Ianto Jones huffed in exhausted frustration into the darkness of his slightly stuffy room, arms dropping down onto the airy duvet to emphasise it. Turning his head sharply against the pillows, the clock sat politely on the bedside cabinet glared the numbers 03:27 at him. Ianto glared back angrily at the harsh red colour, some part of him thankfully it wasn't the bloody annoying alarm clock from Serenity Plaza. No irritating, high pitched and too happy voice telling him to "Rise and Shine" for his new day and reminding him of what busy he had in the bloody Plaza. That had, thankfully, blown up with the rest of the place. This device was just a typical alarm clock, black and sleek, which buzzed its siren-like alarm every morning. Somehow, it hadn't fallen victim to Ianto's slamming fists and broken yet (To Jack's delight as they always came out of his paycheck) and withstood the dreadful drop to the floor every time. It wouldn't go off until half seven and Ianto watched the seconds tick over painfully slow. Four more hours to go and Ianto hadn't had a wink of sleep and his body didn't seem to want to let him rest even for a few hours.
"If you turn one more time, I'll lie on top of you." Threatened a half-asleep Jack, his eyes still shut and mouth pulled into a frown. Ianto had rolled his head over to look at him and now reached out to lightly stroke his cheek with the back of his hand.
" 'mm sorry."
"No, you're not." One eye cracked open and the sheets ruffled as Jack slid closer to Ianto, pressing up against his side. It made Ianto smile at least, shifting left into his lover's arms. A light, sleepy kiss was pressed to the crook of his neck and Jack's head settled on his shoulder, strands of hair making Ianto squirm just a bit. "Still, Ianto."
"Mhmm." He answered, shutting his eyes and waiting for the pull of sleep that never came. He snapped his eyes back open, waiting for them to adjust to the low light levels and stare up at the blank ceiling. Jack was back asleep faster than switching a lamp off which made Ianto pout. The man who hardly needed any sleep could just nod off whenever he cared to, Ianto wanted that ability. He didn't know why he couldn't sleep. Ianto didn't need to pee, he wasn't hungry or thirsty, there was no pent up energy Jack could fuck out of him and he wasn't plagued by nightmares. Ianto brought a hand up to rub at his eyes, feeling his annoyance build-up from just being mild.
A yawn ripped itself from Ianto's mouth and made his eyes water. They just seemed to mock him now, taunting him as sleep evaded him. He then glared up at the ceiling now. He was tired, really tired. The day had gone on long enough after tragically losing all but one victim of the Ghostmaker. The little boy, without his sister or parents, alone in the world until they had tracked down a willing Uncle to take him in. Maybe that was what was troubling him, Ianto wondered, hand carding through Jack's hair. It had upset him, knowing they'd fall them all but he'd found some comfort after Jack's manifold attempts of reassurance that they'd managed to save countless more people. Now, the older man slept soundlessly and didn't stir as Ianto kissed his forehead.
A sudden twinge hit his shoulder and Ianto gasped quietly, curling his toes and tensing. It was the same shoulder the Ghostmaker had touched and temporarily frozen. He took it as some sort of after effect. Ianto dug his nails into the joint, hoping to relieve some of the pain but it stayed and he bit back a whine, squeezing his eyes shut. He didn't wasn't to wake Jack a second time.
Jack shuffled against him and Ianto changed his mind, debated waking him up again. The man had ways of wearing Ianto out that got him excited just thinking about it except Jack was actually sleeping which meant he must have been worn down himself this time. He didn't want to disturb that and a sleeping Jack was so rarely at peace. Ianto kisses his head before gently moving it off his shoulder and sitting up. He rose from the bed, tucking his lover back under the covers and quietly creeping out of the room. Bare feet tapped mutedly against chilly wooden flooring, the chill of the house hitting his thighs where his shorts didn't cover and goosebumps rose on his arms.
He passed a stretched out Moses who had planted his furry body on the recliner chair rather than his cat bed. A little meow floated his way and Ianto made a quick detour to fuss the feline. His hand gained a few licks and a satisfied purr filled the silence of the apartment. Ianto smiled sincerely, giving the tuxedo cat one final scratch under his white chin before moving on.
Flicking the light switch on for the bathroom, Ianto moved blinded through the doorway as he blinked rapidly. The linoleum was colder than the wood floorboards, making him shiver. When able to see again, Ianto stopped in front of the mirror. It was overly large, enough so Ianto could see the whole contents of the room behind him as it took up the width of one wall. He thought of having it replaced with a less intimidating smaller one but Jack liked it, especially when he could watch himself doing things including Ianto or being done by Ianto. Right now, it was helpful to Ianto as he awkwardly shoved the hem of his t-shirt over his shoulder to take a glance.
Leaning forward, with his hand holding him steady against the counter, Ianto saw nothing but white skin. It puzzled him slightly although he had checked hours earlier and had the same results. It felt almost like someone was still touching him like a hand was pressed to his skin and fingers gripping it tightly. But there was nothing there, no mark, no discolouration. Ianto sighed and put it down to just an ache, like when the cold hits your bones.
He wondered if Gwen was feeling the same. The MC has got her too when she has first gone for the flask. Ianto hadn't had time to check if she was alright but he knew Jack would, he had to get the flask out of there. Ianto would have to ask in the morning if he wasn't too tired to remember. Lots of coffee would help him with that, maybe an unhealthy amount with half a teaspoon of sugar and a dollop of caramel along with one of Myfanwy's dark chocolate bars she let him share with her.
That thought made his stomach growl so Ianto ventured off into the kitchen, switching off the bathroom light in favour of a lamp on one the kitchen counter. It was enough light for him to see without searing his eyeballs. He didn't feel like making a sandwich or having something sweet so Ianto turned to the fridge, watching the inside light blink on. The last few slices of last night's pizza sat on one of the shelves and Ianto's stomach voiced its approval. So, Ianto took a slice or two and stretched himself across the sofa.
And that's where Jack found him at precisely 05:53 in the morning, slowly eating their cold, leftover pizza and half-listening to a documentary about planets on a low volume. Moses had slunk off halfway through, probably to go take Ianto's half of the bed all to himself. It would leave cat hairs everywhere but right now Ianto didn't care.
"You didn't invite me for morning pizza and learning about Uranus?" His lover finally asked with such fondness once he'd found Ianto, leaning on the back of the sofa with his arms crossed to gaze down at the Welshman. Ianto chewed on his mouthful before looking up at Jack and receiving an upside-down kiss which made him smile.
"You were asleep."
"As should you be." Ianto shrugged, looking down at the remains of the slice he had been devouring, feeling a little bit weird for sitting in his dinosaur pyjamas, eating pizza, and watching tv at nearly 6am. Jack seemed to notice his change in demeanour, pushing up from his spot and rounding the sofa to sit beside Ianto instead. His face was set in seriousness, eyes searching. "What's wrong, Gorgeous?"
"Just couldn't sleep," Ianto confessed, leaning towards the Captain whose hand had gravitated towards his cheek and gently smoothed over it. It was rather soothing and Ianto pressed a light kiss to Jack's fingers before taking the last few bites of his pre-breakfast snack, eyes turning back to watch the moon orbit the Earth while Jack continued to study him with concern.
"Should have woken me, I could have helped." A smirk grew on Jack's handsome face but Ianto knew he was being sincere as well as the horny bastard that he was. Ianto rolled his eyes but didn't move to stop his lover burying his face in his neck. A nip to the delicate skin made Ianto jerk suddenly but he didn't push Jack away, tilting his head just that little bit more and holding the older man's head in place with nails lightly scratching his scalp. The immortal made a happy purr sounding closer to Moses rather than a human. It had a smile growing on Ianto's face again.
Jack's hand then slid around his waist and under his t-shirt, warm fingers tapping as they trailed along followed by a warmer palm planting itself in the small of his back. With a swift pull, Ianto was drawn closer to the older man, feeling the heat from his naked chest through the thin material of his pyjama top. A moan left his lips as an open-mouthed kiss sucked at his neck and Ianto melted into Jack.
A hand searched around for the tv remote, successfully finding it and switched off the prying eyes from the solar system.
"Your shoulder okay?" Ianto heard Owen ask before he saw as he walked past the coffee machine. Ianto's gaze followed along until it reached Owen's face. He had been amidst rolling his shoulder back and massaging it with a thumb through the fabric of his pinstripe suit and purple shirt.
"Huh? Oh yeah, just slept on it funny." Ianto explained a little too quickly, looking away as the machine dinged and he grabbed a tray of mugs. Owen nodded, seemingly satisfied, and carried on to the autopsy bay. Ianto didn't notice the look Jack shot his way, looking the Archivist up and down with a slight suspicion gaze. Jack knew he had hardly slept at all and what little he did rest after their little fun he had been curled up on top of the older man, his shoulder supposedly not being slept on.
Ianto hadn't told Jack about the pain in his shoulder nor had he found Gwen to ask if she had it too. He didn't want them worrying, especially over nothing if it was just a non-hazardous follow-up. If it got more than Ianto could handle all he had to do was pop a painkiller or two then he could be okay for a while. If a trip to the doctors was required, Ianto would do it with someone other than Dr Harper and his horrendous bedside manner. Those bridges would be crossed when they came.
The Rift Alarm blared out aggressively but Ianto didn't stop his routine as Jack ordered Owen and Gwen to get in the SUV while telling Tosh to set up some scans and any helpful CCTV for them. Ianto received a kiss on the cheek and a smile he couldn't help replicate as he watched the tails of the navy blue greatcoat disappear through the garage door. So, Ianto just continued making coffee just two mugs short, dropping one off at Tosh's desk with a small thanks in return. The Hub was much quieter in the way of people but once the alarm had calmed itself down, the usual waiting of machines, rushing of water, and screeching from Myfanwy resumed. The place has never, ever been silent in all the time Ianto had been here.
With his coffee in hand, Ianto set off to Jack's office, intent on filing away any completed paperwork (if Jack had actually done any today or at all) and to give the place a bit of a clean. Somehow the Captain could care so much about his appearances yet not care whether his place looked just a fine. It didn't get as bad as Owen's lair could but it was second place on that leaderboard. Even Janet had a clearer cell than those two. But it kept Ianto busy when there was nothing else to do.
Entering the office Ianto sighed. It wasn't all too bad, he'd cleaned worse. Ianto set his mug down on the grand desk, lightly nudging an out of place piece of paper so it lined up with its friends underneath. He picked up an empty crystallised glass and set it down next to a twin glass and a decanter with golden liquid sitting in it. The hourglass sat on its side to which Ianto set it right, watching the last few grains of sand trickle down. Jack's computers were playing the standby screen, the sentient system swirling their blue shapes.
A soft tune filtered through the room and Ianto flinched violently as something fell over him. It was like before, a shadow or something, just washing over him. Then it left and nothing happened to Ianto. He felt normal again. Ianto spun from left to right, seeing nothing in the room with him. The hatch to Jack's bunker was closed, the secure archive open, and the doors to the office closed.
Ianto shrugged, shot his cuffs, and turned to leave. With his coffee back in his grasp, Ianto wrapped his fingers around the door handle. He'd just turned it when his mind caught up and something clicked. The secure archive was open. Ianto twisted his head sharply, eyes racking over it but seeing the storage spot closed and contents hidden away. Shaking his head in confusion, Ianto rubbed his eyes, blinking away the static shapes that formed before standing in front of the archive. It was locked tight shut, waiting for someone to call it up so it could dispense whatever dangerous item they needed. Ianto narrowed his eyes, daring in to open again.
Part of him was tempted to open it himself.
But he didn't, Jack would know and what use was anything in there to him?
