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: What is Nick getting himself into?
Disclaimer: I'm a student. I don't own Torchwood.
The Master List (as it stands) is here: anduria-trianys.livejournal.com/27610.ht
Five days later…
The long hall was unusually dark, having only been lit by two rows of flaming torches, one on each wall. The curtains were shut, blocking out any light from the outside and creating a long black panel above the torches. The enormous flames, which were bright white, whipped through the air and sparked over the dark background, creating an effect similar to lightening against the night sky.
Two large wooden doors creaked open revealing a large high-ceilinged room, almost like a chapel, with stained-glass windows sending rainbows over those assembled there, though there didn’t seem to be any natural light. Even in the roof there was a long thin panel of coloured glass, the hue staining the white wooden floor below. It seemed like a snapshot of the past in somewhere so futuristic; totally out of place, but at the same time, seeming to fit.
As soon as the light shone dark red, however, a soft rumbling like distant hailstones sounded from inside the room and then, a moment later, two Agents, a man and a woman, both dressed in smart formal military-like attire, stepped out of the doors and, simultaneously, drew their swords and held them up to form an archway. As soon as the blades connected, another pair followed suit and the motion was repeated all the way up to the front of the room.
Feeling very small and self-conscious in the face of such power and majesty, Nick started to walk forwards, his knees trembling under the back tunic and trousers he had found waiting for him when he had returned to his room that evening. The red light falling from the ceiling flashed violently against his glasses and he had to blink several times to stop himself flinching too hard. Quite how the glass was giving off so much light out when it was clear that there wasn’t as much as a ray of outside light, much less sunlight, he had no idea. Must be some kind of futuristic lamp, he mused to himself as he carried on walking, keeping his eyes on the ground so that he wouldn’t end up blinding himself.
About halfway down the aisle, Nick realised that the sound he could hear echoing off the walls was not simply music, but there was also a chorus of singing from the men and women bearing the swords accompanying it. He cocked his head slightly, listening closer. The notes sounded so familiar, but the words did not. In fact, even the language sounded alien to him. But he could recognise the music, although he couldn’t quite think where from. It was on the edge of his subconscious, but just wouldn’t quite come forwards. In terms of grandeur, the whole ceremony was rather reminiscent of a king or queen’s coronation; an occasion of pomp and circumstance, for the want of any better words.
But Nick didn’t feel like royalty at all. He didn’t feel the nervous anticipation or the sense of duty that went with the crowning of a new monarch. Instead, he felt like a prisoner being escorted to his death and knowing there was nothing he could do about it. He could hardly stand to look at the people surrounding him and see the chipped granite in their eyes. The coldness was beyond frightening; it made him feel sick to the stomach.
And now I’m on the way towards becoming one of them.
The thought almost made him run back out of the doors again and raid the whole place to find something, anything, that would allow him to get back home again. Anything had to be better than doing this. At least at Torchwood he had actually been trying to do some good – what on earth could he do here? John, from what he had been like, had made this place seem utterly repulsive.
He froze in his tracks and almost keeled over as that last thought shot through his mind. Instinctively, he reached out with one hand towards a wall, but almost fell to the side when he came into contact with nothing except thin air. He blinked and straightened up, trying to focus on what was in front of him – and almost screamed out loud when a familiar face swam before him, his green eyes sparkling. Startled, Nick looked behind him, but saw nothing. At the same time, he heard a soft laugh – a laugh that, even now, sent warmth flooding through to his heart.
“John?” he whispered, his hand reaching out to touch the face before him, only for his fingers to grasp at thin air.
The phantom – if that was what it was – smiled. “Don’t give up now,” it said, that familiar lilt echoing through Nick’s mind. “You’re ready for this. I know you are.” There was a pause. “I believe in you, Nick Jones.”
The image faded before Nick could say anything in reply – not that he could think of anything to say. But the warmth he had felt at seeing his lover’s face again did not fade; if anything it intensified, rushing through him and calming his heartbeat to a gentle rhythm.
It also got him thinking about his situation. John’s been here himself for…I don’t know how long. He was one of these men facing me now – he’s done things I could never even have imagined; things I don’t think I want to imagine.
He frowned to himself. But even after that…he could change. He was able to put his past behind him and start a new life. He remembered the pained looks on his lover’s face when he had talked about the things he’d done. Whatever he thought at the time, whatever pleasure he got from what he did…it didn’t last. But he knew what the consequences would be if he failed, so he put a brave face on it and forced himself to do it.
That thought made up his mind. John had gone through this place and not only had he survived, but he had proved that he had the strength to move on and make a life for himself afterwards. Now, Nick would do the same thing in his memory.
Taking a deep breath, he steadied himself again and carried on walking up the aisle to the front. As soon as he reached the dais, two masked men came forwards and draped a large pure white shawl over his head before stepping behind him and kneeling. A door behind the dais closed loudly and, accompanied by a swish of purple robes, Cipactli herself stepped onto the stage. Her entrance brought everyone in the room, including those who had borne the swords, to their knees. Noticing her sweeping gaze, Nick swiftly followed.
