Summary: "Torchwood's disability pay is about this big--" Ianto held up his thumb and index finger, about two centimeters apart. "--and comes out of a gun at a thousand meters per second." [Or, the fic in which Ianto bleeds everywhere all the time.]
Disclaimer: TW & Co. does not belong to me.
Notes: This fic would not leave me alone until I posted it. Title taken from Owl City's Meteor Shower, which I listened to at least a hundred times while writing this story.
They were arguing. And they hurt. They were hurting each other.
He needed to make the hurt stop.
So much—so much anger. They burned so brightly, all of them, tongues of flame in a dead world, and every vicious word hurled across the vortex made the flames flicker like the mouth of a god had blown on them.
He loved them so much. All of them. And they were hurting each other.
The flames flared like beacons.
He heard Welsh and Japanese and French and a language called Boen, and he knew them all. The words were meaningless because he knew the meaning inside the words, and that was what mattered.
The flames were panicking. They were frightened. But they were no longer hurting each oth—
The voice slammed into his chest (he had a chest) and hands gripped his shoulders (he had shoulders) and found himself pinned down through the fabric of space and time. Immovable. Fixed.
He was sucked into the void.
Ianto, stop it.
Into the void.
“N’tukku! N’tukku, Ianto, n’tukku pe!”
He fell away from (the chest) and (the shoulders), into nothing, and the flames blazed.
Bone split, muscle wrapped and strangled, flesh twisted, and the body became as close to home as it would ever be.
(He made it so.)
Cold. Wet. Stone. Glass. Box.
And something moving in the dark.
“Ianto, sweetheart? Can you hear me? It’s Gwen.”
“I know you’re in there somewhere, Ianto. If you’d just—just respond. Let me know that you can hear me. Please, I haven’t got much time before Jack gets back.”
The body did not move. He was waiting for wind and light and warmth to move the body, because he knew how to move the body in that. This tiny cell was not known. Not safe.
“Go on, Ianto. I know you can hear me. I know you can. Go on, blink for me. Move your head. Anything.”
The body did not move.
No wind. No sun.
The body would wait.
Ianto. Ianto. I’m Ianto.
Let me out.
The body felt pain. The body felt—
Where was the wind?
Let me go.
The body trembled.
The body felt—
Rock rock rock rock rock—how human. Curled like human. Flesh like human. Afraid like human.
He wanted to go home.
Please. Let me go.
—brought it in. And it was empty. Cold. Nothing.
He looked to him Jack and saw the warmth, the light, the presence. Normal. Right. But the thing he Jack was pushing into the box, it was—
Let me g—
And it was nothing. Empty. Evil.
It was too much.
The body screamed. The mouth opened and the ear-splitting, throat-tearing screams ripped out through the air. The limbs pushed the body away—
Scrambled. Curled. Flesh.
He was flesh.
The nothing was put in the box—it was staying, it was as trapped as he was, it would be there forever with its cold and empty and wrong—and he screamed. The body screamed and he screamed and Ianto screamed.
And the screams were not enough, he needed to use the body to make it more, to descend to that base human level to communicate so that it would stop, stop, stop, stop already—and that was when the body turned the scream into a sob. Into words.
“Stop!” he-the-body-Ianto screamed.
The body and Ianto sobbed. Maybe him as well.
“Stop, make it stop—”
“—let me go—”
“—why is there nothing there? Why is it nothing? It’s nothing, it’s so empty and dark and cold, it’s nothing. Make it stop. Make it stop, please make it stop, please, please, please, have mercy, make it stop—”
A scream wrenched from him-the-body-Ianto, and the body gripped its head.
“—make it stop, take me back—”
“—Jack, help me—”
Eyes closed, but he could still feel it.
“Help,” he-the-body-Ianto breathed, so human. “Help, help, help, help, help, help—”
“The only one I want to help is Ianto,” he Jack said, the words driving through him like nails. “Let me speak to Ianto.”
