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. Little bit of a longer chapter here but there's a lot going on.
The pancakes and bacon sit uneaten in Ed’s kitchen as we race across town to Jack’s. The cheer of the cobalt sky and white, puffy clouds are at odds with the air of doom hanging over our group.
“John wouldn’t just leave,” Jack muses from the backseat of the car.
“No. He wouldn’t.” Dread sits like a stone in the pit of my stomach.
Ed gives me a wary look from the passenger seat but remains silent.
We turn into Jack’s driveway and I pull to the end, near the garage in back. Everything seems quiet—either a very good sign or a very bad sign.
It doesn’t take long to find out which.
I’ve barely stopped before Jack’s shoving me out of the car and sliding my seat forward. He bounds from the car and pulls up short, staring into the backyard.
I follow his gaze … and find Maggie near the large oak tree in the corner of the yard—in Lilith’s choke hold, a knife to her throat.
“Hi, Jack,” Lilith says. “I was hoping that was you. Shall we try this again?”
Jack stands very still, pale as death, his eyes glued to the hand holding the knife at Maggie’s throat. Maggie wears an expression that is something altogether different. She’s straining to turn her head to look at Lilith, and her eyes are full of insatiable need. Her hand is grasping at Lilith’s thigh, desperate for even that tiny piece of her.
I step in front of Jack, careful not to look directly at Lilith now that she’s got her siren song cranked. “Lilith, put the knife down.”
“Lilith.” Jack’s whisper comes from behind me. When I turn, I see his expression soften, then become hungry, and he takes a step forward. Ed stands on the other side of the car, staring over the top of it, mesmerised.
“Turn it off, Lilith,” I say, reaching for Jack. I grasp him gently by the shoulders and turn him to face me. His eyes stay locked on Lilith, and I have to grasp his cheek to pull his face around. “Jack. Look right here,” I say.
He presses his eyes closed and winces. “Maggie,” he whispers. He opens his eyes and looks into mine, and I can see all the nightmares behind his gaze.
“This isn’t Owen, Jack. Maggie will be fine. She’s not tagged for Hell.”
He winces again at the mention of Owen, even though he was clearly already thinking about him. “But she could still kill her anyway,” he says in a strangled whisper.
She will if I can’t figure out how to stop her. And, if she does, I can’t imagine how I’ll stop Jack from retaliating … unless I do it myself.
“Did you talk to him, lover? Tell him the plan?” Lilith calls.
Jack starts to turn back to his, but I hold his chin. “You have a plan?” he asks.
“No,” I say, gazing deep into his eyes, showing his I’m not hiding anything. “No plan.”
“He’ll do it, Ianto. He just needs a little encouragement.” Lilith presses the knife tighter against Maggie’s throat to punctuate her point.
Jack struggles out of my grasp, desperation clear in his strained expression, and I swear I feel a rush of energy surge under my hands as he pulls away. “What will I do?”
“Take the king down.” A depraved smile curves Lilith’s mouth. “Or die trying. Either works for me.” She chuckles, a raw, wet rasp that turns into a hacking cough. “Come over here and get your little sister, Jack. Then we can all talk about it.”
When he looks at Lilith, there’s murder in his eyes. “You grab Maggie,” Jack says. This time, I’m sure I don’t imagine the skitter of red and white energy dancing over his skin.
What does this mean? What’s happening to him?
When I look back at Maggie, she’s trying to spin in Lilith’s grasp, causing the knife to graze her skin. A rivulet of blood courses a path from under her chin to the hollow of her collarbone and pools there.
I grasp Jack’s arms gently and lean in. And I feel it, the buzz of an electric current running up my arm. “Go, Jack,” I whisper in his ear. “Go with Ed into the house.” My lips brush his cheek as he backs away and I inhale deeply, taking in his currant and clove, needing to hold on to his in any way possible.
He looks up at me and the determination on his face scares me. “No.”
“Go. Maggie and I will be right behind you,” I say, my heart clenching at the realisation that these might be my last words to Jack—and, if so, a lie.
He stares at me for a long heartbeat, then starts to back away.
I watch his for a second then turn to Lilith. “It’s just us.”
But then, like a blur, someone shoots past my side, launching into Lilith and Maggie. Before I have time to register what’s happening, Lilith and Maggie hit the ground, Jack on top of them, grabbing for the knife.
Lilith wrenches herself out from under Jack as I lunge for the group. She swings the knife and it slices into my shoulder as I grasp Jack and try to pull him away. But I see my effort is only helping Lilith gain control. I pull Maggie back from the scuffle on the ground. She blinks, out from under Lilith’s spell, then grasps me tightly around the neck.