Ianto blamed it on the tiredness, taking a gulp of his industrial-strength coffee. Hopefully, whatever their newest visitor is, it'll keep Ianto working so much that he could properly wake up and maybe even find himself tired enough to have more than a measly amount of time to sleep tonight. He left Jack's office and glanced at Tosh's screen, the woman herself was talking away to one of the others, telling them how to get inside the cafe without smashing through its windows and alerting the neighbourhood. Ianto left her to it when he was satisfied, going about his other daily duties of clearing up the hub and giving its residents their meals.
With those done, Ianto found himself just sitting in the Tourist Office, opening it up for the public. It was quiet for a while, not many tourists about in the morning hours especially as the day wasn't so nice. His weekly guests arrived, the elderly locals who had a soft spot for him and brought him homemade goodies. Ianto talked with them for a bit before the postman showed up with whatever letters he had for the office or Torchwood. Then, once they were gone, his comm. beeped and Jack's voice came through.
"Ianto, we require the torchwood trailer, got some gazing alien horses here."
"On it sir. Do I need to stock up on hay, then?"
"I think these ones prefer polystyrene cups." Jack stated and Ianto sighed gently, clicking through something on his computer before putting it to sleep and hanging up the "out for lunch" sign.
"Okay then, I'll be right there, sir."
"Don't take too long, I don't want them to start crapping everywhere."
Ianto rolled his eyes and pressed the almost invisible earpiece he wore before heading down into the hub. He briefly informed Tosh of what was happening and then continued on his way to the garage where a shelf littered with small boxes sat. Ianto picked up the one labelled trailer and headed to his Audi which sat on the overhead car park outside. With Tosh talking in his ear, Ianto easily found where the Rift had left its new package for them. The SUV sat outside with its blinking lights like it was a rave and Owen was leaning against the bonnet. He caught eyes with Ianto and straightened up, waiting for Ianto to leave his car first.
"We've got two horse-like aliens which I believe are a mating pair, Jack and Gwen are trying to get them out of the cafe," Owen told Ianto as they walked to the building, inside it looked like a mess. Tables were strewn and chairs toppled over, nobody was inside thankfully so they could get this over and done with without interruption. "You got the-?"
"Yeah. I'll go set it up and bring the bridles." The two split ways as Ianto headed back to the SUV and set down the miniature cube he had taken. He pressed his finger down on it for a second and stepped back when it beeped. Things happened in a single blink, one moment there was a tiny box and then the next there was a normal-sized horse trailer that Ianto attached to the back of the vehicle. He stepped inside, grabbed two material bridles and went to meet the other three.
Inside the cafe, you could hear the frustrated voices of Jack and Owen, both trying to force the animals to move while Gwen was trying her best to coax them out with kind words. It made Ianto smile that three people who could operate alien tech, kick-ass, and save the world, couldn't get a simple animal to just move. Finding them behind the counter and in the backroom, Ianto took a look at the beasts.
They were the size of donkeys and were a clover green colour with white striped legs and spikes running along their spine. Rather than two eyes in the usual place, it had one on the tip of its nose and the other where a star patch would sit. Ianto just raised an eyebrow and approached the others.
"We can get close but they won't budge," Gwen said with exasperation, hair a little out of place from before and a red tint to her cheeks. Jack and Owen didn't offer any comments but the doctor looks a little miffed. Ianto handed Jack a bridle, balling his hand into a fist and holding it towards the closest one. Its nostrils flared as it took in Ianto's scent before turning back towards consuming the cafe's polystyrene cups faster than ever. Taking that as permission to move forward, Ianto brushed his knuckle along the jawline and held the bride ready to slip it on. The animal gave him a small amount of resistance because its meal was being interrupted but it didn't seem bothered as Ianto fastened it on.
"Good, there, wasn't so horrible now, was it?" He asked the alien, not expecting a response. The animal shook its head and let out a series of neighs which suspiciously sounded like Morse code for no. Ianto watched as Jack did the same for the other one, stroking its nose and smiling. The six of them left the cafe and the two aliens were successfully loaded and secured in the trailer. As Jack left a cheque for the building owner and Gwen reported to the police, Ianto pulled out a cigarette. He stood by his Audi and lit it away from letting it blow in the other's direction. Usually, he smoked if he felt stressed but this time his shoulder was hurting just a little bit more from steering the alien donkeys. There was a tut behind him and Ianto turned to see Owen's disappointed frown. Ianto glared just a little. "You're one to talk, you drank enough to ruin your liver and you're a doctor."
"Doesn't mean I condone other people doing it, Teaboy."
"Yeah, well." Ianto stopped there, taking a drag of the cigarette and letting go of the smoke after holding it for a second. He dropped and crushed it when Jack reappeared, ignoring the look he got.
"Back to the Hub then kids, Gwen, you drive the SUV, I've got to make sure Ianto drives safely."
"Oi-" Ianto started but Owen spoke over him sounding unimpressed.
"You two are worse than rabbits."
"I distinctly remember finding you and Gw-"
"Don't think about finishing that sentence, Jack." Gwen threatened as she took the keys from Jack, eyes watching him closely. However, Jack just smirked and rounded the Audi to the passenger side. Ianto rolled his eyes again and climbed into the driver's seat.
"I hope, if we are going to do what Owen was insinuating, it isn't here but rather back at the Hub?" Ianto said, shoving the key into the ignition and pulling his seat belt on. Jack just looked at him with a mischievous grin, buckling himself in too. As they were driving, the pain in Ianto's shoulder continued to pulse and he tried not to grind his teeth too loudly. Jack was just staring out the window as the radio played a familiar tune which Ianto couldn't name. They were nearing the Hub when his arm suddenly spasmed and the car was jerked to the right, into oncoming traffic. A horn blasted sharply. Jack suddenly sat up straight in his seat, eyes wide, mouth open as Ianto took a moment to realise what he'd done and pull the car back into the left lane. His heart was beating widely by that point and Ianto gripped the wheel tightly.
"When I said make sure you drive safely, I didn't think I'd actually have to do it." Jack half-heartedly joked, smile cusping on the edge of worry. Ianto glanced at him briefly, his mind still reeling.
"Sorry- shit I didn't mean to- my arm just twitched-"
"More like grew a mind of its own, Ianto." Jack's hand laid itself on his thigh and squeezed it encouragingly as they turned off into the Torchwood garage. He slowed the car to a crawl as his heartbeat calmed down then with the car safely parked in the underground garage, Jack took Ianto's hand. "You might just be tired, take a break if you need one, my bunker is always free."
Ianto smiles slightly and Jack leaned forward for a kiss. It's soft and before Ianto can make it go anywhere else Jack pulled away, frowning a little. "You need a mint." Ianto made an unhappy noise as his lover got out of the car and any ideas of car shenanigans were lost. He got out too and decided he should start on helping convert the garage into a temporary donkey pen. He followed Jack into the hub, shedding his jacket on the spiral staircase handrail and headed down to the lower levels to gather supplies. Anything they did have he could order and that meant a multitude of polystyrene for now. Hopefully, they could send the animals back through the rift or move them to Flat Holm to let them live their lives there.
Time was lost to Ianto as he worked, creating a comfortable area for the aliens to sleep while making sure they had something trough-like to eat and drink from. They had plenty of space in the large garage and hopefully, the SUV wouldn't be too stressful for them. Ianto knew he would be the one looking after them the most so he decided he'd get to know them once Owen was ready to put them in the pen. As he waited, Ianto massaged his palm against his shoulder giving it some relief at least. He stopped when he heard Owen's voice at the doorway to the garage.
"They're good to go, Teaboy. But I still need to run some more tests so try not to get bitten or stabbed by those spikes, thanks."
"Yeah, yeah. Sure, I'll try not to." Ianto shot back, heading to the trailer where the aliens waited inside patiently. He managed to get them both out and into the pen with no hassle, feeding them both a few mouthfuls of polystyrene and letting them roam. He gently scratched on behind the ear before saying a quiet goodbye and heading back inside. His watch said it was coming up to half one so Ianto decided to order them in some lunch and wait for it at the Tourist office.
Ianto realised as he reached his desk that he'd forgotten to name them.
Ianto slammed the door shut behind him, breathing heavily and holding his phone in his hand. His eyes shot to the little battery icon on his phone which read 6% beside it. Ianto was panicking. Like really panicking. He was on the SkyPuncher which was falling from the sky with his phone dying, a charger with no port, and a zombie in his way. He was fucked and the team didn't know where he was and Jack was missing. It had all gone tits up and Ianto was panicking.
At least he had Zeynep to talk to.
"Ooh. I'm in the hull. Not very big, but doesn't have a zombie in it." Ianto said, still catching his breath from his tango with the possible only other survivor. The man was slamming his fists against the door and yelling. Zeynep spoke up.
"A zombie? Really?"
"Ephraim Salt. Utter, screaming madman! So, got his phone charger." Ianto announced with a slight hint of triumph at his small victory.
"Good, but what?
"I don't know! I don't understand, he was just thrashing and screaming, and it was horrible!" Ianto let out a deep sigh, rubbing his hand across his face and closing his eyes briefly as a thought dawned on him. "I gotta get back past him and charge my phone." Then the voice across the phone burst into giggles.
"Oh, sorry, is that funny?" He asked, his hackles raising a little at that. He knew he was stressed and forced himself to calm down.
"I could never be a spy, Mr Jones."
"No? Well – zombies on a plane. Nothing. I've been out on Swansea on a Saturday." Ianto smirked slightly before turning back to the matter at hand and looking at the suitcase he had managed to steal from the man. "Right. Tiny hull. No room for anything but Ephraim Salt's luggage. What would you pack for the stars?" Ianto asked himself rhetorically.
"Doesn't matter. What does matter is that his suitcase is very, very expensive. Black Box, the world's toughest suitcase." Ianto realised he was rambling but he thought he had the privilege to, he was in a falling aircraft after all. He started to rummage through the guy's things, looking for anything helpful. "Come on. Dan Brown, pair of socks, breath mints, and hey, I have two phone chargers, whoop-de-doo!"
Ianto fumbled about with some straps, pulling then and knotting them so that the suitcase was secured to his chest. He felt a bit like an idiot but it was better than nothing. "Okay There. Oh, just so you know, I've just tied his suitcase to myself with elastic straps for a bit of protection. Wish I could send you a picture, but that would be the last of my battery. Trust me though – I look sexy."
"My knight in armour."
"Quite." Ianto smiled a little to himself. "Right, let's get back out there.
"Rather you tha-" Zeynep's voice cut out and Ianto stalled, hand hovering over the door handle. He looked at his phone, it wasn't dead, in fact, the call was still connected.
"Zeynep?" He called, not wanting to end the call in case he never got her again. However, rather than even a static reply, hurdy-gurdy music filtered through. Ianto pulled a puzzled face, even for standby music it was weird. "Zeynep. I've lost you- I- Zeynep?"
Ianto's confidence dropped as the system alerted him to the enclosing building and he turned. The robotic voice screamed that the autopilot was now off too. He could see it out of the window in the distance and Ianto knew he would have to do things even if Zeynep wasn't there to help. Taking a deep breath, Ianto went to turn. Only his body wouldn't cooperate. He let out a frustrated noise but only his head would turn, his feet were superglued to the floor like a cartoon and the rest of his body seemingly frozen. Ianto continued to try, fear building in him again as the SkyPuncher's descent rapidly sped up. The system continued to roll out warnings until that too turned to the off-putting carnival music.
Unable to turn it off, the music kept getting louder and louder until it was deafening. He could no longer hear the zombie in the other part of the plane nor could he hear himself scream as he realised his impending doom and couldn't do anything to stop it. As the plane collided with the building, glass shattered and the nose crumbled in. Ianto watched as his body was thrown out of the window. His last image was falling concrete slabs and a cloud of fire.
