[ part 1 | part 2 | part 3 ]
On website: beyond-redemption.net | thestopwatch
Pairing(s): Jack Harkness/Ianto Jones; (mentions of Jack/real!Jack, Ianto/Lisa)
Characters: Jack Harkness, Ianto Jones, Owen Harper, Toshiko Sato, Gwen Cooper
Word Count: 21,000words approx.
Summary: Nestled away in the picturesque surroundings of the Brecon Beacons stands Craig-y-Nos Castle, a building notorious for being one of the most haunted in the country. Nothing for Torchwood to concern themselves with, until, that is a spike of rift activity in the area coupled with the disappearance of a guest force Torchwood to investigate.
Betas: keiko_kichi; whose awesome and consistent cheerleading kept me going throughout the writing of this beast. Thank you so much, darling. Huge thank you’s must also go to the flist, who with their pompoms and sharp sticks, made sure I didn’t give up on the whole thing altogether. <33
- - -
The SUV’s tyres crunched over the gravelled driveway that brought them eventually before the magnificence of Craig-y-Nos Castle; lit up as it was against the darkness of the night by some artfully located accent lighting. Pulling into a parking space and killing the engine, Ianto took a moment to marvel at the beauty of the structure before them.
“It doesn’t look sinister at all,” he commented after a heartbeat of silence.
“What were you expecting?” Jack asked, turning to look at Ianto with raised eyebrows and a grin, “Thunder and lightning, bats circling the rooftops, Lurch coming over to unload the bags?”
Ianto rolled his eyes. “There’s no need to be quite so dramatic. I was merely pointing out that for a notoriously haunted venue it doesn’t exactly strike terror into the heart, now does it?”
“If it’s the shivers you’re looking for, Ianto, you needn’t go looking for ghosts,” Jack waggled his eyebrows and reached over to squeeze suggestively at Ianto’s thigh; the gesture eliciting a quiet laugh from Ianto as he smacked Jack’s hand away.
“I suppose we should wake them,” Ianto said, half-turning to look at the trio curled up in the back of the car. Jack twisted himself around, a fond smile curling his lips as he eyed the other three members of his team. Owen was nestled between Toshiko and Gwen and despite his initial grumblings about being forced to take his turn in the back (and in the goddamned middle no less) he appeared to be quite at peace as he protectively held both women in place against his chest; the three of them dead to the world as they slept snugly against one another.
Jack laughed softly, reaching over once again to squeeze at Ianto’s thigh before resting his hand there. Ianto allowed the touch this time, taking comfort in the gesture as he turned his head forward again, his gaze sweeping over the castle before them in interest.
Craig-y-Nos Castle; the location of some rather minor Rift activity that nevertheless Jack had insisted needed to be investigated. The castle just had to be located slap-bang in the middle of the Brecon Beacons, of course, and so Jack’s initial request for someone to accompany him on a routine investigation of the area had been met first with a heavy silence as no one offered themselves up to the task, and then by a sudden clamouring by everyone that they had far more important and pressing matters to attend to and thusly couldn’t make the trip. Jack hadn’t been fooled at all. Ianto had no doubt that Jack knew none of them had forgotten what their last foray into the Welsh countryside had entailed and that this was the main reason why none of his team were volunteering to accompany him.
And so, as a result of their own reluctance, Jack- being the considerate and caring Captain that he was- had decided that they were all going and had them all packed and into the SUV before so much as a protest could be uttered. Or rather, a protest that was likely to change Jack’s mind and allow one of them to get out of what they all felt was a venture only intended to tempt fate.
The trip had begun in stony silence, with Jack driving and Owen cursing him two ways to Sunday as he adjusted with the radio settings, unable- or perhaps not wanting- to settle on anything for more than a few seconds at a time. Ianto, Gwen and Tosh had been piled into the backseat, with Tosh squeezed into the middle and fiddling intently with one of her handheld devices. Gwen was pouring over some trashy magazine whilst Ianto had been left to stare forlornly out of the window, watching as the heavens opened up, dumping what seemed to be the entire contents of the Bay and surrounding wetlands upon them as they left Cardiff and started on their way towards the Brecon Beacons and their eventual destination.
By the time they made their first pit-stop at an out of the way petrol station, Owen had exhausted himself into merely grumbling his protests under his breath (the radio firmly turned off after a few choice words and a particularly vicious glare from Gwen), his mutterings falling on deaf ears as everyone else chose to ignore him and occupy themselves with their own misery at being forced into this venture. The moment Jack pulled the SUV to a stop the four of them were out of it like a shot.