“Ed!” I shout, and he’s there in a second, pulling Maggie to her feet and supporting her. She wraps herself around her grandfather, who looks at me with desperate eyes.
I dive back toward Jack and Lilith where they wrestle on the ground, and I smell it clearly: ozone mingling with brimstone. Lilith rolls to a sit and takes another swipe with the knife, this time at Jack, but I lunge toward her and kick, and the tip of the knife lodges in the heel of my boot. I give it another hard kick and the knife flies out of Lilith’s hand and flies across the lawn to the base of a rosebush in the garden next to the garage.
“Go, Jack!” I yell as I bound to my feet. Out of the corner of my eye I see him dart toward his family. I lunge for the knife and, when I come up with it, I turn to face Lilith, who is on her feet as well.
She waggles her fingers, encouraging me toward her. “Go ahead. Make my day.” She grins, looking pleased with herself. “I’ve always wanted to say that.”
Maggie’s scream from behind me pulls my attention, and I spin to find Jack thrown over Suzie’s shoulder like a rag doll. He’s punching at her arm, trying to break free.
My heart climbs into my throat. “Suzie, stop! He can’t make you mortal! Put him down!”
She turns and fixes me in a mournful gaze. “Sadly, I’m not here on my own behalf. I’m programmed to protect the king’s interests.” He hikes Jack on his shoulder. “And right now your boyfriend is one of His interests.”
Ed and Maggie huddle near the corner of the house.
“Ed, take Maggie and go!” I yell, sensing Lilith moving behind me but not daring to take my eyes off Suzie.
“Like hell!” Ed calls back, his eyes wide.
“It’s not safe for you here! Go—” Lilith jumps on my back and locks her arm around my neck, choking off my words.
“Ianto!” Jack cries as Suzie turns and lumbers off with him thrashing against her back as they go.
I plunge the knife into Lilith’s hip and throw her off as an inhuman shriek cuts through the air, then sprint to where Ed is moving to intercept Suzie.
“No! Stop, Suzie!” I yell as she lifts her free arm to backhand Ed out of the way. I skid to a stop a few feet from Ed. “If you want Jack to help you, killing his grandfather would likely be counterproductive.”
She lowers her arm and glares death at me. “I’m done being nice.”
I edge closer, trying to find an angle into Jack. “Do you even know what that word means, Suzie?”
The ground rumbles and a banshee scream rips from behind me as a sickening wet ripping sound fills the air. I spin to see Lilith wielding the knife that I thoughtlessly left lodged in her leg. She holds it overhead in both hands as she rushes headlong toward Jack, where he’s hanging helplessly over Suzie’s shoulder. I lunge for Lilith as Suzie drops Jack and lifts a glowing fist in our direction. But I see her hesitate, torn between directives. She needs to protect her king’s interests at all costs, but no one touches Lilith—other than Lucifer. To harm her would be the equivalent of suicide.
Next to her Jack drops into a crouch and throws his hands in the air. White lightning crackles over the palm of his left hand as bursts of red energy surge over his right fist. Both hands are targeting Lilith.
I don’t know what any of this means, but in that instant I register that this is still Lilith. Killing her human host, whether it be with a knife, celestial lightning, or Hellfire would likely reverse Jack’s tag … if that even applies anymore.
On instinct I launch myself at him, but Lilith has a head start. “Jack! No!” I yell.
His expression shifts from fury to utter shock as his hands drop to his side and his questioning eyes find me.
But I have no answers.
Knowing I can’t reach him in time, I dive for Lilith’s ankles at the same instant as a blast of Hellfire slams into her. Lilith has just enough time to shriek before she’s reduced to a pile of crackling, electrified ashes. I look up and Suzie stands, slack-jawed, her glowing fist still poised for attack, staring.
Because it wasn’t her blast that took Lilith down.
I wheel to locate the origin of the lethal discharge and find Lucifer leaning against the maple tree in the back corner of the yard. “I’m sorry for that. She was becoming a nuisance,” He says, brushing His hands together and shrugging away from the tree. He slinks slowly toward us, like a panther approaching its prey, His eyes trained on Jack. He stops a few feet from his. “That was magnificent.”
I glance to Jack, who looks terrified. But I don’t believe his terror is directed at Lucifer, as it should be. He’s staring at his own hands.
Suzie steps toward him, but Lucifer holds up His hand. “Leave him,” he says, and Suzie instantly backs off. Lucifer’s eyes turn to Jack. “Are you injured?”