Doesn’t want to help you.
The body closed its eyes.
The body was tired. The body hurt.
“Let me talk to Ianto,” he Jack said again.
The horrible nothing pulsed across the room, cold as ice, and—
Doesn’t want to help you.
He just wanted to go home.
“Ianto,” he Jack said, quiet and insistent. “Ianto, come on, fight it. Come back to me. Fight it. Fight it.”
Not you, not you, not you.
“You didn’t fight,” the body said, sobbing. “You let me have it. You let me.”
Let me go.
“You let me have it! You let me have it!”
Please. Please let me go. Not you, doesn’t want to help you, please let me go please doesn’t want
“Deus meus, Deus meus, dereliquisti me.”
And the body went limp.
Ianto awoke to cold, wet stone scraping his chest, an odd ache in his body as if he’d run a marathon several days ago, and a familiar scent that he immediately (somewhat pathetically) placed as the smell of the Weevil cages in the depths of the Hub.
His eyes cracked open, and he saw a sideways view of the glass wall holding him inside of the cell. His cell. It was all so… familiar.
He flashed on that night he’d spend in this same cell, alone, bleeding—
Ianto would have prayed for it all to have been a dream, except for the two spots of pressure that he felt on his shoulder blades and the light tickling of feathers on his bare back. There was no point in denying that they were there. Not practical. He was always practical, and to deny that his body had been changed and to waste time with emotions and aberrant mental states—that was not practical.
He wondered when—if he’d be allowed out of the cell.
Perhaps he should bother with emotions and denial, if it would prove his humanity.
Ianto considered it, but the idea of falling into hysterics in front of Jack was… distasteful. Jack wouldn’t need hysterics. Jack knew him, and Jack would know that he was himself without some tearful identity crisis.
Knowing that there was no audio on the CCTV, Ianto pushed himself up off the ground and into a cross-legged position. He took a moment to revel in the fact that his back no longer ached and his feet no longer felt strange, made an effort to ignore the dried blood on his hands, arms, feet, face, and oddly enough, the right side of his chest, and looked up to where he knew the camera was hidden in this cell.
Then, he waited.
Jack came down approximately three hours later. He was wearing his coat, but his hair was flat and rumpled instead of its usual impeccably gelled self, and Ianto wondered what that meant.
“Hi,” Ianto said quietly, as Jack approached.
His voice was hoarse. Vaguely, he remembered screaming.
“Hi,” Jack replied, amicable and cautious at the same time.
And Ianto realized that he had no idea what to say.
“I’m… me,” he finally said, a bit blankly. “Just me.”
“Good to hear,” Jack said, hands still stuffed in his pockets, feet still planted on the ground.
“Whatever it was—” Ianto paused. “Jack, it was terrified. Paralyzed, half-mad. Every breath it took with my body, every time it dared to move my muscles, it just wanted to go home. It didn’t understand this world. These—”
He gestured vaguely at the area behind his shoulder.
“—it was only trying to, I don’t know, get closer to its original form, I imagine.”
“And now it’s just gone?” Jack asked, raising an eyebrow.
“It’s been slowly taking over my body for the last two weeks, Jack,” Ianto reminded Jack, rather reasonably. “I think it’s safe to say that I know what its presence feels like, and it’s completely gone.”
“It could come back,” Jack countered. “It could come back, and we have no idea how to stop it from taking you.”
“Do you know what it was?” Ianto asked, straightening a little. “I can check the archives that we haven’t got on the Mainframe yet, it’s—”
“How’s your Latin?” Jack interrupted.
Ianto paused, thrown. “I… imagine that it’s on par with your Welsh, sir. Why?”
“Deus meus, Deus meus, dereliquisti me,” Jack said, and he drew a small, fat book out of his pocket. “Roughly translated, ‘God, my God, you have forsaken me’. Owen, of all people, recognized it. From there, we put together the bleeding hands and feet, the water turning into blood, the speaking in tongues—and we got this.”