Then Ianto woke with a yell and scrambled out of bed. He let out a small sob as he realised he wasn't in fact dead and there was no SkyPuncher nor carnival music. His head beat rapidly in his chest to the point he could almost hear it and Ianto's hands shook. Ianto quickly checked himself over, there were no cuts from jagged glass or bruises or broken bones from toppling bricks. His inner forearms held no injury apart from the scar tissue that burns from the Canary Wharf fires gifted to him. There was the faint line from where Myfanwy had accidentally scratched him. But other than that his arms were clear and only his shoulder was throbbing. It felt stiff as he moved it.
"Ianto?" The Welshman jumped at a deep voice, looking over at the bed to see Jack sitting up and rubbing at his eyes. "What's wrong?"
"Just a bad dream, ss'all."
"You want to talk about it?" Jack watched Ianto as he slowly climbed back into bed. He then wrapped his arm around the younger man and let him cuddle close.
"It was…I was back on the SkyPuncher, Zeynep was helping me like before," Ianto explained, head coming to lie on Jack's shoulder as the immortal combed his hand through his hair. "Then carnival music started playing from my phone and the plane's system and also it started to fall much much quicker and then-"
"Then it crashed?" Ianto nodded, looking up at him, eyes catching Jack's older ones in the low light.
"It felt so real."
"Well, it's over now, no more falling planes, no more weird music."
"Does that mean no more Glen Miller?" Ianto joked, feeling a little less shaken now as Jack held him close. He forgot all about his shoulder and soon enough the fright he had felt as the hand in his hair soothed him.
"Rude and no, never. You love that music." Jack said, knowing full well that Ianto at least tolerated it, especially when the two were dancing to it. He used his other hand to lightly brush along Ianto's jaw and then settled it where he knew the pulse spot was. It thumped under his fingers a little fast but he felt as it calmed down. "You should head back to sleep we have….five more hours until the world needs us again."
Ianto nodded, the small and fluff curls of his hair tickling Jack's chin as he settled down completely. Jack pressed a soft kiss to his head and fixed the duvet so it was over them both. It didn't take long for the young Welshman to drift off to sleep and Jack watched over him for a bit, mulling over the nightmare but writing it off as nothing as he too fell back asleep.
A few days had passed since the incident and Ianto stood at the make-do pen, brush combing through the short hairs along the alien donkey's neck. The two were living happily and Jack had approved their transfer to Flat Holm. They would enjoy it more on the island and rather than the Torchwood garage. Ianto quite liked looking after the two if he were honest, they were named Buddug and Bedwyr and as far as they could tell Buddug was female and Bedwyr was male or at least their alien equivalents. Thankfully they weren't violent and quite liked human company. He held out a handful of polystyrene and let Bedwyr gobble it up, lips tickling at his palm.
"How are they doing?" Ianto looked over his shoulders, Gwen standing by the gate with a soft smile on her face as she looked at the calm creature. She then looked at Ianto and walked over, hand stroking the soft part of the alien's jaw.
"They're doing perfect, although the fresh air of Flat Holm will do them best." Gwen nodded, he was glad she knew about the island. In fact, they'd told Tosh and Owen too. It was much easier sharing the responsibility between the five of them rather than just two. Sometimes the place was just too harrowing and with the whole team knowing it just helped. Ianto could talk to them about it and it wasn't all being carried by his or Jack's shoulders.
"They'll be nicely looked after out there and we can visit, which is great. Maybe even some of the guests will like them." Gwen suggested, still keeping her attention on Bedwyr and pampering him. He shuffled slightly, nose brushing against Gwen's pockets in search of more food. Ianto hummed, finishing up brushing Bedwyr down and giving his neck a loving pat.
"Gwen, may I ask you something."
"If it's about the missing bourbon biscuits then no." She smiled and Ianto couldn't help but reciprocate one back.
"No, no it's not about them, although I know the culprit. But, I wanted to ask how you were after the Ghostmaker put his hand on your shoulder."
"The Ghostmaker?" Her eyebrow raised and her hand flew to where the man had touched, rubbing just a little and chewed on her bottom lip and she thought. "Well, I felt a little stiff for a few days but nothing more, why?"
"Just wanted to ask, don't worry." Gwen's eyes ran over him but she said nothing more on the matter, instead, changing the topic.
"Do you need help getting these two to Flat Holm?"
Watching the two aliens sprint around the island was something Ianto found he liked quite a lot. Just wanting them to be free and enjoy the sun and grass rather than fluorescent lights and concrete was enjoyable. They made their noises and jumped around each other without a care in the world and Ianto smiled. The salty air stuck to his tongue and his nose but Ianto didn't mind.
He hardly noticed the smell of iodine which came from his shoulder.
On the boat journey, Jack contacted Ianto through his earpiece, summoning the younger man back to the hub. The Rift had spiked again and it meant they were going on a road trip apparently. Ianto wasn't too happy but a Rift spike was a Rift spike and couldn't be ignored so he headed to the Hub. He was already dressed in jeans and a t-shirt so Ianto was pretty much ready to go.
"Here you go," Jack said as he handed Ianto a packet travel bag once he had arrived. He looked down at it, raising an eyebrow.
"You packed for me?" He asked.
"Am I not allowed to?" Ianto shook his head, smiling and carrying the bag to the SUV alongside Jack.
"No, you're allowed. It's just unusual." Jack shrugged beside him and opened up the boot. As Ianto swung the bag inside, his shoulder twinges. A small grunt left his lips but Jack was already by the driver's side at that point so he hadn't heard to Ianto's slight relief. He would have mentioned it to Jack but the rest of the team soon showed up and they all climbed in and set off.
The journey was quiet and uneventful, Ianto watching the beautiful scenery as they rolled up to Afan forest park, the SUV speeding down their dirt tracks in the late hours of the morning. Trees and bushes whizzed past in a blur of green and brown, light grey clouds disappeared behind them. The vehicle bounced up and down as the bumpy roads to them further into the park. Ianto's head knocked against the window lightly for the umpteenth time and he sighed, at this rate his head would be covered in bruises. Jack's driving was just as bad on country lanes as it was city roads, there was no escaping the immortal's questionable abilities.
Behind him, piled into the back were Tosh, Owen, and Gwen, all three chatting away about this and that. Jack joined in with a smart quip or memory of something or other from years ago. Ianto was just listening in. It was nice. Something calm before they hit whatever was going to happen with the latest Rift spike. He was just glad it hadn't been in the Brecon Beacons this time. Hopefully no cannibals this time. They did, however, have camping equipment in the back just in case they had to stay the night, Ianto was a little apprehensive but he guessed they would be more careful this time.
"Switch the channel, Ianto mate," Owen asked from behind Jack's seat, Gwen was sitting beside him and Tosh on the further right, who was looking at the monitors installed into the car. Ianto glanced at Owen then Jack, checking for any resistance but the immortal didn't seem bothered he was going to interrupt the chatter about local news. He then pushed the arrow button and the radio moved to the next channel, this one blaring out classical music. Jack's gaze flicked to it, peeking up. Ianto knew he enjoyed that sort of stuff but Owen's protest came from the back and Ianto knew Jack would be outvoted on the music choice. It didn't stop the Captain trying though.
"Keep it on this."
"No. Ianto, switch it again. Something modern please." Owen argued. Gwen's head nodded beside him.
"But classical is a classic, Owen," Jack said, looking at the Doctor in the rearview mirror. Owen just shook his head and tutted.
"I think you mean rock is a classic, Jack," Ianto smirked, not bothering to voice his opinion and moving to push the button. His smirk fell as his finger refused to cooperate and kept hovering over the button. Ianto tried to move his arm but it was like it was frozen, it reminded him of his dream on the SkyPuncher and a slight panic rose. His shoulder began to throb. Biting his lip, Ianto held back a noise. "C'mon Ianto, you know classic is terrible."
"You alright maybe? Ss'just music, keep it on if you want." Owen asked, eyes searching the younger man. Ianto thankfully could move the rest of his body and shook his head, mouth open slightly. He was about to say something when his arm finally responded and his index finger smashed against the button. ABBA's Lay All Your Love On Me unexpectedly blasted through the speakers and made Ianto jump. None of the team noticed and immediately Gwen and Jack began to sing along. Ianto smiled and looked back out the window, forgetting about what just happened to his delight.
They spent the day searching through the woods and along the riverside for anything but to everyone's misfortune they were forced to camp the night. Jack was a little excited, loving the idea of spending a night in a tent with Ianto while everyone else was given a little too much of a reminder about the last time they did this together. But, they all got the tents set up, the SUV was securely locked with the keys in Ianto's pocket, and a campfire created. Gwen didn't try to bother with a who snogged who game this time, instead, settling with ghost stories. Jack decided he would turn it to another tale about a wild adventure in the stars which enthralled Ianto even if it was far fetched and dramatised. Jack enjoyed the attention at least.
When the sun began to set and everyone had eaten, Jack took Ianto's hand, taking him to their tent with a wicked smile. Ianto zipped the entrance shut behind them as Jack swiftly stripped. The Welshman joined him in his state of undress and switched off the small night light they had. The two were bathed in darkness and Ianto smiled, his eyes soon adjusted and he could see Jack in the low light which shone through the tent's material. There was the sound of shuffling as Jack laid himself down on the sleeping bags Ianto had brought and Jack had zipped together earlier. The immortal held his arms out to Ianto, hands grabbing at the air until the Welshman moved forward and lowered himself onto Jack's hips
Jack's hands were warm against his waist, fingers splayed out and holding him. Ianto rocked himself back slightly as he leaned down to kiss his lover. He swallowed the moan Jack made as he captured the man's lips with his own. They kissed lazily, in no rush. Ianto just enjoyed the feeling of Jack's mouth of his, their tongues slipping in and exploring the other's mouth, hands wandering with little purpose other than to touch. It was nice, almost better than the hurried sex he thought they were going to have. Not that Ianto minded that, sometimes that was all they needed but did love the drawn-out moments, just taking it slow and holding each other.
Jack eventually turned his lips to Ianto's neck, latching on and leaving open-mouthed and hot kisses in its wake. Ianto hummed contently, head tilting and eyes slipping shut. Jack's light stubble brushed against his neck, scratching a little as he bit down on the sensitive skin. Moaning, Ianto's hand cupped Jack's head, fingers tangling in his hair as he continued to leave a trail of kisses and bites to his neck. The two continued on like this until Ianto could feel the Captain's hard cock against the curve of his arse which was when Jack started to grow a little needy.
So Ianto kissed Jack deeply, tongue tracing his lips, and then rose. Jack's hands fell from him as he searched for the bottle of lube. He had it ready to coat his fingers, settling between his lover's spread legs when Owen's voice spoke somewhere outside the tent.
"We're going to bed, don't shag too loud."
Ianto looked at Jack and Jack looked back, both men laughing quietly. They did wait until they were sure no one was in the area to continue, Ianto kissing Jack's soft middle and around his belly button as they did. When they knew it was safe, Ianto slicked his fingers up, pressing two to Jack's entrance as he gently massaged the spot. Jack moaned delightfully and after a few moments of teasing, Ianto's index finger slipped in, up to the first knuckle. He looked to Jack for a sign and continued moving the digit all the way in. Slowly twisting and pumping his finger, Ianto let a second join and he continued a similar motion of preparing his lover. The Captain held his hand before his mouth but barely tried to muffle himself as Ianto added a third finger and slowly fucked him on them. They were pulled free when Ianto was satisfied and Jack complained that he was almost close.