“Why does everything have to happen in the bloody countryside?” Owen complained loudly, slamming his door to emphasis his annoyance as Ianto set about refilling the tank. Tosh and Gwen shared a nervous look and Gwen rubbing unconsciously at her belly before the pair of them turned tail and headed towards the facilities. Ianto followed moments after to pay for their petrol.
“Nothing ever happens in the country, Owen.” Jack said with a roll of his shoulders as Owen felt the need to re-repeat himself for what had to be the umpteenth time.
“Er, have you forgotten about the cannibals already, Harkness?” Owen sneered.
“Oh come on, that was one time!” Jack protested, turning away to squint at the deserted stretch of road ahead of them. The rain had lightened itself to a steady drizzle, and Jack had no doubts it would wear itself out before they reached their destination. One could only hope the same could be said about Owen.
“One time too many,” Owen grumbled, watching a grin spit Jack’s face as Ianto returned in due swiftness with a tray of coffees and a plastic bag of assorted munchies for the trip ahead.
“Ah, Ianto, you are as ever my saviour!” Jack exclaimed, graciously accepting the proffered cup of coffee. Ianto smiled benignly at Jack before rolling his eyes at Owen’s glare.
“You know you can’t drink anything,” he answered patiently as Owen continued to scowl at him. “How much further have we still to go?” Ianto asked, turning to Jack once again and setting the tray of coffees upon the bonnet as he leant himself against the car.
“A couple more hours at the most,” Jack answered, “I should think we’d make it there just after nightfall.”
“Are we likely to be ambushed and eaten along the way?” Owen asked waspishly.
“Jeez, are you ever going to let this go?” Jack exclaimed, throwing one hand into the air in exasperation.
“Probably not, no,” Owen answered honestly, an almost-smile twisting his lips.
“Look,” Jack started as if about to give a lecture to a very trying four-year-old, “the Beacons encompass a great expanse of space. We are nowhere near that village, and even if we were, all the villagers have been removed and dealt with. The countryside isn’t all that bad, Owen, no matter how much you’d like to protest otherwise.”
“And yet there’s still weird shit going on.” Owen mocked.
“A few odd readings on the rift monitor,” Jack waved his hand dismissively.
“And a few ghost sightings, if I may, sir,” Ianto added. Jack turned to gape rather unattractively at him. Ianto shrugged, sipping at his coffee to hide his grin as Owen started up again.
“You neglected to mention that bit!” Owen snapped.
Jack griped his thanks to Ianto, who lowered his cup to smile winningly at him despite the obvious sarcasm.
“Was there anything else you forgot to tell us about?” Owen felt the need to ask. He folded his arms across his chest and looked expectantly at Jack
“Who forgot to say what?” Gwen asked, as she and Toshiko came up behind Owen. Both women smiled their thanks as Ianto handed over their coffees.
“Jack didn’t tell us that there have been a few ghost sightings at this place we’re heading to.” Owen answered with a glare in Jack’s direction.
Gwen laughed, “oh come on, Owen, you don’t believe in ghosts do you?”
“Oi, you may not have been in this job long enough to realise that these things can and do actually exist, but the rest of us have.”
Gwen frowned through her smile. “Do the rest of you believe in ghosts?” She asked, her eyes flickering between the four of them.
Ianto shrugged his answer, Jack grinned widely but said nothing, and Toshiko bit at her lip with indecision.
“I just don’t think there’s any way to scientifically prove that paranormal beings exist,” Toshiko said and Gwen’s grin reinforced itself.
“So, let me get this right,” she began, turning to Owen, “you’re the only one who believes in spooks then?”
“Oh shut up,” Owen snapped, “I’m sure you never believed in aliens before joining Torchwood.”
“Well, yes, but I’ve seen them now.” She said and Owen rolled his eyes and folded his arms across his chest with a scowl as she added with put upon seriousness, “have you actually seen a ghost?”
Jack shot a slanting glance to Ianto before speaking up and saving Owen from actually answering. “Look, the existence of ghosts or not, this is a castle we’re staying in. And like every other castle in existence it has a rather ripe history of ghost sightings. So unless people are seeing things that are previously undocumented I think it’ll be safe to assume that these sightings are unrelated to the readings we’ve been getting.”
Four pairs of eyes turned to stare blankly at him.
“Did you just tell us to assume that these two events could be unrelated?” Toshiko shot him an intense look.
Jack held up his hands in mock defence, “I’m just saying-,”
“We can’t just assume these things, Jack!” She pushed on, frowning at him. “If we did that we may as well assume that these rift readings aren’t anything important and head back to the hub.”