Jack reached over and pushed a few buttons on the keypad next to the cell, and the door slid open about three inches. He tossed the book in, and closed the cell.
The gold lettering on the face of the book glints in the dim lighting.
The Holy Bible.
“You want answers?” Jack nodded down to the Bible. “That’s about as close as we’ve gotten.”
The Bible did not hold any answers for Ianto.
Instead, he poked at the tiny quivering ball of him that had hid itself away in the very darkest corners of his mind, always quiet and always trying to make itself smaller, smaller, smaller, until he finally got a response.
He prodded again.
Ianto winced, hand twitching to press itself against his temple, but he resisted at the last moment just in case anyone was watching him over the CCTV.
Didn’t, didn’t let letmeyouletmeyouletme
The childish answer came complete with a small wave of petulance and misery.
Ianto prodded once more, and felt him fold tighter, smaller, lesser, pressing away—and Ianto withdrew, the cell around him coming back into sharp focus. He blinked once, twice, and then sighed and uncrossed his legs, pushing himself up to sit on the rock-bench on the right side of the cell. He took the Bible with him.
Sitting down, he opened to the first page, neatly tore it out, and for lack of anything better to do began folding it into a frog.
Ianto had a frog, two cranes, a boat, a rabbit’s head, a (blank, and therefore utterly useless) fortune teller, a pelican, and several failed attempts at a cat by the time Jack appeared again. He had a tray of food in his hands.
“I like the origami,” Jack said casually.
“Tosh,” Ianto replied.
“I take it you’re done with the Bible, then?”
“Read it,” Ianto said, glancing down at the book he’d been steadily tearing pages out of for the last hour or so. “Thought the writing was dry and inconsistent, and the only characters I could identify with died horrifically in the last chapter. I can’t imagine why it’s so popular.”
Jack was not amused. “Ianto.”
“What was I supposed to get from it?” Ianto asked, raising his eyes to meet Jack’s at last. “That this could have all been avoided had I only accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior?”
Jack looked as if he was fast losing patience with Ianto’s sarcasm, but Ianto didn’t particularly care. Jack wasn’t the one stuck in a cold, uncomfortable cell surrounded by Weevils, now was he?
“There are people who bleed, like you did,” Jack said, after a pause. “Their hands and feet. It’s called stigmata.”
“Do they also change massive amounts of water into blood, and then proceed to grow new appendages out of their back?” Ianto asked, eyebrows raised.
“How much longer are you going to keep me down here?” Ianto asked, unable to help the anger leaking into his voice. “You told me that I wasn’t a prisoner. Tell me—did you mean that, or was that just to ensure my cooperation?”
Jack opened his mouth.
“It’s protocol, of course,” Ianto said, cutting Jack off before he could start. “Personnel who are determined to be compromised must be contained until the cause is determined. If reversal of the effects is impractical, the division leader will directly execute the employee.”
“But you won’t kill me, will you?” Ianto interrupted again. “I know you, and I know that you won’t. You’ll keep me down here, like you do with the Weevils—keep me locked up for years and years in the hope that one day you’ll be able to save me, because you refuse to kill me.”
“Do you want me to kill you?” Jack demanded, slapping a hand to the glass of Ianto’s cell with a crack. “Is that really how you want to die—at the hands of your boss in a cell, in a basement no one knows about, for absolutely no reason?”
That was the word that stuck in Ianto’s mind, piercing and echoing and imprinting itself like a brand.
“I’d rather suffer for the split second it would take for the bullet to tear through my brain,” he said tightly, hands clenched into fists, “than suffer for decades because you like to pass your cowardice off as humanity.”
An ugly look passed over Jack’s face, and his fingers gripped the holes in the glass pane as his eyes bored into Ianto’s.
“I am trying to save you.”
“And I don’t need to be saved. If you’d just believe me—”
“You know I can’t just—”
“I know!” Ianto exploded, jumping to his feet, breathing hard.
