Pairings: Jack/Ianto, John/Nick,
Characters: Jack, Ianto, John Hart, Nick Jones, and a cast of (probably!) thousands.
Spoilers: Set after Exit Wounds. Sequel to 'We Could Be Heroes'
Rating: Adult - it's going to get very dark in some places.
Warnings: Slash, language, angst, dark themes.
Summary: Here's the final part of the honeymoon adventures!
Disclaimer: I'm not a student any more, but I don't own Torchwood.
The Master List is here: anduria-trianys.livejournal.com/27610.ht
16th July 2013...
After two days of nearly solid rain, the skies cleared and when I pulled back the curtains, I was greeted with the same blistering sunshine we'd had before the sudden storm.
Did I mention the weather round here could change like that? If not, well, I'm mentioning it now, because it really can. I once came out here, back when I was a wayward young man, and ended up in a rainstorm and almost sunburned on the same day. Needless to say, my...friend, for the want of a better word, and I shared some really interesting times, in more ways than one. I don't think I've ever managed to get through so many sexual positions in a weekend since then, if the truth be told!
Unfortunately, my beloved husband was still fast asleep, his head burrowed in the pillow and his long red hair spread over his shoulders. Apparently, the energy he had when we went dirt-bike racing had been sapped away now that the rain was gone.
I bent down, moved his hair out of the way and gently pressed a kiss behind his ear, smiling when he stirred slightly. “Is there life there?”
“Probably.” Nick slowly turned around and faced me, yawning and rubbing his eyes. “What time is it?”
“About mid-morning.” I looked closer at him and frowned. “Are you okay? You look a little pale.”
Nick blinked and sat up. “I'm fine,” he murmured and even though he sounded a little hoarse, he managed to drag up a smile. “You just wore me out yesterday and last night.”
Now, I admit to being a lot of things, but I am certainly not a fool – or, at least, not as much of a fool as I used to be. As draining as working for Torchwood can be, I had never seen Nick look as tired as he did in that moment and I knew perfectly well that it was from more than he was implying. Still, it was also obvious that he didn't want to put a dampener on our honeymoon, so I put on a smile of my own. “Oh? And was it a good wearing-out?”
“Oh, please,” snorted Nick. “You know perfectly well it was.” He sat up slowly and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. “Anyway, what are we going to do today?”
“How about Verthaven Forest?” I suggested. “Now that the weather's better, we could finally get up there and see the reserve.” I tilted my head and looked hard at him, silently asking him to be honest with me. “That is, if you're feeling up to it.”
For a moment, I thought Nick was going to lie back down and tell me he just wanted to take it easy today, he looked so tired. But, really, I suppose I should have realised he wouldn't do that, not my crazy bulldog of a Welshman. Instead, he grinned and scrambled out of bed and into his clothes.
“What?” he asked when he noticed me staring at him. “You've been playing this place up since we got here, do you really think I'm going to miss my only chance to actually see it?”
“No, I suppose not,” I admitted wryly. “You stubborn idiot.”
“You're wrong there,” retorted my husband, sliding his arms around my waist. “I'm your stubborn idiot.”
I burst out laughing. “Too true,” I said, leaning over to kiss him. “Too true.”
Despite the relatively short distance from where we were, the journey up to Verthaven Forest wasn't exactly going to be the easiest. That was because, due to environmental laws, no manmade transport was allowed for all but the first part of the journey. Predictably, though, Nick wasn't too bothered about that.
“It just makes it more of an adventure,” he said. “Besides, don't the best things come to those who persevere enough to wait for them? Or something like that, anyway.”
“Or something indeed,” I said. “By the way, how do you feel about gondolas?”
Nick blinked at me a few times. “I've never been to Venice, so I can't really comment on that.”
“No, the cable car version.”
“Oh.” He shrugged. “I've never been actually been on one of those either, but they look pretty cool.”
“Okay, good,” I said. “Just wanted to check you didn't have a newly discovered fear of heights that you haven't told me about yet.”
Nick stared at me for several seconds and folded his arms. “John,” he said slowly, “how long have we known each other?” Then, realising that this might be the wrong question, he amended, “Okay, how long would we have known each other were it not for the whole thing where we got separated through time and space?”
“Er...about four years?” I ventured.
“Three years, nine months and six days,” said Nick. “Granted, we did get shot into different parts of the universe for a lot of that, but still – have I ever given you any sign that I might have a problem with heights?”
“Well...no,” I admitted and felt myself blush a little at my own stupidity. “And I guess given how much you like flying –”
“Exactly.” Smiling, Nick scraped his hair back and pulled on a peaked cap. “So, what are we waiting for? Come on!”