She spoke out to the crowd as she drew a long sword from an elaborately carved scabbard and rested the blade underneath Nick’s chin, forcing him to look up into her stern eyes.
“You have been brought here to be initiated into this organisation known as the Time Agency,” she called out, her words echoing through the room. “Do you understand what this entails and do you swear to abide by our laws?”
Nick summoned his courage. “I do.” Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Orion and two others who he didn’t recognise watching him with undisguised interest.
Cipactli nodded and used her sword to draw Nick to his feet before drawing it out from underneath his chin. A moment later, another man came forwards and placed another sword, encased in its scabbard, in his hands, bowed to his leader and melted back into the background.
Slowly, Nick ran his fingers over the scabbard and allowed himself to smile when he realised that he was tracing out the shape of an elaborate dragon surrounded by stars. Evidently, the dragon is my symbol, he mused, thinking of his tattoo. Not that I’ll be complaining, obviously.
Cipactli resumed speaking. “Will you accept your position within the Time Agency?” Her eyes seemed to crystallise as she scrutinized him, much as she had on the first day that they had met, making him feel as if he was underneath a microscope.
“I will.” The words were out of Nick’s mouth almost before he could think about it. He stood up and recited the promise he had been given the night before to memorise. “I will strive to uphold the sacred and vital laws of this institution to the best of my ability and to find and use the best of what is here inside me.” With a nod, he stretched out his wrist and allowed one of the mysterious masked men to fit a thin black strap onto his wrist; it looked like a simpler version of John’s vortex manipulator; presumably, the more senior Agents had more advanced technology. Nonetheless, he would still keep his lover’s wrist strap with him; if nothing else, it would mean that there was always a part of him by his side.
And that gave him the courage to do what he was doing now; the thought of John beside him, even if it was simply in the form of a leather band.
Cipactli came forwards again and removed the white shawl from Nick’s head, letting it fall behind them. “Our new colleague has been initiated into the Time Agency society,” she said. “I now present to you Agent Seren Draig!”
Nick barely managed to hold back a gasp. Seren Draig…they’re calling me Dragon Star! Subconsciously, he once again traced the dragon design on his scabbard before slowly drawing the sword and touching it to that of his leader, acknowledging and accepting his new position.
After the ceremony, Orion took Nick over to where a woman with red hair was waiting. “This is Shivna,” he said, nodding to her. “She will give you a tour of this place.” And, with that, he was gone before anyone could speak.
The girl, Shivna, was wearing the same formal attire as everyone else had been, but Nick quickly noticed that she had the same emblem embroidered on her jacket as he had seen on Shani’s clothes. “What is that?” he asked, nodding at the white wolf’s head. “That symbol – what does it mean?”
“That’s the symbol of my department,” she explained. “I was assigned to the History department – which you might call the Archives.” She grinned at him. “Each department has their own insignia; Research and Development, Training, Medicine – oh, and of course, Timeline Monitoring.” She nodded towards a young man who bore the insignia of a snake stitched in turquoise thread and eating its own tail. “Come with me and I’ll show you what they get up to before we hit the enormity that is the Archives.”
Nick didn’t really pay much attention to the multitude of corridors he was being led down, but he did note that the signs were all written in a language he didn’t understand. When he asked what it was, Shivna explained that it was the 51st century version of English, which was almost universally spoken now. That, at least, gave Nick an idea of when in time he was, albeit not the most exact one. I wonder what would happen if I changed the writing on the signs to 21st century Welsh…
“Well, if you were to do that, I think we’d have a problem, since you’re the only one who knows twenty-first century Welsh,” responded Shivna, running her hand over the door so it opened with a hiss. “Here we are – the Department of Timeline Monitoring.”
Nick barely had time to curse himself for forgetting that his thoughts weren’t exactly private here before he was taken aback by the multitude of strange sounds and flickering lights from the machines surrounding them. Several men and women were working at the consoles, occasionally speaking to each other so quickly that Nick didn’t have time to set his new wrist strap to translate the language. Even if he had, he doubted that the conversations would have made much sense anyway. “So, what goes on here?” he asked Shivna.
She laughed. “Timeline Monitoring; it does exactly what it says on the sign,” she said. “There’s a lot more to being a Time Agent than simply being able to fire off a fast round of bullets, Seren. If you’re working in this department, then you have to be alert so that nothing happens that could create a serious paradox. It sounds melodramatic, but we really don’t want the Reapers flying around the universe.”
Nick didn’t know what the Reapers were, but he decided to take her word for it. Maybe if I see Jack again I can ask him. “So the people who work here…monitor the timelines to make sure the universe doesn’t implode,” he offered.
