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.
My mind reels. Grandpa sits on the sofa with me in stunned silence as Ianto explains.
“So, Jack and his sisters are unique,” he finishes. “David wasn’t just any demon, so it stands to reason that Hell’s claim to Jack would be strong. Which explains a lot, if you think about it.”
I have thought about it. As shocking as the fact that Grandpa—and therefore me, my mother, and all my sisters—is part demon is, I keep going back to what Lucifer said.
No single being is all evil.
I think for an instant about telling them, but I’m not ready to share that yet. I need to figure out what it means—how I can use it. I’m not sure how, but I know this is it. I can feel it. This is the answer to everything. Maggie, Owen, Gray. I can fix it all.
John lifts his head from where it rests in his palm and stares Ianto down. “We have to get him out of here.”
“No!” I say, more forcefully than I mean to.
He turns his wary gaze on me. “You can’t believe anything He’s told you, Jack.”
I throw my hands up in exasperation. “What could be bigger, John? Can you think of any bigger use for my Sway? This is it—the thing I was meant for. You’ve always said I could change the shape of Heaven and Hell.”
He stands abruptly. “Not like this.”
Ianto pulls himself to a stand. “Think about this for a second, John. Jack might be right.”
“You’re not serious!” Disgust twists John’s face. “You’re supposed to love him. How can you just give him up to His control?”
Ianto looks for a second like he’s been punched in the stomach. His face pulls into a grimace but then clears. “This isn’t easy for any of us.” His eyes flit to mine then back to John. “But can you imagine if Jack can bring Him down? It will make Suzie’s uprising look like a playground scuffle.”
My stomach lurches. “I’m not bringing anyone down,” I say through a dry mouth. “That’s not what this is about. He wants to change … to come back to Heaven. I just need to negotiate a truce.”
“A truce,” Ianto repeats warily, his eyes piercing me.
John sinks into a chair and looks up at me. “You’re not suggesting—”
“I shouldn’t even need my Sway. It just makes sense. What greater good could I ever do than … what…? Abolishing Hell, I guess. If I could convince … Him … God … to let Lucifer come home, then everything will be fine—how it was before He fell.”
“Everything was not fine before He fell, Jack,” John says, his face set and his jaw clenched.
“How do you know? You told me you were created after the War.”
“I was, but it was called the War for a reason. The War was a culmination of a struggle that started much earlier, the root of which was power and pride. Lucifer has had too much power for too long. He’s not going to willingly give it up to return to the fold.”
My mind races and I feel myself bristle. I don’t want to use my Sway to convince them. And I shouldn’t have to. This makes sense. Why can’t John and Ianto see that? I can make this happen—no more Hell. This is what I was meant for. It’s the only logical thing. I fix John in a hard stare. “I think you’re wrong.”
Everyone, even Grandpa, looks at me like I’ve lost my mind.
Ianto steps forward and very slowly lifts his hand to touch my arm. My breathing becomes uneven as he looks hard into my eyes and touches my face with his other hand. “Don’t do this, Jack. Please. He’s dangerous. You can’t seriously believe He’s going to change.”
Everything in me clenches into a hard ball, partly in reaction to being this close to Ianto and partly in response to his words. “You changed,” I finally say and spin from the room, my heart aching.
He has a point.
I watch him hurry from the living room and realise I want to believe him. Jack changed me—everything about me. Could he do the same to Lucifer? I pull a deep breath before turning to John. “Is it possible?”
He shakes his head as the bedroom door closes, his gaze still trained on the empty hall. “I don’t know.”
Ed, who had been uncharacteristically quiet up until now, looks at John in stunned disbelief from where he sits on the sofa. “What’s he talkin’ about—negotiatin’ a truce?”
I shake my head, not able to conceive what that would even look like.
“Jack is far more than he appears,” John answers, and I can see him considering the possibility.
But if he tries and doesn’t succeed, I’m not sure any of us would survive it. John’s troubled eyes find mine, and his expression is pained as he comes to the same conclusion I’ve drawn.
“It’s ’cause of me bein’ from Hell,” Ed says.
I sink into the sofa next to him. “No,” I answer, even though it wasn’t a question. “And you’re not really from Hell, Ed.”
“May as well be, for all the help I am to Jack.”
I rake a hand through my hair. “You might be able to get him to listen.”
He stares at the floor and shakes his head. “You know he doesn’t listen to anyone.” His eyes lift to mine. “But what if he’s right?”
“He’s not right,” John interjects, pulled from his own musings. But he doesn’t say it with any real conviction.
Ed looks between us.
“Why would he be so convinced that Lucifer wants to return to Heaven?” John asks himself more than us.
I look hard at him. “You’ve heard of the silver-tongued devil? We’re talking about the original. He can make almost anyone believe almost anything. He can’t influence the celestial, but he’s had eons to practice on mortals, which, despite his potential, Jack still is.”
