Pairings: Jack/Ianto, John/Nick, Gwen/Rhys
Characters: Jack, Ianto, Gwen, Rhys, John Hart and a cast of (probably!) thousands.
Spoilers: Set after Exit Wounds. Sequel to 'Will My Arms Be Strong Enough?'
Rating: Adult - it's going to get very dark in some places.
Warnings: Slash, language, angst, dark themes.
Summary: Jack needs some comfort after a terrifying nightmare.
Disclaimer: I'm a student. I don't own Torchwood.
The Master List (as it stands) is here: anduria-trianys.livejournal.com/27610.ht
Three days later…
Jack splashed cold water over his face, not caring that he was making his fringe wet as well. He blinked a few times to clear the droplets from his eyes and looked at himself in the mirror, clinging onto the sink to stop himself from falling.
He knew this routine only too well by now. It had happened repeatedly in the first weeks after the…losses – Jack no longer liked to use the word deaths – of Toshiko and Owen. The guilt and shock had plagued him almost constantly, meaning that he would often wake up to find himself holding onto Ianto with far greater strength than was really necessary.
But after recruiting John, Andie and, eventually, Nick, he had found that he was relaxing more as he had something to do and take his mind off what had happened. Not forget, he would never forget, but he could at least get on with life. He knew that was what his friends would have wanted him to do.
As a result, he had found himself sleeping better and, even though he still woke up with Ianto wrapped in his arms, at least he hadn’t been squeezing the life out of him this time. He still missed Owen and Tosh, and he knew that he would always miss them, but somehow the tight grip of guilt around his heart had begun to loosen as he focused on his new recruits – just as he knew the others would have wanted.
But now, John and Nick were gone. Jack didn’t know where they were, or even if they were alive. All he knew was that they had sacrificed themselves for the sake of making the world a better place and giving the children of today a chance of future happiness and safety. That was what Torchwood was there for. It was what Tosh and Owen had already died for and what Ianto and Gwen would eventually die for. And it was what Nick would have wanted for his own children – it was what he had been willing to leave everything behind for.
And John…Jack was feeling constant aches of guilt as he remembered how, for so long, he had been unable – or unwilling – to believe that his former lover and partner could have changed for the better. He had always hated the idea of being judged for something that he had left behind long ago – a sentiment strongly echoed by Ianto – but he had in fact done exactly that with John.
And now the nightmares had returned.
They were not the same as the nightmares that had caught up with him after Owen and Tosh. This time, no one was blaming him for events that he had long held himself responsible for.
But he was willing to take those over what he was experiencing at the moment. Because this time, what he was seeing were more than simply night terrors.
These visions had once been real.
Jack felt bile rising unbidden and burning his throat as the moments he had just relived in his sleep returned to him, as clearly as if he was standing there now.
The road ahead was filled by a small group of men and women all dressed in clothes in various states of wear and tear, their heads covered by various scarves or headdresses all in shades of grey or blue, allowing them to blend in with the stormy atmosphere of this world. In the centre of their circle, hidden by the swathes of fabric, there burned a small but scorching hot fire and the pungent scent of roasting Abacore, a sweet meat that was filled with spices and then roasted over an open fire until the bright green skin turned black.
Suddenly, one of the figures broke away from the crowd and moved towards a cluster of thick bushes, the only thing visible underneath his hood being a pair of bright blue eyes. He glanced furtively around him, trying to conceal the way the brown strap on his wrist was vibrating and beeping loudly. As soon as he was out of earshot, he pressed it, frowning at the sight of the blue hologram of his commander, speaking in low and frantic tones before fading away.
Slowly, with the air of someone coming out of a shocked trance, the young man pressed the button on his vortex manipulator, frowning at the spot where the hologram had just vanished from. Then, with a small sigh, he replaced his hood and returned to his partner who was watching him with wild excitement dancing in his green eyes.
“We’re so close now,” Phoenix panted, his voice shaking wildly from excitement. “I can feel it in my blood, Sirius…we’re literally moments away now – maybe even less than that.” His pheromones, already naturally strong, were almost overwhelming now. “In less than a minute –”
“Nothing will happen.” Sirius’ voice was quiet and urgent. “Phoenix, we have to leave.”
