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 and 35 for additional warning/disclaimer.
When I wake up from the strangest dream of my life, my body feels uneasy.
I need to run.
I open my eyes and I’m staring at Grandpa’s living room ceiling. When I push to a sit on the couch and look around, I’m suddenly certain I didn’t wake up at all.
Grandma is sitting in front of me.
I stare at his, my heart in my throat. And then I remember.
I stare at Her some more, unable to find words. I want to apologise for being so stupid and so blind about Lucifer, but it just feels too embarrassing to even bring up. And, even as I think of Him, knowing that He’s gone, I feel some insidious tug at my insides.
I twitch in my skin, unable to shake the jitters.
Grandma stands and drifts toward me, settling into the sofa next to me. She loops an arm through the crook of my elbow and I start to feel calmer—less like I want to bolt out the door.
“He could be quite persuasive,” She says, and I cringe when I realise She can read my thoughts, just like John.
I drop my eyes and pick at the fringe of my jeans. “I should have known. I just wanted it so bad.”
“It wasn’t wrong to hope, my dear.” When I look up at Her, Her expression is soft and forgiving.
“But I was wrong, and because of it…” I can’t even say John’s name, or Ianto’s, or Gray’s. At the image of Dad lying lifeless on the ground, my throat closes as grief claws at my heart. “Oh, God,” I mutter into my hands. “Dad.”
“Your father is fine, Jack. As a matter of fact, he’s waiting for you at home.”
My heart leaps and I look up. “He’s okay?”
The radiance of Her smile reminds me who She is. “He’s more than okay. He’s earned his wings back.”
“Dad? He’s an angel again?”
She nods. “Your guardian angel.”
The mix of emotions is so sudden and overwhelming that all I can do is stare at the wall and concentrate on breathing so I don’t hyperventilate. “I don’t want him,” I finally say when I can speak. I can’t do to him what I did to Gray.
She chuckles and I look up into Her iridescent face. “It’s not your decision to make, Jack.”
“I don’t want to put him in danger.”
“The decision was not made lightly. John consulted me, and we decided this is the best choice. He’s well trained and has learned the pitfalls from personal experience. He won’t make the same mistakes twice.”
I hold my breath for a second before I ask, “John decided?” daring to hope. “He’s…?”
“You will see your John again, my child. Soon.”
My eyes fly to Her face, searching.
A knowing smile flits over Her lips. “He’s a Dominion. It is exceedingly difficult to destroy a Seraph’s essence.”
“John is alive?” I whisper more to myself than to Her.
“In a manner of speaking.” There’s admonishment behind Her gaze and I look away.
“I didn’t mean to tempt him. It’s just that…” I don’t know how to finish. What I really want to ask is if I ruined him, but I can’t.
I don’t have to. She hears it in my thoughts.
“He’ll be fine, but…” She trails off and I look into Her face.
“He can’t be with me anymore,” I finish, reading the sadness in Her eyes. The truth is, I knew it already. Last night at Grandpa’s, I knew that was what we’d decided, even though we hadn’t come right out and said it.
“It’s for the best.”
I nod again, swallowing back the throbbing, wet lump in the back of my throat. “What about Ianto?” I ask, my gut clenching against Her inevitable answer. Thanks to me, Ianto was very mortal. And that means he’s very dead.
Her eyes darken. “Would you like to see him?”
My heart kicks in my chest and relieved tears spill over onto my cheeks. “He’s alive,” I whisper, dropping my face into my hands.
“For the moment,” She says grimly.
I jump from the sofa on jittery legs.
She stands and squeezes the hand She’s still holding. “You’ll have to hurry.”
“Where is he?”
“In the hospital.”
The image from my head after the lighting—Ianto in a hospital bed, wires and tubes everywhere—flashes in front of my eyes.
Time of death, six-thirteen.
I glance wildly at the clock over the kitchen table. 5:41.
“He’ll wait for you,” She says. “And tell him there’s a job for him if he’s interested.”
I swallow again. “But he would have to die … right?”
Her gaze is soft as She nods. “He has a choice to make.”
“If he decides to live, will he stay human?”
She lifts an eyebrow. “Is that what you’d wish for him?”
“I want him to have a chance at a normal life.”
“Even if it’s without you?” She asks quietly, Her eyes trained on mine.
My heart contracts into a tiny, hard ball as I nod. “He deserves it. He’s already more human than almost anyone else I know.”
“Then I will make it so—if that’s what he chooses.”
“He will,” I say, as I turn for the door.
She stops me with a gentle hand on my shoulder. “You’re not using the door, dear boy.”
“What do you mean?”
She reaches up and Her hand sweeps over my forehead. It’s only then, as Her touch sends a rush of power through me, that I realise I’m not altogether solid.
“Oh my…” I whisper. “Did I die? Am I an angel?”
Her smile is soft as She shakes Her head. “No, Jack. But you are unique in that you are born of three worlds. You are part Heaven, part Hell, and part Earth. And because of your ability, you are free to move among them.”
I feel my insides churn again as something flares in my gut. The unease is almost unbearable, and I want to jump out of my skin. “I don’t get it. What do you mean?”
“You know your purpose now, my child, and you know the scope of your power. This is what you chose in the Abyss. And to fulfil your purpose, you’ll need to shift between planes.”
“I thought my purpose was what I already did, with Lucifer.”
“That was part of it, but there’s still work to be done.”
“So … I’m supposed to…?”
“That’s for you to discover.” She levels Her gaze at me, and suddenly I feel the power of it. This definitely isn’t my Grandma.
