Losing Ianto by Otrame
Summary: Ianto is desperately ill, but not even Doctor Owen Harper can figure out what is wrong or how to save Ianto. And Jack.
Characters: Gwen Cooper, Ianto Jones, Jack Harkness, Owen Harper, PC Andy Davidson, Rhys Williams, Toshiko Sato
Genres: Action/Adventure, Angst, Drama, Hurt/Comfort, Mystery, Romance, Slash
Chapter 1: "It's happening again."
Chapter 2: Ruling things out
Chapter 3: Flatline
Chapter 4: Counting Blessings
Chapter 5: Perfect Storm
Chapter 6: Another Reason Not to Give Up
Chapter 7: Dreams of death
Chapter 8: You just might find you get what you need
Chapter 9: "It was an accident."
Chapter 10: Machine Translations
Chapter 11: Coed Cefn Pwll-Du
Chapter 12: Choices
Chapter 13: Losing Ianto
Chapter 14: Lights in Darkness
Chapter 15: Epilog
Chapter 1: "It's happening again."
Author's Notes: I know I should be working on other things, but this fic has shape-shifted from another fanfic I wrote years ago and is attacking.
Takes place sometime early in S2, with spoilers to Last Man Standing.
“Owen! It’s happening again.”
Owen startled out of an uneasy sleep and was on his feet before he was even conscious of what he had heard over the intercom. He took a deep breath, another, then with a doctor’s uncanny ability to come almost immediately into focus no matter how exhausted, he touched his Bluetooth headset and said. “Still in your room?”
“Yes. Hurry. It’s worse this time.” Jack’s voice was tense.
Owen swore softly, grabbed the tray of supplies he hadn’t thought he’d need and ran up the stairs into Jack’s office. Even before he got there he could hear the harsh, half-strangled hissing grunts. Jack met him halfway down the ladder into his room, took the tray. Owen dropped to the bottom of the ladder.
Ianto was in Jack’s bed, dressed only in boxers, seizing violently. The bed rattled as wave after wave of muscle spasms shook the young man’s body, arching his back, and throwing his limbs around, seemingly at random. Ianto’s eyes were locked at the top of their range for the most part, showing only the whites below the irises, but occasionally they twitched around, as the ocular muscles contracted without control. His lips were pulled back into a horrible rictus, his teeth clinched together.
Owen crouched by the bed a moment, watching. "When did he take his last pill?"
"About eleven. Just before he went to bed."
Owen looked at his watch and said, “Fuck.”
Jack was on his knees still holding the tray, his face white. “Can’t you stop it?”
Owen began to look over the vials of medications he’d brought. “He’s got enough topiramate on board right now that this shouldn’t be happening. Guess we go back to the oldies.” He filled a syringe carefully. There was no sign that the seizure was lessening. “Hold his arm.” Jack complied and Owen found a vein and quickly injected the drug.
Within another minute, the violence of the convulsions eased. Within three, Ianto was completely relaxed, apparently asleep. Jack was wiping the sweat from his face with a soft cloth.
“I want him in the med lab from now on, Jack,” Owen said.
Jack nodded. He turned haunted eyes to Owen. “What the hell is it?”
“I told you, Jack. I don’t have the foggiest idea yet. I’ve gone over the scans. No sign of physical brain damage, and his EEG looks pretty much normal until he starts to seize. No toxicity that I can find, no sign of alien intervention. He complains of intermittent headache but otherwise seems perfectly normal, except he’s had three major seizures in the past 9 days.”
Above them, Toshiko said, “No, I’m sorry Owen. It’s more like 7 seizures in the last 36 days.
The three of them got Ianto moved onto a gurney in the med lab. Jack sat nearby, holding Ianto’s hand while Owen started an IV drip and then placed a series of electrodes around Ianto’s skull.
“See this,” Owen pointed to a readout on his computer screen. A series of spikes in different wavelengths danced across the screen. “This is more or less a normal EEG for someone heavily sedated with phenobarb.” He shook his head.
Jack said, “How long will he sleep?”
“Roughly 6 hours. Lets go see what Tosh has for us.”
Tosh had a series of CCTV clips waiting, along with a graph to the left. “I got to thinking about what Owen said last week, after the second seizure, about it being worse than the first. I started to wonder if that first one was the first. I’ve gone back through the CCTV files and this is what I found. This is the first one I could find. Thirty-six days ago.”
She started the first clip. Ianto was preparing a coffee in what was clearly Jack’s cup, he stirred the coffee carefully, and stirred and stirred for what seemed like a long time. Then he seemed to startle slightly, and picked the cup up, turning away toward Jack’s office.
Jack said, “That was a seizure?”
But Owen was intent. “You have another angle?” A second clip started, the same scene, but showing more of Ianto’s face.
“I blew it up and enhanced it a little.” The image of Ianto’s face grew larger as the scene began again. They could see his eyelids flutter, opening and closing rapidly in what looked like a random pattern, while his hands continued stirring.
“Shit,” Owen breathed. “More than a month ago?”
“At 9:43 am on the 15th. It looks like it lasted about 5 seconds. Then there was this one.”
Ianto was working at his data station, typing with quick rhythmic movements. He stopped suddenly. Again, he face grew larger and clearer. Again, the fluttering eyelids could be seen. The clip continued until the strange eye movements stopped. Ianto seemed to stare blankly for a moment, then took a breath, shook his head slightly, frowning. His eyes then focused on his monitor screen and he began typing again.
“That was a 3:04 pm on the 22nd. It looks like it lasted about nine seconds.”
Owen glanced over at Jack, and then moved hurriedly to get Gwen’s chair over to him, and told him to sit down.
“The next one was not until the 5th of this month.”
This time there could be no question. Ianto was picking up a litter of take-out boxes from the low table near the couch. As they watched he stopped moving suddenly, then collapsed to the floor between the couch and table. They could not see very well from their vantage, but after what seemed like a long time Ianto got up, obviously shaking, and sat on the couch a moment, head hanging. After three or four minutes he slowly straightened, moving his shoulders as if they were stiff. He looked around, frowning, then picked up the trash bag again. Before he could continue his cleaning, Jack came into view, sitting next to him, putting an arm around his shoulder saying something to Ianto that made him roll his eyes and grin. The clip stopped just as Jack leaned over to kiss him.
Tosh cleared her throat. “That one lasted roughly 30 seconds. It was at 11:10 pm. The next one is the one we all saw on the 11th.” She cleared her throat again, and moved the graph to the center of the display, enlarging it to full screen. “This represents the data we have so far, the dates, the length of seizure, an estimate of severity.”
The graph told a story that no one wanted to hear.
Jack stared at it a moment, then pointed. “A pretty obvious gap there.”
Tosh nodded. “I checked. He would have been at home at the time.”
Reluctantly, Owen said, “So, for more than a month he’s been having seizures that are increasing in severity and duration. The time between them is also decreasing.”
Tosh said, “If I have found all the seizures he has had, and if we assume that he had another on the 29th at home, then we can estimate that the next seizure will be in roughly 60 hours and will be worse in both severity and duration than the one he had tonight.”
There was a long silence, the Jack said, softly, “Oh, gods. Ianto.” He got up without another word and headed for the med lab.
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Chapter 2: Ruling things out
Author's Notes: Owen is at a loss, and calls in some assistance.
Owen sat at the end of the table, looking helplessly at the U.N.I.T. neurologist as the latter stared at the images from the MRI. Doctor Imelda Cruz had not spoken a word in nearly an hour, but now she cleared her throat and said, “Martha said this young man is a friend of yours?” her Castilian Spanish accent was soft.
Owen had to bite down hard on his impulse control to keep from bleating, “More or less, except for the time when he shot me.” Instead he said simply. “Yes.”
“Doctor Harper, if Mr. Jones is suffering from epilepsy, it is a variety I have never heard of. I do not see anything on these films that could explain the symptoms you have described. I did not find anything useful on my physical except for a slight hyper-reactivity of his tendon reflexes. That may be normal for him.”
Owen let out a breath. “It’s not.”
“Ah. I also noted some slight irregularities in his EEG, but I am not sure what significance they have, if any.” She leaned back in her chair and looked straight at Owen. “Your colleague has worked out a periodicity for the seizures?” Owen nodded. “When do you expect the next one?”
“In about 24 hours.”
“You realize, I know, that the single most unusual aspect of this is that predictability, assuming that is, that it is confirmed tomorrow?”
Owen nodded again. “I couldn’t find anything in the literature to come close. That’s why we borrowed you.”
Dr. Cruz said, “I need to ask you a few questions you are not going to like.”
Owen’s lips turned up in a poor semblance of a smile. “Sure. Go ahead.”
“Does Mr. Jones have any enemies that you know of?”
Owen hesitated, then thought, what the hell, she works for U.N.I.T. It’s not like she is used to normal relationships. “As far as I know, the only enemy he has is me.”
Cruz’ eyebrows went up. “I thought you said you were friends.”
Owen felt the weight of his weariness hit him suddenly. He looked down at his hands, laying quietly on the table and said, “We are. Sort of. I’ve worked with him for years. We aren’t close, but he’s part of my team.” He sighed and added, “There was an incident about six months ago that…” He found he couldn’t go on with the straightforward narrative of his insanity with this woman. It wasn’t that she appeared unsympathetic, but he wanted her attention on Ianto, not on him, and since he, himself, could not explain what had happened, how he had become, for a while, a raving lunatic, he could hardly expect her to understand. So he merely concluded. “We had a disagreement. It got ugly. We’ve more or less reconciled, but it is true that we are even less close now than we used to be.”
Dr. Cruz stared at him. Owen was suddenly aware that, though she could stand to lose a few pounds, she was rather attractive and her dark eyes were actually pretty. “Yet it is clear to me that you are very concerned about him.”
Owen looked surprised. “He’s my patient.”
“I see,” she said. “And is Mr. Jones married? Seeing anyone? Does he have an old relationship that might have ended badly?”
Owen again had to clamp control of his tongue. “No, yes, and you have no idea how badly his last relationship ended,” wanted very much to come out. He managed, “This is under patient confidentiality, Doctor?”
Her gaze at him was intense. “Short of preventing mass casualties, yes.”
“Can you leave this out of your report to U.N.I.T.?”
She sat back and studied him even more closely. “I can’t answer that until I now what you are going to tell me.”
Owen said, “Then I think I’d better leave those questions to Ianto to answer, Dr. Cruz. The main point of your questions seems to me to be ‘Could someone he knows be doing this to him?’, right?” She nodded. “Then I would say no. In the first place, I know of no drug that could cause seizures like this. I know that there are various electronic pulse devices that can, but those have been ruled out as well.”
Owen smiled. “Try to use anything like that in our headquarters and every alarm in the place would go off.”
“Tentatively, then we can cross off poisoning and other deliberate actions by his acquaintances?”
“Then I imagine you have come to the same conclusion I have.”
Owen sighed, and rubbed at the corner of his eye. “Alien interference of some kind. A disease, or an attack, or even just an accidental effect. Even though we have no evidence that specifically points that way. It seems the simplest explanation.”
Dr. Cruz nodded. “I called my headquarters a little while ago. They are in the process of dismantling our PET scanner and getting it shipped here. We should be set up in time.”
Owen frowned. “Why not use the one that that have at St. David’s?”
Dr. Cruz smiled, a real and rather warm smile. “This one has the advantages of some, ah, idiosyncratic technology, Dr. Harper. It may tell us something useful.”
Back to index
Chapter 3: FlatlineHe is wrapped tightly in a membrane like a stretchable rubber sheet. Thick, but yielding, he can move within it, push a hand along it and feel it bulge. At first he is calm and accepting, but gradually he realizes that he cannot breath within this space. He starts to fight his way out of the membrane, but no matter what he does the membrane just stretches and does not tear. He is getting frantic. Cannot breath, cannot think. World going dark. Dying.
Owen heard the scream while talking quietly with one of the U.N.I.T. technicians working on the combined PET and functional MRI equipment being set up in one of the storerooms next to the med lab. He went up the steps two at a time, and arrived to find Ianto sitting up on the gurney, panting, eyes wide with terror, hands reaching.
Owen touched the dimmer switch to turn up the lights a little and said, “Hey, mate, what’s all this, then?”
Ianto did not appear to have heard him at first. He whimpered softly and began wiping is face, as if trying to get spider webs off.
“Ianto.” The Welshman finally looked at him, blinking. “Nightmare?”
Ianto looked around in apparent puzzlement. Then he seemed to remember where he was. He shuddered a little and lay back down, pulling the cotton blanket over his shoulder.
Owen came over and touched his shoulder. “Bad one?”
“I couldn’t breath. I was wrapped up in something and I couldn’t breath.” He shuddered again, closed his eyes. “Where is Jack?” he murmured.
“He and Gwen went out to check on a Rift activity spike. Tosh says it’s probably an inanimate object. They should be back soon. Do you need anything?”
“How much longer?”
“Don’t really know, Ianto. Probably at least another 6 or 8 hours. The U.N.I.T. techs are going to be in here in a few minutes to fit you up for your fancy EEG hat. Not very stylish, I’m afraid, but we’ll get a much better image of what’s going on inside that thick Welsh skull of yours than I can get with the equipment I have here.”
Ianto was silent for a moment and Owen started to turn away, but stopped when he heard Ianto say quietly, “I’m going to die, Owen.”
Ianto’s tone carried certainty, sadness, and perhaps a little fear. Owen felt a flare of anger, but managed to suppress it.