Next, his cock was covered in a generous amount of lube and Ianto slipped his hand under Jack's leg, planting it over his shoulder and kissing his thigh delicately with a small nibble. He lined himself up with his hand as Jack shuddered, watching in anticipation. The head of his dick waited patiently where it lay pressed to Jack's hole. With an impatient grunt from Jack, Ianto pushed into him, moving slowly as the man beneath him moaned. He didn't stop until he had bottomed out, Ianto leant his head against Jack's thigh, still kissing it gently as he watched Jack's face roll through the pleasure and then settle as Ianto held himself still.
"Ianto~ for God's sake, move," Jack whined, hands drew him closer, hand cradling the back of Ianto's neck as they kissed lovingly and needing. Ianto smirked against Jack's lips, nipping the bottom one lightly as he slowly pulled his hips back to then rock them forward. The immortal moaned, briefly losing his lover's lips but reclaiming them back. Ianto gradually built up the pace, Jack's leg slipping from its perch as Ianto loomed over the Captain, hands planted each side of his head to steady him. A hand moved under his and Ianto entwined their fingers, squeezing it as Jack used his free hand to caress Ianto's bare torso. His fingers brushed a nipple, making Ianto gasp and temporarily lose his rhythm.
Their kiss broke apart as Jack wrapped his legs around Ianto's hips, forcing the man deeper and muffling a cry with his lips around Ianto's forgotten nipple. The Welshman swore gently, body tingling from where Jack touched or was touching. Ianto sped up impossibly, Jack clenching around him and groaning as he tortured the bud with his teeth. The coil in his abdomen grew tighter and tighter as Ianto thrust into Jack, throaty noises leaving Jack.
"Jesus- Ianto…" Jack moaned, forehead pressing against his shoulder. Ianto kissed his hair, squeezing his hand and stilling as he came inside his lover. The white bliss left his eyes and he gained enough of himself back to wrap his fingers around Jack's pulsing cock. He stroked him steadily, Jack let out a deep moan, hand joining Ianto's, jerking him off. He didn't last much longer and Jack spilt over Ianto's hand. The two didn't move, both panting heavily and relishing in the afterglow. Jack was the first to move, pulling off of Ianto who whines softly. He cleaned them both up and manoeuvred Ianto into their sleeping bag.
"Mmm." Ianto purred, warm hand threading through his hair as Jack kissed his ear. He settled nicely against Jack's chest, kissing the smooth skin closest to him.
Ianto would have replied but sleep had already pulled him in.
Ianto's head spun from left to right in a haste at lightning speed, looking for the best way to go. Neither looked promising but it was all just wood. Just trees and nature. Nothing more than that. He was running out of options slowly. The forest was coming to an end, he didn't know what came after it. He hoped it was a road or a village, some sort of civilisation. Somewhere safe otherwise Ianto wasn't sure he could survive much longer. And there was nowhere to hide.
Trees, trees, and trees whizzed past in a blur all around him, that's all he could see. Trees, bushes and foliage. Nothing else, just nature. No civilization, no sign of people, nothing helpful, nothing he could use. Just fucking trees. He didn't need trees, he needed a road or a path or something to help him. Even a small, public right of way sign would help. But no, that's not what he got and he wasn't sure he'd get any time soon either. It was just gigantic, oak trees that stretched up and up, had leaves coating every branch and spanning out wide to close up the sky and hide him from the moonlight. There were birch trees too, the thin trunks towering over him and getting in his way, he struggled to run properly in fear of smacking straight into one. Ianto suddenly felt the urge to chop them all down and turn them into paper or some wood carvings only just to burn them. Fucking trees…
There were bushes and foliage too, not a nice kind either. They were littered with thorns and prickles which seemed to know just where to jab at you from thin air and purposely targeted anyone who came nearby. Ianto tried his best to run straight through them but their spiky buggers just latched onto his clothes and dug into his skin. It stung and it hurt but he pushed past thorns. He'd pushed through what seemed like miles of thorn bushes to get through, crawling under them at one point. It was the only way through to the woods otherwise the creatures would have caught Ianto immediately. He'd been determined to get out and through the valley of trees. He needed to.
The floor was overloaded with old and dying leaves that had begun to fall, masty shades of brown and orange were all he could see in the low light. They mushed up together, creating large blankets of sticky and wet leaves which his shoes held no grip on. Ianto couldn't count the times he slipped on the mess. It was even worse when it combined with the mud, creating some messed up poultice of sorts for the earth, determined to stick to everything it touched and not let go. He struggled to get around it or through it, worse than the thorns or the trees because at least they could be swerved around or pulled free. The mud, leaf texture just stuck like a leech and instead of sucking on your blood, it tried to tug you down and into its domain. Not letting go like some sort of off-brand welsh quicksand which smelt foul and looked even worse. He'd already lost his shoe to the strong suction of the mud, having chosen to leave the expensive dress shoe behind rather than risk being caught.
And his suit was useless and unhelp and such a mess at this point he wasn't entirely sure it counted as a suit anymore. They had been planning on visiting the nearest place, Cymmer, so Ianto had dressed in his suit which he now regretted immensely. He awkwardly scrambled over fallen logs or left behind tree stumps which wouldn't have been much easier in some good trainers, a tee, and jeans.
No wonder Owen hated nature.
He wished he was back at the hub or on Flat Holm looking after Bedwyr and Buddug. Maybe curled up in bed with Moses at his feet. He'd prefer a Weevils' nest to this.
Somehow the stench clung to him and all he could smell was the rotting leaves, shitty mud and his own sweat. God, he was sweating. He'd never sweat so much in his lift. It was dripping down his back, making his ruined pink shirt stick and he felt so uncomfortable. Ianto hated it and he wished he was back home, having a nice shower, possibly with Jack and a little bit of not showering in the shower. But no, they'd been drafted out into the countryside to investigate some aliens and they all knew how well that went last time (bloody fucking cannibals).
But this time it wasn't cannibals. It was actually aliens and now Ianto was running for his lift, no idea where he was or what time it was other than night and without his team. He was alone.
He suddenly thought back to earlier and was mildly sure he spotted a fox or two way back when but Ianto wasn't sure if he was hallucinating or not. He wouldn't be surprised. They had no idea what was in these woods, there could be more aliens for all he knew. Think at that, maybe it hadn't been a fox at all...
The one thing that wasn't there was sound. There wasn't much of it anyway, not in the forest Ianto was in. The only things he could hear were what was coming from him. The crunching and rustling of leaves under his feet or the heavy panting that left his mouth as his lungs demanded more and more oxygen. He was sure the place was quiet enough to be able to hear the thumping of his heart in his chest which was working on overdrive to keep Ianto alive and running.
He couldn't hear the usual sound of the forest, it was either lifeless or everything was asleep. He'd go with the former with how much noise he was smacking himself. Even the nocturnal animals kept quiet, no owls hooted around him, calling who into the night. There was no scurrying of foxes as they hunted for sleeping mice or voles in the dark, having a midnight snack. He hadn't heard a thing and Ianto started to wonder if he was the only thing alive in this forest.
Even his enemy was quiet, he couldn't hear them racing behind him, he didn't even know if they were there but Ianto didn't stop to check. He couldn't waste precious time or jinx himself by turning and finding them right there. He'd have to deal with the terrifying silence that he was given and listen to only himself and the noises he was creating.
Ianto just hoped the things couldn't hear him as loud as he could himself
His eyes stung furiously with tears that had mixed with the sweat and grime coating Ianto's body. It obscured his vision and he couldn't see where he placed his feet in the already darkening place. All he knew was that he was suddenly falling and his ankle burned worse than his lungs. He crashed down heavily like a falling tree, with his hand shooting out to try to stop or lessen his descent in some capacity But they just skied on the fallen and dead leaves, became slick with mud and cut on the spark stones jotted about. Ianto couldn't contain the cry as he felt the bone in his ankle snap and splinter as his foot stayed stuck in the dirt hole it had connected with while his body moved forward.
He let out a frustrated cry as he picked himself up and examined his injuries. He was fucked now. Breathing through the pain, Ianto managed to extract his foot free, hands pressing down where he could see the bone sticking out. It was bleeding slowly, nothing too dangerous at the moment, It hadn't cut any arteries which Ianto was thankful for but it hurt like hell and he wasn't sure if he could keep running. Only he needed to, he had his friends to find, Jack to save.
He struggled to pull his tie from his neck, finding the knot too tight and his hands trembling too much to be any help. He knew he was making it worse by panicking and getting upset but Ianto couldn't help himself. He was fucking terrified. But Ianto knew he had to keep going, even if it meant messing up his leg for life.
Jack had told him to run, pushed him forwards as the things grabbed at that greatcoat of his, clawing at Jack's legs and tugging him towards their gaping maws. He'd screamed at Ianto to run, run and don't stop. Find the others. He had to find the others. Otherwise, they'd all die. Only he had no clue as to where they were. He could find their SUV but Ianto was sure it was overrun by the things surely. Despite this, he'd pushed on following Jack's orders as he knew the man would revive soon. He hated to leave him not wanting him to come back alone but he had to make that sacrifice this time.
Lives depended on it.
Through the tears and sweat that built at the corners of his eyes and practically blocked his vision, Ianto tied the ruined material of his tie around his ankle. He couldn't properly set it, there was no time. He just had to keep the bone in place as best as he could. With a throaty cry, Ianto climbed back up. Only he realised he was suddenly lost, all turned around and had no idea which way was to safety and which one led to death.
He turned around as best he could, trying to spot something that would tell him which way to go but there was nothing and Ianto was sure he was dead now.
All he could see was the impenetrable forest, the endless lines of trees and bushes and foliage. Nature's own maze. He knew he was no longer getting out, not alive in any way. Above him, the cloud finally chose to go against him and cove the round moon up completely.
The sky above him, which he only got a rare peek at, was dark and ominous much like the forest he was currently stuck in. There were lingering clouds that covered most of it, large and grey and holding rain Ianto hoped wouldn't fall. He didn't want to be wet along with sweaty and hot and muddy and hurting. But the clouds kept floating in and out, indecisive if they wanted to help Ianto or leave him in the complete darkness and making everything so much worse. The moon, so bright and quite helpful right now, sat high in the sky, looking down on him like some sort of flashlight, guiding him just that little bit through the endless forest.
Looking up at the dense forest, the high trees gave him vertigo and he stumbled, almost falling over tree roots. He didn't have time to faff around, he scorned himself, regaining his balance and surging forward as best he could even with the immense pain he was in. His shoulder suddenly went cold as he swore. Ianto thought he hadn't hit it. A sudden jolt of icy pain struck the joint and Ianto cried out, hand pushing on the spot to relieve anything.
Out of nowhere, a figure appeared to his left and the agonising joint slammed into them, jeering Ianto right of course and seeing him tumbling again. A sinister laugh echoed in the quiet forest, chilling Ianto's heart as he was unable to stop, body not working anymore, Ianto fell. His ankle flared as he rolled and slid down a bank covered in leaves and moss. His face scratched against the ground and dirt got into his mouth. Brambles and thorns scratched against every inch of him and-
Ianto shot awake with a yell.
He sat up straight, a sheen of sweat covering his forehead and his body shaking. Ianto checked his ankle then his shoulder, finding himself free of injury and trying to settle his breathing. Strong arms came out of nowhere and wrapped around him and Ianto struggled just a little in his sleepy haze, his mind still stuck in the nightmare.
"Shh, Ianto, it's okay." The voice was deep and tired but familiar and the scent that enveloped him was what helped calm Ianto down, letting him relax into the body that held him. Jack spoke on his ear, soothing him over and over again until Ianto felt his heart slow down and his eyes shut. He was safe and at home, the dream hadn't been real.