“I’m all for that!” Owen jumped in, throwing out his hand, “Hand over the keys, Captain, and I’ll have us back to base before you can blink.”
Jack huffed. “We’re not going back to the Hub,” he gave them all a determined stare, “we’re going to this castle and we’re taking readings and if I hear any more complaints about it I’ll put the four of you up for camping and keep the apartments to myself. Got it?”
The four of them gaped at him for a moment before turning away and making to get back into the SUV.
“Owen, backseat! It’s Ianto’s turn up front.” Jack called out when Owen tried to slip into the front seat again. The glare he got was withering but soon forgotten as Owen began quibbling with the girls over who had to sit in the middle.
“That was remarkably well handled,” Ianto complimented as Jack turned back towards him.
“No thanks to you,” Jack grumbled, “aren’t you supposed to be on my side in all this?”
“I didn’t know we were taking sides,” Ianto answered.
“Are you being wide?” Jack asked, frowning at him.
Jack’s eyes narrowed, “Are you mocking me, Ianto?”
“Not at all, sir,” Ianto replied, though the spark in his eyes belied his words. Jack frowned at him again; Ianto only ever called him ‘sir’ nowadays when he was being a tease or mightily pissed off. All things considered, Jack wasn’t sure he could assume it was the former. With a pout he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out the car keys before handing them to Ianto.
“I’m driving?” Ianto blinked, taking the proffered keys. Jack nodded.
“I’m sure Owen will have a few more choice words to share with us once we get going again. I’d hate to get distracted whilst listening to his tirade and crash the car.”
“Most considerate of you,” Ianto agreed, still smiling but making no move to get into the car.
“What is it?” Jack asked, warily.
“Would we be telling them about the disappearances now, sir?”
“One disappearance,” Jack stressed through clenching teeth, his voice lowering so as not to let the others overheard, “and stop calling me sir.”
“That we know about.” Ianto persisted, with a pointed look. “Sir.”
Jack threw his head back with a groan. “Were you lot always this much work?” he grumbled. Ianto let out a soft laugh and Jack shot him a suspicious look.
“You’re just out of practice, Jack.” Ianto said, smiling more genuinely now.
“Out of practice, eh?” Jack stepped forward, all but leering as he reached for Ianto. “You weren’t saying that last-,”
“-I’m sure it’s nothing you cannot correct with a little help.” Ianto hastily interrupted with a warning look.
“And are you offering to help me?” Jack asked, moving his hands to rest on Ianto’s hips.
“That depends,” Ianto said, dragging his index finger over the lapels of Jack’s coat before firmly pushing him away.
“On what?” Jack pouted, watching as Ianto moved towards the driver’s side door.
“On whether you play nice for the rest of this trip.” He smiled winningly before moving away and making to get into the car.
“Me?” Jack huffed, wanting to point out that he felt he’d been playing rather fairly considering the rest of them had had nothing more than complaints to offer since they’d set off that morning. But Ianto had already closed his door and was fiddling with his seatbelt. Even Owen and the girls had stopped their squabbling enough to force Owen into the middle seat where he sat with his arms folded and a petulant expression upon his face.
“Oh fine,” Jack muttered, stalking around to the passenger side door and getting into the SUV without another word.
- - -
“We probably should wake them up,” Jack said, dragging Ianto’s thoughts back to the present as he turned from watching the sleeping trio in the backseat of the SUV to shooting Ianto a wicked looking grin. “Or we could leave them here, check in, and christen their rooms before they’re any the wiser.”
Ianto’s laugh was lost in a sudden inhaling of air as Jack slipped the hand resting so unobtrusively upon his leg further up his thigh, causing Ianto to shift a little in his seat.
“Jack-,” The name came out slightly strangled as Jack’s hand continued to inch its way upwards. Ianto reached out, one hand curling around Jack’s wrist as if to stop him. Jack paused momentarily.
“Jack, this is hardly the most appropriate- oh!” Ianto bit at his lip as Jack’s hand moved- lightning-fast- to mould itself over the front of his pants, expert fingers pressing and rubbing in a way that was sure to get him hot and bothered within seconds if he didn’t find some way to dissuade Jack’s actions.
Then Jack leant over, breathing heavily against Ianto’s ear and Ianto found it suddenly hard to think as he stared unseeingly ahead, his mouth parting to draw in short pants of air.