“Oi, I like that. No faith in me at all?” He saw Ianto’s eyes open and focus on him. “Listen, Ianto,” he added more seriously. “I know it’s scary. Not knowing what the hell is going on inside your own body, your own brain. But I will find out, and I will stop it.” Ianto’s expression didn’t change. “If for no other reason than I do not need Jack Bloody Harkness haunting me the rest of my life.” He saw Ianto’s lips twitch slightly at that, and decided to pull off the gloves. He leaned down grabbed one of Ianto’s wrists and said in a low cold voice, “It will destroy him if you die now. Don’t you know that? And he’s my Captain, Ianto. I will not let you do that to him. So you are going to fight this. Understand? You are going to keep fighting no matter what. We are both are going to keep fighting. For Jack, Ianto. Do it for Jack.” His voice cracked on the last sentence and he stopped, breathing deeply and trying to regain control.
He saw tears come to Ianto’s eyes. “I don’t want to leave him, Owen.”
“Then don’t,” Owen said harshly, and turned away.
Ianto lay on a different gurney now, one made entirely of plastic, in a room full of very large equipment, and at least ten strangers. Some of them were grouped in a corner where a shielded room had been constructed and numerous computer monitors could be seen. Some were still reading sheets of paper from test runs. One guy was murmuring, “I wonder how the Boss would feel if he found out how easily they supplied the power for this beast.”
“How’s the headache?” Owen asked.
Ianto said, “It’s not so bad now.”
Owen patted his shoulder, “Good.”
Ianto rolled his eyes up to his brow, where he could just see the edge of the mesh cap that held several hundred leads running from electrodes inside the cap to a piece of equipment near the gurney. “Are you learning anything from this?”
“Actually, we are, but we aren’t sure what it means yet. Just hang in there Ianto. We are going to work this out.”
“The headache will be getting worse again soon, though, won’t it?”
“If it follows the pattern of the last four or five hours, yeah.” He held up a syringe, “But this time we’re going to sedate you a little and put you in the PET scanner and see what we see. Just let me know when it starts getting worse.”
“I thought you were going to put me in there when the seizure started.”
“That too.” Owen looked up and saw Jack coming down the stairs. His boss looked worried as he looked over the room. He wondered again at Jack’s insistence that all these people and all this machinery be brought here, instead of bringing Ianto to London. As security breaches went, this one was fairly spectacular. He told Ianto quietly, “You better plan on getting better pretty quick. You’ve got a lot of retcon doses to calculate here.”
Ianto smiled a little grimly, looking around the room. Then his gaze locked on Jack. “Did you make him rest?”
“I tried. He kept telling me he didn’t need sleep.”
“He doesn’t need much,” Ianto said, his eyes concerned. Then he winced. He put a hand up toward his head, then remembered the order not to touch the cap on his head.
Owen, who had been watching the readout from the EEG put a hand on his shoulder. “Starting to get worse?”
“Yes,” Ianto breathed, closing his eyes.
“Jack.” Owen called. Jack turned from talking with Dr. Cruz, saw Owen’s expression and hurried over. “Going to need a little hand-holding again,” Owen said quietly.
Jack came over, leaned down and brushed his lips across Ianto’s cheek. “How are we doing, dawem?”
Ianto’s eyes fluttered open, saw Jack. He tried to smile but it looked forced over the expression of pain that was building. He reached up and pulled Jack down for a kiss.
Owen became aware that the low murmur of conversation was getting louder. He heard a male voice say, “Oh, for Christ’s sake,” in a fairly unfriendly tone.
Then he heard, Ianto whimper, “It hurts, Jack.”
Owen moved to middle of the room. “Everyone, your attention, please.” When everyone had quieted a little, he went on, “I want everyone who is not required to be in this room out, now, please. The room next door has chairs, where you can wait. And everyone who needs to be here, lets keep as quiet as possible, please.” As if to remind them why they were here, Ianto cried out helplessly in pain.
Most of the people in the room began to move into the room next door. Tosh was standing there, “There’s coffee, sodas, and some snacks, folks. We’ll order out for pizza in a little while.”
Owen had returned to Ianto and injected him with morphine. As Ianto gasping quieted a little, he watched the EEG. Definitely something strange there, but he couldn’t put his finger on exactly what he was seeing.
Dr. Cruz said, “We injected the dye a little more than one hour ago. Let’s get him into the PET scanner. Captain Harkness, you should leave with the others.”
Owen, without intending to, snorted. Jack looked at the neurologist and said, “No.”
Cruz looked at Owen, as if expecting to get backup there. Owen said, “He can stay Doctor.”
Cruz frowned, but bent over to remove the cap of electrodes from Ianto’s head. Ianto’s eyes rolled, his pupils tiny, making the blue of his irises more intense. He stared up at Jack, murmuring, something incoherently.
Owen leaned over him and said. “Okay Ianto we are going to put you in the scanner. We’ll be putting in these little pillow things around you to help you hold still. This won’t take long.” He and Dr. Cruz as well as two technicians, moved quickly, moving Ianto into a prone position and placing foam shapes around him. His head they strapped into another foam shape. When he finished this, Owen wiped a tear that was leaking from Ianto’s eye with his thumb and leaned over to tell him, softly, “I know it’s bad, mate. I’m sorry. Just hang on. Try not to move.”
“I’ll be right here, Yan.” Jack said, slowly pulling his hand out of Ianto’s frantic grasp.
The gurney slid into the machine. Owen heard a soft whimper from Ianto and turned to look at Jack, who stood in the middle of the room looking impossibly alone.
“In here with us, Jack.” Jack followed the others into the shielded room in the corner. One of the monitors showed a close up of Ianto’s face. He was biting his lower lip and looked as if he might be crying softly.
Owen pushed the intercom button. “Okay, Ianto, we are going to start this now. Just lay as still as you can. As soon as we are through I’ll give you more morphine, okay?”
They barely heard Ianto mutter, “Okay.”
The technician made a final adjustment and told the computer to start the test.
Ianto screamed. The whole room echoed with sound. Ianto drew another breath and screamed again.
Jack said, “What the hell?”
Dr. Cruz was staring at the monitor in shock.
Owen hit the intercom button. “Take it easy, Ianto. Tell me what--“
Ianto was moving now, frantically, helplessly, held in place by the cushions, still screaming, “Stop! Stop! You’re killing…Jack make them stop, make them–“
As suddenly as the screaming began, it stopped. Ianto’s face in the monitor seemed to freeze, expression still one of agony, eyes wide with fear.
Owen yelled, “Shut it down. Now!”
Cruz said, “But Dr. Harper…”
“Now, goddammit! He’s not breathing!”
One of the technicians hit the emergency switch. Owen, who had prevented Jack from leaving the sheltered area until he saw this, rushed to Ianto, unlocked and pulled the gurney out. He checked for a pulse and got none.
“Red cart over there by the wall, Jack. Hurry.” He vaulted up onto the gurney, straddling Ianto’s hips. He began cardiac massage while one of the techs pulled foam pads out of the way, pulled Ianto’s head free. Jack arrived with the red chart and the technician opened the top drawer and pulled out an ampu bag, placing it on Ianto’s mouth and nose and squeezing the bag to inflate his lungs.
Dr. Cruz was placing electrodes from the cart on Ianto’s chest. She told Owen, “Hold a minute.”
They both looked at the monitor. None of the lines indicating electrical activity in Ianto’s heart were moving, the indicator moved across each in a flat line. Owen growled, “Son of a bitch.” He continued chest compressions.
Dr. Cruz said, “I’m a little out of practice on this, how much for the first?”
Owen said, “Four hundred.”
Owen jumped down from the gurney and took the paddles Dr. Cruz offered. “Okay everyone get clear. Jack!” Jack looked up at him, his expression blank, his eyes so widely dilated they looked black. He was holding one of Ianto’s hands. “Let him go Jack. Step away, or this won’t work.”
Jack did as he was told. Owen placed the paddles carefully and pushed the button. Ianto’s body arched upward a little, then collapsed back onto the mattress. The technician immediately replaced the ampu bag. Everyone stared at the EKG.
And the indicators began to move. The beats were irregular at first, but within a minute the rhythm had settled into a regular pattern. Owen attached an oxygen bottle to the ampu bag and was rewarded shortly with the sight of a little color returning to Ianto’s skin. He watched the EKG a little longer, got a stethoscope and began listing to Ianto’s chest. Then he asked, “Is he showing any attempt breath on his own?”
“Let’s see what the EEG shows,” said Dr. Cruz.
Owen nodded. Working around the tech who was bagging Ianto was difficult, but eventually they got the system back in place.
When the monitor was turned on, Owen stared at it in dismay. Dr. Cruz said softly, “Except for moderate activity in the brainstem and cerebellum…” She hesitated and looked at Owen and then Jack. “There is virtually no activity in the cerebrum and cortex.” She put a hand on Owen’s arm. “I’m sorry.”
Back to index
Chapter 4: Counting Blessings
Author's Notes: This one is a bit of a roller coaster. Hang on.
Jack looked from Owen to Dr. Cruz. Owen could see the calm façade he’d maintained throughout the past two and a half days start to crack. He whispered , “No.”
Dr. Cruz murmured, “We need to get him intubated. I better see about getting a respirator set up.” She walked away to the room where the others waited.
Owen faced Jack now, feeling a pain he couldn’t even name. “I don’t know what to do, Jack. Most people with that level of brain function are considered brain dead.”
Jack blinked at him, looked down at Ianto. Owen saw tiny muscles around his mouth begin to twitch. He whispered, “No,” once more. Then suddenly his mouth hardened. He leaned over the gurney, scowled at the rail, struggled to get it down. Then he gently pushed the technician who had been bagging Ianto away, took Ianto into arms and looked at him.
Ianto’s face was pale, with his skin almost translucent, the hairs of his dark beard, representing two days without shaving, looked almost artificial, as if they had been added as an afterthought. His eyes were half closed, one slightly more open than the other, showing only the lowest edge of his irises. His mouth and nose had the marks of the ampu bag around them. His lips were becoming more blue as he looked.
Owen took his shoulder. “Jack, you have to let us bag him.”
Instead of answering, Jack leaned down and covered Ianto’s mouth with his. Owen took his hand away from Jack and took a step back. He could not have said why, but he was suddenly afraid. Something was happening. Something…
He remembered suddenly. Last year, the alien inhabiting the body of a young woman, slowly destroying that body. Jack had kissed her the way he was kissing Ianto now, and the girl’s body had literally glowed.
Ianto’s body did not glow. Jack released Ianto’s mouth with a gasp, nuzzled along Ianto’s cheek with his lips while saying softly, “Utom doj, asham. Dor fwa b’get. Then his mouth dropped down on Ianto’s again.
The technician said, “Dr. Harper, I’ve got to restart ventilation. Look at his heart rate.”
Owen was already aware that Ianto’s heart rate was dropping. He kept his eyes on Jack.
“What the hell is he doing?”
Owen saw Cruz was back, with several of her technicians. Cursing her timing, Owen touched his Bluetooth set. “Gwen we need some intensive crowd control down here right now.” He told Cruz, “Jack knows what he is doing, Doctor,” while profoundly hoping that Jack did. He tried getting between Jack and the others. “Listen to me.”
Cruz said, “You must be out of your minds. We have to ventilate him. Now!”
Jack gasped again, resting his forehead against Ianto’s. Panting he said, “Almost, baby. Don’t quit now.” His voice sounded weak and somewhat shrill to Owen.
Dr. Cruz tried to move around Owen, and as he switched position to face her, two of her technicians reached Jack. One grabbed Jack by the shoulders, trying to pull him away, muttering, “Get off him, you fucking queer”. The other grabbed at Ianto’s arm and pulled.
Owen grabbed one of the techs, yelling, “Let him go!”
Gwen’s voice rang out, “Alright, stop it. Stop it now!” There was a tone of authority in her voice, one that Owen knew had been carefully crafted. Everyone in the room except Jack turned to look at her. She was standing on the second step that led up to the med lab, her gun pointed at the ceiling, but very much there.
Cruz said, “Ms. Cooper, we have to ventilate this man or he will die. Captain Harkness is interfering with that.”
Gwen’s eyes went to Jack, who was once more pressing his lips against Ianto’s. Her eyes widened. She looked at Owen.
Owen said, “Get them all out of here, Gwen. It’s just a misunderstanding but we do not have time to explain.”
Gwen said, “Dr. Cruz and all your people please return to the other room.”
“He’s dying, don’t you understand?”
“Now, doctor,” Gwen said, lowering her weapon to point at Cruz.
Toshiko, in the doorway, with her own gun out, said, “This way please. Now.”
Cruz shouted, “Bloody fucking Torchwood!” as she stalked across the room. The other technicians went with her.
Owen checked the EKG. Ianto’s bradycardia was becoming really serious; his heart rate had dropped below 40 now. Owen prayed to whatever beings might be interested, Please, let me have made the right call.
As he thought this he saw the lines on the EKG go flat and Ianto’s body seemed to arch in a convulsion. And Jack suddenly went down like he’d been shot in the head.
Owen shouted, “Fuck!” with complete sincerity and just managed to keep Ianto’s body from being pulled down onto the floor with Jack. As he got Ianto back onto the gurney, he realized two things at once. The EKG was showing the spikes of a sinus rhythm and Ianto was making a strangled noise, as if he were trying to breath. Owen hurriedly got the oxygen mask on him and told him “Deep breaths, Ianto. Deep breaths,” though he was pretty sure that Ianto could not hear him. His young patient coughed spasmodically, and continued breathing in short sharp gasps.
Almost afraid to hope, Owen looked at the EEG monitor. Though he could not call what he saw there normal, there was no question that electrical activity now traced throughout his brain.
By the time Jack had regained consciousness so had Ianto. Owen could see them through the door of the storeroom. They had moved Ianto back to the Med Lab, and now Owen could see the two dark heads together. He turned to Dr. Cruz, “Of course, the results show that we were right. No hard feelings, Doctor. You would have been absolutely right except for one fact that you did not know.”
