Rating: PG (may eventually be NC-17)
Warnings: Overt angst, overt fluff, mentions of Torchwood-style captivity, and slight spoilers for the Doctor Who episode Army of Ghosts.
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters are the property of their respective owners. I am in no way associated with the creators, and no copyright infringement is intended.
A/N: For this chapter’s quick appearance, I thank ToonyTwilight over on ffn, whose comments were a sharp kick to my muse, and who is just generally just an awesome reviewer/reader/person. You have my gratitude, and this chapter. :D
Emrys has been alive for a very long time.
Even by the reckoning of his people, he is old. Compared to the ephemeral humans with whom he now surrounds himself, he is godlike, as near to immortal as it is possible to be while still remaining vulnerable.
He has seen so much, done so much, that at one point he had considered himself beyond surprise. He’d thought nothing anyone did or was could startle him anymore.
And then he met Ianto Jones.
He is surprising.
To Emrys, he is a bright, burning torch against the pale grey backdrop of a fairly bland life, and Emrys is surprised yet again at how much he relishes Ianto’s light, Ianto’s friendship. The son of a dead world, a shattered people, and the exiled poet of another, they are hardly alike, but at the same time all too similar.
(They are both vicious, too, beneath the immaculately courteous exteriors. Emrys appreciates this above all else.)
Every clock in the small, crowded shop is chiming, all at once, and the racket is deafening. Emrys leans on his cane across the street and wonders how long it will take the humans to call their emergency services, because even the most unobservant among them will notice this, midnight though it is.
There is a ripple in space, like water disturbed by a stone, and a man falls through it, aged and terrified despite what he is. He rolls across the tarmac and comes to a stop nearly at Emrys’s feet, attempting to stand.
Casually, Emrys reaches out and lays his cane along the line of Bilis Manger’s throat. “I wouldn't, were I you,” he advises genially, and Manger stills.
He knows the cane for what it is.
Emrys smiles at that, because he might have been exiled for his writings, but that's not the only reason his people considered him dangerous enough to strand on a backwater planet like Earth in the twenty-fourth century.
The door of the shop swings open, increasing the cacophony of clocks for the moment it takes for Ianto to exit, dusting off his hands. He smiles at Emrys, never more terrifying than when he is cold and angry, and looks down at Manger.
“You and your master,” he says simply, “are not welcome on this planet. Take your leave.”
(He’s a dangerous man, this lost son of Bandraginus V, and Emrys never allows himself to forget it. Because despite what Torchwood Four has done to him, Ianto loves Earth. He loves it with the same passion that a madman loves his salvation, or an addict his fix.
Emrys does not look too closely at that metaphor, for fear of what he will realize is he does.)
Manger flees, far and fast and never to return.
Emrys does not even try to feel surprise.
Of the many startling things about Ianto Jones, his competence is not one of them.
The Ghost Shifts start, as Emrys always knew they would—he’s no Time Lord, has little knowledge of how the threads of time weave together, but he can tell a fixed point when it’s staring him in the face.
Because he is a good man, for all he is and has done, he collects himself and goes to seek Ianto, whose gifts will put him at a disadvantage when dealing with the creatures the witless humans have termed “ghosts.” He pities them, though he knows he will be able to do little to help.
The Cybermen are terrifying, insidious, and all Emrys can do is offer sanctuary to a select few who know him for what he is. Arcateenians cannot be converted, which will afford some protection to those with him.
But he’s too late. When he arrives, Ianto is in the Plass, falling. Emrys gathers himself to run, to go to him, but before he can there is another man there, one Emrys knows very well.
Captain Jack Harkness catches Ianto before he can crumple to the ground, gathers him up as though he weighs nothing at all and looks down at him with something indefinable on his face.
Oh, Emrys thinks, settling back into place and leaning thoughtfully on his cane. There is a smile pulling at his face as he recalls something from this world’s future, something from his past. Oh, I think I see now.
Sanity and consciousness return at the same time, and Ianto takes a breath of cool damp air. It’s free of pain, which is fairly startling until he realizes that no matter how real his impressions are, they are simply mental.