“He wasn’t ready,” John says, his voice heavy. “We didn’t have enough time.” He looks up at me, desperate. “He’s not blocking Him.”
My heart squeezes into a hard knot.
John rips the sling from his neck with a wince and tosses it to the coffee table. He circles his shoulder as he massages it, looking weary. “How did this happen? He was tagged. Shielded. He shouldn’t have been able to get to him.”
There, the fault lies with me. “The Mage. I’m sure he led Lucifer in. All He had to do was lure Jack away from your protection. He did that by using Maggie as bait, obviously. And here we are.”
Ed glances toward the hall. “So, what do we do now?”
I fix John in a meaningful stare. “Pray for divine intervention.”
I pace through the room and head straight to the window. Everyone keeps telling me Maggie’s okay, and I want to believe them, but until I can talk to her …
I’m totally torn between going home and staying here. Actually, I’m totally torn over a lot of things. Lucifer was here, and the way we left things, I’m pretty sure He’ll be back. I’m also pretty sure I can’t run from Him. And I’m not sure I want to. I don’t think He’ll hurt me. Maybe I can ask Him to call Hell off my family. Desperation takes hold and I look over my shoulder at the closed door and consider climbing out the window again.
No. I couldn’t do that to Grandpa. Besides, I’m pretty sure John would smite someone if he came in here and I was gone.
I pace my room, trying to calm down, but my breathing and heart rate just get faster. I can’t stand waiting around. I pace another circle then give up. I fling my door open and march down the hall. “I’m going home,” I announce. “I need to see Maggie.”
John shoots Ianto a warning glance, and Ianto hangs his head.
Panic kicks in my chest. “What?”
Neither says anything.
“Is everything okay? You said Hope was there,” I say, looking at Ianto.
He glances at me then at John, who won’t look at me.
“Tell me what’s going on!”
Finally, John looks up. When he speaks, his voice is low and pained. “Hope is dead. Aaron killed her.”
“No!” It feels like someone kicked me in the stomach, and the word comes out in a whoosh. I close my eyes and focus on breathing. When I finally can, I say, “Everyone else is okay?” I know it’s selfish, and I feel sick thinking about Hope, but I have to know about my family.
“Your family is safe,” John answers.
“What happened? Who’s Aaron?”
John presses into the wall and sighs, but his body remains tense, his muscles coiled tight. “The guardian I sent to protect Maggie.”
His answer throws my thoughts into chaos. I can’t make any sense of it. “A guardian angel? A guardian killed Hope?”
He nods, and I see it’s taking an effort to keep himself together.
His fists clench and his face twists as he fights for control. He turns toward the window as a pained growl rips from his lungs. It hurts just to listen to it, and I know in that instant, from the despair in that sound, that she told him. He knows she loved him.
I don’t dare say anything. I don’t dare move.
He pulls a hand through his thick platinum waves and turns to look at me. “She trusted me, and I let her down,” he says. “It’s my fault. I killed her.”
I move slowly toward him. Ianto looks away as I wrap my arms around him and send him my heart. I don’t want him to hurt. I want to do for him what he’s always done for me.
After a few minutes, his breathing slows. He lifts a hand and strokes my hair. “Thanks.”
I pull away and look up into his face. “I owe you about a thousand more.”
His smile is small and sad. “Maggie’s fine,” he says, and I realise he’s picked the still barely contained panic out of my head.
I’m afraid to say what I’m thinking, but he already knows I’m thinking it, so, “Is this Aaron still protecting her?”
He shakes his head. “Maggie can take care of herself.”
I’m losing control of the panic. I feel it snaking its way up my throat. “What does that mean?”
He glances at Ianto again then back at me. “She has her own gift. She’s a human Shield.”
“A what?” Grandpa and I say together. I look up and Grandpa’s standing in the kitchen with a mug in his hand.
John blows out a sigh. “She appears to be able to manipulate electromagnetic fields to form an energy field around herself—and anyone close to her—that functions as a Shield.”
“How do you know?” I ask.
“Aaron attacked me. Well … actually, Gray attacked me first. Grace stopped him with some sort of prayer, and then Aaron decided to finish the job.”
Fear swirls into the panic already climbing my throat as my last shred of hope for Gray evaporates like fog in a breeze. Still in a bit of a daze, I choke back the lump rising in my throat. “Grace … what?” I ask.
He closes his eyes and drops his head. “It appears your sisters have been given gifts that would be useful to your survival—and theirs.”
I take a second to process that. I’ve always known there was something different about Grace. “What can Grace do?”
“She sees auras—a being’s true essence,” John says warily, but then a cautious smile curves his lips. “And, handily enough, she can repel demons.”
I take a deep breath. “Well, that explains a lot,” I mutter.
Everyone’s heads snap to the silky disembodied voice in the darkest corner of the hall. Two green eyes glow out of the black.