[ part 1 | part 2 | part 3]
- - -
He’d changed Ianto into dry boxers and a plain white t-shirt and tucked him up into their bed. Owen had checked him over more thoroughly once they’d returned and Ianto had surfaced enough to open his eyes and grimace a smile as he saw Jack’s concerned face hovering over his own; his cold fingers squeezing faintly at Jack’s hand before he slipped back into unconsciousness. Owen gave him a dose of intravenous painkillers and pronounced that though he didn’t look at all fit and healthy, he could find nothing wrong per se with Ianto.
Jack looked at him with hooded eyes and Owen said, with sincerity, “he’ll be fine, Jack. He’s just hurting and exhausted. He needs to rest.” Jack nodded and perched himself on the edge of the bed, careful not to disturb Ianto. Owen slipped into the en suite bathroom for a moment before returning with a glass of water and a facecloth.
“He’ll need fluids,” he said, sitting the glass on Jack’s side of the bed. “If he can’t swallow, try to get him to suck the water out of the cloth.” Jack just nodded, still watching- eyes roaming from his paled face to the painfully slow rise and fall of his chest. His fingers tightened their hold on Ianto’s hand.
“I’ll come check on him in an hour or two,” Owen said, hovering at his side. Jack nodded again but said nothing and Owen hesitated at speaking more before closing his mouth and slipping from the room.
Jack stayed at Ianto’s side, eventually moving to lie beside him on the bed, his eyes not once leaving Ianto’s face.
After the first couple of hours there came a knock to the door before it opened and someone slipped into the room.
“How is he?” Jack rolled over, surprised to hear Gwen’s voice. He hadn’t realised she’d returned.
“Alive.” Jack answered simply, sitting himself up. He kept a tight hold of Ianto’s hand. Gwen sat beside him, a hand upon his arm.
“Tosh told me what happened,” she said, watching as Jack’s gaze flickered over her to land on Ianto. She looked over also, wincing at Ianto’s pallor. If it weren’t for the fact she could see the sheets moving as he breathed, she wouldn’t have been sure he was still alive. Gwen squeezed her fingers against Jack’s arm.
“How are you, Jack?” She asked and Jack shrugged.
“I’m fine,” he answered simply. She wanted to press for more, knowing that he was far from it but a part of her knew not to push this, not now. She inclined her head at him before leaning in and wrapping her arms about Jack in a hug. He tensed for a minute before bringing an arm up to return the gesture.
After a long moment she pulled away, touching worriedly at Jack’s face before standing and moving back. “I’ll send Owen soon,” she said, “he’ll be okay, Jack, our Ianto’s a tough cookie.” She smiled gently before leaving the room. Jack watched the door for a second before feeling Ianto’s fingers twitch against his hand.
He turned back towards the bed, seeing that Ianto’s eyes were open- they were reddened and heavy-lidded, but they were open and Jack breathed a sigh of relief as he moved forward to kiss at Ianto’s brow.
“Hey,” he called and Ianto smiled, grimacing with pain as he swallowed. He lifted a pale hand to touch at his throat and then his chest and Jack knew he must be feeling the hurt in them both.
“Do you remember what happened, Ianto?” Jack asked, calling Ianto’s attention back to him. Ianto looked at him, frowning, eyes closing. He nodded his head just faintly before his expression smoothed out and sleep claimed him once more.
- - -
When Ianto roused himself to wakefulness again it was to find Toshiko sitting with him. He smiled tiredly at her and she smiled back. She looked pale and drawn and was watching him with evident concern. He squeezed as best he could at the fingers she’d entwined with his own.
“How are you feeling?” She asked, leaning over him to press a hand to his forehead.
“Sore,” he managed, wincing even as he spoke the word- both his chest and his throat protesting his attempts to speak. Toshiko winced also at the sound of it.
“Are you thirsty?” She asked and Ianto nodded. Toshiko released his hand and reached for the glass of water. “Do you think you can swallow?”
Ianto shook his head, frowning as he watched Toshiko dip a corner of a facecloth into the glass before touching it to his lips. He opened his mouth obediently and pressed his tongue to the fabric, squeezing it up against the roof of his mouth and sucking gently at it- small trickles of water escaping the fabric to coat his tongue and slip smoothly down his throat without prompting. They repeated this a couple more times before Ianto shook his head and Toshiko put the glass down, taking his hand once more.
“Thanks,” he tried, swallowing and wincing simultaneously. Toshiko grimaced in sympathy. Ianto smiled bravely and closed his eyes. He felt Toshiko’s lips on his cheek as she kissed him.
“Get some rest, Ianto,” she breathed softly, “we’ll be here when you wake up.”
Ianto smiled again and allowed himself to fall back to sleep.
- - -
“You scared the life out of me,” Jack said, lying beside Ianto once more. Ianto reached out to touch at Jack’s face.
“‘M sorry,” he whispered hoarsely.
“Don’t be,” Jack said, “It wasn’t your fault.”
They were silent, watching each other for a moment before Ianto looked away, his eyes slipping closed.
“I saw Lisa,” he whispered and felt Jack start beside him. He reached out, blindly groping for Jack’s hand. Jack caught it and entwined their fingers. “I know it wasn’t her,” he began stiltedly, ignoring Jack’s request not to strain himself. “But whatever it was, it chose to look like her.” He swallowed heavily.