He didn’t seem to be aware of the thin trickle of blood running down the side of his temple, but Ianto was. He could feel Jack’s pulse like it was his own, pounding like drums, aching to spurt free from the body. The skin of the hands and feet and side and skull were begging to split open. They ached. They throbbed.
Ianto’s fists clenched and unclenched, using ever last ounce of his control to keep Jack’s skin from tearing open.
“Go away,” Ianto gritted out.
Jack glanced down at the tray of food that was still held in one hand. “I have—”
“I’m not hungry,” Ianto interrupted.
“You haven’t eaten in days,” Jack said, with some semblance of a reasonable tone. “You must be hungry.”
“I’m not,” Ianto said flatly.
“I’ll leave it here anyway,” Jack said, punching the keys that would open the glass pane. “Just in case.”
Ianto silently watched him place the tray on the floor and then scoop up the Bible and all of his origami, not moving a muscle until Jack had closed the door to his cell, gave Ianto an inscrutable look, and finally left him alone.
Jack still hadn’t noticed the tiny trail of blood down his temple.
He hadn’t known how close Ianto had been to killing him.
Hands trembling, Ianto’s eyes skated over the food—roast beef sandwich, banana, pack of biscuits, thermos—
Thermos. Liquid. Calm.
He seized it, took one or two goes at opening it before he managed the screw-top, and gulped down half of it.
Fury surged, hot and racing, funneling down his arm, making his fingers warm and his lungs seize with the sudden release, and he was—
Gasping, ears nearly ringing, Ianto felt like a great weight had been yanked off of him. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, freely, and felt his fist unclench with a sharp twinge as his nails were extracted from the skin of his palm.
Minutes later, it occurred to him that the water bottle had gone... warm.
Unscrewing the cap released a familiar sweet but bitter scent, and a glance inside the bottle revealed that there was now a brown liquid in there instead of water.
A cautious sip confirmed that it was coffee.
Rather excellent coffee, in fact.
Ianto let a small smile grace his lips, and drank more even though he wasn’t thirsty. Inside his head he was laughing like a madman.
He marked time by Weevil feedings. It was usually his job, but now Jack came in on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays with the tub of meat and the Weevil spray.
Sometime between Monday and Wednesday, there came the sound of the door to the vaults opening. Ianto let his attempt at a Welsh translation of I Kissed a Girl fall to the side (he was fairly certain that there was no Welsh translation for ‘chapstick’, anyway) and wondered if this visit was for him—possibly Owen, possibly armed with a tranquilizing gun.
He was not at all expecting to see Gwen appear, alone and with a distinctly shifty look on her face.
“Gwen,” he said, with much less surprise than he felt.
“Ianto,” Gwen said somewhat faintly, her eyes wide as she stared at the space just above Ianto’s shoulders. Then she visibly shook herself, and focused on his face. “Ianto. Sorry. Hi.”
Ianto smirked, ever so slightly. “Hi.”
“It’s just—they look a lot different when you really see them, you know?” Gwen said, eyes flicking between Ianto’s face, and the space above his shoulder.
The smirk left.
“I’m sure I wouldn’t know,” Ianto said, very evenly.
Gwen winced a little. “Sorry. Look, I haven’t got much time—we’ve not been allowed down to see you since the whole speaking-in-tongues thing, and this is the first time I’ve seen Jack sleeping in days—he’s been monitoring you himself pretty much around the clock. I can’t decide if it’s sweet or creepy.”
“Creepy,” Ianto said without hesitation.
“Really?” Gwen asked, looking a little crushed. “You don’t think it’s even a little bit sweet? He’s been so worried about you, Ianto.”
“He’s also holding me prisoner in a cell with absolutely nothing to do, and watching me around the clock for even the slightest sign of insanity. You might as well take ‘sweet’ out back and shoot it in the head.”
