Summary: Our favourite tortured boys are back in this third and final instalment in which they try to outrun Hell.
Notes: See chapter 1 for disclaimer warnings and related info. Hope everyone is still enjoying. Here's another chapter but it might leave you hanging again...well, maybe just a little.
I spring to a sit with a gasp, hold my searing head in my hands, and pay attention as the image forms. My heart contracts when I see Ianto, lying pale and lifeless in a hospital bed, tubes poking out of every orifice in his body. An echo of a woman’s voice bounces through my head. “Time of death, six-thirteen.”
When the searing pain subsides enough that I can move without screaming, I slip out of the bed. I pull on my jeans, stuffing the pendant that’s still clutched in my hand into my pocket, and tiptoe to the door, sure the pounding of my heart alone is enough to wake everyone.
The instant I crack the door open and look out into the hall, I realise I was wrong. Ianto’s not on the couch. He’s sitting on the floor with his back against my door. He tumbles backward as the door disappears out from behind him and catches himself with an arm before he lands on my legs.
My relief at seeing him alive is indescribable.
He’s on his feet like a shot, peering past me with keen eyes. There’s not a hint of sleep in them. When I glance down and notice the coffee mug on the floor next to where he was sitting, I know why.
“Is everything okay?” he asks.
Yes. You’re alive.
“I couldn’t sleep,” I say to my feet. “I…”
His fingers are on my cheek, caressing it and my ear. “What, Jack?”
I look up into his eyes and I can hardly breathe. “I saw you dead.”
His eyes widen for an instant, then he nods, as if he already knew that’s where all this was heading.
“You can’t die. I won’t let you.”
The smallest of lopsided smiles pulls at his lips. “It’s not my first choice either.”
“Am I crazy for thinking I can do this?”
His eyebrows arch and he heaves a weary sigh. “Pretty much.”
I crouch to pick up his coffee mug and take a long swallow then wince. “That’s got a punch to it.”
A smile tugs at his lips and suddenly I can’t look anywhere else. “Ed brewed me something resembling jet fuel.”
I turn and pad back into my room where I sit on the bed. “What am I doing?”
I feel Ianto’s weight sink into the bed next to me. “Well, at the moment, drinking my coffee.”
“I’m gonna get everyone killed,” I say, staring into the depths of the mug.
“Let’s hope not.”
I hear the tease in his voice and turn on him. “This is so not funny! I saw you dead!”
Despite the hint of a smile on his lips, his eyes are dead serious, and I get it. He knows that better than any of us.
I set the mug on the nightstand and lean my shoulder into his. I feel him stiffen slightly, but he doesn’t pull away. “Sorry about biting your head off. And running away. And … everything else.”
“The biting my head off is understandable. The running away thing, not so much. What were you thinking?” With his breath in my hair, goose bumps work their way up my neck into my scalp and I shiver.
“Gray lied to me,” I say, and the pang in my heart makes me physically wince.
He looks at me for a long moment, considering. “He’s chosen, Jack. And I can tell you from experience that the team he’s playing for now shows no deference for the mortal realm’s quaint notions of right and wrong. They’ll say anything. Do anything.”
I’ve never asked Ianto about the things he did as a demon. I guess I was afraid to know. I don’t want to think of him like that—have that image in my head. But suddenly I need to know how Gray’s head works now. “Like what?”
He surprises me by taking my hand. He stares at it soberly, and his voice is laced with something dark as he says, “Think Pharin and Balan.”
“And Russell?” I add, squeezing his hand.
His eyes lift to mine. “No,” he snaps, his face twisted in disgust. “I was never like Naburus.”
I take his hand in both of mine and turn it over, tracing the lines of his palm. “Sorry.”
He watches my finger intently but doesn’t reply.
“Lucifer came to me today and I…”
He tenses, his fingers curling into mine, and I can tell he’s holding his breath, waiting for the rest.
“I’m not stupid. I know He wants my power, but I can’t help thinking that I’m supposed to make a difference… change how Heaven and Hell work.”
“That could be true,” he answers cautiously. “Probably is, as a matter of fact. But I can guarantee you it’s not by convincing the Almighty to take Him back.”
“You said He wouldn’t give up His power. How do you know that for sure?”