“I only remember seeing her,” he said, “then she turned into… into smoke,” Ianto frowned, thinking, trying to find the words to describe the moment, “And then she- it- came at me, and… and then I was choking on water,” Ianto turned his head to look at Jack again.
Jack shimmied closer, kissing lightly at the side of Ianto’s mouth.
“Why did I see her, Jack?” he asked as Jack pulled back, his eyes wide and shining in the dimly lit room.
“I don’t know, Ianto,” Jack said, his other hand lifting to touch at Ianto’s cheek, fingers stroking over his skin. He stayed with Ianto, the pair of them slipping into silence, until Ianto fell asleep once again. He stayed with Ianto throughout the night, keeping a silent vigil over the other man.
- - -
“There were two more disappearances reported last night,” Gwen said, stepping back into the apartment the following morning. Toshiko followed, carrying a tray of coffees and an assortment of breakfast foods.
Jack turned from the magnificent windows where he’d been viewing the grounds and watched as Toshiko set the tray down on a semi-empty space of the coffee table before stepping forward to accept his cup from her with a smile of thanks.
“Both of them were men,” Gwen continued, flipping open a small notebook she’d extracted from her back pocket. She gulped a mouthful of coffee, grimacing momentarily at the taste before reading out what she’d written, “A Simon Campbell and a Richard Forsyth. Both were in their early twenties and backpacking their way across Wales. They were last seen heading out for a walk in the grounds. They’ve yet to return. A search party has been sent out but the two negative spikes Tosh spotted yesterday, around the time Ianto was attacked, mean that it’s unlikely either of them will be found.”
“That’s what, four missing persons for this cycle so far? That we know about?” Jack clarified and the girls nodded their agreement.
“Have we got a pattern yet, Gwen?” He asked and she shook her head.
“Sorry, nothing yet.” She confessed, “Aside from the greatest majority of missing persons being male, we haven’t a thing linking them together. They’re all different ages, races, and come from a variety of backgrounds and lifestyles. Honestly, Jack, the only thing they all have in common so far is their meat and two veg.”
A snort sounded at her words and she turned to see Owen coming down the stairwell. “Meat and two veg?” He scoffed, “I didn’t realise we were working pre-watershed here.”
Gwen merely rolled her eyes; any retort she might have responded with hindered as Jack called Owen’s attention towards himself by asking how Ianto was doing.
“He’s sleeping again,” Owen said, “I got him to take some more painkillers for the chest and the headache, but I can’t do much about the fact he sounds like a forty-a-day smoker.”
Jack ran a hand through his hair and turned back towards the windows. The room descended into a momentary silence with no one saying much of anything. Owen dropped himself onto one of the couches and Gwen perched herself beside Toshiko who was already tapping away at her laptop.
“Jack?” Toshiko was the one to break Jack from his thoughts after a full five minutes had passed. He turned instantly towards her. “I’ve pinpointed the exact location from which our recent victims were taken.” She said, and held out a palm pilot with the coordinates already set. “It’s just over an hour’s walk from here.”
Jack nodded, smiling a little tensely as he took the device from her.
“We can go if you like?” She offered, but Jack shook his head.
“Owen, you’re with me.” He said, grabbing his coat from the back of Owen’s couch and heading towards the door without waiting for any predicted protests.
- - -
“Have I ever told you just how much I hate the countryside?” Owen asked, stamping his feet against the morning chill as he walked the grounds with Jack.
“Once or twice this morning,” Jack answered, smirking at Owen. They were out with their EMF readers, heading towards the location Tosh had given them for the latest rift spikes.
“Yeah, well, I really hate the countryside,” Owen confirmed, “just in case you missed me saying it that once or twice.”
Jack just shook his head, laughing at Owen’s disgusted expression as he tripped over an exposed tree root and began cursing the hell out of it. The cursing and under-the-breath muttering lasted until Jack came to a sudden stop around twenty minutes later.
“This is the spot,” he said, looking around.
“Are you sure?” Owen looked around also, his mouth curling with disgust at the whole endeavour.
“It’s definitely the coordinates Tosh gave me. And she hasn’t let me down yet.” Jack checked his palm pilot. “Are you getting and readings?”
Owen looked down at his EMF reader and shook his head. “Not a thing.” He answered before stooping and snatching up a twig which he then proceeded to chuck onto a larger pile of stones and twigs he’d spotted set just off to the side of the path. Jack raised an eyebrow at him when Owen turned back.
“What?” Owen asked, his tone defensive.
“Yeah, that,” Jack said, and Owen scowled a little.
“It’s a varp.” He muttered as if that explained everything. Jack raised both his eyebrows at that and Owen rolled his eyes.
"It marks a place where someone has died. You're supposed to throw another stone or twig onto the pile to show your respect. Good luck if you do, bad luck if you don't. That sort of thing."
“That’s… very superstitious of you, Owen,” Jack commented and Owen shrugged.
“My Gran was part Scandinavian.” He said, again as if that explained everything. Jack turned away with a shake of his head and checked his readings again.
“Well, whatever was here, it’s long gone now.” He sighed then, thinking of the girls and Ianto whom they’d left back in the apartment well over an hour ago now. “Let’s head back, I want to see what Tosh’s got in regards to predicting this thing. I want to nip it in the bud before anything else happens.”