I had to laugh at that, because he immediately took off at a run, only to stop, turn back abruptly and return looking a little embarrassed. “Which way?”
Once I'd managed to stop laughing, I took his hand and led him a little way down the road. “See that white house there? That's where the gondolas leave from. They take you partway through the rainforest, but if you want to get all the way to the top, you have to walk.”
“And we're going right to the top.” Nick tilted his head at me. “Aren't we?”
For a moment, I thought about checking, once again, that he really was all right with doing this. He had wanted to see Verthaven Forest and the reserve ever since I had mentioned it in passing when we first arrived. But at the same time, the picture of his tired eyes wouldn't leave me alone and I worried deeply for his well-being.
I stifled a laugh at my own thoughts despite myself. If someone had told me even ten years ago that I would even be married, never mind trying to wrap my husband up in cotton wool, I would have, quite frankly, packed them off on the fastest ship to Insanity Rehab. Anyone who was anyone back then knew only too well that I wasn't someone who would settle down in a hurry – the shock of the time loop business with Jack nearly sparked an interstellar apocalypse – and yet, here I was, on my honeymoon, hovering over my husband like a mother hen.
“Hello?” Nick nudged me in the ribs. “Where are you?”
I blinked. “Sorry, love, I was miles away.” Star systems away, actually.
Nick's grin turned coy suddenly. “Well, maybe you'll have to let me bring you back here then, won't you?”
I laughed at that – I couldn't help it. “Oh, you certainly will,” I agreed, reaching out to slide my hands underneath his shirt.
“Ah-ha.” Nick stepped aside and smirked. “Not yet. Later – if you're good.” He bumped his hip against mine and walked off. “Coming? Or are you planning on just standing there and catching flies?”
Had I been in my own right mind at that point, I may have pointed out that whatever I was catching was very unlikely to be flies as he knew them. But, as it was, I couldn't do much more than splutter in shock as he rushed off, laughing wildly.
“You damn tease,” I growled when I finally caught up with him. “I'll get you back for that one, believe me.”
“I look forward to that moment then,” said Nick. He leaned against the side of one of the gondolas and smirked. “In fact, I look forward to it very much.”
I shook my head. No matter how much I wanted to be annoyed with him, it really was impossible when he grinned like that, with his eyes sparkling and loose strands of his hair blowing over his face. “Oh, I love you,” I said, wrapping my arms around him and planting a kiss on his forehead.
“Love you right back.” Grinning, Nick slipped into the gondola and pulled me in after him. Immediately, the door slid closed and we started to move.
It was a fairly fast journey, but not so fast that we couldn't easily look around. Even from our increasing height, we could see the colours of the fish as they swam through the almost transparent water, sometimes breaking the surface before dropping back down with a splash that rippled across the surface.
“Show-offs,” I chuckled. “But that's no surprise; every single thing that lives down there never misses a chance to show off underwater. They know that anyone can see them because of how clear the water is.”
“How?” asked Nick.
“Don't underestimate the wildlife around here.” I flicked his earring playfully, making the dragon's tail twitch. “They're much smarter than they would have you think.”
“I'm sure they are,” said Nick. “But I meant to ask how so much of the water stays so clear. I mean, you said that there are some parts where it’s not as clear when we went snorkelling near Namitor, but I haven’t seen any sign of them yet.”
I blushed a little. “I may have been using relative terms there, actually. Wherever you go, the water here is much clearer than it would be back on Earth, but there are some parts where it can get a little murkier, to the point where you would need snorkelling stuff to get a really good view. But even there, you can naturally see much more than you would at home.”
“How is that possible?”
“No one's really sure,” I admitted, opening the window and watching a swarm of vividly coloured butterflies and dragonflies soar past us. “But biologists have been investigating the ecosystem here over recent years. But they've not found anything yet – mainly because I don't think they know what they're looking for.”
“Huh.” Nick smiled and leaned back, gazing around him, his cheeks flushed with excitement. “So, what are we going to see?”
“You'll have to wait. I'm not sure you'd believe me if I told you. But,” I added almost as an afterthought, “make sure you take a very deep breath before you step outside.”
“Why?” asked Nick. But he got his answer almost immediately when a strong, yet sweet, fragrance wafted in through the open window. I blinked a little, but, having been accustomed to this for some time, it didn't take me long to relax and enjoy it.
Nick, however, almost choked. “What. Is. That?!” he spluttered, covering his mouth and nose with his hands.