Gwen gave him a sympathetic look, and Ianto tried his best to not twitch.
“I’d bring you something to do, but Jack doesn’t want you to have anything not absolutely necessary until we figure out what it was that—did this.”
“I got a Bible for a few days,” Ianto pointed out.
“Jack was sort of hoping you’d—react. Or whatever it is you’ve got inside you would react, anyway.”
“So why are you here, then?” Ianto asked.
“I—” Gwen stopped, and eventually shrugged one shoulder in a helpless gesture.
That was Gwen, letting compassion speed her along too quickly for things like plans and forethought.
“Don’t take this as the sign of insanity that Jack’s looking for,” Ianto said, when the silence had stretched on just long enough to be considered awkward, “but there isn’t a word for chapstick in Welsh, is there?”
Gwen blinked. “No. Suppose you could say gwefus… er, eli gwefus, though, couldn’t you?”
“Eli gwefus,” Ianto repeated, counting syllables in his head. “That works, actually. I should have thought of that.”
“Should I even ask why you’re looking to say chapstick in Welsh?” Gwen asked hesitantly.
Ianto opened his mouth—not to tell her, but to get her some flip comment that would spur the conversation on in another direction—when the sound of the door opening and an unmistakably furious Jack Harkness storming into the vaults made him pause.
Gwen’s head went to the right, fear crossing his face for the briefest of moments, but by the time Jack appeared in front of Ianto’s cell she had assumed her standard defensive posture and had set her face into the absolute picture of stubbornness.
Jack first glanced at Ianto, who was very sedately sitting on the ground, and then turned to face Gwen.
“Upstairs,” Jack said. “Now.”
“I won’t,” Gwen said resolutely.
“Gwen, I’m not joking around,” Jack said tensely, with another quick glance at Ianto. “Go upstairs. We can argue about this all you want, but not here.”
“I am not leaving my teammate down here to rot!” Gwen said hotly. “He’s still human—he’s our Ianto! Your Ianto! He deserves better than this.”
“How long will you keep him down here?” Gwen demanded. “How long is long enough to say that he’s safe? A month? A year?”
Jack reached out with one hand, but Gwen smacked it away and immediately assumed a fighting position. Jack clearly held in a frustrated sigh, and glanced in at Ianto again.
“I’m not leaving him, Jack,” Gwen insisted, eyes shining with sudden tears. “I’m not.”
Jack opened his mouth, but Ianto beat him to it.
“Gwen, it’s all right,” he said.
Gwen turned her head to stare at him with wide eyes. “Ianto, no—”
“It’s protocol,” Ianto explained calmly. “I have to remain in isolation until the threat has been neutralized.”
Behind Gwen, Jack was drawing a white cloth out of his pocket, and taking unnoticed steps closer to Gwen.
“And keep you locked up down here?” Gwen demanded, completely focused on Ianto. “All by yourself, for weeks? Months? What happens if we never figure it out?”
“Believe me,” Ianto said with a thin smile, “this is positively humane compared to what Torchwood One would have done to me. I find—”
Gwen let out a muffled shriek as Jack caught her around the shoulders and pressed the white cloth over her mouth and nose.
She quieted quickly.
Jack hefted her body up into a bridal-style carry, and turned to Ianto to give him a nod of thanks, which Ianto returned almost immediately.
Jack would be watching.
In. Out. In. Out. Breathe.
Ianto shuddered, and something hot and wet pulsed from the center of his palm.
Jack fed the Weevils without so much as a glance at Ianto.
Ianto ate the food, for something to do (a two-in-one deal—he got the thrill of eating it, and surprisingly, the thrill of shitting it out some time later). Several more pop songs were translated into Welsh, and when that got dull he resorted to going over his mental lists, over and over and over until they were no longer lists but long chains of syllables.
More time passed.
Ianto had been conscious for at least nine days when Jack appeared again. It was Saturday or Sunday, one of the two, and Ianto was only half-awake when he heard the sound of the door to the vaults opening, followed by the sound of Jack’s boots on the stone floor.