“Do you really think we have any hope at fighting this thing, Jack?” Owen asked, not moving. Jack looked at him, frowning.
“We have to try,” he answered as if that were obvious. Owen just shook his head.
“But how can we fight the Rift?” He posed, eyeing Jack curiously.
“We’ll find a way,” Jack answered evasively, stepping away but Owen stubbornly refused to move.
“It’s already tried to take, Ianto,” he went on and Jack stilled, “what if it succeeds next time? What if it’s one of us, Jack?”
“What would you have me do, Owen?” Jack turned to look at him, anger curling his fists at his sides. “What would you do? Would you leave? Would you condemn everyone else who visits this location to the same fate?”
“I thought you loved him.” Owen tried and Jack’s face twisted as if pained.
“I love you all, Owen.” He said, flexing his fingers. “But I’m still your boss, and the leader of Torchwood, and I cannot leave this case unsolved. I cannot leave everyone else behind to suffer whatever fate being taken by the Rift causes. I-,” and he hesitated.
Owen was watching him and Jack knew exactly what he was thinking. It didn’t matter how much time had passed. It didn’t matter how much of a team they’d all become since. The real question was, and would always be, why won’t you leave them, Jack, why won’t you leave all those faceless people behind when you left us so easily?
Jack shook his head and stepped up to Owen, placing his hands upon his shoulders and staring frankly into his eyes.
“I don’t know what you want me to say, Owen.” He said. “I don’t know what you want me to do. But I’m doing the only thing I can and know how to do, I’m trying to help.” He stared into Owen’s eyes for a time before asking, “Do you want to leave?”
Owen snorted, turning his face away. “Don’t be stupid. You’re going to need me if you insist on staying.”
Jack squeezed his shoulders and stepped back.
“And just how is a zombie with insomnia going to help me?” Jack asked, lips twitching. Owen punched lightly at his arm.
“By being the only doctor you have and clearly the only one with a brain left.” He answered, still not quite meeting Jack’s eyes.
“I’ll be sure to tell Tosh you said that,” Jack laughed, nudging at Owen with his shoulder and urging him back in the direction of the castle.
- - -
“We have a theory!” Gwen called as soon as Jack and Owen had returned. She was pulling pages of paper from the printer and sorting them into piles. Over on the couch, Ianto was snuggled up under a blanket with Toshiko, the pair of them pouring over whatever she had showing up on her laptop. Ianto looked up and smiled as Jack stepped into view.
“Great, let’s hear it then?” Owen called as they shed their coats. Jack stepped up to Ianto and pressed a kiss to his forehead before perching himself on the armrest and taking the proffered pages from Gwen.
“Firstly, did you boys find anything whilst on your walk?” She asked, looking up through her fringe at the pair of them.
“Oh you know, the usual,” Owen answered, “grass, mud, trees.”
“Witty, Owen.” She retorted. “But really, you didn’t find anything at all?”
“We didn’t get any readings if that’s what you mean?” Owen tried but Gwen just shook her head.
“Not what I mean,” she said before nodding for Jack to look at the pages she’d handed him.
“We, that is to say Ianto mostly, found a particularly fascinating piece of history relating to this castle back when it used to be a sanatorium for Tuberculosis. Now before I get right into that, I’ll just come out and say it- we think that the Rift activity and the reoccurring cycles are due to something known as a-,” She hesitated and looked to Toshiko.
“Gjenganger,” Toshiko supplied.
“Bless you,” Jack said and Owen snorted.
Toshiko and Gwen shared a look but before either of them could clarify, Owen piped up, “Seriously, guys, a Gjenganger?” He all but scoffed. “I mean, ghosts sure, I’m all for believing in the spooks. But vampires? I think that’s a step too far into weird even for me.”
“That coming from Torchwood’s resident zombie?” Ianto piped up, his voice painfully hoarse sounding though he smirked in Owen’s direction despite it.
“Ha, ha, tea-boy,” Owen sniped.
“A Gjenganger,” Toshiko began, ignoring them all, “is not a vampire so much as it is a ghost. In Scandinavian legend it has the ability to take on corporeal form which it then uses that to manipulate its intended victims into doing its bidding. They’re usually violent, vengeful spirits looking to torture the living and exact revenge for whatever slights they feel they faced back when they were alive.”
“It explains why Ianto says he saw Lisa before he was possessed by it,” Gwen took over, “and whilst you were away Ianto said he saw another woman, before she morphed into Lisa that is. We think this… spirit thing… has at least a partial psychic ability- enough that she can look at a person and get a sense of what they will react to before she then takes on that form.”
“Okay,” Jack said slowly once Gwen finished, “First things first, explain to me why we’re going with the Scandinavian legend when we’re slap-bang in the middle of Wales?”
“Because,” and it was Toshiko who took over here, “The woman Ianto says he initially saw has a startling likeness to one of the patients admitted to this Castle. A woman of Scandinavian origin noted for being quite the difficult patient during her residence here. We don’t have a name just yet, but Gwen remembered finding some hospital files in the basement when she was down there the other day with Owen and after some digging we managed to find this…”
Toshiko held up a moulding grey file, thick with yellowing pages of paper. “This is the file of the woman we think is behind the Rift cycles. Ianto identified the photograph for us,” she passed the folder to Jack who opened it and peered at a small black and white mug shot of a lady, perhaps in her early fifties, still with long dark hair, and dark, staring eyes.
