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Torchwood Fic: "Marigolds" (3/3)
star trek xi; finally gold
cirrocumulus wrote in cirro_media
Title: Marigolds (3/3)
Fandom/Pairing: Torchwood, Jack/Ianto
Rating: PG-13
Words: 5,238
Summary: There was someone else in the darkness.
Acknowledgments: Unquantifiable thanks to Liz for beta-ing.

"Never thought I'd see the day that your hard work actually paid off, Cooper," Owen teased. But Gwen's victory made her impervious and she simply stood in front of her map with smug contentment. Jack observed the proceedings with detached immediacy; the world filtered into his mind with a muffled sharpness, certain inputs being entirely cancelled out, others sharply amplified. He supposed he just hadn't slept in a while; his mental state had the familiar tint of insomnious paranoia characterized by a disarming oversensitivity to the elements. His entire body recoiled from every impacting air molecule—and was it always this cold?—and while he tried to get a grip on his mental focus, his gaze kept traveling toward the ceiling lights like some moth lured by the thrill of electrical death.

"I've finally figured out what's tying all these disappearance cases together," Gwen announced, leaning on the boardroom table with authority. Jack endeavored to focus his attention on her, but there was a lag between his intention to move his mental focus and its actual shift, like a weight being dragged through water.

"These red stickers represent the places at which the disappeared were last seen," Gwen explained, gesturing to the map of Cardiff on which she had placed an array of red dots. The dots formed a general cloud around a particular block of the city, growing in density around the block until the dots conspicuously vanished altogether around a few certain buildings.

"As you can see, there's a blind spot here, where all the disappearances seem to be leading to. I'm thinking that whatever is abducting these people is stationed right there," Gwen said, pointing to the empty spot in the center of the sticker-array. Jack tilted his head to one side and glanced at the others to see how they were taking this.

"This seems like something we should have noticed a long time ago," Jack said. Gwen's expression was effectively stunned.

"Yes, well," she clipped, "I have figured it out, though. Now."

Gwen floundered in the moment before turning back to her map. "I think it's obvious that we need to investigate this immediately. Whatever is causing these people to disappear can probably be found right within the empty area."

"What do you think could be causing these disappearances, though?" Tosh asked, chin resting in her hand in a display of concern.

"Probably some kind of predatory creature," Owen said, evaluating the map with grave curiosity. And thus marked the point at which all eyes turned to Jack for instruction.

"We'll have to pack the hunting gear," Jack announced, rising from the table decisively. The others rose and dispersed autonomously, leaving Jack alone to lose a staring contest to the map.

Cardiff was gray; Jack wasn't surprised. The SUV rumbled methodically along the streets and Jack felt unusually tense; he'd caught so many aliens in the past and after a while the hunts had seemed nearly mundane, but perhaps he'd become so nonchalant about catching these creatures that his security was turning in on itself and morphing into insecurity again. Jack stared at the sky.

Gwen parked the SUV on the road on the event horizon of the blind spot she had designated on her investigation map. The team got out, popping the SUV open and leaving it a shell-carrier. Jack stood on the sidewalk, heart pounding. He didn't even feel particularly nervous; his heart simply insisted on being loud. It was almost annoying.

"So what's the game plan?" Jack asked as he caught up to the group on the sidewalk. "It doesn't seem reasonable to blindly search every place in the area."

"We may have to," Gwen said, squinting as she studied the street. "Whatever's here has obviously been hiding itself well."

Tosh, Owen and Gwen clustered on the sidewalk in a triumvirate of desperation, and Jack could feel the lethargic shifting of responsibility in his direction, inevitably. As he tried to reasonably assess the probability of each building on the block housing possible alien life, a thread sifted into his mind: a faintly tugging encouragement that made him turn, trance-like, toward, of all things, an ice-cream parlor across the street. A cool glow suffused through his mind until he was nearly humming with the promise of a bright, calming passivity, and the shop loomed in front of him like a black hole with open arms.

Jack blinked furiously a few times—he didn't trust it at all—and turned to Gwen.

"What about the ice-cream shop across the street?" Jack said, applying a casual shrug. "Seems as good a place as any to start."

"Think we could grab a snack for the journey, is that it?" Gwen joked, and Jack took no hesitation in turning with a dismissive grin and crossing the street over to the shop. The sensation increased gradually as they neared the entrance; it was nearly like a soft singing that conveyed vague yet soothing promises and Jack followed it cautiously, fighting against the daze yet carefully savoring all the while.