“And just what was that one fact?” said Cruz, her eyes making it clear that Owen’s apology, to the extent that it was an apology, was not being accepted.
Her question was a perfectly good one, and the answer, Fuck if I know, was on his lips, but he just smiled enigmatically and shook his head.
Crux’ lips thinned even further. “So now you just want us to pack up and get out. No explanations, so attempt to find out what happened to Mr. Jones during the test, just ‘Go.’”
“Yes, Doctor. How long will it take for your people to have the machines back in the crates?”
“Three or four hours.”
“Fine. We ask that you remain in these two rooms while that is being done. We’ll be happy to provide a meal for you all as soon as you are finished, so you don’t have to make the trip back to London hungry.”
Dr. Cruz snorted angrily and walked away. Owen went up the stairs into the med lab, passing Gwen at her station on the stairs where she would be keeping an eye on things. Owen closed the door quietly, and looked at his patient. Ianto still wore the EEG cap, and though Owen had not said so yet, that piece of equipment was not going back to U.N.I.T. right away.
Jack was leaning over the gurney, one hand running along the line of Ianto’s jaw. He still looked even more like death warmed over than Ianto did, and apparently Ianto agreed, as Owen saw him reach up to caress Jack’s face and say, “You look so tired.”
Jack took Ianto’s hand and brought it to his lips for a kiss. “I’m fine. I just need to spend some time in my Happy Place.”
Ianto smiled uncertainly at him. “And where exactly is your ‘Happy Place’?”
Owen could see Jack’s face, and its expression made him feel empty inside. He swallowed. Jack said in a low, rather husky voice, “Deep, deep inside you, Ianto.”
Owen saw Ianto gasp, exclaim, “Jack!” and pull Jack’s face down for a fevered kiss. Owen stood there, embarrassed, and to be frank, not a little envious. He’d had this kind of passionate love affair only twice in his life. Only two women had been able to break through the aggressive defenses Owen had built around his heart. One was dead now and the other…gone.
When it looked like the kiss was winding down, he deliberately made a little noise crossing the room and said, “Harkness, will you please stop snogging my patient long enough for me to check him out?”
Jack looked up at him and grinned. “I think his blood pressure may be a little elevated.”
Owen grunted, “No doubt. Ianto, think you can sit up for me? Among other things I want to bonk your knees with my little rubber hammer. Only joy I get in life.”
Ianto sat up, with Jack’s help, the leads from the EEG trailing back over the mattress to the machine at the head of the gurney. Ianto said with considerable distaste, “This thing looks ridiculous.”
Owen looked him in the eye and said, “Yes. Yes, it does. But I’d like to remind you that an hour and a half ago you were technically brain dead and you didn’t care what it looked like.” He leaned over began testing Ianto’s reflexes at knee and ankle of his left leg.
Jack, not pleased, said, “Owen…”
Owen switched to the right leg, noting that the hyper-reactivity that Dr. Cruz had mentioned was still present. He looked up at Jack’s scowl. “I just think a little counting of blessings is appropriate here.”
He felt a hand on his shoulder and looked at Ianto small smile. “You’re right.”
Owen grunted again and picked up the blood pressure cuff from the tray behind him. He took Ianto’s left arm and started to wrap the cuff around it, but suddenly Ianto’s arm shot up, slapping Owen hard under the jaw and knocking him back two steps. He heard Jack yell, “Ianto!”
Owen shook his head to clear it, saw that Ianto’s back had curved so violently backward that he had thrown himself off the gurney, while Jack had been hard pressed to keep his head from hitting the concrete floor. Both were on the ground now. Ianto’s muscles were throwing him around. A strangled gurgle came from him. Owen shoved the gurney out of the way and knelt near the two men.
Jack was trying to hold Ianto, and he kept saying, “No. Ianto. No. Stop. You have to stop.”
Owen shook Jack’s shoulders and yelled, “Let him go, Jack, you’re just going to hurt him. Let him go.”
He tried to loosen Jack’s grip on Ianto’s arms and was rewarded with an elbow in the gut and a completely feral growl. Groaning, Owen got back to his knees and clipped Jack hard under the chin. Jack’s head flew back, his arms dropped to his sides a moment. In that moment Owen leapt forward, wrapped arms and legs around Jack, throwing them both to the floor.
Jack began to struggle immediately, but Owen, with his lips at Jack’s ear said, “Listen to me, Jack. Listen to me. You can’t help him right now. He has to just ride this out. There is nothing you can do. If you try to help him you will just hurt him. Please, Jack. I’ll do everything I can for him. I promise you, Jack. He’s my patient. I’ll take care of him.”
Jack went limp in his arms and began to cry. Owen, who was crying a little himself, straightened and looked at Ianto. The convulsions were bad. At times, Ianto’s back curved so much that his head was nearly at his feet.
“Can’t you give him a shot, like last time?” Jack’s voice was a plaintive wail of distress.
Owen shook his head, “He’s still got all that morphine on board. I can’t risk any phenobarb. We just have to wait.”
Jack sat with his knees drawn up, his arms wrapped around his knees, staring at Ianto and saying, “Please stop, Yan. I can’t stand it. Please, Yan. Please stop,” over and over, tears streaming down his face.
Owen looked at his watch. It was now 59 hours and twenty minutes since Ianto’s last seizure.
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Chapter 5: Perfect Storm
Author's Notes: They start putting together part of the answer.
Fifty-two hours and ten minutes later Owen watched Ianto as every muscle in his body twitched and fluttered. He’d had Ianto heavily sedated for the past ten hours, since the headache first appeared. When the seizure started he’d added a carefully calculated dose of phenobarb and the results had been reasonably satisfactory. He was seizing, but the convulsions were relatively minor.
They were back in the storeroom below the med lab, but it had been transformed into something that looked vaguely like a hospital room. The PET scanner and associated equipment had been removed. The personnel associated with the PET scanner had been successfully retconned. Owen had spent the interval between Ianto’s seizures making sure he had the equipment he might need and had gotten an actual hospital bed in to replace the gurney that he had been using. The advanced EEG was still in place, and he watched it now as the electrical storm raged over Ianto’s brain.
Jack was not there. There had been an upsurge in Rift activity and with only three field agents available, they had been hard pressed to handle it all. Ianto had insisted that he did not need Owen to be there, not until it got close to time for the next one. Jack had simply ignored this suggestion.
Owen was pretty sure he must have gotten some sleep at some time in the interval, but could not remember exactly when. He looked at his patient. The skin of Ianto’s face and chest was flushed, and sweat poured off of him. Owen reached up to the saline drip that ran to Ianto’s left arm and turned the rate up a little. Then he checked the Foley to make sure it had not been dislodged during the initial part of the seizure. He looked at his watch, saw that the seizure had been going on for almost 3 minutes. He glanced at the monitor and saw that the O2 saturation was starting to drop. He turned on the oxygen and placed the nasal cannula on Ianto, noting at the same time that the EEG was showing a reduction in the severity of the seizure.
He realized with a sort of smile that as Ianto’s body began to relax, so did his own. It was the other members of the Torchwood that confirmed this an hour later, when they found Ianto sound asleep and Owen equally so, with his head resting on his arms where they were propped up on Ianto’s bed.
He floated in warm seawater, swimming with ease through towering forests of kelp, weaving between them. Each plant extended so far down into the dark water that he could not see the seafloor and extended high above him to where the sunlight shimmered and blazed as each wave caressed the plant life around him. For a while it seemed a perfect place, floating weightless with no thoughts, filled with the sensual delights of the water currents tugging gently at him as each wave passed above, of moving his body effortlessly. But after awhile he realized he needed to take a breath, so he began to swim up toward the surface. Swimming now became more difficult, his arms and legs were weary, the surface seemed no closer, his need for air was becoming desperate. He struggled. Suddenly he realized that a strand of kelp was wrapped around one ankle, holding him down. As his panic expanded, more strands of kelp held him. He could see the surface, not far above him now, but with a final scream of anguish, he knew he would not reach it. The darkness closed in around him; the kelp seemed to pull him deeper into the sea, into the cold, dark waters where he would never see the sunlight again.
Toshiko cleared her throat a little nervously and said, “I think Owen and I have worked out at least part of what–“ Her voice faded.
The others followed her gaze to the door. For each of them, there was a moment of enormous familiarity edged with despair sharp enough to cut painfully. Ianto was coming in the door, dressed in one of his best suits, caring a tray with mugs on it. It had happened several times a day for years. Ianto’s demeanor was just like always. Only his pallor and the fact that he had lost a visible amount of weight made this moment any different than those hundreds of other times. Yet for each of the others in the room it was an agonizing reminder that they were here fighting an invisible enemy for Ianto’s life. And they were losing.
When Ianto brought Tosh her mug of tea, she thanked him, put it on the table and wrapped her arms around his neck. Ianto looked a little startled, but after a moment he put his arms around her and hugged her tightly. She let go of him eventually, and he gave her a smile that seemed to her to be the sweetest smile she had ever seen. She swallowed the lump in her throat and patted his shoulder.
Ianto went to his chair and sat down. Tosh took a sip of her tea and turned back to her laptop. She brought up her first image onto the big screen. It was one of the images from the many hours of EEG readings that had been recorded during the last week.
“When we got the better EEG in here we could at least tell where the trouble seemed to be located.” She changed the image to the 3-D rendering of the EEG readings. They watched as colors moved over the image of a brain. Tosh used her controls to make most of the representation of the brain structures transparent so that it was possible to see what was going on below the surface. Then she turned the whole image slightly so they could see bottom of the cerebrum more clearly. “When Ianto has those headaches we see this.” A pale pinkish to purple light played across both hemispheres at the bottom of the cerebrum, starting near the center, and moving outward in waves. It looked for all the world like the pale light from interior lightning showing along the bottom of a dense cloud. “As each of those waves reach their peak, Ianto complained of an intensification of his headache. And this is how a seizure starts.”
They could see it easily, starting slightly forward of the middle of the brain, expanding out in increasing intensity, represented by a jarring red-orange color.
Owen said, “Like the electrical changes that are associated with the headaches, the seizures start at the midline of the corpus callosum and expand from there until almost the entire cerebrum and cortex are involved.” He glanced over at Ianto and saw that Jack had taken his hand and was holding it in both of his. Ianto was watching the video screen with very little expression. Owen had discussed this with him earlier, but he knew that talking about it was one thing and seeing it another. “Once we saw that we went looking for brain damage at that site, the rostrum of the corpus callosum.” He shrugged. “There is no evidence of any scars, or anything that would explain the seizures.”
Tosh added, “And even if there were, it would not explain the periodicity that is such an unusual feature.” She glanced nervously at Owen, who nodded his head. She cleared her throat again and went on, “From the beginning, there was something that nagged at me about these EEG readings.” She brought up an image of a standard EEG readout, with its lines of light squiggling across the screen. “I kept thinking they looked familiar, even though they weren’t. Owen and I talked a lot about the various frequencies and what all the squiggles were telling him about activity in Ianto’s brain, but I couldn’t get rid of that déjà vu feeling. Then it dawned on me. It reminded me of what you see when you have several sine waves of differing frequencies operating at the same time. Sometimes they enhance each other, sometimes they counteract each other. There is a sort of pattern to it that thought I saw in the EEG readings. So I ran them through a separating algorithm to see if there really were two wave forms interacting.” She touched her controls again. One of the lines of squiggles enlarged and seemed to move out in front of the others. “What I found is there in most of the frequencies we normally monitor, but it was most obvious here. This is during a time when Ianto is feeling more or less normal, with no headache.” The image seemed almost the same, though occasionally there seemed flashes of a blue line separated slightly from the white line. “There was very little evidence of anything really strange here, though at times the algorithm separated out a separate line for a second or so.” She smiled and said, “I would have considered that to be a false positive, just an artifact of the analytic method, except–“ She touched her controls again. “This is during a period when Ianto was suffering from a bad headache.”
A blue line, superficially similar, but usually not quite the same, as the white line was clearly visible. Both squiggled along, together.
“And this,” Tosh said, “is what happens during a seizure.” At first, it looked like the blue line was trying to pull away from the white line, going well above or well below it, while the white line seemed to continue on looking much as it had. But as time went on the blue line became more erratic, and that seemed to affect the white line, which also began the wild, seemingly random swings of a seizing brain. Once this happened the blue line seemed to settle, and became much less variable. It squiggled along in the center with no wild changes, while the white line jagged up and down, representing the violent waves of electrical impulses that had been shattering Ianto’s life. When the sequence was over, Tosh stopped it and sat quietly.
There was a long silence. Finally, Jack said, “And what do you think that means? What is causing that?”
Tosh hesitated, looking at Owen, then said, “I’m not positive. I could b wrong.”
“What do you think it is, Tosh?” Jack said, a little more firmly.
She sighed. “I think there is another mind in Ianto’s brain. Most of the time it is quiescent, but occasionally it begins to operate, using the same electrical system that Ianto’s normal brain functions use and when it does that it causes that storm of activity you can see. It causes the seizures. If I’m right, it is becoming more and more active and that is why he is having more and more seizures.”
There was another silence. “It must be an alien mind,” Gwen said at last.”
“Obviously,” Owen replied a little more harshly than he’s intended.
Gwen glared at him. “So what do we do? How do we get it out?”
Owen looked down at the table. It was Tosh that answered her. “I haven’t the slightest idea.”
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Chapter 6: Another Reason Not to Give Up
Author's Notes: A quiet moment before Hell really does get loose.
WARNING: Gratuitous Shakespeare quoting.