“No name?” He clarified and Toshiko nodded.
“There doesn’t seem to be one listed. So far we’ve come across several references of her as “The Lady” but nothing more than that.”
"The interesting thing about her is noted towards the back, after her medical records.” Gwen said, moving to Jack’s side and turning the pages in the folder. She pointed at a paragraph in particular.
“It says here that she’d been reprimanded more than once for attacking and cursing other patients. And I don’t just mean she had a foul mouth. A century or so earlier and I suspect she’d have been put to death as a witch.”
“Let me get this right, you think we’re dealing with an avenging witch now?” Owen’s expression was one of complete disdain at the very idea. Gwen pursed her lips.
“It’s our best lead so far,” she admitted grudgingly. “Look,” she added when even Jack failed to hide his scepticism, “this woman- witch or not- is recorded as having been violent towards men, often cursing them and promising that she’d have her revenge on them all.’
“It’s there-,” she stabbed at the folder in Jack’s hands, “-in black and white. Now I know I’m the first to scoff at the idea of ghosts existing, but Ianto assured us that she’s the woman he saw. And if he says it is, then I’m inclined to believe him. I don’t think it’s all that much of a leap to assume that, somehow, this Lady has managed to live on through the Rift and is exacting her promised revenge on any man she so wishes to punish.”
“Say that she is,” Jack agreed after a momentary consideration of her words. “Why men? What has she got against them and why is she picking the ones that she does? And while we’re at it, why was Ianto returned when no one else was? How does this…” he waved his hand in Toshiko’s direction.
“Gjenganger,” She supplied without further prompting.
“Yeah, that thing. Tell me, how is it able to manipulate the Rift? And is there any way to stop it from continuing to take people as it likes?”
“Woah, okay,” Gwen held up her hands, “I said we had a breakthrough, not all the answers.” She moved away and picked up another folder, this one freshly made and filled with printed pages and the public police reports on local missing persona. “I do have my own theory on what links all the victims though.”
“And?” Jack prompted. Gwen bit at her lip a little hesitantly. “I think it has something to do with faithfulness. Or rather how they were all to some extent unfaithful to their partners.” She tried and failed not to look at Ianto as she said that second part. He was staring back at her, face pale but unreadable. She looked away, her gaze landing on Jack’s none too impressed face instead.
“As wonderful a theory as I’m sure that is, don’t you think she’d have tried taking Jack or myself before targeting Ianto?” Owen asked with a scoff, “I mean the guy’s practically a monk compared to us. No offence, mate.”
“None taken,” Ianto replied, the words barely a scratch of sound. Jack reached out to touch protectively at the back of his neck.
“I can’t be sure that’s why Ianto was attacked,” Gwen agreed, “but maybe it explains why he was brought back when no one else was?”
“That does make at least partial sense,” Toshiko chipped in, “at least if we assume, ah, that is…” She reached up to adjust her glasses in her nervousness.
“Assuming that I’ve never cheated on anyone in my life, right?” Ianto asked, swallowing awkwardly against the pain in his throat. Toshiko nodded though she had the grace to blush a little. Ianto nodded his head once before tugging the blanket aside and pushing to his feet.
“Then your theory makes sense,” he agreed. “If you’ll all excuse me?” He added and moved towards the stairwell before waiting for an answer. Jack made to stand and follow but Toshiko reached out and grabbed at his sleeve.
“What?” Jack hissed, turning to look at her.
“One thing before you go, Jack.” Toshiko said as Ianto shut the door to the loft bedroom.
- - -
“Ianto?” Jack called, knocking gently at the door before opening it and slipping into their shared room. “You awake?” He asked, moving over towards the bed and perching himself beside Ianto who was lying curled in on himself atop the duvet. He watched as Ianto blinked open one eye, his look somewhat resigned even as he opened his mouth to speak.
“If I tell you I’m not,” he asked, coughing slightly over his words, “will you go away?”
Jack grinned widely and bent to kiss fondly at his forehead. “Probably not, no,” he replied honestly.
Ianto pouted a little. “Can you at least not say whatever you came up here to say?”
“What?” Jack adopted an offended expression, “And deprive you of all my unflappable charm and wisdom?”
“What’s that when it’s at home then?” Ianto asked sardonically, both eyes open now. Jack just smiled at him and Ianto groaned, turning his face into his pillow.
“Tell me we’re not about to have a serious conversation now?” Though his words were muffled Jack caught them all and reached out to rub soothingly at Ianto’s thigh.
“You’re upset,” Jack said, getting straight to the point. Ianto turned his head to look at him once more.
“Was I that obvious?” He asked and Jack nodded. Ianto closed his eyes with a small sigh and a grimace.
“How are you feeling?” Jack moved his hand to touch at Ianto’s brow.
“I’m fine, Jack. A little sore, a little sleepy, throat is killing me,” he shrugged and stretched himself out a little, “but on the whole I’m fine.”
Jack watched him for a long moment, his eyes intent upon Ianto’s face until Ianto’s placid look morphed into a scowl. “What?” He asked a little grudgingly, and eyed Jack suspiciously.
“I’m trying to work out why you’re upset,” Jack answered, his hand settling upon Ianto’s waist.
“I’m not that upset.” Ianto argued but Jack just shook his head.
“The fact that you seem to be upset about never having cheated on anyone is what’s confusing me,” Jack continued as if Ianto hadn’t spoken.