The parlor inside was slightly dark, thin shadows barely overpowering the promising cheer of sugary confections. Their entrance startled the young man behind the counter.

"Er," the man stuttered, "can I help you--?"

"We're going to need to have a look around," Gwen said, approaching the counter with authority.

"And who are you?"

"Torchwood!" Jack announced, already making his way around the counter towards a dimly lit hallway. "You got storage space in here, a basement? We'll need to search it."

"Yes," the man said, eyeing them all warily. "Do you have a warrant?"

"Don't need one," Jack said, flashing the man a sly smile before marching off down the hallway.

The storage hallway was dank, confused; he could hear the team following behind him at a slight distance, but he focused on the signal in his head, following its pull down a flight of grimy stairs into an even darker hallway below. Jack's heart picked up and he realized how foolishly he'd trotted on down here; they were searching for a possibly murderous alien and he was allowing himself to be more or less led around on a string. But if felt right: whatever was alighting this song in his head was also undoing the knot in his chest that he couldn't ever remember not bothering him.

As Jack passed one of the storage doors the daze in his head switched direction like a compass, pulling him back toward the door. As he stared at it he felt as if he could see through it, could feel the tangible, pulsing presence of some vast, ultimate beauty. Carefully, he put a hand on the doorknob, stilling himself, and pushed the door open.

The swinging door peeled back the eclipse of a magnificent light: a luminous ball suspended in the air, projecting swirling patterns of every color imaginable, like all the lights of a nebula condensed into this singing shape. Jack walked over to it slowly, practically drooling; the lights filled every corner of his mind and he could have stared at it forever. It fizzed and hummed with light, surpassing every beautiful thing Jack had ever seen; the lights almost seemed delighted by his presence there, grateful to have somebody there to admire their beauty and absorb their rays, and Jack found himself smiling giddily. He had the impression of hearing a muffled noise from behind him, but it might just have been an offshoot of the singing light in his mind. In any case he didn't care; he knew if he could touch the light, if he only absorbed a fraction of its beauty, everything would be okay again. He lifted his hand up to it, and very carefully pressed just one finger to the surface of the lights. It felt cold.

A vision of sharp, sharp teeth.


Ianto was regarding him warily.

"You've been away a long time."

"I was busy," Jack lied. He caught a glimpse of a disapproving grimace before Ianto tucked his head down.

"Alright," Ianto said. He lifted his head up again. "I know that maybe you're... scared, or worried that something bad might happen—"

"Ianto," Jack said forcefully, "there is nothing I can do for you."

Ianto's face showed none of the hurt that Jack was expecting, only a still and silent calculation.

"There is," Ianto whispered with no gentleness. "I know there is. But you don't want to try. Do you?"

Jack stared at Ianto fiercely, trying to sort out his own motives—they'd gotten tangled up in each other along the way, somehow.

"There is no way to get you back to the way you were," Jack said angrily.

"So you'd rather have me like this?" Ianto said quietly, peering up at Jack with such simple sadness that Jack felt no right to do or say anything.

"I'd prefer to have you the way you were," Jack said softly. "I'm sure you can see where the problem is."

Ianto continued to stare up at Jack, the prolonged silence emphasizing Ianto's desperation with every passing moment. When Ianto was upset Jack used to be able to kiss him, or at least hold him, but there was no physical comfort in this place because there was no physical anything.

"I can't stay here, Jack," Ianto whispered urgently; Jack could trace the growing fear in Ianto's eyes. "I really can't."

Jack was about to voice a response but caught the comment in his mouth, weighed it pensively; it was such an ugly thought—a thought that could barely look at itself in the mirror-- that Jack had a vague hope it might become more beautiful if Ianto could criticize him for it.

"To be honest," Jack winced, "I can't stand to have you here either."

Jack watched Ianto's eyes carefully, but all he found in them nearly made him flinch.

"What do you mean?" Ianto asked edgily.

"It's hard for me, too," Jack said quietly. "To go back there every time. It's like... drowning."

Jack knew he wasn't making any sense but Ianto had always been able to see Jack's intent before Jack himself was even aware of it; this time, however, Ianto simply looked offended.

"Well, I'm dead, I'm very sorry," Ianto said, biting on each word like they deserved it.