Owen stood at the top of the short staircase that led down from autopsy into Ianto’s hospital room. He’d given up trying to pretend to himself that he wasn’t eavesdropping. He was being forced by circumstances into much closer contact with both Jack and Ianto–or rather with JackandIanto–than he had ever wanted to be. He’d always, for reasons he would not have been able to define if challenged, rejected the notion that the affair between these two men was– Well, real. Real, the way a love affair between a man and a woman could be real.
It was not that he had anything against gay men. He honestly did not. He’d had an occasional dabble into that sort of thing himself in threesomes, though to him, sex was always finally going to be about women. But he’d just never been willing to consider that what Jack and Ianto had was as serious, as important, as what, for instance, he and Katy had had. Now, forced into close contact by his need to monitor Ianto, and drawn to them by a fascination he did not want to admit, he was beginning to realize that what they had, in the face of the looming tragedy, was something every bit as important and worthy of saving as the one truly wonderful love that had taken place in his own life.
Though his cynicism always remarked sourly that they would probably have been long divorced by now, he did not really believe that. Katy had loved him. Not the façade built up to protect first from his mother and then from the rest of the world, not the guy he was trying to be when he was with her. She’d loved him. She had let him be him.
Her death had destroyed him. He believed that in a very real way, he had died with her. He was not the man he would have been if she had lived. Nothing like that man.
But Jack had made it possible to be something, some kind of man, if a thoroughly fucked up one. Jack had made it possible to be. He owed Jack his life in about 6 different directions. Hell, in some ways he owed Jack his soul. Even though he fought him every step of the way. Even though he sometimes thought he really would be better off dead. Even though sometimes he hated him.
So, even if Ianto had not been his patient, a relationship that cynical Doctor Owen Harper considered as near sacred as anything was, he knew he would do anything to spare Jack what Owen himself had gone through. He owed Jack. He loved Jack. He would not let this happen to Jack.
Except he did not know what to do. He’d been able to find a combination of drugs and electronic pulses that seemed to suppress the headaches to a large degree while still leaving Ianto conscious. But the seizures continued inexorably, the space between them getting shorter, the brutality of them getting worse. Ianto’s body was failing under the onslaught. Inevitably, he would die, if Owen could not find a way to get whatever it was living in Ianto’s brain out. Nothing was working. Nothing he and Tosh had come up with had shown the slightest evidence that they were on the right track to a solution. And Ianto was getting weaker and weaker.
He listened now to the ridiculous conversation they were having, trying to warm himself on the fire that blazed between them, finding with every word overheard, another reason not to give up.
Jack was declaiming in a slightly dramatic tone, though he sounded perfectly serious.
“ 'O know, sweet love, I always write of you,
And you and love are still my argument;
So all my best is dressing old words new,
Spending again what is already spent;
For as the sun is daily new and old,
So is my love still telling what is told.' ”
Owen heard Ianto chuckle.
“Hey, don’t laugh at me,” Jack said plaintively.
“I’m not, cariad. Well, maybe just a little.”
“Every single one of the gods know I have tried to come up with completely new ways to tell you how important you are to me. But he was right. It’s all “dressing old words new”.
“Oh, Jack, all I want or need is the old words. They are good enough. Just tell me.”
“I love you, Ianto.” Jack’s voice had gotten husky. Even here, Owen could hear Jack sigh. “It’s too easy to say, so it doesn’t seem like enough.”
Owen could only just make out Ianto’s whispered reply, “It’s enough.”
There was a long silence. Owen sighed. He was going to have to interrupt soon. It was nearly time for another injection of the cocktail that was keeping the headaches at bay. And within another 5 or six hours another seizure was due.
“So you still haven’t told me what you were laughing at,” Jack said suddenly.
“Oh, it’s just…”
“Well, it seems to me that you would be better with the ones where he is just plain bullshitting–“
Ianto laughed, but continued, “ ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more fair and temperate.’ Always sounded like fluff to me, written just to pay the bills or maybe just to dilute how he really felt.”
Jack’s voice had gone quiet and rather serious. “And what did he really feel?”
There was a pause, then Ianto said slowly, “Black despair.”
After another pause, Jack quoted, “ ‘For thee, against myself I'll vow debate, For I must ne'er love him whom thou dost hate.’ ”
“Yes. Or worse: ‘When my love swears that she is made of truth, I do believe her, though I know she lies.’ ”
Owen decided that he’d better break that up. “Oi,” he shouted. “Knock it off, before the Bard comes charging out of the Rift and strangles both of you.” Their laughter made him smile. He was getting the collection of drugs for Ianto from the cabinet when Gwen came down the stairs.
“Jack with Ianto?”
Owen rolled his eyes, “Where else?”
Jack had gotten Ianto onto his stomach and with his hands heavily lubricated with lotion, he was massaging his back very gently. In the last two days, Ianto’s skin had become hypersensitive. A casual caress hurt him now. He said it felt like sandpaper being dragged across his skin. So Jack moved very slowly, feeling his love’s response to every touch so that he could back off quickly if he started to hurt him. Ianto lay flaccid beneath his hands, his eyes closed, a small smile on his lips that occasionally turned into a grimace.
Gwen stopped as she came around the little screen that Owen had set up to provide Ianto with a semblance of privacy. She had not realized… Ianto’s pale skin was marred with what looked like dozens of deep bruises, some almost healed, others looking very recent. The sight was horrifying.
As if Jack had read her thoughts, he looked up and she really did see horror in his eyes. And fear and despair and sorrow and knowledge of an impending grief so profound that it looked like madness. She had thought that Jack had been remarkably strong though all this, but now she realized just how strong he really had been, to still be able to function under the weight of what she saw in his eyes. She drew a deep, shaky breath and thought, And you have to be strong, too. For Jack and for Ianto.
So she sounded quietly business-like as she told Jack, “I need you up in your office, Jack.”
She saw Ianto’s eyes flicker open to look at her. He certainly recognized Gwen’s business mode. Gwen gave him one of her private little smiles, then turned back to face Jack’s glare.
“No you don’t,” he said firmly. “I told you, I am officially off duty until Ianto gets better.”
“ ‘Unless the world is coming to an end–again’, you said. Well, I don’t think it’s quite that bad, but Brigadier Woodhouse thinks it is. He wants to talk to you.”
Jack said, “No. Tell him I said you can handle it. You handled everything while I was gone.”
Gwen shook her head. “I can’t handle this. He doesn’t need you as the Director of Torchwood. He needs you as the guy who can translate Galactic Common. Those were his words. Galactic Common. He says it’s important. He sounded like he meant it, Jack.”
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Chapter 7: Dreams of death
Author's Notes: Jack loses an argument with U.N.I.T and Ianto comes to a realization.
Jack sat in his office, with his forehead braced on his palms. He’d been that way since he’d ended his phone conversation. Gwen had never seen him look so tired.
Gwen had watched the change come over him. He had started the conversation with a hard face and flat statements that what ever the problem was, U.N.I.T. would have to deal with it without him. He had listened a while, frowning, then began protesting again that they would be better to deal with it anyway. She saw him become more concerned, saw him weakening. Once his head came up to stare at her fixedly, while he said, “Of course, they did. It seemed like a minor incident. I don’t see why…”
He continued to protest, insisting that he had important business here in Cardiff, that he was essentially on leave at this time, that they had half a dozen people in U.N.I.T. as capable as he was to deal with this, that the Brigadier himself was fully authorized to represent the Earth in these situations.
But in the end, he fretfully agreed to something the Brigadier wanted, provided it happened here in Cardiff. Listening to the Brigadier for a few minutes more, he had replied angrily, “Because my boyfriend is very ill. He may be dying. Is that good enough for you?”
He listened again, sighed heavily, and said, “I know, Tom. I’m sorry. It’s been a rough couple of weeks.” He paused again, then added, “I appreciate that. No. I just can’t be away from here for very long. Well, that’s all for the best anyway. Yes, I’ll get them to brief me, then take a look at what you’ve got.” He sighed again, “I can probably puzzle it out, but I told you, I know a later version of the language. I’ve picked up a few contemporary phrases over the years but… Alright. I guess we’ll have to burn that bridge when we get to it. See you in a few hours.”
Then he’d sat silent, head on hands, for what seemed like a long time. Gwen waited quietly. Finally, he looked up at her, and said, “Everyone in the boardroom in twenty minutes. Want you ready to tell me about the incident that involved an alien royal family being chased by a party of Gwithens.”
She looked surprised. “Is that what this is about?”
“Yes. Apparently they’re accusing us of some sort of skullduggery or other.”
“Who, the Gwithens? They can–“
“No, the others. What were their names again?”
“I couldn’t pronounce it. They were very sweet though. And pretty. Pale green sort of velvety skin, bright blue eyes, and a crest.”
“Okay. We’ll go over it at the meeting.” Jack was already on his feet, heading out the door.
He walked aimlessly through caverns of crystals, long thin columns 10 meters tall down to tiny patches the size of peas, a thousand colors, all flashing fiery brilliance. He had no idea where the light came from, didn’t really think about it. He walked through the halls and terraces of stone and light flared from everywhere. It was like walking along inside a fire opal. Completely enchanted by the beauty, he did not notice at first how thick the air was getting, how difficult taking a breath was. It was not until he realized how small the passage had become that he became aware that the air was getting more and more dense, until he couldn’t draw it down into his lungs. He tried to turn, to go back, but the beautiful crystals all pointed in his direction now, all sharp, refusing him passage back to the more open part of the cavern. The light was fading now. He struggled to draw air, now as dense as water, into his lungs but as the darkness became complete he knew that he was dying.
Ianto knew the hand holding his tightly was not Jack’s before he’d entirely realized that he could breathe, that the nightmare was over, that he was back in the hospital bed, with sweat slicking his body.
He managed to take a second frantic breath, realizing it was Owen with him, and opening his eyes. The profound relief that understanding it had only been a dream brought was mitigated by the fact that Jack was not there.
Owen still held on to his hand firmly. “Ianto, have you been having a lot of nightmares while all this was going on?”
Ianto swallowed the last of his sense of panic from the dream and gently moved his hand out of Owen’s. To his own surprise, he answered honestly. “Fairly often, as far as I can remember.”
Owen sat back in his chair, looking intently at him. It made Ianto rather uncomfortable.
“Are they always the same?”
“No, they are all different, but…”
After waiting a moment, Owen prompted, “But?”
Ianto fought his inclination to push Owen away. He sensed that Owen wasn’t asking for any reason of his own, but for Ianto. He remembered suddenly: the frigid black night in the clean air that tried and failed to wash the filth of the cannibals off his shivering skin, his head enthusiastically trying to explode, the general sense of confusion, fear, disgust, and nausea. And Owen leaning down to say quietly and calmly to him “I am your doctor, Ianto. I need you to trust that. Leave the rest aside for now. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that I am your doctor.” Ianto had trusted that then and he knew he needed to trust it now.
“They are different, but they feel the same. I don’t remember them very well, but I remember the feelings I’m left with.”
“Trapped, struggling to get free, unable to breath… Dying.”
They were silent for a long moment, Owen watching Ianto as if waiting for something.
Realization hit hard, a blow that left Ianto with a profound shock. “It’s the alien,” he whispered. “Those are its feelings. Is that it? Is that what the dreams are?”
Owen shrugged. “It could be.”
Ianto was silent for a while. Then he said sadly, “So it’s an endurance race. Will it die before I do?”
Owen scowled. “I told you I will not let you die, Ianto.”
They looked at each other a long time. Then Ianto closed his eyes and said, “I’m tired.” After a pause, he added, “How long to the next one?”
Owen glanced at his watch. “Another three hours or so. I’ll be putting you under in about an hour.”
Ianto sighed. “I should try to stay wake until then, but I am so tired.”
He felt Owen touch the top of his head gently. “Sleep. Rest. You need it.”
Ianto slipped into sleep again, leaving behind his feelings of fear, of faint resentment of any time not spent with Jack, of gratitude to Owen for not acting like Owen usually did, and a growing feeling of regret that what ever it was tearing his brain apart was going to die, whether Ianto himself survived or not.
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Chapter 8: You just might find you get what you need
Author's Notes: We learn more about the alien visitors and Ianto takes things into his own hands.
An adult version of the Jack/Ianto scene in the middle of this chapter can be found here.
“This happened about two weeks after we got back from Pakistan. It started with a pass off from U.N.I.T.” Gwen began. “The Gwithens made a formal request to pick up survivors of a crash north of Rudry. Brigadier Woodhouse asked us to check it out. The Gwithens have been known to try to use that sort of thing to violate our Class Five status.”
Jack shook his head. “That’s putting it mildly. I’m amazed they talked Tommy into it.”
Tosh said, “Brigadier Woodhouse requested that we investigate the crash site, since we were so much closer. He stalled them. It turned out to be a group of about 35 of a species who call themselves Wrrlthth,” She stumbled over the name, but managed to get somewhere near the correct pronunciation. She smiled. “It was a wedding party. Young members of the royal family on their way to the location that had been chosen as the correct place to conceive a child. The Gwithens had tried to highjack the ship, and ended up disabling it.”
Gwen pushed a brown folder across the table to Jack. “According to the analysis U.N.I.T. did, the motivation was an attempt to maintain the status quo. Apparently, the Gwithens have been earning great deal serving as middle-men in the dealing between the Wrrlthth and several other cultures in this region of the Galaxy. The Wrrlthth have traditionally been very isolationist.”
Jack, reading from a page in the folder said, “Their religion claims they are the only true people and bla bla bla.” He waved a hand. “Typical for cultures just getting into space.”