Jack stopped in front of his cell.
Ianto looked up.
“You were—right,” Jack said quietly. His jaw was set, and he wasn’t looking Ianto in the eye. “We can’t keep you like this.”
“Clearly, you can,” Ianto replied.
Ianto stared at him impassively.
Jack sighed. “It’s not an easy situation, all right? Something possessed you. It changed you, it forced itself into your mind, it incapacitated us with absolutely no effort, and we have no idea what—”
Jack looked at him, face utterly raw.
“I know,” Ianto said tiredly. “I understand.”
“What’s the plan?”
Jack looked away from him, face twisting. “We’re going to put you in the cryo.”
Ianto’s mouth went dry.
“There’s—Ianto, I swear, if there were another way—”
“I know,” Ianto said again, but there was a wobble to his voice this time.
Jack’s fingers flexed in the holes of the glass wall, but he still wouldn’t look at Ianto. The sound of his breathing echoed off the stone walls.
“You’re saying this to test the thing—whatever you think is still inside of me,” Ianto tried, shakily. He sucked in a breath of stale air. “You’re waiting for it to panic and try to take over again, that’s why you’re saying this.”
There was a long, long pause, and Jack continued to not look at him.
Finally, in a hoarse voice, Jack asked, “Is it working?”
“No,” Ianto answered.
Jack turned his face to reveal eyes shining with tears. “Then we’re going to have to freeze you. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Ianto.”
Ianto swallowed painfully, closing his eyes and carefully regulating his breathing. It hurt. God, it hurt.
“I understand,” he whispered, the sob held in with an agony like drowning. “I understand.”
He always did.
On Monday, Jack came in to feed the Weevils. He avoided looking Ianto.
There was the sound of wet meat slapping on stone, a Weevil snarling, and a glass pane slamming shut. A pause. Then footsteps in Ianto’s direction.
Jack appeared, sans coat, chin stuck out in a way the meant he was either uncomfortable or attempting to assert his dominance over some perceived threat. Ianto wasn’t sure if it was either of those, or both, in this case.
“Ianto,” he said amicably.
“Before you freeze me,” Ianto began, refusing to let his throat close up around the words, “I’d like a final meal. A—a Last Supper, if you will.”
“You don’t need to eat,” Jack reminded him.
“A steak,” Ianto continued, ignoring Jack, “with jacket potatoes, steamed broccoli, a blueberry muffin from Kadrowski’s Bakery, and a pint of beer.”
Jack was startled into a laugh, and he lost most of his defensive posture without seeming to realize it. “That’s a tall order there, Ianto Jones.”
“Fine china and actual silver, if you can manage it,” Ianto added. “And a cloth napkin.”
Jack grinned outright.
Ianto gave him a small, quick smile in return.
“Honestly…” Ianto said, after a moment had passed and his amusement had faded, “I just want to taste food one last time before I’m thrown in the deep freeze. Even a curry would do. Just because I don’t need to eat doesn’t meant that I don’t miss it.”
“That’s all you want?” Jack asked, grin losing a fraction of its wattage. “Just some food?”
“And a wash, before you freeze me,” Ianto said, after a moment’s consideration. “It wouldn’t do to make an impression of poor personal hygiene on whoever defrosts me.”
“Of course,” Jack agreed. His grin, now bordering on nostalgic, faded a little more. “Anything else?”
“That’s all,” Ianto said.
“You’re sure?” Jack asked. “Absolutely nothing else that you can think to ask for?”
“Nothing at all?”
“Is there something you’d like me to ask for, Jack?” Ianto asked, knowing perfectly well that there was.
Ianto waited, impassive.
“The opportunity to make us one last pot of coffee?” Jack finally tried.
“I’ll tell you how I make your coffee,” Ianto offered. “It’ll be like I’ve never gone. No need to worry about getting through those first few days of adjustment when you switch back to instant.”