He was safe with Jack.
"If you can't sleep, take these," Owen informed Ianto who had gone to the Doctor under Jack's orders to get some sleeping pills. The nightmares were keeping him from resting properly and it was beginning to affect Ianto, he was sure. Either that or he was going insane.
Ianto didn't realise he had spaced out and could no longer hear Owen until the man touched his shoulder and Ianto almost jumped out of his skin. He looked at Owen, hoping he hid his surprised expression as the other man watched him suspiciously. "You might want to take a nap now, just have one of these but make sure it's not on an empty stomach."
Ianto nodded, fingers rubbing at his eye and yawning behind his palm. He did feel drained and even a little disoriented. He really wasn't sure what was plaguing him with these nightmares but they all included the same thing: carnival music and freezing up, whether it's his whole body or his arm. Lately, they'd evolved to include a black figure that laughed at him and Ianto wished he knew who it was. Before Ianto headed to Jack's bunker, he took a detour to the kitchen, filling a glass with water and taking one of the pills.
Tosh was at her desk and flashed him a kind smile as he walked past. He realised he might have looked like shit but Ianto couldn't care at the time, just nodding his head at her and slinking off into Jack's bunker and collapsing onto the small cot. He fell asleep swiftly with the aid of the pills and hadn't bothered to get unchanged.
The Archivist woke sometime later to a quiet Hub. It took him a moment to realise where he was and at first Ianto huddled back under the duvet and squeezed his eyes shut. Then he took a breath and let the fading scent of Jack take over him and finally worked up the effort to climb out of bed. He went to push up with his arm but found the arm useless. It hung limply at his side and Ianto stared at it. At first, he put it down to pins and needles, he must have slept on it and cut off the blood flow but the weird tingling sensation never kicked in and the limb didn't respond. Ianto poked it and it didn't even feel like there was a weird layer of extra skin like it did when you went numb. It just felt nothing and did nothing.
He made a puzzled noise, head still affected by the drugs and not working completely properly. Ianto tried to move it again but nothing happened and he let out a frustrated sigh. Sitting up, Ianto noticed he was no longer in his suit, just his trousers and shirt. That meant Jack had been down here. Jack. He'd have to tell Jack if his arm was to stay like this. Yet, they were busy and Ianto just didn't want to interfere. He knew it was dumb but some part of his brain made him think like that. And Ianto couldn't stop it. Ianto knew he had to tell someone.
Climbing out of the warm bed, Ianto stared at the metal ladder for a while, glaring at it and spacing out again as the scent of bromine or iodine appeared when it shouldn't have. Nothing smelt of that in the bunker or the Hub. Ianto didn't like it and he surged forward to climb the ladder and hopefully remove whatever was causing the smell. He just hoped it wasn't much of a mess. One-handed mopping wasn't easy.
When Ianto made it to the surface, he looked around Jack's office but found the man not there. A note, however, sat on Jack's desk along with a cardboard box which was taped shut. Ianto tilted his head in question and picked up the note. It read,
Gone out on a call, be back soon. Don't worry about coffee if you're still too tired, Jh x
Ianto smiled a little to himself, the worry about his arm briefly forgotten before it came back and overtook his mind. Then the box beside him caught Ianto's attention again.
It seemed to call to him, beckoning him closer and asking him to open it. It wanted to be open. To be free. Ianto looked for a pair of scissors, holding a found pair over the box when he realised he was definitely going mad because the box wasn't only whispering to him, it was playing hurdy-gurdy music too. Ianto was sure he was going mad now. He couldn't understand it. He was hearing carnival music, his body kept freezing, and weird scents only he could smell was everywhere. Yet, there was only a slither of hesitation as Ianto listened to the music and cut open the duct-taped box, revealing to him a metal film reel case lying on its side. There was no label on it nor a date from where it came from. It was just the metal casing to protect the film which was poking out. Ianto then checked the box, no return address or name on it. It was a simple cardboard box with a film reel in it.
Ianto lifted the thing out with one hand, careful not to drop it. He didn't know what he was going to do with it until he remembered Jack's projector. He set the reel down as he searched for the old machine, finding it a little struggle to carry it with one arm but Ianto soon had it hooked up and ready. Unsure of why he was really playing it, Ianto chewed on his lip but didn't stop as he loaded the film in and flicked on the projector. The wheels began to move and the tape was spun, a light-emitting from the end and shining in the brick wall. At first, the image was nothing interesting, just a film of some old workers building a bridge. It was boring but the more it rolled through the tape, the more Ianto got drawn in. Then, as Ianto blinked, a figure appeared, laughing the same laugh he had heard in his dream. It made Ianto shiver and he stood up, leaning forward to turn the screen off.
Except a voice told him not to and Ianto obeyed, standing still as a familiar face showed up on the screen. His supposedly dead arm twitched sharply and rose upwards, palm open and outstretched towards the projection. Ianto's thoughts turned blank and his breathing slowed as a gloved hand from the image escaped and reached towards Ianto's hand. As soon as their fingers brushed, Ianto froze up and everything blurred. He heard a single voice before his senses shut off.
"You can travel with us. Forever."
"Jack…there's nine life forces in the Hub," Tosh announced from the back seat as Jack and Owen hauled a large piece of alien material, that looked like candy floss but was heavier than steel, into the boot of the SUV. When it registered in his mind, Jack stopped, candy floss steel slipping in his hands and making Owen stumble and bear the weight. The Doctor swore at him but Jack didn't acknowledge him, regaining his grip on the thing.
"What?!" He said, composing himself enough to drop the thing in the car which sagged a little. Owen shut the boot and Jack stepped away from the SUV "Ianto's there…"
"Yeah- I can't tell what," Tosh confessed, sounding a little stressed.
"Ianto?" Jack tried in a false hope that the younger man had his comm. on him."Ianto, answer me. I need to hear those beautiful Welsh vowels again. Ianto? Car, now!" He spun around and practically leapt into the driver's seat, switching the engine on and impatiently watching as Owen got in. He put the car in reverse.
"Jack, he could still be asleep." Owen offered but Jack could see through the calm demeanour.
"Tosh, keep working in finding out who the hell they are," Jack ordered, the SUV speeding down the roads as fast as it could go, Jack's foot to the floor and flashing lights on. The vehicle sweated around cars before they had the chance to move out of the way and he took corners dangerously. The alien material could be heard sliding about in the back and each of the other three members held on for dear life. Gwen thought of telling Jack that if they crashed no one could help Ianto but she didn't bother, it wouldn't work and she was just as worried about the Archivist as Jack was.
Tired squealed as the SUV can to a forceful stop near the invisible lift. "Tosh, Owen, you come in from the side door rather than the cog one, Gwen we'll go through the garage way." Nobody said anything but Tosh and Owen left the vehicle and Jack jerked the car around and headed to the underground garage. He didn't bother to park in a spot, choosing instead to use the SUV as a blockade near the only way out. Gwen chased along after him, trying to match his long strides as best she could. Her gun was in hand and she was ready.
"Jack, three of them are in your office, another two are walking around the main area while the fifth and sixth are by the cells and the final duo is down in the archives," Tosh informed him through the earpiece. He took a deep breath, calming himself down.
"Okay. Any one of those could be Ianto and I'm betting on the trio in my office. Before we do that, we'll take the two closest, any idea what they are yet?"
"I'm trying to load the CCTV but I think it's been shut off or blocked. I can try to override it. I'm going to have to shut off all the alarms or they'll know we're here."
"Do that Tosh, I believe in you. Gwen and I will grab these two then once you're in, we can work on the others once we're all in." Jack planned out loud, received positive feedback on it and the duo began to move towards the door. The Captain poked his head out first, spotting a figure climbing up to the catwalk but he didn't catch its face. "I think they're human or at least look like us."
He crouched behind the table in the middle of the armoury and beckoned Gwen forward. "One just went onto the catwalk, I'd rather we stay together but it might be easier done if we got after one each." Gwen nodded, head peeking out for a brief moment.
"Do you think they've hurt him?" Gwen asked, eyes wide with complete worry. It warmed Jack's heart to see her full concern was on Ianto, he knew they were close.
"I hope not or they'll have me to deal with."
"And me." She declared, waving her handgun in emphasis which made Jack smirk. He felt a little better although the knot of anxiety was still buried deep in his stomach.
"I'll go for the catwalk one, keep an eye out for their friend." Jack then slowly moved out of the armoury, keeping himself crouched down and going slow. The obnoxious wail of the klaxon had Jack freezing up and looking towards Gwen who was also hidden. Some of them must have been leaving, heading towards the Tourist Office.
"The three from your office left," Tosh confirmed in his ear and Jack chewed on his lip. He hoped they wouldn't get too far. Jack shot Gwen a look to say the plan was still happening. He glanced about, the place eerily quiet with no Ianto to happily greet them with coffee and a welcome back kiss for Jack. He hoped the younger man was unharmed, he'd been through enough recently. Jack shook his head to clear it, he needed to focus. Seeing no one else, Jack ventured up the stairs to the darkened platform. The figure was in the hothouse. He could see it through the glass, sniffing at plants and touching others. Jack waited for the figure to turn and when it did, his eyes widened.
"The Night Travellers." He hissed to himself, steering himself from his shock and moving along to the Hot House. He was dealing with one of the clown men, dressed in dirty white clothes with black paint on their face. It was unsettling. Jack waited until the man was distracted to slip inside, pushing the door open as quietly as he could. The heat hit him straight on and Jack holstered his gun. He hoped a simple takedown worked on someone who had just formed from film but Jack only had one way to find out. He trailed after the clown, getting as close as he could while staying hidden before Jack took the chance and grabbed the man. Forearm locking around his neck, Jack splayed his hand on the man's head and slammed it into the table while pressing down on his neck. The clown fell limb and Jack dropped him, using a zip tie to bind the man's arms. "Gwen? How are you getting on?"
"I've found him but I don't know if I can take him down without a. struggle."
"Where are you?"
"Near the interrogation room, he's walking towards it."
"I'll be there now." Jack glared down at the unconscious man and left, locking the glass doors before quietly heading through his office and down the stairs and towards the interrogation room. He moved in the shadows, gun drawn more as an intimidation factor rather than to use. Using his Webley would just draw them all in and they could hurt Ianto but he was going to use it to scare the second guy if needed. Jack needed to know their plans so having the man end up in the interrogation room was almost ironic. By the door was Gwen, crouched small and eyes on the stairs down, Jack quietly called her name and she glanced at him.
"He's down there, I swear it was one of those clowns from the cinema film, Jack." She said and Jack nodded. He hadn't been imagining it then upstairs
"So was my guy, he's knocked out and locked in the hothouse. We'll see if we can ask this one some stuff, find out what the hell they want this time." Jack peered through the doorway, watching the man disappear into the room. "Tosh, it should be clear, just those in the Tourist Office to be wary about.."
Toshiko gave Jack a quiet reply, telling them they were on the move and they would meet them soon enough. Jack hoped she had figured out just where Ianto was but for now, he pushed those thoughts back again and entered the room with Gwen not too far behind. Jack locked the door with his wrist strap, trapping the two of them inside with the man. Intent on heading down the rest of the stairs, Jack suddenly came face to face with the clown and startled a little whereas the other guy practically leapt back, toppling down the stairs and landing on the floor with a groan. Gwen glanced at Jack who shrugged, it hadn't gone how he planned but it worked nonetheless.