“Leave?!” The other man’s face turned incredulous. “But…we’ve come so far…we can’t just go now, we’re too close!” His cheekbones stood out against the shadows created by his own hood. “Sirius, if this is about me trying to –”
“No. Whatever you’re going to say, it isn’t about that. I received an order that we were –”
“But why now?” Phoenix was starting to whine and his hands were starting to tingle. “We’re –” but before he could carry on, a burning feeling shot through the brown strap on his own wrist, sending spikes of white heat through his arm, more intense than any he’d felt before.
He looked up and glared daggers at his partner. “What are you doing?!” he hissed. “Are you actually trying to kill me?”
“I’m not doing anything!” exclaimed Sirius, who was rubbing at his own arm. “I don’t know what’s…” but his voice faded as both men were enveloped in a burst of white light.
A moment later, the space was empty, except for the crowd of bandits.
Jack closed his eyes tightly, wanting to banish the memory of one of the hardest and darkest days of his life. But whether it was because his state was weakened by lack of sleep, or because some force of nature wanted him to remember, the images poured through his mind, burning and scarring him like acid.
The tiny room was almost pitch black, except for the tiny light on the wall which occasionally flickered, illuminating strange marks on the floor. The temperature was freezing; Sirius could practically see his breath forming icicles in the air as he fought to stay conscious. He wanted to rub his hands together for warmth, but he didn’t dare; they had been stuck here for a long time already and he could already tell that there wasn’t much time before the air would run out; he was beginning to feel drowsy enough as it was and he had barely moved.
Phoenix, however, was moving enough for the pair of them; as soon as they had been unceremoniously dumped onto the stiff wooden chairs in the middle of the room, he had ripped off the cloak and hood disguise he had been wearing and was now moving his legs around on the chair and rubbing his hands, trying to bring an ounce of warmth. But he had managed nothing; not even the tiniest spark would be mustered, no matter how hard he tried. Nonetheless, he had refused to give in, even though he was visibly beginning to tire.
Finally, Sirius couldn’t stand it any longer. “Just keep still!” he barked, with as much authority as his weak voice could muster. “You’re not just tiring yourself out, you’re also driving me mad! And stop fiddling,” he added, nodding towards his partner’s hands. “It’s not going to help us; if anything, it’s only going to make the situation even worse, because you’ll just be increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air.”
Phoenix did stop moving his body, but his hands still danced around. “I’d rather risk that than end up freezing to death in an interrogation room,” he growled.
“Hey. We are not going to freeze to death. We are going to get out of this alive and then we’ll get right back to that mission and sort everything out.” Sirius’ blue eyes sparkled. “Like you said –”
But a noise cut him off before he could finish speaking. It wasn’t a loud noise, but it was certainly enough to make his blood run colder than it already was.
It was little more than a tiny ‘click’ sound, but it was enough to make him freeze to attention.
With little more than a flickering glance between them, showing that they were sharing the same thought, the two men turned their heads behind them. When they saw the view, the temperature of the room seemed to drop a few more degrees and the air somehow became more dangerous.
Six figures, all clad in black, were standing behind them, their shadows blocking out all the light except for a tiny sliver that could be seen from underneath the doorway. The sputtering lamp had evidently given out without anyone noticing, because all that Sirius could see were six pairs of eyes glinting fiercely underneath the black hoods.
Cautiously, he moved his hand slightly and found his partners, squeezing it tight, ignoring the way a heavy band seemed to close over his heart as he recognised Cygnus, Kuman and Shukra, their height instantly giving them away. However, only Kuman gave him any hint of help when his black eyes briefly flickered towards the woman beside him – the woman who had given Sirius the order to return. He swallowed hard; if there was one thing Kanya was famous for, it was her unforgiving nature, something that was shown clearly in her slate grey eyes.
“You summoned us back,” he said, hoping that his voice didn’t shake. “We were coming close to completing the mission…I know things have been slow, but another few hours would have –”
But he was cut off when he saw the line begin to split up, revealing an open doorway behind them. He didn’t even have time to consider an escape, however, because a moment later he felt himself being held by the neck in a brutal grip as he was forcibly ripped from the chair. He cringed. He would know that grip anywhere.
