|The Day the Dragons Came
Author: Nancy Brown PM
Two years ago, dragons destroyed the world while Torchwood stood by helplessly. It's time to fight back.Rated: Fiction T - English - Sci-Fi/Adventure - Ianto J. & Jack H. - Chapters: 4 - Words: 21,001 - Reviews: 34 - Favs: 29 - Follows: 11 - Updated: 01-18-11 - Published: 01-15-11 - Status: Complete - id: 6655363
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Title: The Day the Dragons Came (by Mica Davies, Age 7) (Part 1 of 4)
Prompt: Reign of Fire
Characters: Team, Rhys, Martha, Mickey, Rhiannon, kids
Pairings: Jack/Ianto, Gwen/Rhys, Mickey/Martha
Warnings: character death, child endangerment, graphic descriptions of burn wounds
Spoilers: goes AU after "Something Borrowed," TW: COE (characters only), DW: The Stolen Earth, SJA: Death of the Doctor
Word Count: 20,000 (4,400 this part)
Disclaimer: Characters from Torchwood and Doctor Who belong to the BBC. "Reign of Fire" belongs to Spyglass, Touchstone, and Buena Vista. No infraction of their copyright is intended or should be inferred.
Summary: Two years ago, dragons destroyed the world while Torchwood stood by helplessly. It's time to fight back.
Beta: wynkat1313, fide_et_spe, and eldarwannabe did the heavy lifting for the beta on this. amilyn did a fantastic medpick. The remaining errors are all mine.
Author's Notes: Written for reel_torchwood. No familiarity with the film is necessary. (It's a B-movie with dragons. They eat people.)
AN2: I am cross-posting on Monday.
It is dragon day. Dragons are big and they make fire. My mummy is sad. She misses my daddy. I miss my Daddy. Dragons will eat you. Dragons will make you fire. The End
The morning dawned cold and grey, with a thick fog covering the bay and everything surrounding. The thin light never reached them below in the Hub, which would be powered by the generators long after everyone but Jack was dead. Some of the younger children no longer remembered the sunlight, proper sunlight, and thought the sun was a golden disc from a fairy tale. Ianto came up here every day when it wasn't suicidally dangerous, and some days when it was, just to see the filtered light through the mist and smoke. He remembered things, that was one of his duties, and he wanted to remember what natural light looked like so that someone did.
This morning, the natural light was miserable.
The crumbled wreck that used to be a Tourist Centre was open to the sky, covered in ash and ancient bird shit. On the first day that he'd seen the ruin, Ianto had gone on autopilot, getting out a broom and attempting to clear away the mess until Gwen had pulled the broom from his hands and held him while he tried to stop shaking.
It was the second anniversary of their complete failure to save the world. There ought to be a cake, but candles, cigarettes, anything that made fire, these things were blasphemous. Fire was for the monsters that had boiled out of the Rift like locusts one horrible night, setting the world ablaze while Torchwood watched in horror from their locked-down base. He could still remember every moment, the five of them screaming and swearing at each other as the systems refused to operate and the doors refused to open. It was the only time Ianto could ever recall Jack shouting at Toshiko while she broke down in sobs because she was unable to release the locks until the city, the country, the whole Earth had been a burning mess above their heads.
His hands were trembling. With an effort, he stilled them. No scent of extra sulphur in the air, no sign of anything in the vicinity when he'd checked the scanners before stepping outside. He checked the skies for any movement, but saw nothing. There were no birds, not anymore.
They would need to travel out for food today.
The heavy door opened behind him. "How's the weather?" The fog dampened Jack's words, making them small and solid, intimate in the false enclosure of the white and grey walls.
"Cold and shitty. It'll do." Rain was best, but the weather had changed, and mist was more common than rain in Cardiff.
Some mornings like this, Jack would take the rare chance at privacy to wrap his arms around Ianto's waist and whisper dirty things in his ear until they were both so horny they'd risk a quick visit to one of the nearby ruins and rut until neither could think. Some mornings, Ianto could forget.
Today was the second anniversary and no arms were offered, no respite allowed. Jack wrapped himself inside whatever banked angers he sulked on this morning, as misty and unreadable as the sun. He'd worn this same face when the last transmission came through from UNIT: they'd gone against the dragons, armed and resigned, with guns and tanks and nuclear bombs, and the dragons won. There were other transmissions Jack had tried to make since then. No-one ever answered.
"Breakfast is on," Jack said. "It's pancakes." Their last foraging expedition had yielded a bounty of aging flour and more baking supplies than anyone had seen in over a year, found under the burned shell of an otherwise preserved ASDA. They'd also found enough instant coffee to last for months, assuming they could abide the taste.