Jack stared at him, plainly hurt, but Ianto wasn’t about to take it back. Not when Jack was chickening out like this.
“Keep the recipe to yourself,” Jack finally said, sounding somewhat hoarse. “It’ll give me something to look forward to when we pull you out.”
“I’ll look forward to it as well, sir,” Ianto replied.
Jack’s face twitched, like he was holding back some great torrent of emotion, but after a tense moment of silence he gave Ianto a muttered goodbye and turned, hurrying toward the exit.
Jack appeared with a steak, jacket potatoes, steamed asparagus, a blueberry muffin, and a bottle of Brains Dark.
Ianto’s heart ached.
“I didn’t cook it myself, don’t worry,” Jack said as he punched the combination to the cell door. “I picked it up from a steakhouse downtown.”
“I appreciate it,” Ianto said quietly.
Jack punched the last key, and the door swung open. He offered Ianto a small, sad smile, and crouched down to set the tray on the ground—
Ianto stabbed him and focused—
And Jack’s right side split open, blood gushing out, his hands, his forehead, his eyes streaming blood.
It was almost as if Jack had been shot.
Jack looked down at himself in astonishment, lips parted. He swayed. His face turned up to stare at Ianto with dim realization, too late, too far gone to do anything about it, and he dropped to his knees with a breathless grunt. The blood pooled around him as his side continued to gush. The slice had to be at least a foot long.
“I’m sorry,” Ianto whispered.
Jack blinked slowly, face awash in confusion and hurt, already too far gone to do much more.
Ianto could feel him slipping away. He could feel the blood leaving Jack’s body through the massive wound in his side, the blood vessels collapsing on themselves with the lack of blood, the lack of pressure, and the heart beginning to stutter.
Truly, he was sorry.
“You know that it has to be like this,” Ianto said quietly, eyes fixed on Jack’s bleeding palm. Jack was slowly, ever-so-slowly curling it into a fist with tiny gurgling noises. “You were hoping I’d do it. But I’m still sorry.”
Jack, unable to keep himself upright any longer, fell backward onto the ground. His heart was nearly stopped.
Ianto carefully made his way over to Jack’s body, sprawled through the opening out of the cell.
“I have to find myself again, Jack,” Ianto explained. He could still see the faintest hint of consciousness in Jack’s face. “I can’t be Torchwood’s, and I can’t be yours. I have to go and find myself.”
Jack was gone.
He bent over and pressed a kiss to Jack’s forehead, then rose to his feet and for the first time in sixteen days stepped out of his cell.
Jack really had been hoping he’d escape.
The Hub was deserted, Ianto’s access codes hadn’t been changed, and nothing was locked down more than it usually was. He was free in a matter of minutes.
Standing just outside the fake tourist office, Ianto stared out at the rolling waters of Mermaid Quay, inhaling the scent of seawater and car exhaust and greasy chips, feeling the wind—
Something in him stirred.
The wind was here. His body knew what to do with wind.
Without further conscious thought, Ianto broke into a run across the plass, hurtling his body toward the end of the concrete and the beginning of the bay as his limbs rejoiced in the ability to move, to breathe, to feel strong and useful again, and they—
—great gray wings, feathered and powerful, they were his wings now—
—unfurled and sank into the updraft like breathing, lifting him up like he was weightless, like he could go on forever, like he was finally being raised up into a place he could call home, and it was glorious.
Ianto Jones was his own. He was free.
Some hundreds of years later, Jack will meet Ianto again, and Ianto will be dressed in a suit carefully tailored to accommodate his wings, barefoot but immaculate. He’ll give Jack a quick smile before taking up an impassive expression.
Jack will yank him into the hardest hug Ianto has ever experienced, to the point of pain, and only after a few moments will Ianto realize that Jack is crying into his shoulder.
“Thank you,” Jack will say in a choked voice, fighting sobs. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
And Ianto will understand.