"Well I am!" Jack shouted. "I actually am sorry."

But Ianto was only growing worse and Jack was positively fraying and Jack had a comic image of their conversation looping-- well, I'm sorry that you're sorry, and I'm sorry that you're sorry that I'm sorry until they both lost their minds.

"You don't know what it's like being dead, Jack," Ianto whispered weakly. "At all."


Jack blinked blearily; the dark world was warm and grumbling. He groaned loosely from an unidentifiable pain and burrowed into the warmth to his right.

"Oh! He's awake," the warmth announced. The blurry patches of light and dark assembled themselves into the interior of the SUV; Jack was in the backseat, with Gwen. He tried to speak but only issued a brief squeaking sound; the moveable parts of his head felt strangely stiff and disjointed.

"What happened?" Jack managed to ask hoarsely.

"The alien in the basement ate your head," Gwen proffered. Jack glanced down and saw his clothes were soaked through with blood.

"Oh my," Jack said, blinking.

"It grew back, though," Gwen said with a cheery smile. "It was actually quite disgusting, really."

Jack nodded and smiled with very small movements.

"Did we catch it, though?" he asked. "The alien?"

"Yes," Gwen said reassuringly. "It's in the trunk."

"Good." Jack then added: "Thanks."

Gwen smiled sympathetically, though Jack thought she really shouldn't have. But he was more grateful than he would have preferred to be: he would have liked to stay in the simple security provided by that moment, leaning gently against Gwen, mired in the glow of the SUV screens and the dark lights of the outside, the SUV's engine humming like the heartbeat of a mother. But he was aware that he'd already been hugely mortified that day, more even than he could comprehend in his state, and despite his overwhelming dizziness he sat up straighter and rolled his head around gently. His neck popped so loudly that Gwen flinched. Jack could see her eyeing him cautiously in his periphery.

"Jack," Gwen whispered, "would you please tell me what's going on?"

"No," Jack said. "And please stop asking me."

Gwen turned away and spent the rest of the ride in distressed silence. Through all the haze, Jack felt bad; he knew she meant well. But he didn't.

When Jack returned to the Hub (the lights were so bright) he immediately retreated down to his chamber to change into new clothes, both for the purely utilitarian purpose of clothes not soaked with blood, but also for the subtle comfort provided by clean clothes: they were an easy way to profess wholesomeness. When Jack climbed (shakily) back up to his office, Gwen was waiting for him.

Jack sighed (he was tired). "Yes?"

"What happened today?" Gwen asked determinedly, following Jack as he trudged over to his desk and allowed his chair to catch him.

"What are you talking about?"

"Today, with the alien," Gwen said, sitting in the chair opposite him. "What happened to you?"

Jack stared at her and tapped his fingers on his desk nervously. The truth, he decided, was the least he could do at this point.

"The alien we caught today—"

"The one that caught you," Gwen said pointedly.

"Yeah," Jack said tersely. "That alien has a kind of... psychological lure. It gets into people's heads and attracts them towards it, and once people get close enough, it eats them. Kind of like an angler fish."

"Did you feel it, were you drawn to it?"

"Yes," Jack said, starting to retreat from the boundaries of the conversation.

"And how come none of the rest of us felt it?"

Jack sighed. "The alien usually has an easier time getting inside the heads of people who are already in a mentally susceptible state. Like if they're... frightened, for instance."

Gwen's expression was controlled and pensive, though Jack knew inside she was celebrating a jackpot victory.

"That's why you really need to tell me what's going on," Gwen said, fixing him with a determined stare. Gravity felt interminable.

"Haven't we already been over this?" Jack said, forcing every word.

"If you tell me I can help you."

"No, you can't," Jack enunciated tersely, the consonants nearly paining him. He stared at Gwen, searching her face for any hint that she might understand on a deeper level than he was afraid she actually did; he really couldn't tell. Gwen adopted a sympathetic expression.

"Is there any way for you to fix this?" Gwen asked, staring him straight in the eyes. "Whatever it is?"

Jack shook his head slightly. "No. I don't think so."

Gwen pressed her lips together pensively, gazing at the clutter on Jack's desk. Jack felt hopeless, but he was at least willing to let Gwen try if she had any left.

"There must be something you can do," Gwen said, leaning forward with sincerity.

"Oh, there's plenty I can do," Jack said ironically, regarding his desk with sudden bitterness. "But I'm not sure I have enough strength to be a horrible person."