Ianto nodded and joined Jack as they went back inside, shutting the metal door tight behind them. The electric lights down here made things seem normal, like nothing had changed, and sometimes he paused in this corridor, wishing as hard as he could that when he went to open the door below, everything would be back to how it had been.
The cog door opened. Nothing was how it had been. He sighed, then followed Jack through what had once been a top secret alien fighting base, and now was the last hideout for most of the survivors in South Wales.
They'd gone out after the locks had given, armed and useless and scouting the burning streets for whatever and whoever wasn't ash. Most of the people who hadn't died had fled, but some had been trapped, and the team had worked to free them as they kept frightened eyes on the skies. One wing of a nearby school had been spared, teachers and students both, and more people trickled in after as they ventured out further. Two weeks in, they'd taken a small party to Newport, and thank God, literally, for the church Rhiannon had fled to with the children. Rhys had taken longer to locate, and his burns had been severe, but Owen saved him. Now everyone lived here in the warren of rooms and cells and spare spaces that made up the underground base. Myfanwy and Janet had been let loose to fend for themselves, the most lethal of their possessions that weren't effective on a dragon had been stored away, and the rest of the space gone to hold frightened people with broken families.
The converted kitchen was just off the main Hub. A warm, rich scent of pancakes wafted through the area, covering the more typical smells of unwashed humans and the ever-present and thus nearly forgotten odour of burnt buildings. Rhiannon gave him a shadowed glance as he came in, and Ianto made himself reach over to kiss her on the cheek, get a not-smile in return as she handed him a plate. Everyone had lost people they'd loved two years ago, and there was no room for offering her special sympathy for the grief she felt today.
He sat down at the low table with Jack, who'd already sat across from Gwen.
Gwen stared at her food unhappily, finally coaxing down a few dry bites. "I'd give a lot for some honey."
Honey would make their hands sticky, since utensils were only brought out when necessary. Ianto had learned how little he needed a fork. His mother would be horrified at their manners, but it kept bellies full and water for more important tasks. On the other hand, honey would make a nice treat for the children. He could still recall one long night with Jack a lifetime ago, when they'd painted one another with warm honey and licked the patterns clean.
"I'll put that on the shopping list," he said, chewing his own food. Jack himself was digging in happily, taking great bites with relish, although Ianto supposed that after starving to death twice (according to his stories) Jack was grateful even for this meagre meal.
Gwen put down her pancake and grabbed her stomach. Jack and Ianto gave her sympathetic looks, but said nothing while she took short, huffing breaths until the nausea passed. Finally, she collected herself and took another bite of food before surrendering. Jack picked up her last pancake without asking and started chewing on it. No-one let food go to waste.
"Morning sickness is supposed to end after the first bloody trimester," she said, sipping her juice; they'd found powdered juices and everyone was enjoying the chalky taste like it was wine.
"You're just special," Jack said thickly, dropping crumbs from his mouth as he spoke. Ianto didn't let himself make a face.
"There you are," said Rhys amiably, and he plopped down beside Gwen, his own plate of pancakes hot from the frypan. She turned greener watching him eat. "What's wrong?" he asked around a bite of his own food.
Ianto said, "Nothing that four more months won't fix," and Gwen smiled at him weakly as he finished his breakfast. He pushed his cup over to her, and she gratefully drank down his juice after her own. Vitamins, Owen was constantly telling them. The secret to fighting scurvy and disease, and building healthy babies. Owen didn't need vitamins, being technically dead, but he was the enabler of vitamins in others.
"How's the weather?" Rhys asked. He'd rolled up his sleeves to eat, and the angry red scars that covered his arms flexed oddly as he brought the food to his mouth. Like the rest of the men, he'd grown a beard, and it bristled as he chewed. Only Owen and Jack were bare-faced; Ianto wasn't putting Jack's straight razor anywhere near his own throat.
"Cold. Misty. We'll go out after we've eaten."
Rhys nodded, and then wolfed down his food. Gwen sat back, gazing at the three of them unhappily. It was Rhys's turn in the rota for foraging, and she worried every time. Everyone took a turn, no two from the same family could go out together, and children, pregnant women, the severely injured, and undead doctors were the only ones exempt. They lost someone about every month, not counting Jack, who'd been rendered to white-hot plasma more times than Ianto could bear remembering.
It was no wonder, really, that the second largest cause of death amongst the refugees was suicide. They'd lost two more last week, and the anniversary surely wouldn't pass without taking its own grisly toll. None of the children had died, and that was something to hold onto, one success out of a world of failure.
When they finished eating, Gwen took extra time to linger with her husband, holding his hand and kissing him while the rest affected not to watch. They were all used to pretending not to notice the various couplings in the darker corridors, to walk out quickly when finding someone with a lover in one of the few unoccupied rooms. Even Jack's tiny bunker often slept four people these days. Jack and Ianto got the camp bed, a luxury which Ianto used to consider a poor substitute for the bed at his flat.