“Sorry, you were saying?” Jack purred; his voice low and gravelly. He flicked his tongue against the lobe of Ianto’s ear, causing the other man to bite sharply at his bottom lip, cutting back the whimper he felt building up within him. Jack started pressing wet, open-mouthed kisses along his jaw, his hand continuing to move against Ianto’s crotch, urging him to hardness.
“Jack,” Ianto tried, his voice strangled as Jack continued to manipulate him, “don’t make me-,”
“-what?” Jack interrupted, his other hand feeling for Ianto’s belt buckle as he breathed his words wetly into Ianto’s ear, “don’t make you scream? Don’t make you come so hard and so fast you’ll- ARGH!”
Ianto’s hands shot up suddenly to slam at the horn, causing it to emit a high-pitched honking that sounded through the otherwise peaceful silence of the night, startling Jack away from him (his head thumping off the roof of the SUV in his haste) and awakening their three backseat passengers with varying cries of alarm.
Ianto smiled innocently enough, his flushed face hidden by the darkness of the car as he looked up into the rear view mirror and welcomed them all to Craig-y-Nos Castle. Owen was cursing him colourfully whilst Tosh was slumped up against the window with her hand over her heart. Gwen glared daggers at him through the mirror.
“You know, Ianto,” she said, breathing heavily through her fright, “a prod in the side would have done the trick just as well.” She groped for the door handle and stumbled out of the car, the others following after her a moment later.
Once they were all out Ianto chanced a look towards Jack who pinned him with such an intense glare that Ianto felt his mouth run dry. Jack said nothing. Ianto just smiled all the more widely at him.
- - -
“Here we are, room number twenty-five, the Gatehouse apartment,” Jack inserted the key into the lock and turned, opening the door onto a luxuriously decorated lounge area. He whistled appreciatively as they stepped inside, eyeing everything from the oak flooring, to the expensively plush couches and the heavy drapes which had been closed over what appeared to be a double floor to ceiling window.
“There are three bedrooms, two on the upper floors and one through the door to the left,” Ianto pointed out, dumping his duffle on the floor beside Jack.
“Can we actually afford to stay in an apartment like this?” Toshiko asked, stepping up beside him.
“You’d rather we went camping?” Owen asked, throwing his bag onto a large coffee table and sprawling himself over the nearest couch.
“Well no,” Tosh answered with a shudder.
“It was either this or a mixed dorm with bunk beds,” Ianto answered. “And I suspect I’m right in assuming that no one wishes I’d picked that option.”
“I think it’s lovely!” Gwen cooed, moving about the room, touching at the ornaments on display as she went.
Jack slanted a look at Ianto and he rolled his eyes. “Yes, we can afford it,” he answered without prompting and Jack nodded his head before moving off towards the stairwell to investigate both the en-suite and upper loft bedrooms.
“This one’s got a double bed,” Gwen called, popping her head into the ground-floor bedroom.
Jack appeared a moment later. “The loft’s a twin room, but the first floor one is a double too. Look’s like some of us will have to share.” He grinned widely at the idea.
“Not so,” Ianto said with a smile, “I have it under good authority that the couches fold out into beds too.”
“Well you can take the sofa-bed if you want, tea-boy,” Owen started, “but I’m tagging a room for myself, unless anyone wants to share with an un-dead insomniac?” He winked at Tosh, who turned away to hide the blush creeping up her cheeks.
“I don’t mind sharing a bed with Tosh,” Gwen offered, looking at Jack, “if you and Ianto want the twin-room?”
“Oh, I don’t think that’ll be necessary,” Jack answered. “Ianto?” He called, turning to look at the other man. Ianto eyed him for a moment.
“I think it might be considered improper to share a room, never mind a bed, with you whilst on a mission, sir.” Ianto answered wryly. Jack grinned wickedly at him, moving slowly down the stairs till he was standing level with Ianto once more.
“I’m sure your boss won’t mind one bit, Mr. Jones.” He said, dipping down to lift both his and Ianto’s duffle bags before turning on his heel and making straight for the loft bedroom, as if that answered everything. Ianto bit back a smile, ignoring Owen’s gagging motions and the girls’ not-so subtle gushing as he shook his head and followed Jack up into their room.
No sooner had he stepped into the room than he found himself being crowded up against the door, Jack’s arms coming up to cage him on either side as he leant down close enough that every breath he exhaled tingled at Ianto’s mouth.
“Alone at last,” Jack growled at him and swooped in to catch at Ianto’s lips, pulling a deep and lingering kiss from him which Ianto eagerly returned; his arms coming up to curl themselves around Jack’s shoulders, whilst he threaded a hand through Jack’s dark hair, urging him nearer.