Ianto groaned and twisted onto his back, his hand coming up to massage at the centre of his chest with the motion. “You’re like a dog with a bone, Jack,” he muttered, staring up at the ceiling till Jack shifted and leant over him, replacing the elaborate plaster design with his face.
“This is where I usually gloat about being right,” Jack said softly, “but I don’t think you’d appreciate it all that much.”
Ianto sighed and reached out, groping for Jack’s hand. “I’ve never physically cheated on a partner, Jack,” Ianto said after a heartbeat or two of silence, his eyes flickering away from Jack’s fixed stare. “But I have emotionally. I think that was enough for me to be targeted.”
Jack frowned, squeezing at their entwined fingers. “It’s not wrong to think of other people when you’re already with someone, Ianto.”
“No?” Ianto asked.
“No.” Jack agreed. “You know what I find so fascinating about you twenty-first centaury types? The belief you all hold that you can only ever love one person at a time. It’s unbearably romantic, I’ll give you that, but it’s also deeply impractical.”
It was Ianto’s turn now to frown. “I’m not sure I understand,” he said, his words cautious.
“Humans, Ianto, men and women, none of us were made to love only once, not even to love only one at a time. Love is for everything. It is only differentiated by physical urges; like the urge to kiss a relative on the cheek and a lover on the lips. I understand the need for an exclusive relationship, in this century especially; it protects you and ensures you a continued love for as long as you both can make it work. But inevitably you’ll think of someone else when you think you should only be thinking of your partner. It’s not wrong, per se, unless by the rules of exclusiveness you stray, then I think is where things tend to be frowned upon.”
“I wanted you pretty much from the moment I met you.” Ianto confessed, smiling with sadness. “It was so hard saying no when you kept making passes at me.”
Jack’s smile was tender. “You’re a stronger man than you give yourself credit for, Ianto.”
“Why? Because I knew how to say no to you?” Ianto joked weakly.
Jack hummed a laugh, lifting Ianto’s hand to kiss at his knuckles, “For that too,” he agreed and Ianto shook his head, another frown creasing his brow.
“Tell me something, Ianto,” Jack started, “Your Lisa, would she want you to be happy? With whomever you choose?”
“I-, I like to think that she would.” Ianto answered, “Though I wonder sometimes if she would ever forgive me for loving you after her.”
“Because I’m part of the reason she’s gone?” Jack asked but Ianto shook his head.
“Because I was- because I wanted you- long before she died.”
“You can say it you know.” Jack encouraged but Ianto looked away.
“I never knew her,” Jack said, moving on, “but I’d like to think that she wouldn’t hold your feelings against you, Ianto. Love isn’t something you can pick and choose. You either feel it or you don’t, there isn’t really much of an in between. You can grow to love, and you can fall out of love. But if you love, Ianto, you can deny it and try to hide it all you like but you’ll still feel it. Nothing can change that. It’s not wrong.”
Ianto turned back to him and Jack touched at his cheek, cupping his palm there as he leant down and pressed a tender kiss to Ianto’s mouth.
“Just remember,” Jack said, pulling away, “you were let go. Whatever attacked you, it also gave you back. You can’t have done as badly as you think you have, Ianto.”
Ianto couldn’t think of anything to say to that. There was a tightness to his throat he wasn’t entirely sure he could blame on the fact he’d nearly coughed up his lungs the previous evening, and so he smiled tightly and closed his eyes and prayed a little desperately that Jack would let that be the end to their little heart-to-heart.
Jack, it seemed, could take a hint as he leant down and pressed a peck of a kiss to Ianto’s cheek. Ianto felt the brush of his lips and then the soft bounce of the mattress as Jack stood up and stepped towards the door. He could feel Jack’s eyes upon him, though he kept his own tightly shut, the weight of his stare seemed endless until with a soft sigh he must’ve turned away, twisting the doorknob and letting himself out of their room.
Ianto rolled back onto his side and stared at the closed door.
- - -
When Jack awoke a few hours before dawn the next morning, it was to find Ianto’s space in their bed vacated. With a frown he roused himself, pulling on a pair of trousers and a vest shirt before swiftly making his way down the stairwell and into the lounge. He almost breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of Ianto sitting on one of the couches with his legs pulled up to his chest, one hand holding loosely at the mug of coffee perched precariously upon his knees as he flicked through one of the manila folders Gwen had made up for their case thus far.
“I made you a cup,” Ianto said, flicking his eyes upwards as Jack stepped up to the couch. He nodded to the coffee table where Jack saw a steaming mug of coffee sitting waiting for him. He smiled, scooping it up and breathing deeply of its aroma. When he opened the eyes he’d unconsciously closed, it was to find Ianto smiling at him, his eyes amused as he sat himself up more fully and patted the space beside him. Jack sat, nudging Ianto with his knee as he did so.
“What’re you doing up so early?” Jack asked, taking the first mouth-watering sip of Ianto’s coffee.
“Couldn’t sleep,” Ianto said, putting his mug down on the table. Jack laughed to see him smother a yawn beneath his hand.
“Insomnia?” He teased, pleased to note that not only was Ianto’s colour remarkably improved, but his voice seemed to be loosing most of its hoarseness.
Ianto smiled slyly at him. “Well you have been a tad remiss in ensuring I have a good night’s rest.”