"I'll get the car ready," he said, and hurried to what used to be their car park. It had survived mostly intact, as had the SUV. Any vehicles they found on the streets unburned had their petrol siphoned out and brought here, and the SUV itself was covered in the stoutest steel barriers they could attach. The KPG, already low by any environmental standards, had plummeted from the weight, but then, the Earth was no longer in danger of ecological catastrophe from automobiles, nor did anyone have to concern themselves with gloomy Peak Oil predictions.
Dragons: the solution to all the world's problems.
Ianto laughed, then startled himself with the sound in the quiet car park. Sane people didn't laugh to themselves, but then, there was nothing sane about this situation.
He filled the tank from one of their cans, and loaded two empties into the boot. Thinking about it, he loaded a third. There had been a stalled-out Citroën on the road leading to their last find, and they hadn't checked it for petrol.
A few minutes later, Jack, Rhys, and the rest of today's team joined him. Six people in the SUV meant two to watch the skies and four to forage, which in turn meant more food for everyone. It also meant lower fuel efficiency, less space to haul what they found, and a higher likelihood of attracting attention. Jack, Ianto, Gwen and Owen went over the mathematics of survival almost nightly. The numbers never added up to a result they liked.
As the car rolled out roughly along streets turned to rubble and old tar, Ianto picking out the clearest part of the roads by memory, Jack kept watch on the skies. In the back, the rest ought to be chatting nervously, Rhys cracking a joke to make everyone more at ease. But no-one spoke above a whisper, and the silence from outside crumpled in on them like cotton.
"There," said Jack, pointing to a street they hadn't checked yet. Jack had lived in Cardiff far longer than anyone else, knew the little alleyways and side streets, remembered the routes they'd checked, and those they'd abandoned. Jack knew where the green grocers had been, and the restaurants, and the bars.
Liquor they had in great supply. Food was what little could be grown in the greenhouse, and what they found in increasingly spoiled, rat-gnawed, and charred caches. The first year, two of the teachers had insisted on trying a tiny garden in what had been a public park far enough away from the Hub to divert attention. Some of the other survivors had joined them, planting what seeds they found inside the last of the fresh vegetables.
They'd all been working the plot the day a dragon annihilated it.
Every gain was like that. The firehouses had been looted by shrewd scavengers before the end of the first week, but their group had cobbled together two suits of protective gear. They had meant the difference, for a while, between burning to death and merely being injured. One of the suits had been stolen in a raid, the other was destroyed during a particularly violent encounter with a large red dragon that had cost three lives aside from Jack's. They'd had better luck with fire extinguishers, but they'd drained the last one months ago, and no more had turned up: something else to look for if he had the chance.
The streets were empty of people, but the animals too small to be on a dragon's menu wandered them like kings. With the explosion of the rat population came the dominance of the cats and the feral dogs and the Weevils. Torchwood no longer worried about Cardiff's Weevil population. They just avoided them as much as possible, and kept their eyes open for dragons and other humans.
Sometimes the other humans were worse.
So many had died in the first few days, but some of those who'd lived chose to take whatever they wanted and could possess. Twice their base had been attacked by small bands of strangers who didn't realise the firepower guarding what they thought were a few women and children. The foraging teams always carried guns when they went out, and not because they had a chance in hell of taking down a dragon with one.
They saw no humans out this time. Plenty of cats, though.
The SUV came to a stop in front of what had been a small corner shop. Jack tapped Jenna to stay outside with him with the guns. Ianto and Rhys took the others to check out the ruin. The roof had burnt and fallen in, which meant some quick hefting to remove the worst of it, the wood splintering and concrete crumbling under their thick leather work gloves as they tossed everything haphazardly away. Once they'd excavated to the interior, Ianto handed out the torches.
Don let out a cry as his flashed over something. Ianto came closer, and saw the same thing: the last decay of a ruined body caught in the destruction. Empty eye sockets stared at the broken wall. The poor sod's uniform was ripped and scorched, but the blue still shone through.
"Come on," said Ianto. "Keep looking."
They dug through ceiling tiles and smashed glass, pulling out cans of fish, crushed boxes of instant potatoes, and plenty of beans. Plastic jars of salad cream went in with bottles of fizzy pop. Ianto threw auto supplies from one row into his bag along with all the crisp bags from what used to be the next aisle. He made a forlorn look at the sweets, but the ants and rats had taken everything long ago.
A grin crossed his face. A single bear-shaped plastic container of honey had survived intact. He picked through the debris and grabbed it. "Rhys." He didn't shout. They never shouted.
