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. Thanks for reading and commenting and as always enjoy.
We’re nearly home as the sun hits the horizon and the reds and purples of sunset take hold.
“Where are you going?” I ask when Gray misses our exit off the motorway. “We need to get home.”
“I think we need to scout it out before we go charging in there,” he answers. He slows and moves into the right lane. “If Russell is with Maggie, it’s only to get to you. I don’t want you walking into a trap or anything.”
For the hundredth time panic grips my heart as I wonder what the hell I’m thinking. Please don’t let me screw this up, I pray. “But what if he’s with her? What if he tags her before we get there?”
His eyes dart sideways at me. “I’ll go see what’s going on, then come back for you. But I need to leave you somewhere safe in the meantime.”
“So, where are we going?” I ask through my tight throat, breathing against my exploding heart.
I start. “You too?”
He smirks at me. “What do you think?”
“You have to come right back for me. John will find me if we mess around too long. He’ll keep me from helping Maggie.”
“If John is anywhere, it’s at the house. One more reason why I need to go first and check it out.”
I look at him. “What are you going to do?”
“I just want to check in with my old guru. You know … catch up and stuff.” He turns his attention back to the road as he takes the exit ramp.
I drum my fingers nervously on the armrest, my eyes darting around, as we enter Grandpa’s neighbourhood. He pulls up to the curb in front of Grandpa’s. “Go inside. I’ll be back as soon as I can. If John’s there I’ll have to figure out a way to sidetrack him, so it may not be until morning.”
“Okay,” I say. “But try to hurry.” I step out of the car and stumble numbly up the walk. As the sun goes down over Grandpa’s neighbourhood, everything is deceptively calm. When I reach the door, I hear Gray pull away. I watch him disappear behind the trees, then I stand at the door for a long time before knocking, trying to work out my explanation.
But before I even lift my hand to knock, the door swings open and Grandpa is standing there. He reaches for my shoulder and pulls me quickly inside.
I stand with my arms wrapped tightly around him, afraid to let go. “Grandpa,” I whisper into his shoulder, tears falling in relief. He’s so warm—and his heat starts to thaw the chill in my heart.
He rubs my back as I take in the familiar scent of sweet pipe smoke clinging to his shirt. “I got ya, Jack.” His sandpaper voice rumbles in his chest.
“Grandpa,” I say again as the tears slow. As happy as I am to see him, my voice only sounds tired. I feel myself leaning harder into him as exhaustion takes me.
“I been waitin’ for ya,” he says, continuing to hold me, then he breaks his embrace and leads me into the warm and familiar living room. “Ianto was here lookin’ for you. Almost shot him,” he says as we settle into the couch. He loops an arm behind my shoulders and squeezes. “Probably shoulda.”
I feel myself start to shake and lay my head on Grandpa’s shoulder. “Ianto was here?” I look down at my fidgeting hands. I was so mad when I left. I just wanted to get away from both Ianto and John. But my heart struggles to keep a rhythm as I remember the look on Ianto’s face when he said he wanted to leave, just the two of us. “What did he want?”
“You. He thought ya might end up here.” He shifts and looks at me. “What’re ya runnin’ from, Jack?”
“Not from.” I pull a deep breath. “To. Is everything okay at home?”
His brow creases. “Far as I know.”
All of a sudden I’m confused. Gray was so sure. “So Maggie’s okay?”
“Ianto asked the same thing.” The crease in his brow deepens. “What’s goin’ on, Jack?”
I exhale a tense sigh. “There are a lot of things going on right now. I can’t tell you everything. It would be dangerous for you.”
“Don’t ya dare be worryin’ about me.” He tries to keep his voice light, but I can hear the concern behind the words. “I can take care of myself.”
I shift under his arm and look up at him. “I know, but…” I hesitate, not sure how much to tell him. He already knows so much, but at the same time, so little. “I didn’t really leave for school.”
“I figured. But ya went somewhere with Ianto.”
“And John,” I say.
His eyes harden. “The angel.”
He looks me square in the eye. “Seems to me like this angel and Ianto done nothing but put ya in danger and steer ya wrong.”
I shake my head. “No, Grandpa. All the screw-ups have been mine.” I think about Owen and Gray again and feel sick, despite the fact that my stomach couldn’t be more empty.
He must hear it growl, because he stands from the couch. “I’ll get ya something to put in that stomach.”