“I’ve had seven thousand years to watch Him operate. He’s a coward, sending His minions to do His dirty work on the coil. And He’s power hungry, using every ploy to gain control of humanity and tempt mortals down the fiery path. The more death, destruction, and depravity it entails, the better. He’s created an army… including me…” at this his voice hardens as his self-loathing emerges out from under the thin emotional blanket he keeps it hidden under, “… to do His bidding. And remember, that bidding includes wreaking all that death, destruction, and depravity.” He pulls back and looks in my eyes. “You’ve seen firsthand what He demands of His legions.”
Ianto doesn’t have to say Owen’s name. I know that’s what he means.
A scowl twists his face. “But He doesn’t have any trouble inflicting unspeakable atrocities on His obedient minions, who are hardwired not to be able to fight back—with no free will of their own.” He shifts away from me and hangs his head, weaving his fingers into his black mop of hair.
I move closer and lean into his shoulder, not sure what to say, but then he jerks his head out of his hands. “That’s it!”
“What’s what?” I ask.
“Free will. God’s gift to humanity.” He taps his thumb on his knee, thinking. “Suzie…” he says, shaking his head. “They don’t need to be human. They just need free will. When I turned human…” He looks at me then, reaching out for my hand and threading his fingers into mine again. “When you turned me human … I had free will that I didn’t lose when I turned demon again.”
He catches my wince.
“Which I never blamed you for, by the way,” he adds.
I lower my gaze.
Ianto cups my face in his hand and lifts my chin so I’m looking at him. “Jack, please. You need to believe me.”
It’s only now, as my eyes search his face, devouring every bit of it, that I realise how much I’ve missed him. His gaze is deep, as if he’s looking for my soul, and I can swear I see his in those deep obsidian pools. My eyes fall to the lines of his mouth and I feel myself leaning in, closing the distance between us.
I taste the coffee on his lips, which are slightly parted, but don’t move. None of him moves. He sits very still and closes his eyes. But when he starts breathing again, it’s shaky.
I pull back and look up at him as he opens his eyes. They burn with an intensity I haven’t seen there since before we fled. I reach for his face, stroking my fingers over his cheek and tracing his lower lip with my thumb. “What’s going to happen?” My voice is no more than a whisper.
His mouth pulls into a hard line and worry wrinkles the corners of his eyes as he shakes his head.
This time, when I lean in to kiss him, he cautiously slides his hands around my waist. His lips move ever so slightly on mine, as if he’s afraid of making any sudden moves and scaring me away. I tilt my head, deepening our kiss, and I feel him respond, pulling me closer.
Something heavy lifts from my heart as the seemingly insurmountable wall that has existed between us since Lilith crumbles to the ground. His pulse pounds with mine as I wrap my arms around his neck, settling into him, and kiss him like there’s no tomorrow. When our lips finally part, he pulls me into his lap and I press my forehead into his.
“Whatever it is, please, always remember that I love you,” I say.
We cling to each other, but I don’t dare speak, afraid of breaking whatever spell has brought us back together. The world is quiet with sleep; still and seemingly unaware that, at any second, everything could end.
I lift Ianto’s T-shirt over his head as he gazes down at me, unsure. My fingers trail over his tattoo and across his chest, and I feel his skin pebble with goose bumps at my touch. When I reach the thick, rough scab of the burn on his ribs, I lay my palm over it and he closes his eyes and sighs. I tug off my shirt and press myself into him, feeling the burn of our skin as we melt into each other.
As I sink into him, needing to be as close as humanly possible, I’m overwhelmed by the sudden sense that this is good-bye and my heart aches as I smother him with my love. He loves me back, so quietly on the outside while, on the inside, a torrent erupts.
My eyes open to the pale morning sun, just beginning to stream through the window, signalling the start of a new day. But the first thing I see is Ianto’s lazy smile. His arms are around me and we’re snuggled into the blankets.
“Morning, gorgeous. Did you know you talk in your sleep?” he says.
I panic for a second, trying to remember what I dreamed. For the first time in weeks, it wasn’t Owen. It was Ianto.
Time of death, six-thirteen.