Jack stepped in closer, his arms dropping to encircle Ianto’s waist and pull the other man flush against him. Their mouths moved wetly against one another’s for long minutes, their hips beginning aborted thrusts as the first stirrings of true desire rushed through their bodies.
“Jack?” Gwen’s voice called up seconds later and Jack pulled his mouth away with another growl. “Jack we’re all set up down here, are you and Ianto coming down?”
“If I ignore her, do you think she’ll go away?” Jack asked, leaning in again. Ianto just laughed, turning his cheek to Jack’s kiss and slipping easily from his arms in the same moment. Jack huffed, turning and watching as Ianto readjusted his suit and licked the wetness from his lips.
“I think she’ll come up here and drag you down if you don’t answer her.” Ianto said, pointedly.
“Five more minutes?” Jack asked, pressing his lips into an almost-pout.
Ianto snorted, “You’re not that good.” He sniped and reached for the door. Jack grabbed at his arm, leaning in to breathe against his ear.
“I’m going to get you back for that little stunt you pulled in the car,” he warned and Ianto slanted a look at him.
“Oh, I don’t doubt that you will,” Ianto answered, “it just won’t be now.”
And he was out the door before Jack could retaliate with either kisses or words.
- - -
When Jack made his way downstairs a moment later, it was to find that Toshiko had set up her laptop and a printer and was, with the help of Gwen, putting together a profile on the hotel and its history as well as setting up a program to read for any fluctuations in activity from the rift. Owen was laying out an array of equipment and weaponry on the coffee table, checking batteries, loading cartridges and ensuring that everything from their stun guns to their Bluetooth communication devices were in complete working order. Ianto was in a corner of the room, working his mojo on a sorry looking excuse for a kettle with the intention of preparing coffees for the rest of them.
“Right, so, what have we got?” Jack asked, clapping his hands together and sitting himself on one of the couches. Gwen passed him a freshly-made folder and he opened it, eyes flickering over the content.
“Nothing too sinister about the building itself,” Gwen began, sitting beside Toshiko and reading from her own folder. “An Adelina Patti had the castle as an estate until the early nineteen-hundreds when she passed away. It became a TB sanatorium after her death for a number of years, and then a geriatric hospital before eventually being bought over and turned into the hotel it is at the moment. Um, the Castle is still under construction, and according to the hotel’s website, it still has most of the original rooms from when this was a hospital. There are still ward floors and even, get this,” she began, scrunching her nose in distaste, “they even have an embalming slab in the cellar.”
“Wicked,” Owen interrupted and Gwen rolled her eyes at him before smiling as Ianto stepped in and handed over the coffee. Owen slouched back into his seat with an unimpressed look and Ianto took a seat beside him, thanking Toshiko as she handed over another folder for him.
“The website also says that they hold ghost tours and séances here in the castle,” Toshiko said, sipping at her coffee.
“And what about the Rift?” Jack asked. “Is there a way to tell when it first started affecting the area? How often it has spiked since? Any way of predicting when it will spike again?”
Toshiko nodded, “Yes,” she answered, “but you’re not going to like it.”
Jack sat forward and Toshiko adjusted her spectacles.
“I’ve been working on a, a side project if you will, using the Rift prediction program. I’ve been trying to determine what the varying levels of fluctuation in the Rift readings mean and I’ve deduced so far that the Rift works with negative and positive spikes. A positive spike is what we are alerted for; it means something has come through the Rift. But it also produces negative spikes and- I’m only theorising here as I don’t have evidence to support the claim- but I suspect that the negative spikes occur when the Rift is taking something from us.”
Ianto looked up and towards Jack who turned to look at him also.
“There are quite a few negative spikes in relation to this area, Jack,” Toshiko continued, eyes intent upon her laptop. “Some positives too, but mostly they’re negative ones.”
“Hey,” Owen interrupted, and everyone turned to him. He looked between Jack and Ianto. “What was that look for?”
“What look?” Ianto asked, shifting his folder on his knees and raising his coffee for a quick sip. Owen scowled at him.
“The one you two just shared whilst Tosh was blabbing on about her Rift readings. No offence, Tosh.” He added before turning to glare at Jack, “The look that all but screamed out that you two know something the rest of us aren’t privy to.”
Jack pursed his lips and flicked his eyes to Ianto’s before spreading his hands. “There may have been a recent disappearance in the area I neglected to mention.” He confessed.
“For god’s sake, Jack,” Gwen was the first to break the sudden silence, “why on earth didn’t you think to tell us this earlier?”
“Look, it was hard enough getting you all here in the first place,” he answered honestly before shrugging, “I was working up to it.”