“Huh,” Jack said with a laugh, reaching out to set his own cup down upon the table, “and here I thought not molesting you whilst you recovered was the more gentlemanly thing to do.”
“Who ever said I was looking for a gentleman?” Ianto asked with a minx-like smile as he leant in to kiss softly at Jack’s lips. The kiss was quickly returned and deepened, with Jack’s hands moving to cup at Ianto’s face before sliding up through his hair; cradling at the back of his head whilst encouraging Ianto to part his mouth to Jack’s questing tongue. Ianto moaned softly, willingly, allowing Jack to take the lead with their kissing as he himself let his hands wander eagerly across Jack’s shoulders and down his chest, feeling the quiver of his stomach muscles as he pressed his fingers just above the band of his trousers.
“If you’ve no intention of putting out, Mr Jones, I’m going to be very displeased with you.” Jack muttered against his mouth when Ianto’s fingers paused. Ianto smiled against Jack’s next kiss.
“Better get me upstairs then, Captain Harkness, as I’ve no intention of allowing myself to be debauched on the couch.”
“Mmm,” Jack moaned softly, moving to kiss a line along his jaw. “The girls won’t mind,” he tried, working his tongue against Ianto’s ear and delighting in his hitch of breath.
“Yes,” Ianto agreed, gasping out the word, “but Owen would most certainly castrate us both.” He twitched his fingers against Jack’s stomach, slipping only the very tips of them into his waistband and pressing. Jack growled wordlessly against his ear before standing swiftly; lifting Ianto bodily from the couch as soon as he was on his feet and all but dragging him back towards their bedroom.
“I knew sharing a bed with you was a bad idea.” Ianto said, trying not to laugh as Jack tripped over the stairs.
“Yes, but it’s a very, very good bad idea.” He said, grinning wickedly at Ianto.
Ianto shook his head, “that doesn’t even make any sense!”
Jack twisted at the top of the stairwell, pulling Ianto flush against him and kissing him to breathlessness.
“It doesn’t have to,” he purred, before hauling Ianto into their room.
- - -
“So I was thinking,” Owen started, once everyone had dragged themselves down into the lounge area for their morning meeting.
“Try not to strain anything, luv,” Gwen taunted, laughing as Owen flicked her the fingers in reply.
“About what we were talking about yesterday, with the Gjenganger,” he continued on, “and I remembered my Gran telling me tales about them when I was younger.”
“Your Gran just happened to tell you stories about Scandinavian folklore?” Gwen asked with her eyebrows raised.
Owen shot her a look, “My Gran just happened to be part Scandinavian,” he sneered. “Now, as it turns out, me and Jack did actually find something yesterday when we searched the site of the recent disappearances. At the time I hadn’t thought anything of it, but you remember that varp I found?” Owen directed his question towards Jack who cocked his head a little and frowned.
“Big pile of rocks and sticks, right? That whole good luck, bad luck thing going on with it?” He clarified and Owen suppressed an eye roll as he nodded his agreement.
“Yeah, that thing. Well anyway, I was thinking that maybe, since the Gjenganger is Scandinavian and our suspect for these subjects is Scandinavian, that these two things are linked. I’m pretty certain that if this is the case, then that varp marks the spot where she died, possibly even where she is buried.”
“How does that help us if it is?” Toshiko asked, honest curiosity overcoming her inherent scepticism over anything remotely supernatural.
Owen shifted awkwardly, “Well, um… there’s possibly a way to, er, nullify the spirit. And by extension stop this cycle.”
“If you so much as mention the salting and burning of her bones I will mock you for the rest of your life.” Ianto said, grinning up at Owen who laughed despite himself.
“Someone’s been watching too much Supernatural,” he scoffed and Ianto adopted an outraged expression.
“There is no such thing!” he declared, grinning again.
“I take it all this TV watching occurred while I was away?” Jack asked looking between the two of them with a confused expression that was equally shared by Gwen and Toshiko both.
“You were away an awfully long time,” Ianto agreed, not missing the downwards twitch of Jack’s mouth as he said it. Turning to Owen he asked, “so what’s your plan then? How would we stop her?”
Owen coughed a little and held out a page he must have printed earlier. Ianto arched his eyebrow and looked at Owen over the top of the page. “Wikipedia is your answer?” he disparaged. “Forget what I said, I’m going to mock you eternally for this.”
Owen snatched the page back, “look, I know it’s not the most reliable site in the world-,”
“Not the most reliable? It’s a cesspool of misinformation!” Toshiko exclaimed, her voice laden with disapproval.
“-but,” Owen stressed the word, speaking over her distress, “I’m not a complete idiot, alright? I know to take everything on it with more than just a pinch of salt. The main thing is, though, that I remember hearing about this sort of stuff before, so… it could actually work. And besides, it’s all we’ve got so far and I don’t see any of you lot coming up with the bright ideas.”
Ianto shook his head and looked a heartbeat away from dropping it against the table in front of him.
“Alright, I’ll bite,” Gwen said, “what have you found exactly?”
“I figure if she’s buried beneath the varp, all we have to do is dig down until we find her body, lay some ruins preventing her spirit from functioning as a Gjenganger on top of her bones and then rebury her.”
“That easy, huh?” Ianto asked and Owen shrugged, pouting a little in annoyance. Toshiko reached out, waggling her fingers for Owen to hand her over his piece of paper which he did so.