Gwen finally seemed surprised. Jack's faith in her began to waiver, though he shielded it with both hands as best he could.

"What are you talking about?" Gwen asked, the slightest tint of fear coloring her eyes. Jack toyed with a scrap of paper on his desk, trying to diffuse the negativity collecting in every nerve.

"I can't help him," he finally said. And there it was, simple and honest. Jack suddenly missed being a child: children could cry and cry and everybody understood. Gwen's expression was unreadable to him, but he knew it contained none of what he wanted to see.

"Please," he said, "look sadder than that."

Gwen looked frightened and significantly more confused, but didn't quite make it. Jack glared at her torturously, all hope drowned, silently begging for her to just drop it and admit defeat.

He was devastated when she finally did.

The team left for the evening and Jack was sure this time he couldn't take it. He knew that for years it had been exactly this way, him alone all night with no one around, and he'd hardly even thought about it. Before Ianto's death there had been Ianto, but before Ianto Jack couldn't remember what he'd done with the night.

Jack wandered out of his office after some hours of reflection, feeling more like a ghost in the Hub than an actual live person; he'd certainly spent enough time there to earn the title. The autopsy bay was as stark as ever when Jack got there and he treaded the steps down to the pentagonal depression lightly, not even a poltergeist.

Jack locked hands around the handle of the cold storage locker and swung the lid open, pulling out the slab upon which the anglerfish-alien lay. It was quite a large thing, filling nearly the entire space of the locker, though in its state its bulk was merely a nuisance and contained no threat of fear. Most alluring of all was the lure attached to its head, which Jack could now see in all of its mundane banality: it was entirely glowless, as dull as a dead light bulb. The monster's disproportionately fearsome teeth glinted in the sharp light but even they had been rendered inert. Jack could touch them, now; and when he hesitantly pressed his fingers to the ridge of one still crusted partially in his blood, he half expected something to happen. But nothing did.

The Fermi Paradox is all about disappointment, essentially. It poses the question of why, if extraterrestrial life is so probable, it appears to be impossible; where, Fermi asked, has everybody gone? Jack had found this problem strangely poignant when he'd first heard of it—in a way Torchwood was the Paradox, smuggling away all the clues of alien life and leaving humanity to wring their hands at the sky in abandonment. Yet even more significantly, the idea itself had felt immediately familiar to Jack: walking into a room that you expect to be packed with your friends only to find it deserted. He had had dreams like that.

But the only solution to the problem was exploration, and Jack was nothing if not an explorer (and some days he wasn't an explorer). He took the SUV out for a midnight spin, over the skittering display of puddle-reflections and under the rhythmic array of streetlights, down to the storage unit where Ianto's apartment had been boxed away. It wasn't raining like it should have been; Jack slowed the SUV down and put it to sleep, stepping out with quiescent care. He was terrified.

The corrugated door lifted up automatically and he stepped carefully inside, torch shining over stacks of erratically piled boxes. Ianto hadn't had very many things, which was sad but would make Jack's task easier. He made an incision in the top of the first box with a switchblade and opened it; he was collecting evidence, and he knew Ianto should have things because he had given him things—he thought—little things, some by accident or without much consideration, but the clues should be there.

He was aware of how severely he should be disapproving of his own actions, but his curiosity propagated with every box until eventually he was sitting in the midst of a wreck, boxes and clothes and furniture, but in his hands he held what he had hoped he wouldn't be able to find.

Jack flicked a page open experimentally; Ianto's handwriting was too legible for its own good and Jack started skimming, flipping through to important dates and relative eras, looking for his name, or any of the keywords relevant to the notion he was searching for: the two in conjunction, ideally. Mention of him appeared sporadically, embedded in none of the sensitive context he'd been counting on, paired with clinicality and no endearment. Boss, over and over again. My boss.

That's fine, Jack thought. Maybe he just doesn't write about that kind of thing. And a lack of evidence was not evidence; Jack glanced skeptically down at the diary, ready to chalk the entire ordeal up to a lucky waste of time. How misleading could two years have been?

Jack thought for a good long while, until he couldn't think of anything.

Jack really never had been an author, and when Tosh ran into his office like the world was ending he was nearly grateful.

"I've decoded them," Tosh panted. "The messages."

"Nothing good, huh?" Jack asked, getting out of his seat.