“And how come tea-boy here got to know about it before the rest of us?” Owen griped and Ianto had the puerile urge to stick his tongue out at him.
“Because Ianto was the one who linked the Rift reading to the disappearance,” Jack said.
“Oh, so it’s his fault we’re all here then?” Owen asked, turning to glare now at Ianto who couldn’t resist the urge to at least roll his eyes at Owen.
“It’s no one’s fault,” Jack said firmly, “Or at least, it was my decision to check it out, and since none of you were willing to volunteer I felt it only fair to bring you all. Now enough,” he said turning to Toshiko and ending any further discussion on the subject. “Tosh you were talking about the Rift and your readings,” Jack began, “how often have there been spikes in your readings, either positive or negative?”
“It seems to happen in clusters, every dozen or so years there appears to be numerous spikes in the same area over a couple of days, perhaps a week at the most. Out with that there are spikes every couple of years with perhaps one or two negatives occurring.”
“There don’t seem to be many missing persons reports for the area though,” Gwen interrupted.
“The Rift doesn’t necessarily always take people,” Jack answered, “It could be taking animals or objects too. Things that no one else may even notice have gone missing.”
Gwen nodded and made a few notes in the margins of her folder.
“Tosh, is there any way to tell when the next cycle is due to take place?”
“Well, according to my reading, I’d say we’ve arrived just in time for the next one.”
“Oh now isn’t that just peachy,” Owen huffed. Ianto shifted beside him, looking none too impressed himself. “And just how are we meant to tackle a rift in time and space intent on eating people? I mean seriously though, do we have protection against this kind of thing?”
“Keep your Bluetooth on you at all times and if your EMF reader starts going haywire, get the hell out of wherever you are as fast as you can?” Was Ianto’s helpful suggestion. Jack just nodded.
“That’s pretty much spot on,” he agreed slowly, watching as everyone turned to him with varying degrees of ‘horrified’ written across their faces. He clapped his hands together and adopted a cheery expression, “Now, who wants to go exploring?”
- - -
Thankfully, Jack had allowed them all a nights rest before forcing them out into an exploration of the castle and its grounds with the intention of both finding a source for the Rift and a way to explain how said Rift had managed to keep up a cycle of abductions over the years without anyone noticing. There had been a few half-hearted jokes by Owen about the Rift being somewhat sentient this far out in the countryside and that’s why everything had gone to pot in the Beacons, but not even he’d been laughing as he armed himself with an EMF reader and set out with Gwen to explore one wing of the castle whilst Jack and Ianto took to the other.
Tosh had been lucky enough to convince Jack that she should stay behind in the apartment as from there she could coordinate their progress, alert them all to any impending spikes and also finish her map of the area which would allow them to pinpoint down to the exact acre which areas of Craig-y-Nos Castle the spikes had previously appeared, where they were appearing (when they appeared), and where they were likely to next appear.
“I feel like one of those ghost hunters you find repeated every hour on Living,” Ianto muttered, waving the EMF reader Owen had given him back and forth as he and Jack explored the south wing of the castle. They’d been supplied with a map from reception and after a quiet word with the manager, had been given a skeleton key to allow them in to any room of the hotel which they required access to. Though they had been strictly warned against entering any of the occupied suits for the time being.
“Since when do you have time to watch TV?” Jack asked as they entered what appeared to have at one point been a theatre. They entered from the back of the room, the floor angling down towards the stage area- huge velvety red curtains hung half off their rails over the stage, the fabric dust-laden and moth-eaten, much like the rest of the room.
“Insomnia,” Ianto said by way of answer as he wove his way between the seating, his eyes intent on the EMF reader in his palm. This whole endeavour had become pretty boring and routine after the first couple of hours spent searching the hotel, once the initial fear-filled adrenaline had worn off at least. They’d started on the ground floor and methodically checked their way up towards the third floor and this once upon a time theatre.
“Insomnia, huh?” Jack chuckled, hands on his hips as he stood in the middle of the main isle and looked over the room, “How come I didn’t know that?” He turned to Ianto who looked up at Jack through his lashes, a small smile on his lips.
“I think it’s impossible for anyone to have trouble sleeping after a night with you, Jack.” He answered and Jack grinned widely. Ianto shook his head and continued to move through the rows, methodically waving the EMF reader to-and-fro and almost despairing at its determination to not read anything at all.
“Are we sure these things are working?” He asked after a moment. He smacked the device against his hand as if doing so would suddenly encourage the device to light up like a Christmas tree. Stubbornly, it didn’t so much as issue a whir of protest. “Maybe I should have checked the batteries myself.”