He shakes off his daze and looks up at Him. “Um … no. I’m…” But then he seems to register who it is he’s talking to, because he backs away a step, then turns to where Maggie is huddled in her grandfather’s arms. “Take Maggie inside, Grandpa,” he says.
“You come with us, too.” He looks between Lucifer, Suzie, and me.
Jack nods. “We’ll be right there.” He starts to herd them toward the back door, but the next instant Naburus is standing between them and the house.
“Russell?” Maggie gasps, as Jack pulls his grandfather back.
Naburus leers at Maggie and surveys the gathered crowd. A lethal smile twitches at the corners of his mouth, and his eyes blaze. “Why am I just finding out now that the party’s already started?”
“It’s a testament to your popularity, Russell,” I say, gliding to Jack’s side and grasping his arm.
His gaze falls to the blood seeping from the wound in my shoulder and an icy grin splits his face. “I see you’re still rocking the flesh.”
“Jealousy looks good on you, Russell,” I answer. “Green is your colour.”
His eyebrow arches as his eyes slide over Jack, devouring his. “There may be some truth in that.”
“Enough!” King Lucifer’s voice shakes the ground, and His glare is fixed on Russell. “Feel free to leave unless you have something meaningful to offer.”
At that, Russell does turn an interesting shade of green as the smugness leaves his face.
Suzie snorts and Lucifer’s appraising eye turns on her.
Jack pulls out of my grip. “Speaking of offering things, you promised you’d keep your minions away from my family.”
“For that,” He says with a wave of His hand at the pile of Lilith’s still crackling ashes, “I’m truly sorry. Lilith is sometimes unpredictable, and the fact that she’s not demon makes her hard to control.”
Jack swallows hard. “You also promised me Gray.”
Lucifer’s face softens as He gazes down at Jack. “Soon, my love.”
My stomach twists. “Your what?”
Lucifer’s eyes shoot to me, and in them I see the ruthless king I’ve always known.
Daniel rounds the corner into the backyard in his pyjamas, a newspaper in his hand. “Jack!” He runs to him and hugs him. “I thought I heard you back here. Where have you been?”
“Dad,” he says, his voice shaking. He pulls herself out of his embrace and starts to push him back the way he came. “Go back inside. Please.”
Daniel lifts his eyes and takes in the rest of the scene playing out in the yard. “Holy Father above,” he gasps just as both Russell and Suzie turn their glowing fists on him.
I wrap myself around Dad. “No!” I yell, as the yard shimmers out of focus and reality falls away.
I feel Ianto press into me from behind, squeezing so tight that I can barely breath. But I don’t want him to let go.
I feel all wrong. Like I don’t belong in my skin. I don’t know what happened just now with Lilith. She was gonna hurt Ianto, and with all my soul I didn’t want her to. I wanted to protect him. It wasn’t till he called out to me that I realised there was lightning … inside me. Then I saw it on my hands.
Everything around us goes sepia, the colours fading to brown as the life drains from the grass and the trees. At first, I think it’s ’cause I’m about to pass out, but when I hear Maggie’s shaky “What’s happening?” I know it’s not just me.
It feels surreal, as if I’ve stepped into the beginning of The Wizard of Oz. The sky above, that had been intense cobalt, now swirls with greys and blacks, like boiling ink soup. Everything is shrouded in heavy, low fog, except the fog flickers with an internal electrical storm making all the hair on my body stand on end.
Grandpa, Dad, and Maggie huddle together as the earth under our feet rumbles and then begins to shake violently. I look up to see Mum, Grace, and Kate stagger out of the house onto the back lawn. They run to the huddled group just as there’s a metallic groaning sound. I turn in time to watch my house collapse on itself as an earthquake rips an enormous hole in the ground under it. The group stumbles back from the edge of the growing rift, and the entire house and most of the yard disappear into it.
And suddenly the sharp sting of brimstone cuts through the air.
I can’t see beyond the yard because of the fog, but here there is nothing but silent, lifeless devastation, as if this was ground zero for a nuclear blast.
Ianto pulls me tight to his chest and I try to focus on the beat of his heart, but I can’t block out Lucifer’s words. My love. They echo deep inside me as the Udjat pulses under my shirt. I don’t remember putting it on this morning, but it’s there and it’s like every cell of my body is hardwired to Him somehow.
I don’t understand what’s happening to me. I feel energy pulsing through me, wanting to burst out of me. I’m shaking as I pull my face from Ianto’s chest and open my eyes.