Gwen nodded, “This culture had been in space for quite a while before anyone else noticed. It seems they had been quietly spreading across a little cluster of stars in which they were the only sentient beings for a couple of centuries. When they finally ran into others, they had trouble dealing with the fact that they were actually just one of thousands in this arm of the Galaxy. But they had belaxite in quite large quantities and some cultures that wanted belaxite in quite large quantities had gems, microtech and medical technologies that the Wrrlthth decided they needed. But their religious leaders didn’t want them contaminated with outside ideas, so only a few individuals, under royal charter, dealt with the Gwithens, who had probably been cheating both sides of the trade for about a century.
“Then the newer generations of Wrrlthth began showing signs of not being so isolationist. Some of the larger companies began to do their own trading, without benefit of the Gwithens. In fact the new… well not king exactly, but one of the royal family and therefore someone with considerable say in political issues, offered to have the marriage of one of his–“ Gwen shrugged helplessly. “Well, call it his daughter, though they apparently have three genders. Anyway, the king offered to have one of his daughters married and impregnated on the home world of one of their new trading partners. For Wrrlthth this was a very big deal. It was making their trading partners part of the family. The Gwithens were furious. This sort of arrangement had never been offered to them.”
Jack had continued looking through the folder Gwen had given him, “Okay, so they have the wedding, then the male and female deposit the gametes into the body of the host mother, who carries the infant to term. And this conception is done in full view of a carefully selected list of guests. It is considered an honor. At some point before the birth, one of those guests is chosen to be something like a godfather or mother to the child. This is a special relationship that makes them very much part of the household of the child.”
Gwen nodded, “They tried to explain all this to us at the time, but you know how machine translations can go. Everything seems perfect until suddenly you are in the middle of the Hungarian Phrasebook sketch on Monty Python. But we did get the idea that the whole marriage and conception thing was on a timetable, and that the crash had put a major kink in their plans. They had to go through with the marriage and they didn’t have enough people there to— well I got the impression they needed a certain number of people there or it wasn’t going to be kosher. The priest was making a huge fuss, everyone else was in hysterics. Finally the boss, the father of the, uh, bride, asked us to attend the ceremony. With all of us there it just about made a quorum or whatever.” She shrugged, and Jack saw she was blushing slightly. “So we did.”
Jack grinned at her. “Sounds like my kind of party.”
Tosh said solemnly, “It was really rather beautiful.”
“And pornographic as hell,” Owen added from the doorway.
Jack looked up, his smile gone. “Something wrong?”
Owen shook his head and sat wearily down into the nearest chair. “He wants to see you. He woke up from a short nap a few minutes ago and seemed a little agitated. He kept asking for you, so I told him I’d come and find you.”
Jack got up. “We can continue this in a few minutes.”
As Jack started for the door, Owen told him, “I’ll need to start his sedation in about half an hour, Jack.”
Jack stopped, and turned to look at Owen, his expression unreadable. Then he nodded and left the room. They heard his footsteps on the stairs outside.
He found Ianto at the bottom of the stairs that led up to the medical lab, staring at the first step as if it were an insurmountable problem that had to be surmounted anyway. Jack ran down the stairs quickly and gathered Ianto’s trembling body in his arms.
“What are you doing?” he said softly, as Ianto’s arms came up around his neck, holding him with surprising strength.
Ianto melted against him. “Wanted you.”
Jack sighed. “No need to get out of bed. I was on the way. What did you do with your IVs, just pull them out?”
Ianto shifted slightly in his arms, and Jack saw he was looking at his left hand. “It’s not bleeding much.” Then he rested his head on Jack’s shoulder, his lips pressed to Jack’s throat.
Jack said, “Well, let’s get you back to–“ He stopped speaking when he felt Ianto’s mouth open. The younger man ran his open mouth up and down Jack’s throat, bit down on the skin hard enough to make Jack wince, then ran his tongue over the same place. At the same time, he thrust his hips forward, letting Jack feel his erection. Jack, taken completely by surprise, had no chance to suppress the little moan that this loving assault generated in him.
Ianto slid his right hand down, caressing Jack’s chest, and scratching at the nipple he felt under the cloth. Jack’s breath caught in his throat and he dropped his mouth down onto Ianto’s. The kiss was gentle but passionate. For just a moment, Jack forgot everything but Ianto, Ianto in his arms, gently twisting his hips against Jack’s growing erection, Ianto’s tongue thrusting into his mouth, Ianto moaning in pleasure and need.
Then Ianto’s hand slid further down Jack’s body, his palm moving up and down at Jack’s groin, pressing hard against Jack’s erection. He whispered hoarsely, “Want you, Jack.” It was a characteristic of Ianto’s that had always pleased and aroused Jack. He often seemed hardly able to speak when their lovemaking was in the early stages, but when he did, he often spoke in incomplete sentences of very few words. “Want you. Your mouth on me. Now”
Jack felt a wave of grief hit him like a blow. “Oh, Ianto…”
Ianto’s mouth was hot against his ear. “Need you, Jack. Need us. Please. Need you inside me.” Ianto’s tongue ran along the edge of Jack’s ear, causing Jack to shudder with pleasure, with desire, and with deep uncertainty.
“Ianto, you are too sick. I want you, too, asham, so much. But you are too weak. We can’t.”
Ianto pulled away slightly to look into Jack’s eyes. Jack felt his breath stop. It seemed to him that every expression of love Ianto had ever let Jack see was all in Ianto’s eyes now, all together, shining out at him.
Ianto said, with absolute certainty, “We can.”
Owen had been dozing slightly at his work station, his head resting on his hand, when the comm came to life in his ear.
“Owen.” Jack’s voice sounded thick and rusty.
Owen sat up quickly. “Right here, Jack. You need me?”
Jack said quickly, “No, no. Ianto and I are going to take some private time. Please make sure no one comes tumbling down these stairs for a while.”
Owen felt his eyes go wide, and a pulse of anger and, not to put too fine a point on it, disgust, run through him. He clamped his teeth together a moment in an attempt to get control, but it did not seem to help. “Jesus Christ, Harkness,” he finally barked into the comm, “he just about has enough strength to breathe right now. You can’t even keep it in your pants when he’s this sick? Are you trying to kill him?”
There was a pause, then Jack, his voice merely weary instead of displaying the cold anger Owen had expected, replied, “This isn’t about what I want, Owen. It’s about what he wants.” And there was a tone of despair that Owen could not help hearing in his voice.
He closed his eyes a moment, thinking. Finally, he said, “Just take it really easy Jack. And if he gets into trouble don’t wait around thinking how embarrassing it is, call me.”
“I will.” There was a pause, then Jack said softly, “Thank you, Owen.”
Owen was beginning to get worried about the time when Jack came slowly up the stairs from the Med lab, sinking onto the couch next to Owen, his shoulders slumped, his face showing his distress beneath a surface calm.
“Is he okay?”
Jack nodded. “He’s asleep. You’ll have to restart all his IVs.”
“I thought I said to take is easy,” Owen said angrily, standing.
“He pulled them out before I got down there. He was starting up the stairs when I found him.”
Owen sank back onto the couch staring at Jack in surprise. “You’re kidding. I didn’t think he had enough strength to walk.”
Jack shrugged. Owen realized suddenly that Jack’s lips were trembling. Almost without thinking, he put a hand on Jack’s shoulder, but that gesture seemed to break the last of Jack’s control. Owen gasped as Jack grabbed his shirt, twisting his fists into the fabric, pulling him close, his face, with tears beginning to fall down his cheeks, now only a few centimeters from Owen’s.
“P–p–please, Owen. Oh, gods, Owen, please don’t let him die.” Jack’s voice sounded like a harsh squeak, as if forced through an aperture too small for it. “Please, Owen. I can’t bear it.” Jack’s voice seemed to lose all strength as he collapsed against Owen’s chest. “Please, Owen,” he begged through his sobs.
Owen wrapped his arms around his Captain, holding him tightly, his jaw set. Someone coming onto the scene would have said that Owen was very angry, and it was true that anger was the top-most of the emotions that boiled in him now, but his hands were gentle as he rubbed Jack’s back. His voice was almost calm as he said, “It will be okay, Jack” over and over.
When Jack’s sobs had quieted a little, Owen shifted his weight and pushed Jack away enough so that they could see each other. Owen said, gently, but firmly, “I told Ianto, and I am telling you, Jack. I will not let him die. Do you understand me? That is not going to happen.”
Jack’s eyes searched his, almost hungrily. “But how can you know–“
Owen shook his head sharply. “Just trust me, Jack. I will not let him die. I have to get down there and get him ready. Stay here. Try to rest. Those U.N.I.T. boys will be swanning into town in a couple of hours.” He gently pulled away from Jack and stood, looking down at him. “Just remember what I said. I will not let him die.”
He turned and walked away, down the stairs to the Med lab, wondering how he could have made such an outrageous promise to Jack. Probably because Jack had so obviously needed it. He was going to have to go out there and negotiate with a bunch of aliens shortly, and he needed some hope to help him keep himself together for that. That was why he had done it, Owen told himself. Jack needed it. And he didn’t let himself think about the consequences if he could not keep Ianto alive.
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Chapter 9: "It was an accident."
Author's Notes: We finally find out what the hell is going on. But remember, folks, knowing what is wrong does not mean you know what to do about it.
Lady Harkness asked me to get another chapter in this one out. Here you go, hon.
Owen winced. He had hoped…
“Here.” Here waiting for the next question, the one he didn’t want to answer.
But Jack’s voice, sounding tense, but with and undertone of… something, said, “I need you to get him here. Quickly. Bring what ever you might need to support him for a while but–“
Jack sighed, and repeated slowly, “I need you to bring Ianto here to us. I need him here quickly. I need you to bring any support equipment you might need because I am not sure exactly what is going to happen, but there is a possibility that we’ve got an answer here. Tell him we may… Let me talk to him.”
Owen looked over at Ianto. “He can’t talk to you now, Jack.”
Something in his tone got through. Jack’s voice went dead. “Is he… He’s not…”
Quickly Owen said, “He is still alive. He’s in a coma. He never woke up after that last seizure. ”
There was a silence, then, “Is he breathing?”
“Yes, but he’s very weak. I’m not sure…”
Another silence. “I’ll be there in twenty minutes. Can you get equipment together and get him up to the Plas on your own?”
“I… Yes. Jack what the hell is going on?”
“I’ll explain when I get there.” There was a pause, then, “Owen…”
Owen closed his eyes. “I told you Jack. I won’t let him die.”
So they landed a U.N.I.T. helicopter in the middle of the Plas. Not for the first time Owen wondered just what kind of hold Jack had over them. Oh, they’d always worked with U.N.I.T., but their relationship had been far more adversarial. Lately, it seemed that when Jack shouted “Jump” U.N.I.T. didn’t wait long enough to ask how high, they just jumped as hard as they could. That whole business with Dr. Cruz. Now this.
Getting the equipment up to the Plas had been easy. He’d thought at first he wasn’t going to be able to get Ianto to the surface without help. Then he’d remembered the wheelchair they’d gotten during that period when Tosh was paralyzed for several days. That had been while Jack was gone. He’d set it to partially recline, gotten Ianto into it. Getting it onto the lift had taken a little ingenuity, but he’d managed. Now four men were running toward him from the helicopter. Owen moved the wheelchair off the lift, then he and Jack handed over pieces of equipment to the three men, who carried it back to the helicopter. Jack took a moment to crouch beside Ianto to look at him intently. Owen saw him lean over and whisper something into his ear. Then he helped Owen with the last of the equipment. Within less than two minutes of arriving, the helicopter was lifting off. Jack closed the door, then turned back to Ianto, taking his limp hands, kissing them with a kind of intense dependency that Owen found impossible to watch. He turned away, looking out the window, watching the crowd that had gathered to watch the helicopter, and then the whole Plas itself, fall away from him. Then Jack was pushing a set of headphones on him and he heard the pilot say, “Do you have everyone secured?”
Owen turned to look at Jack and saw that Jack had lowered the back of the wheelchair until Ianto was nearly supine and was just finishing trussing him, wheelchair and all, to several cargo holders. Jack looked up at Owen. “Two minutes,” he told the pilot. He patted the shoulder straps on the seat behind Owen, then he started get into a similar harness in his own seat. Owen hurriedly worked himself into his own harness and as he snapped the belt closed heard Jack say. “Ready.”
The helicopter tilted suddenly until the floor had nearly become a wall behind them. The engine noise, already deafening seemed to double. Owen, now hanging in the chest straps, stifled a yelp, and turned to look at Jack. Jack was checking to be sure that Ianto was still secure. He saw Owen looking at him and grinned. He tapped his headset and held up 4 fingers. Owen reached up to the controls, felt the channel dial and turned it 4 clicks.
Jack said, “Sorry about the uncomfortable ride, but this will get us there much faster.”
“Will you please tell me what the hell is going on?”
Jack’s eyes had gone back to Ianto. Owen saw him try to reach out to him, but the straps held him too far away. Jack dropped his hand. “U.N.I.T. got their analysis of the incident with the Wrrlthth just a little bit wrong.” He closed his eyes in what looked like a grimace of pain, “More my fault than theirs. I should have been there.”
Owen stared at him in astonishment. He had never once heard Jack say anything remotely like that about his disappearance. “What did they get wrong?”
“Just a little detail. The Wrrlthth have four genders, not three. Or rather there has to be a fourth participant in order to make a baby. You guys didn’t understand what they were asking of you. You weren’t there just to be witnesses. You were there to offer yourselves as hosts for..” Jack seemed to hesitate. “They translate it aben in Common, but I think that’s probably wrong.”
“What does ah-bain mean?” Owen asked, making a decent success of the unfamiliar pronunciation.
“It means… well, roughly I guess you could call it personality, the essence that makes a person a person, a particular person, an individual. But I’m not sure that’s what they meant.”
“You’re confusing me, Jack. What is it that they wanted us there for, again?”
“They need four people to make a baby, a male, a female, someone to carry the physical body of the baby as it grows, and some to carry the… the mental template, the framework that the personality will grow on.”