“Owen’s not an idiot, Ianto,” Jack said, appearing at his side, “he knows how to check whether our equipment is working or not.”
“Still,” Ianto muttered, “I should probably have made sure…”
“Honestly, Ianto, you’d think you wanted something to happen.”
“Well if it means getting this whole mission over and done with, then a little blip here and there wouldn’t be too bad.”
Jack laughed. “I’ll remind you that you said that when something does happen. Come on, there’s nothing happening in this room,” he said and made his way onto the stage. Ianto followed, accepting Jack’s hand as he reached down and helped pull Ianto up after him. They left footprints in their wake as they stepped across the stage, the floor thick with dust that puffed up in little clouds at every disturbance.
The whole room smelled of must and neglect though through it all Ianto could tell that it had been a grand space in its time. He assumed that this room was one of those in which the initial owner, Madame Patti, had entertained her guests. It was said that in her time she’d been a much sought after opera singer, her voice powerful enough to carry right across a room this size without any kind of amplifying aid.
“Ianto, are you coming?” Jack voice called to him and Ianto turned. Jack had slipped through the curtains to the left of the stage and Ianto could make out a dull light coming from the directions- presumably he’d found a doorway leading through towards a backstage area of some description. He was just about to follow when he thought he heard something… something like… singing?
Ianto frowned, turning to look out across the dimly lit theatre. Most of it was swathed in shadows and hidden to his searching eyes. But, yes, he could definitely make out the soft strains of a woman’s voice. He looked hurriedly down towards his EMF reader but it appeared dead to the world.
“Jack?” He called out, flicking his flashlight on and pointing it out across the room. The singing, though still wordless to his ears, appeared to be getting louder. Jack didn’t answer him. Ianto turned, shining his torch towards the left hand side of the stage, but there was no sign of Jack or the light he’d seen only moments ago.
“Jack?” Ianto called again, his heart beginning a staccato rhythm even as he forced himself to breathe deep and evenly. He reached up with his right hand, keeping the beam of torchlight shining directly ahead of him even as he pressed to activate his Bluetooth.
“Jack? Toshiko? Anyone there?” It took one heart-stopping moment before he heard an answer.
“Ianto? It’s Tosh, is everything alright?”
He breathed a sigh of relief, “Hey Tosh, listen, have you got any readings on your end? I’m in the south-wing, in what used to be a theatre. I’m hearing music but I’m getting nothing on the EMF.”
“Nothing’s shown up yet, but give me a minute and I’ll set a search on your location specifically.”
“Thanks, Tosh. While you’re at it, could you possibly search for life signs too? I seem to have misplaced Jack.”
There was a distinct note of alarm in her voice as it crackled over his comms. Ianto swallowed heavily, nodding to himself as he debated between staying where he was or following in the direction he’d last seen Jack disappearing into.
“He stepped into another room before I heard the music start up, I haven’t followed yet but he’s not answering.”
Toshiko was worryingly silent for a moment longer before her voice came through his earpiece once again.
“Okay, good news on both counts, there’s still no readings in your location and according to my analysis Jack is… actually he’s coming up behind you.”
“Behind me? He can’t-,” Ianto stopped speaking and frowned, feeling the fine hairs on the back of his neck standing to attention as a prickle of sudden awareness shivered its way down his spine. He was still staring off towards stage left. If anyone was behind him they’d have had to come from stage right. Jack went off stage left. Ianto’s palms were worryingly moist and he shifted his stance slightly in preparation of turning and facing whoever (or whatever) was there.
“Ianto? Ianto, is everything alright?”
Ianto adjusted his grip on his torch, realising that that with both hands occupied he’d have to use it as a weapon rather than risk juggling both it and his EMF reader and reaching for his gun. He took a deep breath, swiftly turned himself upon his heel, and promptly let out a cry of surprise as Jack jumped out towards him, a mocking ‘boo’ echoing across the stage.
Ianto cursed loudly, hitting out at Jack with his torch anyway, “I am going to fucken kill you, Jack Harkness!” He shouted, his heart thumping violently against his chest as he gasped for breath. Jack only laughed, stepping closer and drawing Ianto into his arms.
“What the hell were you thinking?” Ianto gasped against his chest, feeling the rumble of another laugh vibrating through Jack. He scowled deeply and pulled away.
“Hey, you were the one looking for some excitement here,” He grinned, releasing Ianto.