It’s all in my head, of course, Ianto thinks, and that thought is far more amusing than it should be. He sighs, because there's no use in putting off his return to the real world, and opens his eyes.
Captain Jack Harkness is staring down at him.
Harkness’ lips quirk slightly, the prelude to a grin, and he moves back slightly so that Ianto can sit up. “Good morning, Mr. Jones.”
“Ianto, please.” He does so, raising a hand to his head. There's a headache hovering just out of range, waiting to pounce, but Ianto hopes it will hold off for now. He prefers to face this inquisition with all of his faculties at their best. “You've been trying to get into my pants for a month now. If that doesn't breed at least that much familiarity, I'm scared to think what it would take.”
Harkness laughs at that, his expression delighted, and seizes Ianto’s hand to plant a cheesy kiss on the knuckles. “Ianto, then,” he allows, and Ianto has never seen eyes quite that blue before. They're breathtaking. “And you'll just have to call me Jack. Now, want to explain what this is about?” He offers up the piece of paper Ianto had left with his notes on Suzie’s betrayal, and though the amusement never fades completely from his face, there's something darker underneath it, as well.
“Ah.” For a moment, Ianto can't think, can't speak. The game is up, and he’s been caught flat-footed and without an explanation. He takes the paper carefully, reads over what he had written, and then looks back up at Jack.
But Jack's not looking at his face anymore. His eyes are on Ianto’s forearm, where his sleeve has been rolled up. Doubtless Dr. Harper did it for a medical reason, but he’d neglected to push it back down, and now Ianto’s movements have made it ride up far enough that his Torchwood Four tattoo is clear to the world.
Jack clearly knows the brand for what it is, judging by the dark look on his face.
Ianto closes his hand over the mark of Torchwood’s ownership, though the gesture is too late to hide anything. He hates the tattoo more in that moment than he ever has before, even more than when they first inscribed it into his skin and shut him away like one more weapon in their arsenal, kept under lock and key until they needed him.
But then there are hands on his face, cupping his cheeks and drawing his gaze away from the ugly darkness of it. Jack meets his gaze, unwavering and so very, very brave, and says very softly, “Oh, Ianto.”
He understands. Ianto’s heart breaks because he understands.
Jack is from the future, the child of another time, Torchwood’s legacy—all parts of it—no doubt stretch far into the future, all the way to whatever time it is Jack was born in. Torchwood Four will not be a secret forever, no matter how much those who run it want it to be, and—
Jack understands. That's all Ianto needs to know.
“Yes,” he says, and is unspeakably proud of himself when the word doesn't break halfway through. “They…found me when I was a child. I escaped.”
Such simple words, so easy, for such a large and terrifying thing.
Ianto takes a breath, another. “I'm psychic, or thereabouts. I tried to warn you, because I saw what would happen if I didn't. She’s already planned it, Jack, she’s already set in her ways and you can't—you can't fix her, no matter how much you want to—”
“Shh.” Jack lays a finger over Ianto’s lips, stilling the rush of words, and smiles at him. It’s wan and weary and far too tired for the life-hungry creature that Jack always is, but it’s still a smile, and it eases Ianto’s heart to see it. “I’ll take care of Suzie, Ianto, but right now you have to tell me. What’s wrong with the ghosts outside? What happened when you saw them?”
Ianto takes another deep, fortifying breath. “They're not of this universe. I look at them and all I see is nothing, like—”
“A void,” Jack finishes for him, frowning, and he stands with a whirl of his coat. “Torchwood One has found something from the Void, that must be what’s causing this. I have to get to London.”
It takes more effort that it should, but Ianto manages to stagger to his feet and hurry up the stairs after him. “Not alone, you don't. I can get you more information than One will give you. Bring me with you.”
He almost doesn't catch the gun and holster Jack tosses him, because he’s distracted by Jack's wide grin.
“I thought you’d never ask,” the Captain says, and then he’s gone.
Ianto is helpless to do anything but follow.
It feels right, which is not nearly as terrifying as it should be.