"No," Tosh said. "Not at all."

The entire team gathered around Tosh's desk as she brought up her translation of the alien messages, all peering at the screen tensely.

"Basically, these are schematics like we thought," Tosh began, "but it's also a warning signal."

"What kind of warning?" Jack asked, skimming the message; he glimpsed a few none-too-friendly words, such as "fatal explosion."

"These messages are being sent from a ship with a decaying radioactive engine; apparently these kind of ships aren't supposed to be abandoned or their engines start deteriorating, so they are built with automatic safety systems that send out help signals once the engine's been left idle too long."

Something resonated in Jack's head. "Wait. That sounds a lot like the ships from--"

"The invasion," Tosh said tensely. "Yes. One must have crashed in the forest and escaped our notice."

Jack stared at the schematics, trying to pick out a proper response but mainly mutilating the inside of his mouth. "Well?"

"Our messages contain galactic coordinates for the ship's location," Tosh sighed. "They indicate the exact spot where Angela Maddock fell ill."

"The same place that's being quarantined right now," Jack murmured distractedly. "Does the message say what to do about it?"

"Yes. The schematics contain instructions for how to dismantle the engine and stop the radioactive decay."

"Well, seems pretty decisive to me," Jack announced. "We've got to roll out immediately."

The team mobilized in true war fashion, piling into the SUV with all the necessary equipment and confidence. Jack led them on, once more, toward possible death; he wondered why he didn't feel guilty more often.

The quarantine area sifted into view through the fog as the SUV pulled up near the boundary, which was guarded by several suited men. Jack and the others jumped out of the vehicle.

"We're Torchwood," Jack told one of the nearby men. "We need access inside."

"You can't go inside the quarantine area without the proper protection," the guard said, eyeing them warily.

"Good point," Jack said, looking back at his team. "Tosh? Have we—"

"Actually," Tosh interrupted nervously, "there is... something you need to know about this situation first."

Jack hesitated, glancing at the others. "Yes?"

"Well," Tosh stammered, clutching her files, "the thing is... the engine can't be dismantled easily... and there are some dangers that are associated—"

"Just say it, Toshiko," Jack snapped.

"Basically, whoever goes to dismantle the engine will be killed by the radiation," she said. "It's unavoidable."

There was the expected pause in the conversation. Owen's eyes were the first to flit toward Jack; then Gwen's, and Tosh finally caught on with an innocent gaze of stunned horror.

"It's fine," Jack told her. "Just tell me what I need to do."

Tosh looked briefly apologetic but nonetheless gave him the requisite run-down: the engine schematics, the technology, the cloaking device, his death. Gwen and Owen didn't say a word and Jack knew that somewhere inside they probably felt bad.

"I think I've got it," Jack said, pocketing the necessary materials. "Are we good?"

Owen and Gwen were silent, Gwen trying an unsure expression of encouragement, but Tosh's quiescent expression was accented with guilt.

"I'm really sorry," Tosh said, and her sincerity gave Jack a brief, lucid moment of tunnel vision.

"It's fine," Jack reassured her. "Don't worry about me," he said (though a bit more like "don't worry about me").

The clearing was foggy and still, patches of mist drifting by like sleepy, apathetic ghosts. Jack held in his hands two machines: one to locate the tricephelated beast, one to reveal it. His hands would be the third machine, the destroyer. It was simple enough.

The locator beeped thoughtfully, representing Jack's destination as a red dot on its screen. Jack meandered toward it through the clouds, which formed a gauzy horizon farthest from him in true fashion of relativity. When Jack finally approached the designated spot, he could feel the thrumming.

Jack pocketed the locator and replaced it with the tool that would disengage the cloaking device that had fooled all but Torchwood's clever selves. Jack pressed the necessary buttons and the image of the shipped warped into view as from inside a popped bubble. It was gray steel all over, cumbersome and hulking despite its meager polish; it hardly seemed like something that should fly, but Jack had learned not to trust his eyes anymore. He approached the thing as if it were some sort of sleeping animal, and for all purposes it was; the ship rose a good deal above his head and there was something significant about standing in its shadow. He tried not to remember it.