Once they had moved the dazed man from the floor and into a chair, Gwen handcuffed his wrists and stood at the side of the table while Jack sat opposite him. Thankfully, it didn't take long for him to focus back up and when he realises he was face to face with the enemy the guy tensed up and found his hands bound. The clanking of metal cuffs against the metal table was loud and harsh, it made Gwen wince.
"Why are you here?" Jack asked, skipping the usual flirting and small talk he might add to make the other person more willing to talk. That's how Gwen knew he was absolutely serious about this. The clown just glanced at him and glared. Jack sighed. "We already took down your partner and the others "
He was bluffing and Gwen knew it but the clown didn't and his eyes widened a little along with his breathing picking up. Gwen just smirked to herself, watching.
"I'm not telling you anything." Their prisoner spoke with a surprisingly deep voice that didn't really suit his appearance. Jack's eyes just narrowed and he leant a little close, rising from his seat.
"You will or this will turn nasty and I'd rather not waste my time cleaning your blood off my coat later." He growled and Gwen was sure the clown would have pale visibly if he wasn't already painted white.
"Jack, Ianto's code turned off the cameras," Tosh said when Jack and Gwen met them near the base of the water tower. The tide was out so there was no water in the pool and the four of them didn't have to worry about making splashing sounds. The Captain looked at her then over at the cog door, tempted to just head up there right now rather than deal with the other two intruders.
"They must have forced him too."
"Do you think- what if they've stolen his breath?" Gwen asked, looking worried as she shifted her weight into her left leg. Jack let out a short sigh, he didn't want to think if it but that thought had been at the back of his mind for a while.
"Unless they can get into the secure archive, then they shouldn't."
"But Ianto knows the codes for that." Jack cursed quietly. Ianto was the best person to kidnap, he knew everything about this place and more and even if he could hold out for a while without breaking under the pressure, Ianto wasn't sleeping well and was clearly exhausted so Jack couldn't rely on the Welshman to keep quiet. Clearly he hadn't so far. He just hoped again that Ianto wasn't hurt. Jack looked over at his office, he would have to check the secure archive before they left.
"Okay, before we go up, we have to deal with the other four. Tosh, can you lock them in? Can't risk having them sneak up on us." Jack asked and Tosh nodded, wandering over to sit her monitors and tap away at her keyboard. "As well as get the cameras up and running again, please."
"Jack. What did the clown tell you?" Owen asked, looking perturbed by the whole thing as the three moved to the landing where Tosh was. Gwen sat at her desk while Owen hovered in the middle. Jack looked at him.
"Surprise, surprise, they want revenge on us for ruining their original plans and then they're going to restart their circus again, with us as their main attraction." Jack recounted, checking his Webley as more of an anxious tick than anything else before holstering it and heading towards his office. He left the three to continue to discuss as he quickly checked down in the bunker for the tiny possibility that Ianto was still down there. Unfortunately, he wasn't and Jack climbed back out, shutting the hatch again and moving to the secure archives. Jack quickly spun the dial, getting the code in and then opening it up. The contrast between the old looking safe exterior and the shiny, silver interior was vast but Jack was used to the mitch match of styles in the Hub by now. Calling up the number for the Silver Vile, Jack waited for it to appear but when the archive beeped and nothing was there he cursed loudly. The Captain rejoined his team then announced.
"They've got the flask."
Owen wasn't sure what happened but he found himself racing up the flight of concrete stairs up towards the Tourist Office. He skipped out on the lift, it was too slow. So he ran up the long and multiple flights of stairs, lungs would have been burning he was sure if he could breathe. His thighs would have ached if his nerves and pain receptors worked. He would have gone flushed and heated up if his body had any warmth in it. Behind him, Owen could hear the others following but he didn't stop. His patient was possibly up there and he needed them.
Not soon enough, Owen reached the top, waiting impatiently for the secret door to swing open and let him through. He burst through, gun in hand and holding it up.
Ianto was the first person he saw, back to Owen and standing still. Then he spotted the lady who had been the Ghostmaker's partner - the Amazing Pearl. She sat on the desk, a box beside her, making a mess of Ianto's display and wandering her hands all over the Welshman who didn't react. No sight of the top hat.
"Let my patient go!" Owen ordered, his gun pointed at her. The woman slowly turned her head towards him, a sinister smile growing on her face as she wrapped her arms around Ianto's shoulders, draping herself over him and pressing her face to Ianto's cheek. Owen watched in disgust as she dragged her tongue up the side of his face, hands twisting in his hair. Pearl just giggled and stayed where she was as the rest of the team showed up. Jack was practically radiating rage, Webley held out as the women stood in the doorway.
"Let Ianto go," Jack instructed in a voice Owen heard often when things got serious.
"Why would we do that?" Said a slick voice, the Ghostmaker slipping through the bead curtain to the small back room. A vicious smile cracked his face in half and he moved closer, cane in one hand and vile in the other. Jack's gun swung towards him while Owen kept his on Pearl.
"Let him go, you have the flask."
"Mmm, he's quite useful and my darling enjoys a new toy." Jack's teeth clenched and his finger twitched on the trigger. The woman just watched fearlessly, hands gliding down Ianto's still back and grasping at him. She slipped her hand under his shirt, eyes trained on Jack who was furious. The Ghostmaker called her name softly, leaning over the desk to her, gun in hand. She took it, fingers holding it gracefully as she removed her other hand from Ianto's shirt to grasp his limp hand and close his fingers around the gun. The Ghostmaker looked to Owen, eyes dark. "Shoot them."
If he had any drop of blood in his body, Owen knew it would have run cold as he watched Ianto turn towards them. He was pale, paler than usual with his lips blue and head lolling to the side. Ianto looked almost like a puppet on strings, body not standing strong even as his arm stretched out, weapon held high and steady. No cracked or dried skin around his mouth thankfully, he still had his breath. But what Owen saw first was his eyes. They were missing- no, not missing. They were there but no blue iris, no sclera or veins. Just black. Deep black like someone has poured the ink into his eyes. There was nothing there, no emotion, no sign that Ianto was there. He was there but not there.
The gun was pointed their way. If he shot Jack, he would die but he would just spring back. If he shot Owen, he wouldn't heal but he wouldn't die. If he shot Gwen or Tosh, they could die. They needed to be protected. But could they shoot Ianto?
Pearl shifted and wrapped her hand around his lifeless head, tilting it towards her and pressing her lips to his in a searing but unwanted kiss. Two things happened at that moment, Jack snapped, shooting the Ghostmaker in the shoulder, and Ianto stumbled back from the woman who rushed to the fallen man. Owen trained his gun on the other two now, eyes watching them and almost missing as Ianto seemed to reanimate.
The Archivist spun himself around in a 360-degree circle, eyes searched as they somehow looked lost. He stepped on uneasy legs, gaze stopped on the open box left on the desk. Owen hadn't thought much about it but he noticed their address on it and by the way, Ianto yanked it towards himself and crossed into the furthest corner of the room, it was important.
"Ianto?" Jack said, his voice now soft and steady, gun tucked away in its holster and eyes only on Ianto. The Welshman only spared a glance their way but didn't say a thing spilling the box's contents into the floor. Jack drew closer and Owen followed, telling the women to watch their circus freaks. They nodded, guns held in that direction as Jack and Owen got closer to Ianto. The Captain's hands were held out in front, palms facing up to show he was no threat. Owen kept his gun in hand but didn't aim at Ianto, choosing the ground instead. "Ianto, it's us- it's me, Jack and Owen."
Ianto didn't pay attention to them, looking down at the old and slightly damaged metal case, opening it with trembling hands. The lid scattered across the floor with a loud, aggressive noise, a tape reel sat in the other half and Ianto pulled at it, unwinding the reel so that it sat in a heap in front of him. Jack moved a little closer. "Ianto? Ianto, can you hear me?"
Owen watched as Ianto fumbled around with his pockets, looking for something but not finding it. He jerked, standing upwards and stumbling to the large desk. Owen spared a look at the two circus people, Pearl hovering over the Ghostmaker who glared daggers their way with his hand pressed to his shoulder. Tosh has his silver flask in her hand to Owen's relief. Ianto had his hands sliding over the top, hands passing over the flyers and touching his monitor like he was blind. Then he closed his fingers around something, falling back to his spot on the floor, grabbed the end of the tape.
It took Owen a moment to realise he had found his lighter, trying to create a spark and failing the first few times. Then the gas ignited, a small orange flame dancing, he brought it to the tape, holding it until the film caught ablaze. Pearl suddenly screeched like a banshee, leaping over the desk towards Ianto, landing on him with her fingers wrapped around his neck. Ianto let out a terrible choking sound, head whacking back against the wooden walls then he went limp.
A deafening boom silenced the woman's screaming and Owen's mind slowly caught up, the gun in his hand smoking as Pearl slumped on Ianto, a hole in her body where water poured from rather than blood. The tape continued to burn in its metal container, Jack kicking it away as he yanked the corpse from on top of Ianto, it burning away as the tape got shorter and shorter.
"What are we doing about Ianto?" Owen asked, sitting in the boardroom where they all were except for Ianto who was passed out on the sofa. Jack had his head in hands, shoulders tense and eyes a little unfocused. He looked at Owen.
"What do you mean?"
"Are we going to help him?"
"Of course we are!' Jack hissed, face twisted in anger.
"Well then, how?!" Owen started, leaning close to Jack, Gwen and Tosh watching. "He's out there with demon eyes and smelling of a bloody tape reel."
"I don't know, Owen. When he wakes up, we will see what's wrong. See if he knows anything." Jack explained, sitting back in his chair as he breathed out, hand combing through his hair in stress. Tosh reached her hand out, squeezing Jack's as he took it and offering a reassuring but small smile. "We are not giving up on him." He added quietly, eyes downcast.
"Did all the circus lot go?" Gwen asks gently, turning to business. Tosh nodded.
"Checked everywhere, none are around." They had spent the rest of the day cleaning up any mess made, Jack putting away the flask while Owen did a quick run down on Ianto. Tosh had checked the Archives while Gwen looked in on the Vaults and their permanent residents.
"Do we know where that box came from?"
"No, no address, no prints apart from Ianto and I. Nothing on the camera before they were shut off." Tosh showed them some sped-up version of some of the CCTV feed, nobody showing up with a box at all. Jack let out a sigh. "Somehow the Night Travellers brought it in."
"But why didn't they hurt Ianto?" Owen queried, watching the screen replay the dull camera feed. "Why didn't they take his breath? Or just kill him?"
"I guess they needed him? They can't really get out of the Hub without his codes, if they needed to get anything, they would need him." Tosh replied, looking to Owen then Jack. The Captain was still looking at the screen too, she had switched it to a new set of camera feeds. The cameras in Jack's office. "I did find this." They saw as Owen entered Jack's office and told him they had a case, Jack rising from his chair and following him out before coming back to write a note and grab his coat. He left the note on his desk, opening up the hatch and disappearing down in it for a split second. Next, he left, pulling his greatcoat on. Some time passed and then the box appeared from nowhere. Next, Ianto emerged from the bunker, reading the nose and opening the box. They watched as he struggled to get the projector up, putting the film in. Nothing interesting was on the film but as Ianto went to turn it off, he froze and only his arm worked. And in the film was the Ghostmaker, arm outstretched to Ianto as if he was helping him through.
With all the circus members in, Ianto stood stock still, Pearl inspecting him along with the Ghostmaker. He whispered something and Ianto made his way to Jack's computer, typing something in. The last frame they saw was the Ghostmaker staring up at the camera, looking right at them.
"That doesn't give us much, does it."
"No, but it shows us they inhabit other films so we have to watch out for more." Jack took a deep breath, turning back to the team and pulling himself back into Captain mode.