At the same time, he saw someone – who, he didn’t know – pull Phoenix to the floor, almost ripping their hands apart, except that the younger Time Agent reached out and gripped back at the last moment, his green eyes wide with a fear that Sirius had never seen in him before.
He swallowed hard. “I’ll…I’ll come back,” he whispered, before he could feel Cipactli and two others – he guessed Kanya and Kuman – dragging him away. “I’ll come back!” he screamed as his hand was ripped from his partner’s. “I’ll come back and find you again – I promise!”
The screaming finally died away and Jack was finally able to open his eyes again. However, the first thing he noticed was that his eyesight was blurred and his face was damp. He took a deep breath, gripping the sink harder as it caught in his throat and forced himself to look in the mirror at the damp tracks staining his cheeks.
As he did so, however, he suddenly became aware of someone standing behind him and rubbing his shoulder blades gently. He blinked and, looking closer, saw the reflection of a bleary-eyed Ianto staring back at him. Even with his tousled hair and tired demeanour, it was still clear that he was deeply concerned for his lover.
“How long have you been there?” asked Jack, blinking again at how hoarse his voice sounded.
“I came in when I heard you screaming,” Ianto replied softly. The motions of his hands switched from simply running over the skin to a deep massage.
“You were shouting ‘I’ll come back for you.’” Ianto’s hand slipped down Jack’s arm and he linked their fingers together. “You were promising someone that you would come back and find them again.” He paused. “Oh, and you called out a name. I didn’t quite catch it, but it sounded like –”
“Cipactli,” Jack whispered, feeling his body freeze at the mention of the name, even as he relaxed in Ianto’s arms. He closed his eyes and slowly turned around.
“Yes.” Ianto nodded. “Who was…?”
“She was someone from my past.” Jack sighed and gently led Ianto out of the bathroom. “She was a Time Agent, like me…and John.” The acidic pain rose inside him again, but with an effort he choked it down. “She was one of the ones who was responsible for us…losing our memories.”
Ianto shuddered slightly at the reminder of the violation Jack had suffered before his mind processed something else.
“What do you mean…us?” he whispered. “Jack…did I –”
“No.” Jack’s response was instant. “Not us as in you and me. Us as in –”
Ianto gasped as he understood. “You and John!”
Jack nodded. “When John came here, he didn’t come back to punish me or really even to bring me back. He came back because he thought I could tell him why his memories had been stolen. He didn’t know that I’d had mine wiped as well.”
He sighed quietly. “You remember the story of how we got within hours of completing the mission and regaining that piece of technology?”
“How could I forget?”
Jack smiled weakly. “We sat in that cold and dark room for hours, stuck there like prisoners. John could barely keep still; kept trying to…” he tapped his fingers together, “well, you know. Neither of us knew what was going on – until six high-ranked Time Agents came in. Three of them dragged me away as I screamed to John that I’d come back for him…but then –”
“Then the next thing you knew it was two years later and John had gone rogue.” Ianto finished the story, barely suppressing a shudder. “Did you know what they’d done to him?”
“No. I had no idea until he told me the day before he…,” Jack swallowed, “left. Apparently, that silver box we found in the old barn triggered something in his mind that he didn’t recognise.” He bit his lip, but decided not to mention that he had also seen something; he didn’t feel strong enough to go through that yet.
Ianto stroked his hand gently. “Do you think it triggered something?”
“I don’t know. But I will find out somehow.” Jack’s eyes hardened with determination. “I promised John that we would find the answers – for both our sakes. I owe him that much.”
“We owe him that much,” corrected Ianto. “You won’t have to do this alone, Jack. I’m with you all the way. We’ll find those answers – somehow.”
For the first time, a proper smile spread over Jack’s face. “Thank you,” he whispered, leaning forwards to kiss his partner gently. Then, he cleared his throat. “But first – I believe we have Catrin’s wedding to attend in a week.”
Next Time: Weddings are supposed to be happy occasions, but how long can our heroes stay strong when Nick’s sister gets married?