“Zadrae,” I said, waving my hand outside as we came to the landing deck. “They were created from breeding honeysuckle with jasmine and, somehow, the smells of both the flowers amalgamated into one which gave off something pretty powerful, as you can tell. But they've also been bred with quite a few other plants as well, which did lead to some interesting results.”
“Like what?” asked Nick.
“Well, from what Shilaya told me when we were younger, you could breed that stuff with almost anything.” The gondola doors opened and, as we stepped out, I motioned to a carpet of small, slightly trailing, blue flowers. “My mum used to love this hybrid-strain,” I mused. “She used to do all sorts of hybrids – some of which didn't always turn out too well! – but these forget-me-not ones were her favourite experiments.”
Carefully, I picked a few sprigs and placed them behind Nick's ear. “I remember Dad planting some of them over her grave when she died and swearing that he would never forget her.”
“And I don't think he ever did,” replied Nick. “Even after everything he put you through, now that I've met him, I don't doubt it for a second.” He sat back on his heels and smiled, only to apparently realise that something else had caught my attention. “John?” He leaned closer and frowned at me. “What is it?”
“Look.” I cleared a space in amongst the flowers and showed him what was there. “Arnras. The smallest rabbits found in this quadrant of the galaxy.”
“They're so tiny!” exclaimed Nick. “How old would they be?”
“Well, believe it or not, you're actually looking at a mother with her young,” I answered, showing him. “Look – here are the babies – they like to take shelter under the plants, because the petals and leaves are thin enough to let the sun through, but they can still provide shelter – and food – as well.”
“Where's their father?”
“Ah.” I grinned. “The father of this litter is resting. Look.” I pointed out a small cave made of tightly woven plant stalks. In the cool shade, a male arnra lay on a bed of petals, surrounded by four other males who were all watching over him and looking around as though they were watching out for disturbers of their peace. “He's going to need his rest so he can support the other fathers when they give birth.”
“What?” spluttered Nick.
“It's not just human males who can carry children and give birth, you know, Nicky,” I chuckled. “Sorry to shatter that illusion for you, by the way.”
“Well, up until we got together, I did think that the one really good thing about being a man was that you couldn't get yourself up the duff,” said Nick dryly. He looked at the sleeping father. “God, he looks so tired.”
“It's not an easy process, especially for such a small animal,” I said. “That's why the babies are with their mother for now; after the birth, the father is left extremely fragile for several hours, so she takes the babies and feeds them until he's strong enough. Look.”
We watched as the mother tapped her nose against one of the babies, who made a noise somewhere between a purr and a yip and nudged its nose against the mother's nose and one of her floppy ears. Slowly, the other babies began to wake and do likewise.
“They want to see their father,” I whispered. “She'll take them over in a minute – this could be entertaining.”
Sure enough, the little family had barely come within a metre of the cave when the four guards immediately froze, their ears pricking up and twitching. Then, very slowly, they turned around and faced the newcomers, their previously soft brown eyes now turning that rather menacing shade that storm clouds have right before we get a deluge of rain – something, I might add, that living in Wales makes one all too familiar with.
That may not sound too frightening, coming from what are essentially tiny rabbits. But then they opened their mouths to show rows of sharp white teeth and started hissing and tapping their feet against the ground in a slow and oddly threatening rhythm. It stopped the others in their tracks at any rate.
“Woah,” breathed Nick. “That's...scary. What are they doing?”
“It's their way of telling the female, with the best will in the world, to fuck off,” I said. “They do it when they believe the male is still too weak from the birth and feel protective of him.”
“And what happens if she decides to ignore them?”
“Oh, it usually ends in a fight to the death,” I answered straight away. Seeing the shocked look on Nick's face, I chuckled. “Yeah, for vegetarians, arnras are bloodthirsty little bastards at times – although, fortunately, I think this mother's taken the hint. Yep, look, she's retreating.”
“Good,” said Nick. “I'm not sure they're all that cute any more,” he added as he stood up.
I looked up to answer, but then I noticed what was standing behind him. “Er, Nick?”
“Hmm?” Nick only looked at me for a moment, but it was just long enough for the animal behind him to poke him in the back. I almost doubled up with laughter when he squeaked in shock and gaped at what he saw standing there, which just made me laugh even more. Clearly, he'd forgotten one of the basic rules of being with a Time Agent (or working at Torchwood, for that matter); anything you see in a science fiction or fantasy novel could actually exist somewhere and at some point in time.
This includes unicorns. In fact, this unicorn was now calmly using its horn to comb Nick's hair as it – he, actually – blinked indolently at him. As for my husband, I hadn't seen him look so confused since Myfanwy developed a taste for the pineapple on Hawaiian pizza.