A sickening sense settles into the pit of my stomach. “I feel like … I don’t know…” I lower my gaze, suddenly sure I’m not good enough to look at Her.
“What is it, child?”
“It’s like a part of Him—Lucifer—is inside me. I feel all itchy and jittery.”
She lifts my face so I’m looking at Her. “A piece of him does live within you, as does a part of me. It is your charge to find a balance within yourself, and within the universe, so the two sides can coexist.”
I actually press my hand to my chest to make sure my heart didn’t just stop. “He’s inside me?”
“If it ever gets to be too much, Kate can help you.”
“Kate?” The blurred memory of his grasping Lucifer’s pendant during the battle flashes in my mind. It had burned Maggie, but when Kate grasped it, it went dead. “What can she do?”
“She dissipates both demonic and celestial energy. If either ever grows too strong inside you—out of balance with the other—she can help.”
I stare at Her wide-eyed.
She smiles down at me. “You have support, Jack. Your father, your sisters … and even your young man.” She gives me a gentle shove. “Now, go! He needs you.”
“Where?” I ask.
“Follow your heart.”
She lays a hand on my forehead and I close my eyes. Instantly, the sensation of floating makes me nauseous. “Ianto,” I whisper, and when I open my eyes, I’m standing in the corner of a hospital room, watching him sleep. As the nausea slowly passes, I realise I’m not alone. Ianto is here, but so is someone else.
“John?” I whisper. I sense him all around me. Then, like fog forming on a damp night, he’s there, ethereal—just a whisper of himself.
“John!” I say, louder.
“I’m here.” He smiles but stands back from me.
I reach for him as both our forms become more solid. “Stop it!” I say, throwing my arms around him, my heart soaring. “I thought you were…” I can’t finish. I pull away from him and look up into his eyes. “Are you all right?”
He’s standing stiff, his arms at his sides. His gaze is soft as he looks down at me, but he won’t meet my eyes. “I’m fine, Jack.”
I slip my hand into his and squeeze tightly, then turn to Ianto. “Is he going to…?”
“He’s still deciding,” he says, his eye shifting to the bed.
My eyes spring back to John. “He’s deciding? He gets to do that?”
John nods. “He does.”
My gaze gravitates back to Ianto, and I can’t take my eyes off his face. It’s so pale—drawn and grim, like the weight of the world is pressing down on him, too heavy to bear. There are tubes coming out of his mouth and nose and wires everywhere, hooked up to beeping and clicking machines.
Just like the image after the lightning.
I step closer and slide my hand under his. He’s so still—only the faintest movement as his chest rises and falls with the cadence of the loud ticking and puffing of a respirator at the side of his bed.
I look around at the antiseptic room: scuffed white walls; stiff white sheets; the smell of alcohol and death. And the noise from the machines. I want it to stop. I want a moment of peace with Ianto to say good-bye.
But then I realise if the noise stops, it means Ianto’s dead.
I look back at John. “Grandma said She had a job for him, if he wants it.”
He glides up next to me. “So I’ve been told.”
“Do you know what it is?”
“He’s to be your liaison between Heaven and Hell.”
My stomach kicks. “My liaison? Don’t you mean Hers? God’s?”
His eyes flit to mine and drop just as fast. “The Almighty is Heaven. You are charged with bridging the gap.”
“You are the intermediary. It’s left to you to negotiate the terms of the truce.” A smile lifts the corners of his mouth. “You’re getting what you’ve always wanted. You are the ultimate diplomat.”
“Between Heaven and Hell,” I say, knowing it’s true.
My eyes turn to Ianto, my heart bleeding. “But he’d have to die to take that job. I don’t want him to die. She said She’d keep him mortal if he lives.” I look back at John as a tear slips over my lashes. “I want that for him. But I don’t want him to be in any more pain either.”
“I can understand why you’d feel that way. He’s sacrificed everything. But, ultimately, it’s his decision.”
I search his pale blue eyes for any sign of my John, but he’s keeping his distance. I reach up and lay my hand on his chest, but it’s still. No heartbeat.
He doesn’t back away from my touch. In fact, he doesn’t move at all. He stands ramrod straight, his eyes fixed on a spot on the opposite wall.
“What happened to you?”
His gaze settles into mine, and, just for a second, I see him. I plead with my eyes, needing to know what he suffered ’cause of me.
He shakes his head, reading my mind. “Everything that happens is not your fault, Jack. You need to stop shouldering the blame for all the evil that walks the Earth.”
“Please,” I beg.
He lowers his eyes again. “Lucifer sent Gray and Aaron for me.” He finally says. “In my … weakened state, I couldn’t defend myself against both of them. But when they dragged me to the Abyss and Aaron gave me to the Mages, Gray tried to stop him—which didn’t go well for him.”
“Gray tried to protect you?” I ask, remembering how he attacked Aaron during the battle.
He nods and peers at me from under long white lashes.
A wet lump starts to form in my throat. “You’re … different now.”
For the first time, he really holds my gaze. “The Hellfire burnt away my humanity, but it couldn’t kill me.”
My heart aches. “That’s good.”
“It is,” he answers with a nod.
“Thank you,” I whisper, my voice thick. “For everything.”
A beeper goes off on one of the myriad of machines attached to Ianto by the wires and tubes.
A nurse sweeps into the room to check the contraption and I expect his to tell us to get out, but he only has eyes for Ianto and the beeping machine he’s attached to.
“Oh crap,” she says, slapping a blue button in the wall at the head of Ianto’s bed. An automated message squawks from the intercom in the hall, announcing a “code blue, ICU four.”
My heart stalls.