And suddenly, Owen got it. His eyes went to Ianto but what he saw in his memory was the image on a large TV monitor–two lines, one white, one blue, squiggling across the screen. “Oh my God.”
Jack was nodded. “They didn’t mean to do it. They assumed that you knew what they wanted from you. Being there was permission in their eyes. And anyway, I get the feeling that it never occurred to them that the infant’s ... well, call it the soul… would end up in a different species. I’m pretty sure they would have thought it was impossible if they ever had considered it. It was an accident.”
Owen felt something inside him, a tension, a pain, let go. He said, “So what you are telling me is that Ianto…” His voice faded.
“Is pregnant with the soul of an alien baby. Yeah, that’s what I am telling you.”
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Chapter 10: Machine Translations
Author's Notes: THis is just a little set up to prepare for the denouement.
Gwen stood under the trees, waiting, watching. Tosh stood a few meters away talking with animation to the U.N.I.T. computer guy about machine translations. Most of the other U.N.I.T. people were just standing around trying to look casual and not like the armed-to-the-teeth soldiers they were. Brigadier Woodhouse was talking on a phone. The Wrrlthth, well three of them, were grouped together near the little shuttle they’d landed in. Their translator, a Gritz, according to Jack, stood a little apart, a short, dark brown, squat humanoid with no hair, no neck, and very little in the way of a face.
The Wrrlthth were a lovely species in Gwen’s view. Slightly taller than the average human, more humanoid than the Gritz, with identifiable ears, nose and mouth and beautiful almost iridescent blue eyes. They had a soft, velvety look to their skin which was a lovely pale green. On their heads, shoulders, and down their backs were layers of what looked like a cross between scales and feathers, each about the size of Gwen’s thumbnail, overlapping each other. The amount covered by these scales and their color was different for each individual, but they all shimmered in the sunlight and the scales seemed to move in little waves. In a narrow band cross the top of their heads these scales were elongated into a crest. They all wore robes of a very light, almost translucent cloth in a wide range of soft colors, cut to leave most of the shoulders and arms bare. The hands were very long and had a rather boneless look to the fingers.
As she watched, another Wrrlthth came out of the shuttle. This one was a little different. Traces of pale yellow tinted the skin of its face and many of the shimmering scales had colorless edges, creating a not unpleasant tweed look across the shoulders.
She sighed. These people may very well have killed Ianto. Not that they meant to. If Ianto didn’t make it… Gwen was terrified of what would happen, how Jack would react.
Jack seemed to alternate between a cold emotionless machine and a desperate man on the verge of losing his lover. Now he’d gone off to get Ianto, leaving her without a translator. Making her feel even more helpless than she already did.
Gwen had been fairly shocked the morning she had come in early, found that, for some reason the alarm on the cog door hadn’t sounded, and had gone up to Jack’s office to tell him. She’d stopped outside the open door and stared at Jack and Ianto, kissing with a warmth that spoke of deep affection and long experience. She had backed out quickly, and when Ianto came down to start the coffee machine, she was at her desk. She’d mentioned the door alarm malfunction to him and the day had gone on as usual.
Gwen had to admit she’d been jealous. Of course, she’d seen Jack kiss Ianto before. She’d seen Jack kiss him when he’d come back to life after Abaddon. She’d known intellectually that the two were probably having an affair. Owen certainly seemed to think so. But actually seeing them… That kiss had not been overtly passionate. It had been comfortable. It had been happy.
She told herself she was glad, because Jack needed someone and so did Ianto, and she loved them both. She did. But her feelings for Jack were so tangled, and confused her so much. Jack fascinated, intimidated, aroused, and bewildered. She often imagined strangling him. She often imagined being in bed with him. But she honestly wasn’t sure at all that she really wanted that. Sex in your head had no consequences. Sex in real life did. And the truth was, that Jack, exotic, enthralling Jack, might have been fine for a quick and passionate affair, but she was pretty sure that they would never make it as a couple long term. Just his secretiveness alone was going to drive her around the bend some day as it was.
Rhys, on the other hand was not enthralling, not bewildering, not exotic. He loved her, just that. He took care of her and put up with her and made her a home to come to when Torchwood had had its way with her and she loved him deeply, passionately. She had not known it was possible to be in love with two men at the same time, two such different men. But one thing she knew. Rhys was not going to just disappear and then reappear, with no real explanation.
Gwen fingered the ring on her left hand, smiling a little at the memory of Jack’s astonishment when she’d told him she was going to marry Rhys. She’d enjoyed that. Arrogant git actually expected her to stand around waiting for him? Especially since he’d gone to some trouble to encourage her to keep her relationship with Rhys intact. That had always confused her. Jack wanted her. She knew he did. Yet he was insistent from the very beginning that she not lose her home life with Rhys.
Maybe Jack was as confused by his feelings as I was. As I am. But if so, she had the feeling that Jack’s feelings had solidified on Ianto now. Unfortunately, engagement or not, her feelings were not so solid.
Jack’s behavior today had been, to Gwen, very strange. As they made the trip to this little clearing in the middle of Coed Cefn Pwll-Du, Jack had said, “You’re lead on this, Gwen, since it was your case to start with.”
She had stared at him in astonishment. She hadn’t actually believed him. But as they approached the cluster of humans, Wrrlthth, and the Gritz waiting among the trees, he had stayed a step behind her. When he translated, he used a voice she’d never heard, a clearly enunciated yet quite emotionless flat tone. Even when what the aliens had to say made it clear what had happened to Ianto, his voice had remained uninflected as he translated, and it was not until he had completed this that he showed the emotional reaction she’d expected: new hope, greater fear.
While the Wrrlthth discussed the news they’d been given, that the aben, the baby’s mind, very likely was in a human, Gwen asked Jack about his behavior. “You sound like a computer voice.”
“Translation is an important gig, Gwen. Do it wrong and bad things can happen. Look at what happened the last time they were here.”
“Okay,” she acknowledged.
“We had to act as diplomats on occasion and were trained in specific demeanors while we acted in various functions.”
Gwen had looked at him with speculation, “So this was when you were a Time Agent, then?”
Jack glanced at her, but did not reply.
She sighed, “You are infuriating.” But in fact, she was not angry at him. She was just desperately hoping. Hoping things could work out, that they could cure Ianto and things could go back the way they had been.
Then the conversation had begun again, and Jack had carefully translated, in a flat voice, that the Wrrlthth doctor was of the opinion that no alien could possibly “deliver” the infant mind, and that both the baby and Ianto were going to die.
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Chapter 11: Coed Cefn Pwll-Du
Author's Notes: A forest north of Cardiff.
Owen stood silently, watching, as the alien approached. Two long flexible fingers extended and touched Ianto’s forehead. Then they withdrew. The alien spoke in a high warble. The other alien spoke in the low gravelly voice. Jack, in a flat, uninflected tone, said, “Yes, the mind is in this–”
Owen looked up. Jack was staring straight ahead, face white, eyes blinking. Then Jack continued, “Alien.”
Underneath the flat tone, Owen could see rage. Uh, oh, he thought with a certain amount of glee. Somebody is in big trouble.
Jack, Gwen and the aliens moved away. Owen glanced down at his patient and saw that Ianto’s eyes were open.
He woke to the smell. Green. Rich. Plant life and sun and the shade under trees. For an interminable time he simple lay there, not really thinking, enjoying the smells, the feel of a breeze, moments of warmth on his face. He was aware of sounds, gradually realizing that some of them were birds, some of them were the sound of wind pushing leaves, some were voices. At first, he could not bother to try to understand. Most of what he heard made little sense to him, and he didn’t care. Voices spoke, he knew the meaning of some of the words but the meaning of the words did not, at first, connect in his mind with an over all meaning.
Ianto’s awareness had reached a point where he could open his eyes. Above him, far above, the branches of trees interposed themselves between Ianto and a beautiful blue sky. The leaves swayed in a breeze, allowing little patches of sunlight to sway and dance over him. The rich green scent of things growing was like a soothing salve across his scalded nerve endings. He saw the trees around him, knowing that this was strange, knowing that so many trees crowding around him was not what he was used to. He lay quiescent, loving the trees, watching them move a little in the breeze, , seeing how they lifted limbs like arms up to worship the sun and knowing that their toes were buried deep, worshiping the earth. There was no pain. He watched the dancing colors above him with pleasure.
At last, after what seemed like a pleasantly endless time, he heard a high-pitched trill followed by a lower-pitched garbling sound. Then a deep graveling voice spoke and then a voice that sounded familiar, but strangely flat, uninvolved. Jack, he realized, sounding strange. He’s translating, Ianto thought. He remembered other times he’d heard Jack translating a conversation. Slowly his attention, focus, and memory were beginning to return.
“Jack.” It was barely a whisper.
Owen was there, suddenly, in his view. “Good afternoon, sleepyhead. How do you feel?” As he spoke, Ianto felt the doctor’s hands moving, checking his pulse, opening one of Ianto’s eyes so he could shine a pen-sized torch in it. Brown eyes searched his intently.
“I feel fine. Just kind of … weak.” In truth, he felt as if he was a single strand of pasta boiled for a couple of hours. “Where is Jack?” His eyes focused on the branches over head, “No, better yet, where am I?”
“Coed Ce– something Du.”
Ianto winced at Owen’s complete failure to pronounce the name. “Is it possible you are trying to say Coed Cefn Pwll-Du?”
“That sounds about right. Sorry, I can’t wrap my tongue around words with no vowels in them. You Welsh are used to doing without. I’m not.”
“Why are we here, Owen?”
“They wanted to meet in a familiar place.”
So Owen found himself being the one to explain. Ianto seemed to take the news in stride. He only said, “The one in my dreams is a baby?”
“Looks like it.”
And then Jack was there, smiling, his hands surrounding Ianto’s face as he kissed him. When the kiss ended, Ianto saw an expression in Jack’s eyes that disturbed him. Something was wrong. But he did not have time to ask. After determining that Owen had explained the basic situation, Jack told them, “The trouble is this is more about politics than anything else. Their politics. The one who touched Ianto is Vmm. He’s a sort of combined obstetrician and priest. It seems he’s pretty conservative. Didn’t want Grel–that’s the family who’s pregnant, they all share the same name–to conceive on an alien world in the first place. Grel told me that if he’d been the priest with them when they crashed here he wouldn’t have allowed the conception to go forward.”
“Maybe they shouldn’t have,” Owen remarked. His eyes were on Ianto, who was listening intently to Jack, but who seemed restless, repeatedly shifting his body slightly.
Jack shrugged, “It would have resulted in some pretty serious physical problems for their carrier. She was prepared for the baby, and the hormonal consequences of not being implanted can be devastating, according to them. And then there is the fact that the failure of this pregnancy will be taken by their population as a rejection by the gods of Grel’s moiety and their political stance. ”
Owen snorted in disgust. “The whole population is a bunch of superstitious nutters? They deserve what they get.”
Jack looked at him rather sternly. “You should have learned not to be quite to ethnocentric by this time, Owen.”
“Bollocks to that. I don’t care how they live, or what they believe up to the point where their silly notions cause unneeded suffering. Then I get a little cross. And so do you, Harkness. Tell me, what was it that skinny green bastard called Ianto. I saw the look on your face. You bowdlerized it, I know you did. What did he call him?”
“It doesn’t matter.” This was Jack and Gwen saying the same thing in perfect harmony. They glanced at each other, trading faint smiles. Gwen went on, “The question is, have we learned enough to know how to help Ianto?”
“How do I get the baby’s mind into its body, Jack?” Ianto asked softly. He was beginning to feel uncomfortable. He needed…. Needed…
“Hey, mate. Ianto, look at me.”
The voice brought him back from the strange formless need that threatened to carry him away. He looked at Owen.
“Are you in pain?”
“No. I just…”
“Just what?” Jack asked quickly.
Ianto couldn’t put what he was feeling into words. So he settled for asking again the question that had not been answered. “How do I get the baby’s mind into its body, Jack?”
Jack sighed. “You don’t. You can’t. Even if you knew how to do it, you couldn’t, because it takes tremendous effort and you are just too weak. It would kill you.”
Gwen said, “So what do we do? You said something over there about a solution.”
Jack hesitated. Ianto watched, his unease growing. Jack was not meeting his eyes. He stared down at their joined hands and said, “There is nothing we can do for the baby. All we can do is save Ianto.” He took a deep breath. “And that, it turns out, is fairly simple. Vmm says the aben is very weak. It’s almost to the point where it will start to disassemble. If we put Ianto into a drug-induced coma for ten days, the aben will no longer be there. When we wake him, everything will be okay.”
Owen watched his captain, a worried frown on his features. Jack looked almost as if he expected a blow, his shoulders slightly hunched, his fingers gently making tiny manipulations of Ianto’s fingers, his eyes locked on this activity with the intensity you might expect if he were disarming a rather large bomb.
“You’re saying we just let the baby die?” Owen said.
Jack didn’t answer.
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Chapter 12: Choices
Author's Notes: The next chapter is nearly done and will be uploaded later today.
“Whoa, wait a minute, there, Teaboy. You can’t get up.”
Ianto continued to struggle to sit up. Jack pushed him gently down. “Lay still, Ianto.”
“I have to … I need…”
Jack’s hands tried to soothe him. “What do you need?”
Ianto’s body squirmed. “I need —” He froze suddenly, eyes locked beyond Jack’s shoulder.
Owen followed his gaze and saw two more Wrrlthth emerging from the shuttle. One was quite slender, compared to the others, and wore a plain white robe. The other was shorter, more solid, wearing a robe of pale brown that was open at the chest, revealing a large swelling in roughly the center of the trunk. The skin over the swelling was also pale brown, and looked dry and stiff compared to the supple green velvet that covered most of the body. Owen murmured, “Oh, shit.”