“That isn’t what I meant and you know it!” Ianto hissed, smacking at Jack with his flashlight once more. Jack laughed again. “You’d be laughing out the other side of your face if I’d had my gun in my hand,” he snapped and Jack stopped laughing enough to hold his hands up in surrender, a contrite expression falling over his face.
“Okay, okay, I’m sorry. It was very immature and thoughtless of me,” he reached out for Ianto, drawing him closer, “forgive me?” He widened his eyes a little with the plea.
“Ianto are you there? Are you alright?”
Toshiko’s voice crackled through his Bluetooth once again and Jack smiled a little sheepishly as he reached up to activate his own comms.
“Hey, Tosh, we’re both here and doing alright,” he answered under Ianto’s unimpressed scowl.
“Ianto?” Tosh called for him anyway and Jack rolled his eyes as Ianto reached up to press at his own earpiece, accidentally (on purpose) shining his torch into Jack’s eyes with the gesture.
“I’m here, Tosh. Jack was just fooling around. We’ll continue on and check in again when we’re on our way back.” He lowered and pocketed the flashlight, watching as Jack blinked back his sight.
“I take it I’m not forgiven then?” he asked, squinting at Ianto who snorted in answer.
“I think you’re going to have to make it up to me, Captain,” Ianto said, “and then maybe I’ll think about forgiving you.” Jack smiled, his hands tugging at Ianto’s hips.
“And how can I possibly make it up to you?” He asked charmingly but Ianto was having none of it, even as he allowed himself to be pulled more fully into Jack’s arms.
“For a start you can tell me if you can hear that singing.” He looked pointedly at Jack who frowned a moment before moving away and staring out across the theatre.
“When did that start?” He asked, looking at Ianto who crossed his arms.
“Oh, not all that long after you slipped off stage.” He answered pointedly and Jack swallowed heavily.
“Ah.” He said. Ianto nodded slowly.
“I had Tosh check the area but she found nothing. But who knows, maybe my getting her to search for your life signs as well put her off. What do you think?”
“I think I’m not being forgiven anytime soon?” Jack hazarded and Ianto smiled.
“You think right.” He agreed. “Come on, let’s check out the singing. It sounds as though it’s coming from one of the boxes at the side there.”
“There are some stairs behind the stage that’ll take us to them,” Jack agreed, weathering Ianto’s glare as he led them off the stage.
They were silent as they made their way towards the boxes on the right side of the room. The doors leading into them were stiff with age and disuse but a good kicking down from Jack soon got them both access into the first of them. The signing could still be heard, but Ianto was almost certain that the direction it was coming from had changed.
“Jack?” He questioned with a frown and Jack nodded and pointed out towards the stage where a dull light had come on directly overhead. Ianto could make out the footprints they’d left in the dust as he shuffled towards the edge of the box and peered down onto the stage. He looked down at his EMF reader.
“Still nothing,” he muttered, “I’m going to kill Owen if these batteries are dead.” He looked upwards once again, staring out towards the stage with trepidation.
Jack stepped up beside him, and as he did the light in the middle of the stage flared brightly, the singing swelling against his ears, the words bleeding themselves into his brain till with a barely-suppressed gasp Jack realised he knew the song being sung. With the recognition came what could only be described as the hallucination as upon the stage he saw himself standing with his arms wrapped tightly around another man.
They both stood in uniform and clutched at each other with a desperation he felt clenching so desperately at his heart even now. The men on stage parted from their dance momentarily before coming together with a kiss so passion-filled and heart-breaking than Jack felt his gasp wrenched from his throat. He gripped the edge of the box so tightly, splinters and chunks of rotting wood crumbled beneath his fingers but he didn’t seem to notice as he watched unfold before his eyes his one and only night spent with his namesake all those many, many months ago.
“Jack?” Ianto’s voice was soft, echoing hollowly against his ears as he called to him, trying to drag him away from the sight before his eyes. Ianto’s fingers were cold upon his cheek as they traced the tears which escaped his eyes, but he didn’t move in recognition of the touch, not until the two men- the memory?- on stage parted. The vision of himself disappeared with a flash whist the vision of the real Jack Harkness turned to look directly at him before saluting him and disappearing into the same flash of light.
The light on stage went out just as suddenly as the song itself ended, the theatre descending into darkness and silence and Jack came back to himself with another gasp. Ianto was watching him worriedly, his hands on Jack’s face, his thumbs wiping at his tears.
“Jack?” He whispered and Jack leant forward, clutching Ianto towards him in the tightest of hugs. The EMF reader at Ianto’s feet was flashing wildly.
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[ Onwards to Part 2... ]
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