“Okay,” I say, trying to remember the last time I ate anything.
I sink deeper into the couch, and a few minutes later, Grandpa is back with a ham sandwich and a glass of milk.
“Thanks,” I say, taking the plate and glass from his hands.
He sits next to me, watching, as I scarf down the sandwich and chug the milk, too starving to be self-conscious.
“Ya want another one?” he says, taking the plate from my hand when I’m done.
The feel of food in my stomach isn’t exactly comfortable, seeing as I’ve gone so long without it, so even though I’m still a little hungry I decided to quit while I’m ahead. “No, Grandpa. But thanks.”
He puts my dishes on the coffee table and hooks his arm over my shoulder. “You’re stayin’ here with me.”
I tuck tighter into his side. “Gr—” I catch myself. “My friend might be coming back for me tonight. I really shouldn’t stay here. If Ianto was here—”
“The others’ll come lookin’ for you too,” he finishes for me.
Grandpa’s gaze becomes uncharacteristically intense, and I can almost feel heat radiating off his body. “What would happen if they found ya?”
I shrug to cover my shiver from the chill that fingers up my spine. “I don’t know,” I answer honestly.
“Do ya think whatever it is would be worse than spendin’ the rest of your life lookin’ over your shoulder?”
I shiver again, remembering how drawn I was to King Lucifer—how much I lusted for His power. “Yeah.”
Something in Grandpa’s eyes flash. “Are ya sure, ’cause it doesn’t seem to me they’re tryin’ to kill ya…” I catch something in his voice that isn’t exactly relief. It’s bigger.
“I’m pretty sure He wants me alive.” The shudder is stronger this time as I realise I’ve shifted Grandpa’s “they” into the “He” that I can’t get out of my mind now that I’ve thought of Him. The pendant lying against my chest starts to tingle, then burn. I bring my hand up and lay it over my chest as my heart beats in rhythm with the pulsing of the metal on my skin.
“Well, as long as you’re here, I’ll keep you safe.”
“I can’t stay, Grandpa. It wouldn’t be safe for you.”
I’m surprised by the chuckle that I feel more than hear. I look up into his face.
“Nothin’s gonna touch ya here,” he says, a smile still on his lips. He pulls himself from the couch and holds his hand out to me. “Why don’t ya get some rest? We can talk about what’s gonna happen tomorrow, tomorrow.”
I glance at the clock and it’s barely nine. “It’s pretty early…”
He chuckles again as I take his hand and let him pull me out of the couch. “Not for an old man like me.”
“Okay, Grandpa.” I turn for the short corridor that leads to the guest bedroom and he follows me up the hall. “Thanks for letting me stay here. Please don’t say anything to Mum or Dad. It’s safer for them if they don’t know where I am.”
“My lips are sealed,” he says, and just for an instant, I’d swear something in his face changes. The glint that’s always in Grandpa’s eyes turns to more of a burn. But the next instant it’s gone, and I’m sure it was just my being paranoid.
I glance in the bedroom door at the bed. Gray will be back any minute, but in the meantime, a shower and a nap doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. I think about telling Grandpa that Gray is coming for me but then decide telling him about Gray on top of everything else might be too much. “Someone might be coming for me,” I finally say.
“You mean other than Ianto and that angel?” His voice sharpens to a point on the last word and his eyes flare again.
How does he know about my beautiful angel?
“Ianto said John was looking for you,” he says, and my insides unclench.
“Yeah … I’m sure he is.” My throat clicks as I swallow. “I was actually thinking of someone else. And when he comes, I’ll have to go.”
“Everybody wants a piece of you,” he says, as he pulls me into a hug. And what I smell on his shirt isn’t pipe smoke.
It’s rotten eggs.
I push away and look into Grandpa’s face, terrified of what I’m suddenly sure I’ll see. But his blue eyes, though concerned, are soft. He leans in and kisses my forehead. “Night, Jack.”
And all I smell is the hint of sweet pipe smoke that always lingers around him. No brimstone.
I’m totally losing it.
“Night, Grandpa,” I say, trying to keep the shake out of my voice. I slip through the door into the guest bedroom, flicking on the light.
Grandpa catches my eye just before the door closes. “You belong with me.” The gravel tone of his voice starts to smooth into something softer and more musical. “I will always keep you safe.”