise, bearing their sharp teeth at the assembled adults. The only pretty ones are near Ianto and Steven and one twirls down through the air to land on Steven's knee. It curtsies prettily and blows him a kiss. Steven's eyes are huge and round as he watches them, just like the adults in the room. "Wow."
"Very." He reaches out a finger and the Faerie grips it, shaking it as if it were his hand. "So cool."
Jack isn't so charmed. Many of them are looking at him, snarling when they catch his eye but they seem more hostile towards the politicians and Jack thinks Ianto has something to do with that. They are gentle with Steven, but then children are their favourites and Jack cannot believe he didn't realise who the second voice was earlier. They too need the children to live, but as horrific as it seems, they only need one child and it is always the child's choice. The 456 are something completely different.
"My God." The General is astounded. Hesitantly he reaches out to touch one close to him but it snaps at him, twisting away and darting towards Ianto, landing on the shoulder not occupied by Jack's hand.
"God isn't here General. There is only us."
"What do they want?" Green asks, his words are those of everyone else.
"We told you! We told, said, spoke, sang! Nothing, not one, never, no way!" the Faeries are not singing now. They are hissing and spitting, little doodlebugs of anger and malice that swarm round the room. Ianto raises and hand and they still, still buzzing and angry but they are still.
"You don't want us to give up the children," Pierce confirms, wrestling the floor away from the Prime Minster, determined to still be in charge – even though he is quite aware that Ianto has all the power.
"No. Not one single child."
"No no none."
Jack can't help but smile; the Faeries are saying exactly what he had tried to say yesterday. The only difference is that they have more than enough power to back up their demands. They are going to win.
"That is absurd!" Denise exclaims, "They will kill us if we don't do what they ask!"
"You saw what they did at Thames House," Green interjects.
"And Clement MacDonald," Johnson adds softly.
"Clem's dead?" Ianto asks, turning an almost heartbroken face to Jack. He hadn't known the man well, but he had felt for him. He had led a tragic life. "How?"
Ianto's face hardens as he turns back to Johnson. "I trust that is sympathy not apathy in your voice – otherwise you won't get the luxury of screaming."
The Faeries giggle, twirling closer to Johnson, their hands full of petals. "No, no I – I was just –"
"I don't care. He was a good man." Johnson nods, speechless. "Is Gwen ok?" Ianto asks Jack. Lois twitches in the corner, Gwen was the only one of the team she knew and she is perhaps more determined to hear the answer than Ianto is.
"She's fine. She's with your sister."
Ianto barks out a hollow laugh. "Well, that should be interesting."
"Your house of cards will fall. Lie on lie, down down down."
Ianto glares at the Faeries "You say lies..."
"You say need to know," they laugh. "Trickster!"
"Later, Jack. Let's deal with the problem at hand. Gentlemen?"
"Our satellites have locked on a ship just outside of our atmosphere. We have considered a nuclear launch but..." Pierce begins.
"The chances of it working are slim to none. The reality, Mr Jones, is that we have to go along with what they want. We have no other choices."
Ianto laughs, shaking his head at the Prime Minister's naivety. He is glad that he never voted for the man. "Quite honestly, I'd be more worried about my friends than the 456. We have other options. The first is that you stop rounding up the children. It ends now."
"Look," Gwen says, knowing that this is not the right time. She's just told them about Ianto's death and now she has to tell them something just as, if not more, horrific. "Ianto was trying to stop something."
"Those voices yeah?" Johnny asks, his arms still around his wife. "Don't you look at me like that. I might not be a college boy but I've got a brain. Can put two and two together y'know."
Andy huffs out a breath, "Sure."
"You saying somat PC Plod?"
"Johnny, don't," Rhiannon begs. She can't do this: she has no energy to deal with him getting into a fight with a police officer. Not today.
"Andy," Gwen warns, glaring at her former partner.
Andy rolls his eyes. "Sorry." The thing Gwen doesn't seem to realise is that Ianto was Andy's friend too. Of all the Torchwood lot, Ianto was the only one who spoke to him. Gwen spoke to him when she needed something, Jack Flash when he was dismissing the force from one of their spooky-dos and the others had ignored him. Ianto didn't. Getting into a fight with the man's brother-in-law seems like a good way to get out some of the anger he has for Torchwood, for Jack. Gwen hasn't said but Andy knows, Jack got him killed.
"So it is about them? About the kids?" Rhiannon asks, horribly earnest. Her eyes, Ianto's eyes, are asking questions Gwen doesn't want to answer but given that she's brought the subject up she knows that she'll have to.
"Yeah. Yeah, it's about them."
The drive to Thames House is tense. Jack is itching to ask Ianto questions, hundreds of questions all fighting for first place on the tip of his tongue, but Ianto isn't paying him any attention. He is too concerned with showing Steven slight of hand games with a shiny fifty pence piece. That would be the first question he thinks, why Steven and Alice are with them. He thinks he understands why the politicians and the soldiers have to come, whatever Ianto has planned is as much for their benefit as it is for the 456 but Alice and Steven have no place here. Jack would rather them be miles away; but ironically, Ianto is the only person who he'd trust to take them. Either Ianto or himself, but Ianto has to see this through and Jack isn't letting him out of his sight.
