Author: sariagray Artist: thebuttonontop
Chapter: Stave Four of Five + Epilogue
Characters/Pairings (not chapter-specific): Jack/Ianto, Gwen/Rhys, Owen, Tosh, Alice and Steven Carter, John Hart, Estelle, Grey, Franklin/Wife, Rhiannon/Johnny, Mica and David, OCs
Rating: PG13 throughout.
Word Count: ~950 for this chapter, ~10,000 for the story in its entirety.
Spoilers: The whole series, as certain characters are used. Most aspects of plot, however, are not spoiled.
Warnings: Occasional language, minor sexual innuendo, some relatively dark themes. Angst and fluff fluctuate throughout.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fan fiction and artwork. No monetary compensation has been or will be garnered from this endeavor. This is purely for entertainment purposes and is no way intended to disrespect the creators/owners of Torchwood, Charles Dickens, or any of the other pop-culture references throughout the story.
Beta: Thanks to thebuttonontop for dealing with my bipolar attitudes about this story, listening to me whine, and cheering me on all the while (in addition to providing very pretty pictures!). My unyielding gratitude also belongs to badly_knitted for a much needed Brit-picking and thorough cleaning-up. Without you both, this story would still be kicking around, disjointed, in my mind somewhere. Also, thanks to my mom, for encouraging this shenanigans (i.e. calling me up during its early stages to offer suggestions and making me read it aloud to her…even if she did laugh uproariously at my ridiculous phrases).
Author's Note: This was written as a holiday gift to all of you wonderful people. thebuttonontop and I are so grateful for your friendship, support, and the general sense of community that we have found through the medium of fan fiction, Torchwood, and all that that entails. I didn't once suspect, when I sat down to watch "Everything Changes", that it would lead me here (and hey! Everything did change!). But I'm glad it did. So thank you all and Happy Holidays. We really hope you enjoy this!
A/N 2: A new chapter will be posted every couple of days, ending on Christmas Eve, and a pretty, full .pdf version will be posted on December 25th for anyone who wants it.
(Stave One) (Stave Two) (Stave Three)
The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached. When it came closer, Jack reached for his Webley but something stayed his hand. Instead, he bent down upon his knee almost instinctively, for in the very air through which this figure moved, it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery. It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. But for this it would have been difficult to detach its figure from the night, and separate it from the darkness by which it was surrounded.
Jack felt that it was tall and stately when it came beside him, and its mysterious presence filled him with a solemn dread. He knew no more, for the form neither spoke nor moved.
“I’m assuming,” Jack finally spoke, attempting to make his voice light, “that you want to show me my future. This is going to take even longer than my past.”
The cloaked figure answered not, but pointed his hand in front of them. Some inexplicable feeling bade Jack to trust this being, so he stepped toward the direction in which the Phantom was pointing. The Phantom overtook him, floating over the ground. Jack followed him out of what he now recognized as his office.
Two men and a woman stood around Tosh’s workstation. The men were both in their mid-thirties, while the woman looked to be a bit younger. He had never seen them before in his life.
“Well, he’s gone off again,” one man said. His blonde hair framed his sharp, pale face to his chin.
“When did he go?” the other man asked, blinking sleep out of his blue eyes.
“Last night,” the woman replied, staring at the screen as she twirled her auburn hair around a finger. “Just ran straight out of here, Jon.”
“On Christmas?” Jon replied. “Alys, you sure?”
“He didn’t say anything to you, did he, Dav?”
“He never tells anyone when he leaves,” Dav informed them. “So. Boss’s gone. Who gets to be in charge this time?”
“Alys had a go last. It’s my turn,” Jon announced.
“Fine. Over three months and we switch off again, remember?” Alys reminded. “And as soon as he returns, back to normal.”
“Like he’d even notice. He’ll just lock himself in the office again,” replied Jon bitterly before making a dash for that particular room.
“Who’s in charge here? Who’s their boss?” Jack demanded of the Phantom angrily. The Phantom extended a hand and pointed again; Jack followed its sharp lines and caught the woman, Alys, muttering to Dav.
“And really, Captain of what I wonder? Bloody Jack Harkness! Captain my arse.”
Jack paled and turned toward the hooded being beside him to question the likelihood of this particular circumstance, but the hand was already pointing elsewhere. He pursued it silently out of the Hub, knowing that the answer lay in his heart.
They walked through a thick fog, Jack staying close to the dark form out of an inability to see. After a long while of silent steps, the figure stopped abruptly and pointed once more. Jack squinted against the white mist only to be able to make out a row of strange, lumpy grey shapes. The fog began to shift and gradually it drifted away to reveal four grey tombstones. They were each plain, unadorned things. He knelt at the first one and brushed away the detritus that had accumulated.
He bowed his head for a moment, in both personal supplication and an attempt to quell the rising tears. He moved to the next one and repeated the process, cleaning the sacred space of its debris.
Though he knelt once more to keep his silent vigil, he could no longer keep back the tears. He rested his forehead on the cold rock and whispered an apology before proceeding. He wiped at the next headstone frantically hoping that it would be an unfamiliar name.
He clenched his fists and his teeth, holding back the wail that rose in his throat. He kissed the granite softly, sadly and continued to the last space in the small row. Standing before this solitary marker, he breathed deeply and shut his eyes. He went to kneel a final time, but froze as cold wrath welled up inside of him to chill his blood. He whirled around to face the figure.
“You! Who are you? What do you want with me?” he raged as he approached the cloaked stranger.
He stared for a moment at the swirling darkness that was his guide before grasping the hood and throwing it back.
Gasping, he stepped back and fell to his knees in shock, his eyes never leaving the face in front of him. The pale, translucent skin was pulled taut over the bones. The eyes were sunken and dark and lifeless. A rust-colored scar ran from cheekbone to jaw.
“Ianto,” Jack whispered, his voice catching. “Who did this to you?”
“You did, Jack,” he responded, his voice and intonation familiar despite the gravelly rasp of death. “You did. To all of us.”
“I wouldn’t do anything to hurt you,” Jack protested, standing.
“I know. It’s what you didn’t do.”
“What didn’t I –“
Ianto’s eyes burned. “Don’t insult me. You know.”
“Ianto, please! Please, tell me I can fix this. Tell me it isn’t too late,” he pleaded. His voice broke as he sobbed the words.
“I can’t tell you that, Jack. You can only try.”
Jack stepped forward and fell to his knees once more, clutching Ianto’s robes to his face while whispering soft pleas for some form of reassurance. Holding up his hands in a last prayer to have this fate reversed, he saw an alteration in Ianto’s hood and robe. It shrunk, collapsed, and dwindled down into his blanket.
(Stave Five and Epilogue)