"Okay then, let's-" He was cut short by the proximity alarm ringing and Jack rose quick, chair clattering to the floor as he sprinted from the room. The three of them didn't take long to follow after. Ianto was missing from his spot. "Tosh, stay here, check to see where he is!"
She obeyed without question, veering off to her workstation whole the other found themselves again climbing the stairs, shoes pounding against the concrete. They reached the Tourist Office with no sign of Ianto and exited it quickly, the sky getting dark and heavy, grey clouds in the sky. "Tosh?!"
"He's not on any of the CCTV but I'm going to keep an eye out for him."
"Thanks, Tosh." Jack turns to Owen. "Get the SUV ready and meet us. Gwen, follow me." Owen shot off while Gwen followed after Jack who was without his coat - Ianto would have got it for him, he would have remembered - and searching the Plass for their missing Archivist. There was no sign of him amongst the thinning crowds of people, Cardiff's nightlife was coming out to play while the clouds above threatened to let leave of their gathered rain. They searched the docks until the SUV pulled up with Torchwood stencilled in on its side and they climbed in.
"Where should we go first?" Owen asked, pulling back out into the road, the car going steady for now. Jack thought for a moment, he had no idea where Ianto would go right now. Tosh's voice came through their earpieces before he could say anything.
"Jack, there's an energy spike in Bute park."
"Tosh, we don't have time for the Rift, Ianto needs us." He said, almost annoyed and willing to let the Rift spew whatever it wanted as long as he got his Ianto back.
"It's not the Rift...I think you should go look."
Jack glanced at Owen and the doctor put his foot down.
It had started to rain quite heavily when they reached Bute Park and the sun was setting properly now. Owen parked the vehicle haphazardly on the grass and the three got out, Jack splitting them all up to cover more ground and find Ianto quicker before things went too dark or he froze to death in the rain. As he moved through the park, Jack could hear Gwen calling Ianto's name just like him, taking it slow despite wanting to race around but not daring too in case he missed something.
Jack couldn't say how long it took him to find Ianto but by the time he did the sun was just a slither in the sky beyond the trees and the stars were beginning to appear. He stood still, back to Jack and staring off into the distance. His white shirt was completely soaked through and sticking to him. Ianto was shivering and Jack only just realised he didn't have his coat to wrap around him, the garment left behind back at the Hub. The rain had stuck his shirt down too but Jack's internal heater kept him warm while his hair dripped water onto his face and he splashed through the puddles.
"Ianto!" He yelled, wiping the water from his eyes and stopping just behind the Welshman, hand touching his shoulder. Ianto spun around, mouth open in a quiet gasp with his still void eyes staring at Jack. He felt something tighten in his chest, looking deep into the endless black rather than the beautiful blue. They held nothing and Jack already missed the adoration he could always find in his lover's gaze. "Ianto?"
"Jack?" He sounded lost and the knot in his heart inky grew tighter. Jack brought his hands to Ianto's face, gently cupping it and stroking his thumbs over his cheeks, water dripped and splashed against his cold skin. Drops clung to his eyelashes. "Jack? I can't-"
"What's wrong, my love?" Ianto's hands covered his own and he turned his face into Jack's palm, kissing it lightly. He was extremely warm compared to the Welshman's current temperature and it was concerning him. However Ianto didn't seem to be perturbed by the cold, instead, he seemed to save the moment with his face held in Jack's hand before he focused back on the Captain.
"I can't see you properly. It's like-" Ianto took in an unsteady breath and Jack waited, watching. The icy water was now running down the back of his undershirt but Jack hardly noticed, utterly focused on Ianto. "It's like looking at you through a film reel, I can see you there but I can't see you."
"It'll be okay, we'll fix it, yeah? We're Torchwood, we can do it." Jack said hopefully but the Welshman shook his head slowly. Jack studied him, hands slipping from his face to glide over his shoulders then down his arms, he was half feeling for injuries while also reassuring himself that Ianto was still there. The dampness of his clothes was clear under his hands as it was before his eyes and Jack he shouldn't be out in the rain any longer. Pulling Ianto close, Jack held tight. "Yes we are, you're going to get in the SUV and we're heading home.
He had started to pull Ianto away and towards the SUV, already thinking of how they would have to warm Ianto up, mentally asking if there were any blankets in the car, but the man dug his heels into the grass and struggled until he pulled from Jack's hold, head slowly shaking at a no and throwing water drops everywhere. Jack tried again. "I'm taking you home, get you dry and warned up, yeah? Maybe order pizza?"
"I can't Jack."
"What do you mean, you can't?" Jack asked, moving forward to take Ianto into his arms again, totally willing to scoop him up in his arms or carry him in a fireman's life if necessary.
"I can't go back with you. It's calling me." Into claimed, voice slightly aloof and trailing off as he turned back around. He was looking at an empty plot of grass, nothing there apart from puddles and a ring of trees. Jack tried to look for whatever he saw but couldn't find anything.
"Wha-" Jack moved around to his front, eyes studying Ianto close. "What's calling you? Ianto, talk to me." But Ianto wasn't paying attention to Jack, stepping to the side and walking towards the open grass. Jack watched in puzzlement before following along, blinking past the rain, the sun almost hidden in the distance. "Ianto!"
"Can't you see it, Jack?" Ianto asked.
"See what?" Jack looked at the area but failed to see anything at all. He then looked around and saw the same Bute park, nothing out of the ordinary apart from the two of them standing in barely any light and getting soaked. He really needed to get Ianto back into the warm and dry.
"Look!" Ianto sounded almost excited and Jack glanced over, ready to see nothing. Yet, something happened this time. As soon as the sun had fully gone below the horizon, not a slither left of the orange sky at all and the land now bathed in the moon's glow, did it appear. It faded into reality, like Jack had seen the TARDIS do, except this was smooth, not fading in and out with a loud noise. And this wasn't a blue police box either. It was a travelling circus and Jack stood there a little baffled by that until Ianto started to venture towards it, still oblivious to the rain being chucked down on him.
"Ya- Ianto, where are you going?"
"It's calling me Jack," Ianto said again, getting closer and closer to the area. There were tents up which were lit up with fire torches (which didn't seem to be affected by the downpour) and round bulbs. The entranceway was painted to look like you were walking through an opened mouth and the area past that was open with room for visitors and attraction acts. Jack could only guess that this was the Night Traveller's circus set up. He didn't like that it was here, half worried the circus performers were still lurking in their striped tents ready to ruin things and take more breaths away. Ianto was nearing the entrance, clearly wanting to go there when Jack called out again.
"Ianto, stop." Thankfully the Welshman did and he turned to face Jack. Jack forced a small smile, holding his hands out open for Ianto. "C'mon, let's go home, yeah?"
"Jack...I can't, they- the Ghost Maker did something to me-"
"We can fix it!" Jack interrupted but Ianto shook his head, stepping towards Jack and taking his hands but not attempting to walk back to the SUV.
"I don't think we can, Jack..."
"You can't just give up, Ianto."
"Maybe it's for the best."
"But Torchwood, the team? Rhiannon and your family?" Jack asked, smile faltering, desperate not to lose Ianto so soon. "What about us?..." He knew it might have been a little cruel to play the us care but he didn't want Ianto to go, not now when they still had so much time together. Ianto squeezed Jack's hands, bringing them to his lips and kissing his wet knuckles.
"I'm sorry Jack."
With that, Jack knew he couldn't change Ianto's mind and he let out a deep sigh. He didn't want to let the Welshman go but sometimes things were out of his power.
"I'll come with you?" Jack asked, willing to drop everything for him. That thought, now that Jack realised it, was scary. He really was willing to let everything go for Ianto.
"You can't Jack. The team needs you." He bowed his head slightly, knowing Ianto was right. He always was.
"You'll be safe?" Ianto nodded, a tight smile on his face. A small weight lifted from Jack's shoulders with that confirmation and he brought Ianto closer, the younger man not fighting him this time. Pressing two fingers under Ianto's chin, Jack guided his mouth into a loving kiss, pouring all emotion into it as the rain hit down heavy on them. He shut his eyes, ignoring the tears that had built up and spilt down his cheeks and mixed in with the raindrops. Jack cupped Ianto's face and Ianto did the same back, both kissing the other at full force as the realness of the situation caught up with them.
They broke apart to breathe, Jack leaning his forehead against Ianto's and panting just a little. Jack kept his eyes shut, savouring the feel of Ianto's lips against his and hesitant to let go. Their noses brushed gently and Ianto's hot breaths hit Jack's cheek. Ianto was the first to move, planting a long and deep kiss to Jack's mouth before removing Jack's slick hands from his face and holding them tightly. That was when Jack opened his eyes, watching Ianto silently. The Welshman gave him a reassuring smile and began to walk backwards and away from Jack. The Captain opened his mouth to object, his fingers tightening around Ianto's but his lover didn't stop
"I'll be okay, Jack. I love you." Ianto's hands slipped finally from his and Jack's chest tightened, watching him step through the threshold.
"I love you too, Ianto Jones."
Jack blinked and the circus, with its tents and lights, was gone. All there was just an area of wet grass and tall trees and puddles being disturbed by the weather.
"Jack!' Yelled Gwen from behind him but he didn't turn. He still had his arms slightly outstretched, fingers curling around nothing now that Ianto was gone. He was actually gone. Jack hadn't moved from his spot even though minutes had passed since Ianto left. "Jack- god, you're soaked through." The woman was at his side suddenly and there too was Owen, both sopping wet and it was then Jack noticed the light flooding the area and he spun his head to see the SUV close by. He hadn't hurt it. Gwen's hands grasped his forearm, eyes watching him in concern with a small frown on her face. "We couldn't find him."
Jack shook his head slowly, eyes dragging back over to the empty space.
"You won't find him…"
"Please don't." Owen heard Tosh sob almost silently through his earpiece but his blind rage didn't stop rippling through his body. He was trapped in the nuclear power station, about to die yet again and he hated it.
"Why? Give me one good bloody reason why," Owen yelled, launching some piece of metal near a bunch of lights and exposed wires he couldn't understand. It would have hurt his hand as it hit the metal if he could feel anything. He stepped back into the middle of the room as he continued to shout. "One good reason why I shouldn't keep screaming!"
"Because you're breaking my heart." Tosh's broken voice came through again and Owen stopped, he fell quiet. Completely silent as Tosh cried over the channel. He listened, letting the anger dissipate and be replaced with guilt. Owen stumbled forward, leaning against the wall near a bright monitor before he slid down to a crouch, hands brushing along the large green and grey wires.
"I'm sorry." He confessed softly.
"It's my fault," Tosh said back, voice shaking as she breathed through the pain she had told him was from her shoulder.
"No, no, no, listen." Owen's hands slipped from the wires and his eyes were shut as he sat down on the floor. "No, it's not. Don't you dare go there, Tosh. I'm really sorry."
Tosh continued to breathe heavily, making Owen worry more about her now rather than his own predicament. He wished he could help her only hoping Tosh was safe in the Hub. Owen opened his eyes and asked her. "What's gonna happen to me, Tosh?"
"I can't." He already knew it was bad but the extremely quiet pitch of her voice just confirmed things for him.
"Please, okay? I need to know."
"The containment chamber will be flooded with the irradiated coolant."
"Ah." Owen listened, eyes closed once again as he pictured what Tosh told him. "My body will slowly decompose as I watch." Once again opening his eyes, Owen listened to Tosh sobbing and he felt even worse.
"I should've been able to stop it!" She berated herself.
"Oh, come on, Tosh. There's no way you could've anticipated that power spike." Owen told her softly, he didn't blame Tosh in the slightest for this. He couldn't, not her. "Come on. Besides, you've saved my back so many times in the past." Owen paused, thinking through the times she had saved him with her quick thinking and smart brain "Right from the moment I joined."