Jack popped open the control panel, and the sight of the button array was the first impression of dread he had, a completely arbitrary lacing of depression fused into the image. But Jack ignored it, focusing instead on the technicalities; buttons had always made just enough sense to him and when he recalled the schematics he knew precisely what to do. His heart offered a startled protest, and for a moment Jack suspected it might try to abandon him entirely and forge its own independent course, but Jack resisted the mutiny. In general Jack had to live by the rule that, if nothing else, he was all of himself. And as the bracing set in, Jack suspected he was simply the center of a giant accident. The entire situation had been born as some sort of deformed calf, and violent mercy was the only thing for it.

Jack stared at the sky. It glowed.


Had the darkness been empty already, Jack would have been in turn relieved and devastated, the most simplistic complexity he could have hoped for. But it wasn't. Jack stared at him like some kind of monster sent to devour him; but he wasn't, he was Ianto. The name ricocheted off the back of Jack's mind.

"Hello," Ianto said congenially. Jack tried to give Ianto a smile that wouldn't choke on itself.

"How... how are you, Ianto?" Jack asked, holding up like a wall of water.

"Fine, considering the circumstances," Ianto said with a flippant smile. Jack nodded, puzzling out the definitions of weapon and the innocent. The inevitable swelled like a dark wave.

"Listen, Ianto," Jack said haltingly, stumbling unexpectedly over a phrase that would make the situation okay (except the situation was not okay). Yet Jack couldn't bring himself to say it; Ianto looked on curiously and Jack tried to coax the simple words out, yet his voice refused to make the daring fall of the first vowel sound onto the soft current of consonants. But Ianto's intelligence, which had never done him any good, caught on and the realization was expressed on his face as the breaking of his smile into a nervous frown.

"Please," Ianto said tensely, "don't say it."

Jack paused internally; for a moment the image of Ianto in front of him failed to harmonize into a coherent symbol, decomposing into its composite parts.

"You don't know what I was going to say," Jack said, trying to stay squared out despite the crushing.

"Yes, I do," Ianto replied, pinning Jack with a challenging glare. Jack shook (trembled, folded into an origami crane and stood up again).

"I need you gone," Jack whispered. He didn't look at Ianto's face; he watched the slope of Ianto's tailored suit roll down from his neck to the precipitous fall off his shoulder.


"I need you gone," Jack repeated.

Ianto made an incredulous head movement to the side, containing himself within a tightly sealed gesture.

"What do you mean?" Ianto asked flatly. He knew.

"I can't have you here anymore," Jack said, drawing strength out of nowhere. "When I come back I want it to be empty."

Ianto actually smiled wryly; Jack couldn't move.

"You can't just... kick me out," Ianto said, fear evident in the amused edges of his voice.

"Well," Jack said, pressing his teeth together, "I am."

Jack watched Ianto's expression with terror; for a moment Ianto looked strongly defiant, but the expression died and left behind a look that Jack would never really forget.

"I'm so sorry," Jack whispered, and he meant it completely; he wanted nothing more than to be able to scrabble some kind of wholeness out of the wreck, but it was only him and Ianto and Ianto wasn't talking. Jack knew that the last image he would have of Ianto was precisely this: Ianto in the dark, his expression gently evolving from hatred to fright, until


When Jack tried to think of the good times, this was what he came up with:

It was as nice a day as any of them had been. Ianto had been wandering about as was his style, fighting entropy as best he could. Jack had been watching him on and off for most of the day, forsaking his paperwork to ponder Ianto's precise cleaning maneuvers. Ianto had come in around 10 o'clock with the usual coffee in hand.

"Anything else you want, sir?" Ianto had asked on the very verge of politeness, pocketing his hands in a prepared gesture. Jack had smirked; he could think of a few things to ask for, but the pocketing of hands had drawn his attention.

"You're always hiding your hands," Jack had mused. "What do you think I'm going to do to them?"

Ianto had smiled, perhaps to assemble the illusion that he was simply humoring Jack instead of acquiescing, and unpocketed his hands with little fanfare. Jack leaned over and took one of them tentatively, watching for any modulation of the look in Ianto's eyes.

"That," Ianto had said pointedly, though watching Jack with a permeable expression. Jack had taken the opportunity to pull Ianto a little closer, overpowering Ianto's stubbornness and bringing him slightly stumbling forward.

"I'm not so bad," Jack had said carefully; he was startled by how distinctly he could feel Ianto's nervousness in his hand.

"No," Ianto had said. "I suppose not."

Jack had smiled; after a few contemplative moments Ianto had squeezed back, and Jack had maintained his grip with assurance, absorbing Ianto's fears one by one.