Jack had also turned to see what Ianto was staring at. He took several steps forward and Gwen came to stand next to him. They watched as two of the Wrrlthth went to stand either side of the newcomer with the swollen trunk. The Wrrlthth with the white robe move forward a little and began to speak. The Gritz spoke. Jack said, “Grel wishes to know what decision as been made. The baby will be born in a few minutes.”
Gwen swallowed. Before she could answer, the one called Vmm moved forward with a high squeal. The reaction of the others was immediate. There was clearly an argument going on. The Gritz’ gravel voice sounded softly throughout, but Jack did not translate. He was standing stiff, straight, his face white.
The pregnant Wrrlthth did not speak. She was clearly staring at Ianto. Gwen could not read her body language, but she could well imagine what the alien was thinking. God, this is such a bad situation Gwen thought helplessly.
Finally, while the Wrrlthth were still arguing, Jack began to speak. “Grel is trying to insist that Vmm help with the transfer. Vmm refuses. The youngster, the one in the white robe is Obth, an apprentice to Vmm. He says he will do it if Vmm will not.” Jack paused, and assumed his “translator” voice. “If you do this act of defiance and abomination, you will be dismissed. You understand this. Obth replies, Yes, of course. I do not wish to defy you. I swore an oath to you. I will break that oath only if I must to keep the oath I spoke first. I regret that it must be a choice between these two oaths. Please do not make me choose between these two oaths.”
Gwen watched as the crests on all the Wrrlthth heads rose and fell. The smaller scales along the shoulders, especially of Vmm and Obth lifted and shivered.
Jack said in his own voice, “There is no need to argue about this, friends. It is a tragedy, but there can be no transfer.” Then he spoke in the other language to the Gritz, who then spoke to the Wrrlthth. There was a sudden silence.
Then they all heard the soft voice. “Tell them I’ll try, Jack.”
Jack whirled. Ianto was still trying to sit up, with Owen’s hands trying to encourage him to lay still. Jack knelt on the ground beside him and took his hands. “Ianto, didn’t you understand? You can’t do this. You’ll die.”
Ianto lifted trembling fingers to Jack’s face, traced the line of his lips. “I have to try, Jack.”
“No,” Jack pleaded.
“It’s a baby, Jack.”
Jack shook his head, “It’s not… You didn’t ask for this, Ianto. This is not your responsibility.”
“I chose this, Jack. I chose Torchwood. Do you remember what you said to me? The day after Lisa? You said the job was worth doing. That’s what I chose, Jack. The job that is worth doing, with all its dangers.”
Jack shook his head again, “Not this. You didn’t chose this.”
Ianto touched the tear that was trickling down Jack’s cheek. “I have to try. We help people, Jack. If we don’t then all of it, all the shit and the ugliness and the death, everything we give up to do this job, it is all for nothing. I couldn’t bear that.”
Jack head leaned forward until his forehead touched Ianto’s. “I can’t lose you Ianto,” he whispered. “I can’t.”
Ianto cupped Jack’s face in his hand’s lifting a little so he could see Jack’s eyes. “Oh, cariad, you are going to lose me. Perhaps now, perhaps tomorrow, perhaps some time in the future. But you know it will come.”
Jack just shook his head. Gwen could see his shoulders shaking with sobs.
“If I don’t try this, I won’t be me anymore. You’ll lose me anyway.”
“No!” Jack pulled back. His voice hardened. “No. I can’t lose you like this. I won’t.” He stood. His eyes went to Owen. “Sedate him.”
Ianto cried out, “Jack, no. You can’t do that to me.”
Jack wouldn’t look at him. He spoke to Owen, “I have to protect my team. Sedate him, then get him back to the Hub.”
He turned away and started to speak to the Gritz, when he heard Owen’s voice. “No, Jack.” He turned in astonishment and saw Owen was standing now too. Owen’s face was white, and his lips were trembling, but he spoke firmly. “I won’t do that against his will. It’s his choice.”
Jack took at step toward Owen. Gwen, seeing his face, put out an arm to catch his, but he shrugged it off almost violently. “You will do what I tell you. You are his doctor. You are responsible for his health and wellbeing. You have to do this.”
Owen shook his head. “It has to be his choice, Jack.”
Jack took two more steps, grabbed, Owen’s shirt and pulled him forward. “You know he is not being rational. You know this is what has to happen.”
Gwen tried again to grab Jack’s arm. He pulled away sharply and sent a single glance at her that made her gasp and take a step back. He turned back to Owen. His hard voice was gone again. “You promised me, Owen,” he pleaded. “You promised you wouldn’t let him die.”
Owen was shaking all over, his face colorless, his eyes wet. With his voice trembling, he said, “Not like this, Jack. I can’t. It’s his choice.”
With a wordless cry of frustration, Jack shoved Owen away. Owen stumbled backwards and fell. Jack put a hand on his Webley, then stopped, as if suddenly frozen. They heard a small cry, and then Tosh was with Owen, helping hims up. Her eyes were on Jack. There was no anger in her expression. There was only sorrow and expectation. Jack's hand dropped away from his weapon. He stood a moment, shoulders slumped, head down. Tosh nodded, as if the expectation had been satisfied.
“Jack.” Ianto was once more struggling to sit. Jack turned to look at him. “Come here.”
Jack stared hopelessly at him. He swallowed very hard, then shook his head. He whispered, “I can’t do this.” Then he turned and strode away, into the forest.
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Chapter 13: Losing Ianto
Author's Notes: This is the next to last chapter.
Ianto cried out, “Jack, please!”
They all watched as Jack stopped. The silence in the forest was suddenly complete. No leaves rustled; no birds sang. Jack turned slowly, took a deep breath, then returned, sinking to his knees, pulling Ianto into his arms. The two men clung to each other for a long moment. Then they kissed very softly, very briefly. Ianto wiped the tears from Jack’s face and murmured, “I am so proud of you.”
Jack shook his head. “That’s my line, silly Welshman.” He kissed Ianto’s forehead. “I am so proud of you. I love you.”
“And I love you. Now, will you help me, please?”
Jack pressed his lips to Ianto’s palm, then stood and faced the aliens. He told the Gritz, “The carrier of the aben is willing to try to transfer it to the body of the infant. We do not know if it can be done, but he is willing to try.” Then he repeated it in Common.
The Gritz was silent a moment. “The carrier is part of your family?”
Jack translated that to English, then said, “The carrier is my beloved,” and translated that to Common.
“You will risk this?”
“He will risk this. It is his decision. I… I accept his decision.”
The center of the Gritz’ five eyes closed slowly, then opened. Jack knew this was body language equivalent to a pat on the shoulder. The Gritz turned and spoke to the Wrrlthth. There was stirring. Vmm spoke, his voice a high warble.
Jack had gone back fully into translation mode. He reported to his team. “Vmm wants to know why Ianto is willing to take such a chance, when he has been offered a safe way to dispose of the aben.” He looked at Ianto.
Ianto smiled at him. “It’s a baby.”
Jack nodded. Gwen saw fresh tears start down his face, but he turned and repeated what Ianto had said to the Gritz.
Vmm’s reply was a snarl. “It’s not your baby.”
Ianto said quietly. “Yes, Vmm. Yes, it is. I’ve carried this child all these months, shared its dreams, its fears. I didn’t understand then. Now I do. This child was placed in my care and I will try to give it back to the family where it belongs. I don’t know if I can.” His eyes went to the pregnant Wrrlthth. “But I will try.”
The next few minutes were a whirl. Owen had more or less pushed Jack away from Ianto while he changed IV bags, gave Ianto a shot of something and spoke quietly to him. Tosh sat next to them, her face pale. Now and then she wiped a tear from her face. Gwen watched as Vmm turned and stomped into the shuttle in what to her admittedly alien eyes looked like a high old snit. She asked Jack. He shook himself out of his haunted staring at Ianto to grin at her and say, “Oh, yes.”
She shook her head. “I know aliens are different. We see the differences all the time. But sometimes it seems like that’s all superficial. The silly old fart has his delicates in a knot because he’s not getting his way. That could be my old Uncle Ewen, pissed because Rhys and I are not getting married in the Church.”
Jack said absently, “Actually that is not far off, as analogies go. At a certain level sentience seems to carry with it certain similarities across all the different species. Sentients like sex and power, love their families, are enraged by their families, both seek out and are afraid of change.”
Gwen looked at him. “Jack.” He met her eyes. “I want to say everything will be alright. But I know it may not be. I wish I could say something that would help you.”
He hugged her suddenly, almost painfully. “I’m so scared,” he whispered.
She knew there was nothing she could do or say to help, except possibly hug him back, so that is what she did.
He floated in warm seawater, swimming with ease through towering forests of kelp, weaving between them. Each plant extended so far down into the dark water that he could not see the seafloor and extended high above him to where the sunlight shimmered and blazed as each wave caressed the plant life around him. For a while it seemed a perfect place, floating weightless with no thoughts, filled with the sensual delights of the water currents tugging gently at him as each wave passed above, of moving his body effortlessly. But after awhile he realized he needed to take a breath, so he began to swim up toward the surface. Swimming now became more difficult, his arms and legs were weary, the surface seemed no closer, his need for air was becoming desperate. He struggled. Suddenly he realized that a strand of kelp was wrapped around one ankle, holding him down. As his panic expanded, more strands of kelp held him. He could see the surface, not far above him now, but he could not reach it, could never reach it. The darkness closed in around him; the kelp seemed to pull him deeper into the sea, into the cold, dark waters where he would never see the sunlight again.
But now he was aware of someone else, some one who shared his fear and despair. Then there were more. Presences, buoying him, helping him strive toward that surface…
“Oh, God, Tosh, look.”
The two women sat together watching. Ianto’s eyes were closed and his breathing was coming in short sharp gasps. Owen was putting an oxygen mask over his face. Obth sat between Ianto and the pregnant Wrrlthth, one hand resting lightly on Ianto’s forehead, the other on the swollen skin that was now cracking and oozing a pale amber liquid. They could see movement beneath the cracks. The pregnant Wrrlthth was laying back, supported by the bodies of her mates. Her eyes were also closed, and she murmured a soft keening trill. Jack sat on Ianto’s other side, one arm holding him at his waist, the other stroking his temple. His eyes never left his lover’s face.
He is wrapped tightly in a membrane like a stretchable rubber sheet. Thick, but yielding, he can move within it, push a hand along it and feel it bulge. At first he is calm and accepting, but gradually he realizes that he cannot breath within this space. He starts to fight his way out of the membrane, but no matter what he does the membrane just stretches and does not tear. He is getting frantic. Then a presence is there, loving, wordless but encouraging. Don’t give up. I am here. I will help. And there is the awareness of others, needed others, and now the membrane is getting thinner. But the presence is fading, fading. He cries out in despair and the presence responds, surging toward him, past him, pushing the membrane and it BREAKS, and the pressure is gone and he can take a breath.
And the presence is gone. It had always been there, he realizes, but now it is gone. He begins to cry for the loss.
A high squeal, like a newborn kitten sounded across the little group clustered around the birthing. The baby Wrrlthth struggled free of the skin and other membranes holding him within his carrier’s body, helped by the loving, careful fingers of his mother and father. The squeal sounded again. Hands touched him, soothing. Cloth wiped the fluids from his body and wrapped him in warmth.
Ianto’s eyes flickered open. The first thing he saw was Jack. Jack was smiling at him, but he looked worried. “Jack.”
“I’m here, asham. You did it, Ianto. You did it.” Jack looked as if he were laughing and crying at the same time.
Ianto turned his eyes to see one of the Wrrlthth leaning over him, letting him see the tiny being, covered in pale yellow velvet, little arms twisting, blue eyes open and staring at him. With the last of his strength, Ianto reached out to touch the tiny hand, feeling a huge smile beginning on his face. He murmured, “Beautiful,” and then he died.
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Chapter 14: Lights in Darkness
Author's Notes: There will be a short epilog.
No sound, no sight, no breath, no feel of earth beneath him. Reaching. Searching. It had to be there. Please. Oh, please. It had to be there.
Sounds, sights crashed into him, the earth pulled him and he could not resist.
It wasn’t there.
In those first few horrible moments after Ianto collapsed there had been chaos. For a long moment Jack seemed frozen. Then he screamed, “Ianto!” and he went down as if he had been shot.
Chaos sizzled around them. Then the scene seemed to resolve. Owen, pumping Ianto’s chest with a grim, tight look on his face, while Tosh put the ampu bag on his mouth and nose and began to squeeze the bag rhythmically. The U.N.I.T. medic brought a huge case and opened it, revealing an enormous selection of drugs, syringes, other things.
Jack did not move. Finally, Owen shouted at him, “Jack! I got nothing here. Time for that magic kiss of yours.”
There was no response.
Owen didn’t stop compressing Ianto’s chest. “Jack?”
Pale light in the darkness. So faint, so far away. He dove after it, stooping like a bird of prey, pushing against the growing resistance.
Obth had collapsed at the same moment as Ianto, but he was still breathing. The Wrrlthth were tending him. The little Wrrlthth baby had quieted its cries and was now cradled in the arms of one of its parents. One of the others had moved toward the shuttle and was calling in a high warble.
Pale, so pale, clear, beautiful. But too far away, too far. Getting farther. He pushed, and strained, and yes, at last the golden light is here. It seemed to sharpen into a point, pushing out ahead of him. But it was still too far, too faint. He increased his effort once more.
Owen called out instructions to the U.N.I.T. medic, who handed him a syringe with a needle that looked like it was about a foot long. Owen felt Ianto’s chest carefully, looking for the right place, then stuck the needle his chest, injected something directly into Ianto’s heart, then pulled it out, tossing it away, and continued his chest compressions.