“Well,” he began to answer, “if she is actually buried beneath it and we’re trying to stop her from doing all this, then I seriously doubt she’s just going to sit back and watch us do it.”
“Do you really believe this could work, Owen?” Toshiko asked, peering at the section on the runes, doubt in her voice. “I could run a more thorough search on the runes and the inscription if needed. I mean if we’re seriously contemplating this. I can maybe even see if there are any additional suggestions or theories on how to deal with the Gjenganger in our online Archives?”
She looked up to find Owen looking at her with a very surprised look on his face. “Er, yeah, that’ll… yeah. Thanks, Tosh.” He stammered and she smiled softly, her frown smoothing out even as her fingers began flying over the keys of her laptop.
“Right then,” Jack said, clapping his hands together after a moment of silence, and looked at Owen. “What do the rest of us need to do? Anything by way of protecting ourselves from being attacked while we’re desecrating her grave?”
Tosh held out Owen’s Wikipedia printout without removing her gaze from the screen before her. “Crucifixes apparently work rather well.”
“Why is it that everyone bar extraterrestrials and teenagers fear the hand of God?” Jack asked thoughtfully.
“I think it works on the power of belief, Jack,” Ianto said, taking the page from Toshiko’s fingers. “If you believe it’ll work, it should theoretically work.”
“Says the non believer?”
Ianto blinked at him. “I am a believer.”
Jack looked surprised. “Really?”
“Whatever,” Owen interrupted. “Main thing is that she’s probably a believer. They all were in that centaury anyway. So that means we need some crosses.”
“There might still be some in the chapel we found that first day?” Gwen piped up and Owen agreed, finding himself following her out of the room soon after in a hunt for any sort of crucifix they could find whilst simultaneously trying not to question just how easily they were all taking the idea of all but exorcising the spirit of a lady who apparently couldn’t let sleeping dogs lie. Owen shook his head. Working for Torchwood just kept getting weirder and weirder.
- - -
“Is that it?” Gwen asked, a note of disdain to her voice as she eyed the sorry looking lump of rocks and sticks making up the supposed varp.
“Yup,” Jack agreed, clapping his hands together and pursing his lips. His team stood in a semi-circle around the varp, varying expressions of discomfort and disbelief painted across their faces. Ianto stabbed his shovel into the soft earth and leant himself upon the handle.
“Does anyone else feel rather ridiculous about all this?” He asked with a croak to his voice.
Owen smiled slyly, “It’d feel a whole lot less stupid if we’d come at night, right?”
Ianto smothered his laugh behind a cough, his eyes shining with amusement. “Something like that, yeah.”
Jack ignored the pair of them. “Are we all ready?” He asked, eyeing them all one at a time. Owen, Ianto and himself all carried shovels, Gwen held a wooden plaque carved by Toshiko with the runes she’s insisted where the correct translation of the original Scandinavian and which looking nothing like the ones printed out on Owen’s Wikipedia page. Toshiko herself held a scanner and stylus in hand, her eyes intent upon the screen for any fluctuations at all.
“We’re good to go,” she answered whilst the others nodded their heads. Jack looked down at the varp and shook his head.
“Well then, here goes nothing,” he said and stabbed his shovel into the varp, digging away the first spade full of sticks and stones. He paused then, everyone looking around expectantly, waiting for something- anything- to happen. Nothing did. Jack shrugged and dug in again, his spade full followed first by Owen and then by Ianto as they dug away at the mound and then at the compact earth beneath it.
It started as a cool breath of wind whispering through the overhanging branches above them, rustling at leaves and causing the branches to creak against one another. Then, like a cloud creeping across the sun, the space around them seemed to grow duller. The coldness became more profound, seeping through their layers and permeating deep into their bones. A silence began to descend around them that was both warning and expectant at once.
“Toshiko?” Jack called, pausing a moment to look over at her. She shook her head.
“Nothing,” She answered in a clipped voice, teeth chattering together as she huddled beside Gwen. Ianto stepped back, breathing heavily, his face pale and sweat-streaked. Jack carefully pushed him towards Gwen and moved into his place, digging with Owen.
A sudden scream rent the air as Owen cried out in triumph at hitting something that sounded very much like wood. He dropped to his knees, marvelling at the shallowness of the grave and how it had managed to remain so well preserved throughout the years. He dug his hands in, scraping away the soil until they had a space wide enough to work with.
The girls were looking around nervously and Ianto visibly startled at the sound, recognising it with gut-clenching dread as being the same scream he’d heard the smoke give before it had possessed him.
“Jack,” Owen called, falling back onto his hunches. Jack raised his spade, ready to bring it down with force upon the wooden box visible when another scream tore through the air and Jack felt something heavy collide with his chest, dragging the air from his lungs and throwing him to his back.
Ianto was at his side in an instant, helping him up as he looked around for whatever had attacked him. As far as any of them could tell there was nothing to be seen. A prickle of deep-set unease washed over them all. And then the singing began. Jack sucked in a breath, his eyes glazing over at the sound of it. Ianto swayed slightly, recognised the song also. Even Owen, who hadn’t heard it before, paused a moment, his eyes staring unseeing ahead at the sound of it.
“Stop, please stop,” a voice called out and Gwen turned to Toshiko with wide and worried eyes. Toshiko shook her head.