Jack tried to protect this memory, encapsulate it in a place that had never been painted in Halloween colors or grown over with defeated vines, where there was more to do with life than recede back into the roots and the cavernous earth.

Somewhere, Jack knew, there was a parallel universe where he hadn't let go.

| Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 |

  • 1
....oh my god.
That was....amazing. Amazing and terrible all at once.

I'm glad you made Jack let Ianto go but what a awful way to part especially for Jack who is unable to let go anything.

It was a great torchwood fic ! Hope to read more from you

That was... surrealistic anguish. I had hoped for some happier resolution, like maybe the fact that Ianto hovered in the void meant he wasn't really gone. I resent Jack a little for letting Ianto go, but at the same time I feel for him; the living and the dead aren't meant to coexist.

I suppose what gets me the most is the tarnished feeling of it. Jack didn't get to be there for Ianto's death, there were no dying words, Ianto had no burial - just an archival of his effects. No glory or peace attatched itself to his death - or his after-death. Real life is like that, which may be the most horrible thing of all.

Big huge ouch. I mean, wow. It's real, you know? No real resolve to his death, no coming back, no happy ending.

At the same time - gorgeous writing and excellent work.

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This is simultaneously not what I wanted to happen, and exactly *precisely* what I wanted to happen. You controlled Jack's grief beautifully throughout this, without needing to resort to any hard and definable emotion what would have made it unrealistic. The pace is perfect, the characterisation... you deserve a medal for your characterisation for Gwen, and in turn Jack's responses to her.

This fic is amazing. Thanks *so much* for writing

I finished reading your story this morning. The plot nuances were so delicate I wasn't entirely sure I was catching all you meaning. Reading the above comments helped very much. So sad for Jack as he seems to be losing his mind the longer he knows Ianto is there waiting for him. So sad for Ianto too, but in the end he may need to move on apart from Jack to find the final peace of death. Gwen was spot on perfect, she just can't let go of a puzzle.

Oh my this was like real life.

it was sad and brilliant.

This is so utterly heartbreaking. Jack, wanting to hang on but needing to let go to stay sane and Ianto just desperate to hang on to all he has left. Wow. You completely slayed me. This needs to go in my memories.

Oh my God, this hurts. It's really well written and the story is great but I almost (just almost) wish I hadn't read it 'cause you packed so much anguish in there. Of course Jack has to let go, I could feel it creeping up on him, and Ianto and on me, the reader. At the same time it feels so awful for Ianto, who got to linger long enough to start to have some sort of hope. The way I read it people (including Jack) normally aren't truly aware of being dead but for some reason, when they were together the two of them did. That strikes me as more cruel than anything, of course Ianto is going to be scared and of course Jack will have trouble moving on, even though it is inevitable that Ianto has to really die. It really tarnishes their ending, because even if Jack was not "there" when Ianto died, there was sorrow and love and unwillingness there. To put them in a position where Jack has to choose to reject Ianto and Ianto has to face that choice can't cause anything but pain. I have to stop thinking about this now before I depress myself to much. Still, it is an amazing story, very thought provoking and it really makes you feel. Hope you continue to write TW-fic, maybe something a bit lighter next time?
/S from Sweden

Thank you for the comment!

Your interpretation of the "awareness" issue was right-- as I wrote it Jack and everyone else who died would not be aware of being dead or in any sort of "afterlife," but when Jack and Ianto are together in the same place in the dead they are aware of themselves and each other.

The theme I was basically working on throughout the story was the question of whether it was more tragic for a loved one to die or for a loved one to be purposefully rejected. It seems obvious that one the whole death is much more tragic but I think that especially in thematic and fictional terms there is something slightly more tragic about being rejected, about someone making that personal choice to remove you from their life. And I was thinking about that idea as I was brainstorming the end of this story and it immediately came to me-- I could combine the two options into one, a loved one dying AND being rejected in the same motion. Of course I realized how absolutely horrible that prospect was but I can't deny it made me incredibly excited when I thought it up. So yes, those themes definitely are there and I'm glad you picked up on them.

Haha, the next fic I plan on working on isn't exactly light but it won't be quite as dark as this one, anyway. I keep trying to think up a fluffy Christmas-related piece but nothing comes to mind!

Oh wow. Deeply painful, especially now, but very well done.

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