A black hole forms in my heart as dread takes hold of it, but then the memory of last night—kissing Ianto and what that lead to—creeps into my consciousness and heat washes through me as an involuntary smiles tugs at my lips.
We’re both still here.
And Ianto is very, very alive.
I sink into him, savouring the feeling of his heat warming the cold places deep inside me that I’ve kept locked away from him for the last few months. “Did you sleep?” I ask in a voice still thick with slumber.
I slide up in his arms and trace a finger along the dark hollows under his eyes. He closes them and I gently kiss his eyelids, then the tip of his nose.
He heaves an epic sigh, and a contented “Mmm…” purrs up from his chest.
I smile then kiss my way slowly across his cheekbones and along the coarse stubble over his jaw, as it scratches along mine, finally finding his mouth again.
I can’t stop the loud laugh as he grabs me and rolls us, pinning me under him.
“You might want to be careful, or your grandfather is going to find you in a very compromising position,” he says quietly, his gaze burning through me and a wicked smile teasing his lips.
My heart beats happily as Ianto kisses me, pressing into me from above. I wonder how I was able to resist this for so long when I feel myself totally giving in to him, wanting nothing more than to be swept away by him again and not have to think about any of the rest of it.
Ianto isn’t a distraction. He’s my sanity—my escape.
And my soul.
It nearly kills me, but I find the strength to push him away. “You need to go,” I whisper. “Grandpa will be up soon.”
He smiles again and melts my heart. I grab him and pull him close. He kisses me once more, slow and deep, then pries himself out of my grasp. I watch him intently as he sorts through our clothes, pulling his from the pile on the floor. When he’s dressed he leans over me and kisses me again, and I close my eyes and fight not to pull him back into the bed. He leans his forehead into mine. “You are killing me. I hope you know that.”
My heart lurches as my eyes snap open and stare into his, but then I see the smile in them. His lips find mine again before he stands and slips through the door, leaving me aching for him.
Not long after, my mouth starts to water as the smell of frying bacon and coffee wafts into my room. I dress quickly and head to the family room, where Ianto is now on the couch, wrapped in Grandma’s throw, pretending to be asleep.
I sit on the edge of the couch and lean down to kiss him. His eyes slit open and a sly smile turns up his lips. “You’re blowing my cover.”
I snort and then jump when someone clears his throat behind us. When I turn, Grandpa is peering at us from the kitchen. “If anyone’s hungry, I’ve got pancakes and bacon ready. Nothin’ like Ianto’s frittatas, but it’ll have to do,” Grandpa adds, giving Ianto the evil eye as he swings to a sit.
My face is on fire. “We were just—”
But at that instant, I grab my head as lightning tears through my brain. “Oh, God!” I cry, unable to stop myself.
Because this time the image isn’t me or Ianto. It’s Grandpa, lying in a heap on a green lawn, his eyes staring lifelessly into the sky.
My empty stomach heaves with the pain in my head, but there’s nothing to come up. When it settles, I bound off the couch and run to Grandpa, hugging him as tightly as I can. “I never should have come here.”
I glance wildly at Ianto, and I see my own horror mirrored in his eyes. In that glance, I can tell he understands. But I can’t tell Grandpa.
“I won’t let anything happen to ya, Jack,” Grandpa’s sandpaper voice rumbles from his chest into my ear as I stand plastered against him.
I feel sick again, ’cause it’s me who has to figure out how to keep anything from happening to him. I peel myself away from him. “Just promise me you won’t go outside.”
He smiles down at me. “Thought your angel had things under control out there.”
I breathe deep. “Just promise.”
“Fine,” he says with an amused smile. “How about those pancakes?”
I hug him for another second then back away a step.
“I’ll round up the night patrol,” Ianto says with a tip of his head toward the front door.
Ianto opens the door, but before he steps through he glances back to where I stand and offers me a reassuring smile. Despite my heavy heart and the dread in the pit of my stomach, I can’t help smiling back as he slips through and closes it behind him.
Grandpa turns from the stove where he’s pulling another batch of pancakes from the cast-iron skillet. “Is the plan still to head to your folks?”
“As soon as we can,” I answer.
I hear the front door click open and Ianto steps through. He just stares at me for a long moment.
“What?” I finally ask.
He glances back over his shoulder into the yard. “John is gone.”