Thankfully, I was there with him and I knew exactly what to do. I strode over to join him and started stroking the unicorn’s mane, combing the light tangles out with my fingers.
“That’s what he was asking for,” I explained as he pulled his horn away from Nick and hummed in satisfaction. “Male unicorns are vain little buggers and have this strange idea that everything else that lives is just as vain as they are. So, they appeal to this by combing hair or fur or whatever when they want some grooming of their own.”
“That might actually have worked on you and Jack,” replied Nick, petting the unicorn’s nose. “You’re both as vain as each other.”
“Hey!” I protested. “Jack, I’ll grant you. But me? Never in a million years. I just know that I look good. There’s a difference.”
“Oh yes? And what would –”
“Hey, come and look at these!” I interrupted to quickly distract him. “Lunafes – also known as ice-wolves.”
Nick raised his eyebrow, but he followed me and looked. “Wow, they’re beautiful!”
“Aren’t they?” I picked up a tiny, almost ink-black newborn cub and placed it in Nick’s arms. “Their fur will turn paler as they grow older – they end up pure white when they reach old age, and, believe me, you do not want to piss one of them off.”
“I’m not sure there’s ever a time when pissing off a wolf would be a good idea, John,” retorted Nick. The cub in his arms started to wake up and squirm, so he lowered it back onto the ground. “There you go, little one.”
In response, the cub squeaked and rolled over on the ground. We both watched, awestruck, as a silver female strode over and picked her child up between her teeth and left, barely pausing to acknowledge us.
“Gosh, they’re amazing,” Nick breathed. “But, how do these animals all coexist here?”
I took his hand and led him down a shaded path. “I wondered when you were going to ask me that. To tell you the truth, no one’s entirely sure. There’s a few theories people have floated, from genetic experiments right to it just being the way things are here.”
Nick bit his lip. “I may regret asking this,” he said slowly, “but what do these animals eat? They can’t all be vegetarian…can they?”
“Not all of them, no, although they do eat plants.” I grimaced. “Nick, you know I told you once that there are some things that you just leave alone because you won’t like the answers?”
“This is one of them.” Especially considering it’s our honeymoon.
“Okay.” Nick conceded the point, though he still had that look on his face that said he wasn’t fully satisfied with the answer. But he shrugged and followed me. “Where are we going now?”
“Stay with me – and keep quiet.” I led him deeper into the forest, giving him time to take in the sights around him. The slowly setting sun was shining through the trees, reflecting in the pools of water the recent rains had left behind. The small drops of water on the leaves were shining like stars and lit up the whole forest until a sharp breeze spring up and blew the water over both of us, which sent Nick into a fit of silent giggles. I wanted to retaliate, but before I could, three lunafe cubs, their fur ice-blue, rushed up, tumbling over each other in their hurry, and ran straight into him, chewing his shoelaces and batting their heads against his ankles.
“Hey!” squeaked Nick, kneeling down and scratching their fur. One of them scrambled up and, placing its paws against his chest, started licking his face all over, while the others continued to roll around, apparently fascinated by him.
“Huh,” I said when he’d finally pulled himself up again. “That’s interesting.”
“What is?” asked Nick.
“As you may have guessed, ice wolves thrive upon the cold,” I explained. “That’s usually to the point where they won’t go near fire – in any form. That includes people who are fire Elementals.”
“So, why –”
“Why did they practically bowl you over?” I shrugged. “Damned if I know. But, personally, I’d like to think it’s because you’re just extremely special.”
At least, you are to me.
Nick blushed. “You sap.”
“Is it still sappy if it’s true?”
“Huh.” I scratched my head and frowned. “I’ll definitely have to keep that one in mind.”
“Yes, you certainly will.” Nick grinned and kissed me quickly. “So, where were we going before I got set upon by baby wolves?”
“Ah. Come this way.” Grabbing his hand, I took him down a long path scattered with flowers and leaves. I saw that the irostelle were changing their colours as the seasons changed.
It sometimes feels as though time works differently, here. Back on Earth, the middle of July would usually be the height of summer, although it wouldn’t always feel that way if the British weather had anything to do with it. But here, it’s a little different, because the rotation of the planet’s axis is slightly different to that of Earth. It means that we’re just approaching the start of autumn.
Now, the trees are starting to turn from green to gold and shades of red, pink and gold are beginning to transform the previous bright blues and purple of the irostelle flowers, like the setting of the sun in a Plaibossian sky.