He’s there, Lucifer, my green-eyed angel. Terrible and beautiful. He seems forever away across a cavernous gorge where the house used to be, but impossibly close all at the same time. As I stare, shadowy black forms streak from the chasm and take up position behind Lucifer. Winged creatures, black and leathery, lift from the gorge, wings spread, and circle over His head. But I’m so transfixed by Him that I hardly register any of it. A shiver rips through me at the memory of His touch, His dark thoughts, and the Udjat pulses against my chest with His energy. I pull away from Ianto and feel my feet start to move my body forward, but a hand on my shoulder stops my progress. Ianto’s voice is in my ear. “Do you see Him now for what He is?”
I’ve rarely heard this combination of fear and pain in Ianto’s voice, and it jolts me from my trance. I look back over my shoulder at him, and, as his eyes lock on mine, the love I see there makes me question everything. I look behind Ianto, to where my entire family stands, clutching each other.
I’m completely torn. I want to go to Lucifer. I feel as though I need to go to Him. But my heart is screaming at me to stay here with Ianto and my family.
“You asked for something from me and I have it for you.” Lucifer stands at the edge of the gorge, looking across at me, His arm raised, beckoning me.
I step closer to the edge, grasping Ianto’s hand tightly. My eyes connect with Lucifer’s and His pendant burns my skin.
“Accept my peace offering. Come to me.” He sweeps an arm to the side and bows His head as Gray is lead through the black figures behind Him, beaten and broken. He drops to his hands and knees at Lucifer’s feet, then tumbles onto his side, motionless.
At the sight of Gray, something in me explodes like a hand grenade, leaving my insides in shreds. “No!” I lift my gaze to see Lucifer’s arms reaching for me. I glare across the gorge. “What did you do to him?”
Lucifer steps forward, up to the lip of the gorge and raises His eyebrows, chagrin twisting His beautiful face. “Not me, my love. You can’t believe I’d hurt someone you love.”
I feel Ianto’s hand on my arm, but I pull away. “Then who?”
“Bring him forward,” Lucifer commands. The blackness behind Him opens and a winged form is pushed through. Hellhounds snap at his heels as Russell jabs him forward. He staggers and Russell gives him a final shove that sends him sprawling to the ground in a bloody heap next to Gray.
Crimson streaks mar the perfect white of his wings, and they lay on his back at an awkward angle. At first, I think someone splashed them with red paint, until he lifts his head and stares at me from under caked blood.
“John,” I whisper, sinking to my knees. My insides turn to cold stone and stars flash in my eyes as all the blood drains from my head. “Oh, God.”
A blinding bolt of white lightning rips through the cavern and strikes at my knees. Suddenly, I’m shrouded in cool mist. It feels just like when I was a kid and we went on a boat ride under Niagara Falls. The mist is so thick that I can’t see anything, but I grasp tighter to Ianto’s hand as I feel it start to slip from mine.
The mist starts to lift into a shimmer of incandescent colours, and I find myself kneeling on the floor in Grandpa’s family room with Ianto at my side.
“You’ve been quite busy.”
I’m dizzy and disoriented as the horror of the scene at the gorge is replaced by the warm familiarity of Grandpa’s house. The wonderfully comforting, lilting voice lifts my pounding heart, and when I look across and see Grandma sitting on the sofa I’m sure I must be dead. The white streaks in her sandy hair appear to glow, veiling her beautiful face in a misty sheen, and a warm smile crinkles the corners of her sapphire eyes.
“Grandma!” I’m off the floor and onto the couch in a flash, wrapping my arms around her neck.
She hugs me back and she feels exactly how I remember her, warm, soft, and smelling a sweet mix of peaches and Grandpa’s pipe smoke.
“Oh, my child,” she says pulling away. “Tell me everything.”
I sit close to his. “Am I dead? How are you here?”
“No, child. You’re not dead. I’m here because you called me.”
“I…” But then I think about that. My cry “Oh, God” was a plea. I lift my head and look his in the eye. “I need to speak to … God.” I feel a little stupid saying it out loud and my cheeks burn. When I glance to Ianto for encouragement, I find him still on his knee, head bowed, which does nothing for my courage.
Her knowing smile shines like the sun, warming me right down to my aching heart. “So speak.”
“Can you tell Him—”
She lifts a hand, laying it gently on my face and suddenly it’s John times a thousand. I close my eyes and throw my head back as the same sensation of peace that I’ve always craved from him floods me. But what I also feel is that this is the source of it. It’s amazingly intense but incredibly soft all at the same time.
“Oh my…” I open my eyes and look at Grandma. “… God?”