The more he thinks on it, he realises that Ianto didn't even demand that Alice and Steven join them. He simply took hold of Steven's hand and led him out of COBRA. The rest of them just trailed behind like lambs to the slaughter, herded out by the Faeries. Who have disappeared. They haven't gone anywhere, Jack can still feel them, but they are out of sight for the time being and it seems to have calmed some of the nerves. They are an odd group. Three cars carrying an assortment of civilians and military personnel, all flanked by police outriders even though the streets are deserted. London is deathly still, even the air. It is as if the whole of nature is waiting for them to act. Idly he wonders if the 456 can feel what's coming. If they know that they are in trouble.
Jack hopes that they do. That they can feel the storm that's following the slow procession of cars.
Ianto is watching Steven with an almost melancholy look as the boy tries to work out how to tuck the coin between his fingers. There is a look, a strange look, one that Jack has only ever associated with the Doctor. It's that of a man who knows too much, and for all his seeming vitality, Ianto looks old.
Ianto doesn't look at him. He keeps watching Steven, almost obsessively. Alice isn't watching her son as much as Ianto is; she's watching the scenery flash by, her head resting against the cool glass. To Jack it seems as if she is trying to escape reality, if only for a few moments.
"Ianto," Jack calls again. He wants his lover to look at him.
Eventually, Ianto does, turning in his seat so that he is facing Jack. He smiles, that quiet indulgent smile that has always been given just to Jack. It says that Ianto knows him and accepts him. It's not the starry look Gwen gives him, imagining him as a hero, because Jack hasn't been a hero – well ever. "What happened?" His voice is low, he doesn't want Alice or Steven listening in, even though they won't be able to help it. "What did they do to you?"
Ianto lifts a hand to card it gently through Jack's hair. Somehow it feels like goodbye. "They stole me. Took me out of time."
"I don't understand."
Ianto moves closer, it's the closest they've been since he died, shifting until he's leaning against Jack. "I didn't either."
"You do now though?"
Ianto hums, his lips press against Jack's throat.
"You know what you're doing right?"
Jack doesn't know why but he feels like he's going to cry. "That's my Ianto."
Ianto leans away and carefully scrutinises Jack. His hands slide to hold Jack's face, almost desperately, between his palms. "Nothing will happen to your family. I promise that."
"I trust you."
Ianto closes his eyes, seemingly forcing back his own tears, and leans to rest his forehead against Jack's. "Thank you."
"I'm scared." Ianto whispers.
"I don't want to go back there"
"Oh Ianto," Jack barely has time to breathe the words before Ianto is falling into him. "I'm not leaving you. Not this time."
The door to the kitchen creaks open and Rhiannon hastily wipes her eyes. She will tell the children about Ianto, but not now, not while all of this is happening. She feels sick. What Gwen has told them – it can't be possible but she has never been a dreamer. There were no flights of fancy in her family when growing up, just cold hard practicality and so she knows that what the woman says is true. Mica is peering around the door, her hands so small on the wood and her eyes are the same as Ianto's; that same watery blue that their mother, and their grandmother, gave them, that Rhiannon feels the tears well again. "Yes love?"
If Rhiannon's voice trembles at all, Mica doesn't notice. "Mummy, you have to come look."
Rhiannon sighs and Johnny rubs her back. Gwen offers her a tight smile, one that says 'children have bad timing don't they?' but Rhiannon ignores her. Ignores the woman who claims to know her brother; nobody knows Ianto. He's been a mystery to the family since the day he was born. So secretive. So quiet. Always keeping diaries and having so few friends. Now she'll never get the chance to know him, or his man, to show him how she didn't care even if he was gay.
"Not now sweetheart. I'll come in a minute."
"Mica, go back to the sitting room. This is grown-up stuff."
Mica sticks her tongue out at her dad, the way she always does when he cites 'grown-up stuff' as a reason for not explaining anything. "You have to come now!"
Rhiannon groans, she can't deal with this now. Not now. Mica has inherited the Jones stubborn streak; she isn't going to let this go. Johnny folds round her, glaring at his daughter, but his glares ceased being effective long ago. Gwen, desperate to help Ianto's family, walks towards the little girl. "Hi Mica, I'm Gwen. I need to talk to your mummy and daddy for a moment, sweetheart. Could you be a good girl and just pop back to the living room, pet?"
Mica narrows her eyes, she might be a little girl but she can obviously sense when someone is being patronising. She bangs on the side of the door, a fit of pique to catch her parent's attentions. They won't send her to bed with company here, they will yell at her later though but she doesn't mind that. "Mica! Behave."
"Mum! You need to come now!" She pushes past Gwen to grab her mother's arm. "Uncle Ianto is on the telly!"