Effort. Effort. Everything. Everything is pushing toward that beautiful pale light. But it fades, further, further.
“Jack!” Gwen shook his shoulder, hard. “Owen, he’s not breathing!”
“Other things to worry about here, Cooper. Let's try it at 400 this time.”
A deep thunk, and Ianto's body arched upwards.
Tosh joined Gwen, looked intently at Jack’s face, then she looked up at the U.N.I.T. soldier she’d been talking with earlier. “You, Carter. Get over here.”
The boy, no older than Ianto, Gwen guessed, hurried over. “Ma’am?”
Tosh said, “We’ve lost our translator. You have to do it.”
The young man went chalk white. “But…”
Tosh said, in a cold commanding tone. “No options, here, Carter. You are what we have.”
Gwen said in a gentler tone, “Come with me.”
The Gritz had backed away a little, apparently trying to stay out of the way. Gwen found him and said, “I need you to tell me what they are saying to each other.”
Carter stumbled through a translation. Tosh was with him, and together they stared at the screen of the laptop. The Gritz seemed to hesitate, then replied.
Carter said, “Grel is trying to get Vmm to come out. The Gritz is not sure why.”
Then Vmm did come out. Even the humans could read the haughtiness of his stance.
Grel began speaking, voice a liquid warble. The Gritz’ deeper voice sounded.
Carter, reading the machine translation, said, “You have a obligation. You swore an oath. A…” He shook his head, and looked up, no longer reading. “A most highly important oath.”
Vmm answered. Carter said, “Let Obth do it. He has declared himself… uh, fit for it.” He looked at Gwen and muttered, “I think.”
Gwen said, “What is it that Grel wants him to do?”
Carter asked, clearly struggling to remember vocabulary, using the translation program to help. Finally, he said, “The Gritz is not sure. The word they are using means to sever.”
“To sever what?” She could hear Owen shouting, "Clear," again.
The pain was growing. The darkness closed around him, thick, viscous. The light… Had he lost it? Oh, please. Where is it? The pain… doesn’t matter. Effort. Push, harder. Harder. The light is so faint now.
Carter shook his head. “The Gritz doesn’t know.” Then his voice went flat, as Jack’s had done while translating. “You know he is just a… trainee, a beginner.”
“He seemed to think he could do it, so let him do it if he can. You are young and you think that if you want a thing it must be good. But you do not control the…” Carter hesitated. “The nature of existence, natural law? I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m not sure.”
Gwen told him. “All I want is the best you can do. Just do that. I understand you feel in over your head. Believe me, I do. But we have to do this. There is no one else.”
He can go no further. The light is gone. Gone far ahead. The pain is like is knives, poison-tipped, slicing through each nerve separately. If he had a breath, he would scream. He doesn’t stop, but all the effort only holds him here. The beautiful pale light is gone.
Carter swallowed noisily, looked to where Tosh’s hand rested on his shoulder. He nodded went back to listening to the Gritz.
“You are willing to sacrifice the natural harmony, the proper society so you can indulge your endless curiosity. This is the result of your constant pushing outwards. Now your own child was conceived within the mind of a monster.”
Gwen found herself having to suppress a snarl of rage. This old git really did sound like her Uncle Ewen, so full of arrogance, so willing that others should suffer for his beliefs. Old bastard.
There is another presence. Another light, pale, pale, but not the same. This light has flecks of silver and green. It’s so beautiful and it is near him and getting nearer. And then it surrounds him, glowing and the golden light that imbues him flickers and swirls with the pale twists of silver and green light. And in the light is a voice and a presence and kindness. The pale light touches him and the pain is soothed. “Come, friend. Let us find your friend/brother/ lover/spouse.”
Gwen glanced behind her. Obth appeared to still be unconscious. She looked back at the older alien, listening as Carter translated.
“I will not be involved in this. It is an abomination. When we return I will say so in every council.”
Grel’s crest stood up and he took a step forward. With a slight shock, Gwen saw that several thin, very sharp-looking spurs had erected along the lower part of his arms. One of the other Wrrlthth got between the furious alien and the implacable Vmm.
Then the Gritz spoke and with a little start, Carter began translating again. “My child is perfect and healthy.”
The high warble of Vmm reached an almost painful pitch. “It cannot be healthy. It’s mind formed in that monster. It cannot be healthy.”
Grel spoke again, his voice harsh and piercing. Carter translated, “What makes him a monster? You told him how to be free of pain and healthy again; he chose instead to take the risk of his own life to… I’m sorry, I don’t understand the word… to do something to give the child of strangers his family? Is that what makes him a monster? He could have walked away. He risked everything to give us a living child. That makes him a monster? If it does, Vmm, I think I prefer the monster over you.”
There it is, that pale light, so clear. Getting nearer. The other light goes ahead and following it is easier, slipping along on silver and green. But he is so tired. The golden glow around him is dimming.
There was a sudden commotion behind them. Gwen turned, saw that Obth appeared to be convulsing. She turned back to Carter and the Gritz, but the young human was even more pale now. He said desperately, “I’m sorry. I’m trying but I don’t understand. Something about stupid and useless but I’m not sure who or what is stupid and useless. I’m so sorry.”
Gwen put her hand on his shoulder. “It’s okay. If his own people can’t make him understand, how can you expect to do it?”
She heard a shout behind her. She turned and saw Owen and the U.N.I.T. medic scrambling. Both Ianto and Jack appeared to be convulsing now, just as Obth was. Exactly as Obth was. The three bodies arched at the same time; the three heads swung forwards and then back. Three sets of limbs shook violently. Gwen rushed over. Owen was just watching now, eyes flickering from Jack to Obth to Ianto.
“What’s going on, Owen?”
Owen sat back on his haunches and rubbed his face. “I don’t have the slightest fucking idea.”
He reached the pale light with the very last of his strength. He could grasp in some incorporeal way at the light, but could not stop the fall. The other light said, “You need only hold him.” Then there was a pressure, sudden, intense, pushing them up. He held the pale light, held on to it with everything that he was. The golden light was so faint now that it was barely visible.
Then he saw that the other light was not rising up with them. That light remained below, becoming further and further away, and he screamed, “No! You must come with us!” and from the light came… warmth and enough strength to let him maintain his hold on the pale light.
And then the silver and green was gone.
The convulsions stopped. Gwen, kneeling next to Jack, felt his throat for a pulse and found nothing. The aliens around Obth were keening in a high-pitched wail and even the baby was crying again and Gwen wanted to put her hands over her ears and scream.
“I’ve got a pulse.”
“No, damn it, it’s gone again. Damn you, Tea Boy, you are not going to die on me.”
Gwen watched, alternating between Jack, who showed no signs of recovery, and Ianto, who’s heart seemed, for the first time, to be trying to beat. She sat, wide-eyed as Owen, the U.N.I.T. medic, and Tosh danced the complicated biochemical dance that was advanced cardiac life support. It was not that she had not seen it before, but this time, Owen’s intensity was like a slow explosion, building. She realized suddenly that if Ianto died, it would not be just Jack who would be devastated.
“There. Definitely. Come on, you sanctimonious twat, don’t you give up. I swear, I’ll follow you down into hell and drag you out.” Owen’s words were muttered in a harsh angry tone. The U.N.I.T. medic kept glancing at him uncertainly.
Gwen glanced over to the aliens and saw they were doing something she didn’t understand with Obth. Perhaps they were trying to revive him, just as Owen was trying to save Ianto.
Then Ianto coughed weakly. Gwen, knowing you can’t cough if you aren’t breathing, put her hands to her mouth, afraid to hope. Owen was listening to his chest, ordering things from the U.N.I.T. medic. He injected something into the IV running into Ianto’s arm. Ianto coughed again. His eyes flickered, opened.
“Owen?” the voice was very weak and very hoarse.
Gwen saw Owen was grinning like an idiot. “Told you I wouldn’t let you die.” Then he sat on the ground next to Ianto and began to cry.
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Chapter 15: Epilog
Author's Notes: Ahh, at last. Had to use dynamite to get Fred (my muse) to let go of it, but complete at last. Thanks to all my readers, especially those who took the time to review. Love you all.
The smell brought him back alright. Back to his childhood, back to that constant aching fear. Back to the feel of trying to stumble along behind his Mum and Andras, body stiff with half-healed bruises. He was not at all surprised to feel his heart beginning to pound in response. He really, really, really hated being in this church, in any church, or at least in any fucking Catholic church. The sad part was that it had absolutely nothing to do with religion at all. The truth was that if Andras had been an atheist, churches would probably be his favorite places.
He paused a moment, trying to remind himself that he was an adult, that Andras was long gone, that whatever problems he had with Catholicism in general were the problems a reasonable adult might have, and had nothing to do with memories of Andras’ loudly and publicly expressed sanctimony, and his own efforts to hold still during endless masses while his body was still recovering from the frequent beatings. He reminded himself that he was in this place for a reason, even if it was, perhaps a silly one. He took a deep breath, and was reminded why that was not a good idea. Pain spiked through his chest. He remembered with some shame the way he had complained…
“So you took the opportunity to jump up and down on my chest, then?” The amount of pain caused by his vain attempt to turn over had surprised and rather frightened him and Owen’s curt order to “lay fucking still” had not helped his temper.
“That’s right, Tea Boy,” Owen snarled. “For quite a while. Thought you wouldn’t mind, what with your heart not beating and all.”
Ianto started to snarl back, then saw the look on Tosh’s face. “What?” he said, rather lamely.
“Just shut up. I want to listen to your lungs.” Which he did with a stethoscope Ianto was quite sure he had been keeping in the fridge.
Ianto looked around again. Back in the damned “sick room”. He felt… Exhausted, actually, and as if he had been badly beaten (again!). But somehow, better. The only thing he needed now was…
“Where is Jack?”
Owen and Tosh exchanged a look. Tosh sighed. Owen said quietly, “He’s upstairs.”
“Did you tell him I’m awake?”
Tosh put a gentle hand on his forehead. “Ianto, he hasn’t… He hasn’t revived yet.”
Stunned, Ianto stared. “But… He died? What happened?”
Owen said, “I don’t know. You and he and that green alien all went down at pretty much the same time. You were the only one to wake up.
Ianto was trying to dig through blurred memories. “I don’t understand.”
Owen sighed, “We're all on the same page, then. Isn’t that nice?”
Tosh said quickly, “I’m sure Jack can explain when he wakes up.”
“You said I was asleep for twelve hours.”
Owen said, “That’s right, and I want you to try to eat a little and then go right back to sleep for another twelve hours and then maybe I’ll let you out of bed for a little while tomorrow.”
“But Jack is never gone that long. I mean except for…” He didn’t need to complete that sentence. They all knew what he was talking about.
Owen looked at Ianto for a long moment. “Ianto, you were dead.”
Ianto started to protest, then shut up. A cold icy knot formed in his gut.
“I was still going through the motions because… Because I promised…” To Ianto’s utter astonishment, he saw tears in the doctor’s eyes. Owen swallowed a couple of times, then went on. “But I knew you were gone. I just couldn’t figure out how to stop.” He sighed and rubbed his hands over his face. Ianto was aware for the first time how tired he looked and wondered if Owen had gotten any sleep at all during those twelve hours. After a minute, Owen added, “I think it took everything Jack had and everything Obth had to bring you back. I think it is going to take a while for Jack to get back himself.”
Tosh said, “He was the one who helped you get the baby’s mind where it belonged. He died, Ianto.”
Ianto put a twenty pound note in the offering box and picked up the long stick of wood with trembling fingers, touching it to one of the candles burning in the rack. When the taper was alight, he used it to light a new candle. He stood there for a while, eyes closed, reviewing the few moments he could remember. The heat of those long fingers on his forehead was the main thing. Everything else was a sort of blur.
He heard a faint rustle next to him, glanced over and was not especially surprised to see Jack lighting a candle next to the one he had lit. Ianto stood for a moment, watching. Jack’s eyes were closed and after a moment a tear worked its way out from under the lid and slid down Jack’s cheek. In a whisper so soft that Ianto could barely hear, Jack said, “Thank you, Obth.”
A little later, they stood outside the church, side by side. The last of the day’s light was fading from the western sky. The air was thick and cool. It was going to start raining soon.
Jack said, “You don’t like churches.”
“Nope.” Ianto sighed. He looked over his shoulder at the bulk of the church behind him. “But I needed…”
“You needed a way to ritualize your remembrance of the dead,” Jack said. He looked down at his boots, hands deep in his trouser pockets. “We had developed more secular rituals where I was born.”
Ianto looked at him. “What were they?”
Jack smiled, “Oh, something not so different from what we just did. It just didn’t have religious connotations.”
Ianto nodded. Then he said, “I don’t understand. Why did he do it? From what you said, it was his choice. Why?”
Jack laughed softly. “I suspect for the same reason you did. Because if we don’t at least try, it all seems so…pointless.”
After a long silence, Ianto turned to Jack, put his hands on his shoulders and turned him until they were face to face.
“You let me go,” he said softly.
Jack did not seem to want to look at him. He just nodded.
“Thank you. It was the most blessed gift you could have given me.”
Jack looked up in surprise.
“I know I am important to you, Jack. I know you need me. I know you don’t want to lose me. But you let me go, because that was what I needed. You were willing to lose me to give me that.” He took a deep breath. “I want you to know how much it means to me. I just don’t know how to say it.”
Jack’s expression was hard to read in the dark. But Ianto recognized the tone of voice when Jack said, “Well… let’s go home and you can show me, then.”
Ianto smiled. “Okay. I’ll try. It may take several attempts to really let you know how I feel.”
“Good,” Jack said simply.
They walked away hand in hand.
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