"Your second week, I had to cover for you," Tosh recalled, voice a little far off as she clearly relived the memory. "Pretend I was a medic because you were hungover and unreachable."
Owen laughed softly, a smile pulling at his lips.
"What was it, Space Pig?"
"Yeah. Do you think-" Owen stopped, looking around and collecting his thoughts as he was dropped back in the present rather than back at home, hungover, and ignoring all phone calls and texts. "Do you think this would have gone differently if Ianto was here? Ya'know, maybe Jack would have been open with him or...or we would have had more manpower."
"Maybe? Who knows...I do miss him."
"Yeah. Yeah, me too." Owen didn't bother to hide how he felt about their Tea Boy, what was the point now that he was going to die again? "Owns a bloody circus."
"I'm just glad Jack-" A sharp intake interrupted her and Owen felt his worry spike. "I'm glad Jack was able to get through his loss."
"Mmhmm. We never did get that date, did we, you and me? We sort of, er, missed each other. It was my fault. I didn't notice until it was too late." Owen's voice cracked a little, something he would have even ashamed of if it was at a different time with someone else but he didn't let that bother him now. He thought back to Tosh suggesting a game of pool, him being obvious and dumb and deciding on a Torchwood Tournament. Then bringing it back up and finding out it was a date, feeling like a colossal twat but agreeing to it. Only for then to miss it again. "I'm sorry."
An alarm went off, breaking the peace they had both found. Owen looked to the monitor before him, the red text COOLANT VENTING IN PROGRESS being written across it.
"It's starting." He said, standing up from his spot.
"Owen." He watched as the screen flicker and glitch, thinking it was caused by the system meltdown until the display changed entirely. A figure stood, miniaturised on the monitor but familiar to Owen all the same. He moved towards it as a hand came through the screen, becoming 3D and real. It reminded Owen of the Ring, the creepy girl slipping through the Television.
"It's alright. Really, Tosh. It's all right. Oh, God."
The dead doctor grasped the hand, holding it tightly as carnival music started to play. He never felt more alive than at that moment.
Things were quiet once the connection with Owen cut out and Tosh stared up at the display telling her that the coolant was being vented into the room but she knew that already. She lay against the bottom third of the autopsy table when she heard footsteps, turning her head to the left even though she knew he wouldn't be getting back up again.
"Toshiko?" It was from Jack. Something in Tosh hated the fact he was here, not wanting to give the man grief and to have him witness her die but the rest of her was so happy Jack did show up. She didn't want to go alone. "Toshiko? Gwen, I need help down here." Tosh turned her head to the right now, watching Jack leap down the stairs and drop to her side. She couldn't help the small smile as she looked up at him. Jack moved to cradle her close. "You okay?"
"Okay." She whispered, unable to say it any louder. Gwen appeared at her other side, rooting around on the floor where the medical supplies had fallen.
"Your doctor was at the power plant, wasn't he?" John said from above, Toshiko couldn't see him. His voice was strangely lacking the confident and smug tone Hart always had the few times she's met him.
"Sealed in. Rerouted the blast. I couldn't save him." She breathed out, head rolling back towards Jack who looked at Gwen in shock.
"Tosh? There you go, darling." Gwen cooed softly, injecting something into Tosh's thigh as it got harder and harder to stay awake. "Talk to me now, come on. Hey, Tosh." Toshiko didn't look at her or speak, eyes gazing up at Jack with a tired and sad smile which the Captain reciprocated.
"Give her to me." Came a voice Tosh hadn't heard in weeks. It gave her the strength to look over, peering through the tears and even sitting up. A hand was the first thing she focused on, outstretched and waiting for her to take it. It took a lot of strength for Tosh to even lift her arm and Gwen's hands helped, guiding her palm into the other. The scent of iodine overcame the tang of blood which has been floating in the air prior. Toshiko swore she heard music but she blamed that on the bloodloss.
The hand closed tightly around hers and Tosh seemed to regain her strength, hearing one last thing.
Gwen's wrinkled hands cupped her half-drunk tea before her, hands trembling just a little in her old age. She gazed out of the window, the hovering television playing the late-night news in the background. She lived in a lovely little semi-detached house in Fairwater, Chorley Close. She has bought it with Rhys after they both retired and wanted to settle into a house small enough for the two of them now that their children and long since flown the nest. It had served them well, Gwen had quite enjoyed life a little less active and a lot less dangerous although she would always miss being apart of Torchwood and it's wild antics. Rhys not so much, he had much preferred their new life.
She did miss him…
Jack still visited every day or every other day if the Weevils got out of hand. He'd always been there. Never missed the birth of all three of her children, Anwen Toshiko, Rhys Owen Jr, and Ianto Geraint Williams. The man, almost to Gwen's surprise, was fantastic with children and a great babysitter when the couple had needed a night to themselves. They loved their Uncle Jack. She knew now that Torchwood was making its way into space, Jack helping them get there and she was happy with that but deep down Gwen worried if that meant the Captain was going to leave her. Not that she was lonely perchance but Rhys had passed a long time ago and her children were getting along with their lives and Jack was the constant she had.
Gwen sips her tea, grimacing now that it had gone cold. Somehow, even with all the technological advances, reheating cups and mugs were not one. She didn't have the energy to make herself a new one, and it never really was the best tea, she dearly missed coffee and no one could quite make it like Ianto Jones and his godly brew had spoiled the drink for her. She relaxed back into her armchair, cup discarded on a nearby table, pulling her cardigan around her as a chill set in.
"Hello again, Gwen." She jumped at the sudden voice and turned her head, smiling at the person standing in her sitting room.
"Ianto, you're here."
"You were waiting?" The Welshman came to stand beside her, a soft smile on his still-young face.
"I guess, something told me I would be seeing you soon." Gwen leant up in her chair, hand reaching out to touch Ianto's cheek. Her thumb stroked his cheek. "Your eyes are still black."
"Occupational hazard." Ianto shrugged, leaning into her palm, and Gwen's smile grew wide, she was glad he had kept his humour. "Don't worry, it won't happen to you." Gwen's shoulders relaxed although she hadn't realised they were so tense. She has been hoping that Ianto would take her to where he took Tosh and Owen, the elderly woman was desperate to see her friends again. Ianto straightened up, moving to a cabinet which was littered with photographs, the old kind and new holographic ones. He picked up one, studying it closely. It was of her and Rhys with baby Anwen. Seeing the photo reminded her of something.
"Ianto. Rhys died, car accident many years back- I don't want to seem selfish or anything but did you-?" Gwen trailed off but Ianto's smile became sincere and comforting.
"Of course I got him, you wouldn't come, either way, Gwen. He's waiting for you."
Before she could answer her front door burst open, making the photographs and other ornaments she had dotted about rattle and shake as the door hit the wall. A small chuckle left her lips, she knew who that was. Ianto, however, looked up in shock, eyes wide which swiftly relaxed when the intruder entered the room.
"Gwen-!" Jack huffed but froze at the threshold, chest heaving as though he had run a marathon and greatcoat hanging at his ankles like always. His gaze settled on the Welshman who no longer wore a suit but was dressed like an MC, top hat hooked under his arm and blazer with tails over a freshly pressed shirt. Jack took him in before he smiled.
"I wasn't sure if you were going to come."
"Couldn't leave Gwen out now, could I?" Ianto stated, smiling as Jack cupped his face and placed a fresh but chaste kiss to his lips.
"I'm glad you didn't." Jack let go of him and turned to Gwen, pecking her cheek and taking the teacup to the kitchen, she listened as he washed up, chatting away to her as Jack always did. "You should have seen their faces, Gwen. Absolute horror." Jack laughed as his own tales while Gwen and Ianto joined in.
The trio continued to catch up for a little while longer until Gwen grew tired. She hated not being able to stay awake as long as she used to. Jack held her hand and smiled encouragingly. He knew what was happening, they all did, that was why Ianto was here.
"C'mon Gwen," Ianto said before she started to drift off, hand held out in an offer. She took it gladly, the younger man pulling her up from her seat. Miraculously, Gwen felt young again, like the years had melted away from her. Turning to Jack, Gwen smiled and he kissed her forehead.
"Can't I come too, Ianto?" He shook his head at Jack, a sad look on his face.
"Torchwood still needs you."
Jack said something more but it was lost on her as she heard someone else call her name. They called again and Gwen turned, lighting up.
2008, 2108, 2208, 2308, 2408, 2508
Jack found himself standing in Bute Park as the sun lowered itself down from the sky at a snail's pace. His greatcoat, old and battered but still going strong, sat on his shoulders as he waited. He glanced at his golden pocket watch, the second's hand ticking along effortlessly. He would be here soon and Jack couldn't wait.
Every hundred years it showed up and brought them with it. Every hundred years Jack could spend twenty-four hours with him.
It was the highlight of each century.
A breeze blew past and displaced Jack's hair as he watched the sunset. It was pretty and it never changed even as the world around him did. Bute Park was relatively the same apart from a few improvements here and there, still the same pretty park where he had first met Ianto and always said goodbye. The world had changed with each passing year, technology became smarter, energy became completely renewable. Buildings were a mix of the old designs and the newer, sleeker, and better architecture. Robots lived amongst people and they were beginning to explore space more and more. Even Torchwood was up there which is why Jack was so excited about this visit. He hoped he could finally join Ianto and his friends.
Jack wasn't sure how many more centuries he could endure of only being able to see Ianto for a day (which was usually spent catching up, seeing new sights, seeing old sights, lots of passionate sex back at Jack's place) before escorting him back to Bute Park and saying goodbye. It was always tough and Jack detested it, always clinging to his lover's hand until it dropped from his grasp as Ianto walked away and the circus vanished.
The sun disappeared and Jack watched excitedly as the circus tents faded into existence right on time. Jack wasn't the only one waiting for it but he certainly was the first one here. The circus was once a thing people feared, The Ghost Maker stealing breaths away and people disappearing into the night but now that it was under new management, its reputation had changed and became a beacon of joy, with many families visiting and, according to Ianto, the circus didn't just stay on Earth.
Ianto had once said "The circus always comes when and where it's needed the most, and Jack Harkness always comes to the show" and Jack couldn't help but agree. He hadn't missed a showing since Ianto's first one.
The scent of iodine and old film tape greeted Jack and he turned his head to see the very man he was waiting for.
"Jack." A steady grin stretched on the Welshman's lips and Jack could feel his own mirroring it.
"Torchwood's up in space now, they're on the right path, don't need me no more," Jack told him, a hint of suggestion in his voice and a hopeful expression on his face.
"I know." Ianto's hands slipped into his, squeezing tightly as he pulled Jack close and into a kiss. The Captain could feel his smile on his lips. Their noses brushed and then Jack tilted his head to better capture Ianto's lips in his, nose now cushioned against his cheek. Foreheads pressed together, Ianto pressed the kiss a little harder and drew Jack even closer. Jack had his eyes shut, enjoying every second as he relished in the familiar feel of Ianto's lips which he missed in those many days between scarce visits. Jack was tracing his tongue across Ianto's lower lip when the other man pulled away, hands slipping from Jack's.
For a second, he though Ianto was going to leave without him, tell him he had to stay on Earth for another fucking five hundred years, so Jack's eyes shot open once he got over the power of the kiss. But the circus was still there, guests still strolling in and laughter and voices - laughter and voices that he recognised - could be heard from it. And at the entranceway, hand-stretched out in a beckoning gesture with the most gorgeous smile he had ever seen.
Jack shot forward, hand grasping Ianto's one extra tight, and he was home.