“I’m not getting anything,” she hissed, distressed. Gwen reached for her gun. She knew it wouldn’t do a thing against a spirit or the Rift or whatever the hell this thing was, but the weight of it in her hand steadied her and she worked on evening out her breathing.
“Jack?” Gwen called out, but Jack didn’t move. Her eyes swept over Ianto and Owen too but they looked to be in the same condition.
“Why are you doing this?” The voice called out again and Gwen shivered, hearing the threat behind the innocence of the words.
“Jack!” She called again, louder this time and watched as he twitched his head in her direction before stilling once more.
“They look to be in some kind of trace,” Toshiko said, pocketing her device and tugging the spade from Ianto’s unresisting hand. She stepped over to the grave.
“What are you going to do?” Gwen asked, inching closer but keeping her eyes moving around the clearing.
“What the boys can’t,” she answered and heaved the shovel downwards, digging it into the ground with a force that easily shattered the aged wood of the coffin buried there. Another scream sounded and Gwen cried out as she watched a woman materialise only paces away from her. Toshiko barely looked up as she hacked at the wood till she was certain the space was large enough for their purposes.
“Gwen! The plaque!”
Gwen looked down at her feet where she’d dropped said plaque when going for her gun. The woman reached out a hand, morphing before her eyes until she was staring at, at-
“Oh god,” Gwen gasped, her knees going weak.
“GWEN!” Toshiko cried out and Gwen turned, seeing the panic on Toshiko’s face and wondering why the site of- oh. Oh! She understood now. She twisted quickly, kicking the plaque towards Toshiko.
“Whatever you’re seeing, Tosh, it’s not real. It’s what she does, remember? She makes us see whatever she wants.” She cocked the gun, staring at the advancing creature. “Do it, Tosh!” She yelled before screaming and firing uselessly as it launched itself at her, dispersing itself into a smoke that continued to reach out for her.
Toshiko hurried to fit the plaque into the hole, her lips chanting words Gwen had never heard before as she stumbled backwards; tripping suddenly over her own feet and landing with a thump on her backside, she raised her hand over her face, as if that alone would stop the thing from attacking her.
It screamed, with anger and pain and Gwen felt it tearing at her hair, scratching at her hands as she pressed them to her face. Toshiko screamed too, but not in pain, her voice grew louder and louder as she chanted the words believed to bind the spirit to its grave and prevent it from roaming the earth.
“Gwen!” She shouted, “Gwen, help me!”
Gwen rolled away, crawling on her knees towards Toshiko and digging her hands into the mud, she pushed it over the grave, over the plaque Toshiko was trying to bury there. Their hands move frantically, pushing mud and piling sticks and stones. All the while Toshiko chanting and Gwen praying and the wind and the cold growing more fierce until, with what had to be a final scream, everything died away into sudden silence.
Gwen opened her eyes and looked straight into Toshiko’s own. Her face was streaked with mud and blood from a cut just above her eye. He hair looked like a birds nest of knots and leaves and Gwen was certain hers looked pretty much the same.
Jack dropped to his knees suddenly. Then Ianto. Owen toppled onto his side, falling into Toshiko who barely managed to catch him before she fell over too. She pushed him the other way, reaching out to smack at his face.
“Owen?” She called and Gwen snapped into action, scrambling over to Ianto and Jack and calling on the pair of them.
Simultaneously, all three mean let out groans of discomfort before blinking themselves back into the moment. Toshiko sat down beside Owen’s body, huffing out a laugh. Gwen looked at her and shook her head, the adrenaline in her system causing her hands to shake.
“What just happened?” Jack asked, pushing himself up slowly.
“No thanks to you boys, I think Tosh and I just managed to save the day,” Gwen grinned at Jack who frowned and helped Ianto sit himself up also.
Owen groaned loudly, “I know I’m not supposed to, but I really do feel like I’ve been whacked over the head with something very large and very heavy.”
“You and the rest of us too, Owen,” Toshiko muttered, trying to pick the foliage from her hair.
“Is it over then?” Ianto asked, rubbing at his head.
“The fact that we five are all still here looks like a good sign,” Jack said, standing. “What say you, Tosh?”
“I think so, yes,” Toshiko answered, “Though my monitoring device didn’t seem to be of much use after all, so I’m not one hundred percent sure.”
“How will we know if it worked then?” Owen asked standing and reaching a hand down to Toshiko who shrugged once she was standing.
“I guess we’ll just have to keep monitoring the area.” She said, looking at them all.
Jack nodded. “I guess we will.” He agreed. And then he smiled. “So, who’s up for fun time in the shower when we get back?”
A chorus of groans echoed around the clearing as everyone began shuffling away from him and onto the path back to the castle.
“Was it something I said?” He asked, twitching away as Ianto jabbed a finger into his side.
“Now what did I tell you about playing nice?” He asked, clearing his throat over the words.
“Oh yes,” Jack grinned slightly, wrapping and arm around Ianto and urging them both forwards. “You still owe me for your little stunt in the SUV.”
“And you owe me for what happened in the theatre,” Ianto croaked back, sliding his arm around Jack in return.
“What do you think the dancing was for?” Jack laughed and Ianto snorted.
“I’m far more work than that, I’ll have you know.”
Jack smiled, kissing at Ianto’s crown and tightening his arm, “but worth it.” He agreed.
- - -
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