“That’s about the size of it,” agreed Shivna. She took his hand and led him into another room where there were several boards along the wall with sections mapped out in different colours. “This is what you’re seeing at the moment throughout time,” she explained. “Different colours have different meanings. Green means that everything’s as it should be. Blue means that there’s a potential for something to happen, but not anything that should warrant a full scale invasion, for the want of a better word; something that can safely be monitored from here. Flashing white lights mean that there’s a serious situation and when that happens, it’s up to these guys here to pinpoint exactly where the problem is and send a troop of Agents to sort it out.” She looked up. “Fortunately, today, everything seems quiet; just a few tiny little blips on the system, but nothing that can’t be resolved quickly and hopefully without too much intervention.”
“What’s that?” asked Nick, indicating a block on the wall which was entirely marked out in bright red. “Does that mean something more serious than the white lights?”
“Ah.” Shivna looked at where he was pointing. “That section indicates the Time War. The red lights indicate that a section is time-locked, which basically means that you don’t go there under any circumstances. Or if you do, get out of there as quickly as is humanely possible.” Her round face turned hard. “The white lights indicate serious tampering, but if something that’s time-locked is tampered with…it really could lead to a paradox that’s large enough to potentially bring about the end of the universe.”
Nick shivered. “I won’t be messing around with that then.”
“That’s not the only one,” said Shivna. “The twenty-first century Battle of Canary Wharf is another one that should never be messed with – not even to try and make it so the battle never happened.” She swallowed hard. “The consequences would be unimaginable.”
“Believe me, I have no intention of going back there,” said Nick without thinking. Shivna looked at him curiously and he quickly cleared his throat. “I had a friend who worked there at the time,” he said quickly. “What I heard about it wasn’t pleasant by all accounts.”
The young woman raised her eyebrow slightly as if she knew that he was lying, but she shrugged. “Well, that’s Timeline Monitoring,” she said. “Our next port of call is the Archives, which is right next door.” With a smile, she took his hand and led him back into the corridor.
Later that evening…
Nick was exhausted when he was finally able to return to his room. His calf muscles were screaming in agony after having been subjected to what turned out to be a fascinating but rather gruelling tour of the Agency and all its grounds. I really need to get fitter, he admitted to himself. I’ll be no help to anyone in my current state.
With a loud groan, and without even bothering to register the clothes placed on top of the chest of drawers beside the cupboard, he dropped down onto his bed, only to yell in shock as he felt something hard underneath the bedclothes. Cursing, he whipped back the bedcovers and found a large black sealed box sitting calmly on the mattress.
Curious, he turned the box over in his hands, listening to whatever was inside it moving and shaking around – though, thankfully it wasn’t ticking. There was no indication on the box of who had actually left it – or, for that matter, why they had left it. Still, somebody clearly knew where he was, even if he didn’t.
“Well, that’s not entirely true,” he amended. “I know where I am. I just don’t know exactly when I am, apart from some time in the fifty-first century – or how the fuck I got here.”
Shrugging, he looked around furtively before yanking a grip out of his hair and, following a cacophony of muttered curses as several strands of red hair came out with it, he ran the sharp end over the tape binding the box shut. To his surprise, however, the moment he touched the tape, it melted away and the box propped open.
“Wow,” he muttered as he opened the box properly. “DNA recognition really has improved in the future.” Quickly, he removed the piles of neatly folded clothes and unearthed five black discs with several silver buttons. He pressed one – and gasped as blue words started shining before his eyes.
“Wow!” This time, the word was said in a gasp of shocked delight as he realised what he was reading. “Sanity – in the form of me realising that Pol really does deserve to get kicked to the other end of the desert!” Dimly, he realised that he really should start unpacking – not to mention that if he was going to start reading this series, he should be starting at the beginning – but right now, he couldn’t care less. Instead, he leaned back on his bed and lost himself in the words of one of his favourite authors.
He was so gripped by the story that the sound of the door slamming shut promptly knocked him off his bed and had him pointing his gun between the slightly bemused eyes of his roommate.
The man held up his hands. “Are you actually trying to kill me?”
“You startled me,” growled Nick, quickly replacing the safety catch on the weapon. “You slammed the door really loudly.”
He received a loud snort in response. “So, who’s remembered you, then? I didn’t think you were from around here.”
“I’m not,” answered Nick, fingering the small stuffed dragon he’d found underneath the discs. “I haven’t a clue who sent me all this.”
Shani gave him a rather cold look. “Well, they clearly don’t want to be found,” he said, dropping a piece of paper onto Nick’s lap. “Still, at least you’ve got someone out there who’s looking out for you. Some of us aren’t so lucky.” Without another word, he picked up his jacket and stalked out.
Nick sat up and picked up the crumpled sheet of paper and smoothed it out. The writing was faded, but still legible. It read ‘So you don’t feel too homesick. I’ve been watching over you, but don’t try to find me. Stay safe.’
He frowned to himself. Someone who obviously knew him in his own time had somehow known that he would end up here and cared enough to ensure that he at least had something to remind him of his own home, even if he couldn’t actually be there. With a smile, he leaned back against the pillow and started to read again.
Next Time: Nick is hit by a staggering revelation and a piece of entertainment brings him some nightmarish memories.