"Catch." He tossed the honey bear to Rhys, who caught it with a smile and stuffed it into his own bag.
Jack voice pierced the quiet in a low tone that carried. "Run!"
Instinct said to drop the bags and get out, but instinct was wrong. Ianto clutched his bag tightly against himself and ran back towards the SUV. The air around them stank of sulphur and worse. Jack's 51st century senses could scent it sooner than anyone, could see the movements in the fog before the rest, and so they survived more than they died. Ianto swallowed his terror, and then one of the others screamed as the dragon came into full view.
The great beast's head turned sharply at the sound. Oh God, it had been passing by, not scenting them for prey.
Ianto reached the SUV as Rhys did, and threw his bag into the boot while Rhys piled inside. Jack yelled at Jenna to get in as the others hurried towards him.
The dragon came upon them fast. They had to get inside, had to go. The air roared with its approach. Jack glanced at Ianto and nodded. He took off running and shouting in a line away from the car. Ianto wasted a precious second watching him go, then jumped into the SUV and started the engine. Don was the last one in and Ianto waited, had to wait, they'd die waiting, but Jack shouted at the top of his lungs and the dragon veered towards him.
There was an intense blast of heat they could feel even in the car. Ianto pretended he couldn't hear Jack scream.
Ianto gunned the engine, cursing the squeal of tyres as they kicked up gravel and torn up pavement. The dragon would turn, would attack, and the SUV was shielded, but not enough.
He flew through the broken streets recklessly - who could outrun a dragon? - ramming small obstacles, waiting any second for fire to wash over them all, cook them alive inside the steel oven they'd built themselves. In the back, someone started to cry.
The dragon was suddenly in front of him. His stomach lurched, and he threw the engine into reverse abruptly, probably destroying the transmission as he did. They jerked in their seats, no longer quiet, everyone shouting and screaming as it got closer. There was a sharp crunch as he backed them into something solid, and then there was no more room behind them.
And if there was no place to go, he went the only place he could. He slammed the engine back into drive and aimed it straight for the dragon. They'd never tried ramming one. They'd die, they'd all die, but maybe they could take one with them as they did. The screaming behind him increased, but he blocked it out, blocked it all out.
Ianto headed straight for the dragon, and the dragon drew back. Then it pumped its wings and flew up and away. Still screaming, still clutched with terror, he kept driving, not caring where he was going or what he was hitting on the road.
A hand clutched his shoulder. Rhys's. "Ianto. Stop the car. It's gone." He spoke with a steady calmness which, Ianto recognised distantly, meant he was trying to calm down a crazy person. As the SUV slowed to a stop, it trickled into Ianto's mind that the crazy person was him.
"We got away," Rhys said, still gently.
"No, they never go away." Except sometimes, they did. His fingers held the wheel in a death grip, and slowly he pried them free. He opened his door, expecting death, and he looked up around him. Nothing but mists, nothing in the air. For whatever reason, it had abandoned them.
"Let's go home," said Jenna, pleading in her voice.
Ianto didn't reply. But he got back into the SUV and drove back towards the bay, stopping only to siphon two measly litres of petrol from the Citroën.
They unloaded their finds in the car park and carried them down to the Hub proper. Beans and salad cream for the kitchen and oil for the engine, and fizzy pop and stale crisps and a small pot of honey shaped like a bear for the children. Set on the table, it looked like less than nothing, like things he would have thrown out from his old flat.
Rhiannon's gaze took in the food, the dull looks on their faces, and that they'd come back as five instead of six. "You did good," she said in a quiet voice, and started putting everything away. Ianto sat at the table, watching her without really watching, as the others drifted away back to their rooms and friends and what passed for their families, the realisation creeping in that they'd survived their turn on the rota.
"You shouldn't go out tomorrow," Rhi said, when she sat down across from him. "Take a day off."
"If I don't go, you'll have to."
"Then I'll go have a chat with Old Scratch." Her tone was light, even if her eyes weren't.
"And leave me here to watch David and Mica? I'd rather face a dragon any day."
She laughed, the first she'd laughed all day, and placed a hand on his.
As if summoned, the children bounded into the kitchen, full of smiles and excitement. Ianto couldn't understand where they found their reservoirs of hope, and he envied them.
Mica said, "I did a paper today." The surviving teachers occupied the children with lessons. On bad days, Ianto wondered why they bothered. On good days, he acknowledged that keeping the kids busy was useful, and the ones who lived to grow up would be best suited with an education. There weren't many good days.
If Rhi felt the same, she hid it better. "Did you, now? What on?"
"Ah." Rhi's eyes went dim again. "That's good, then."
David said, "My class did maths this morning." He said it quickly to divert his sister's attention, but it didn't work.
"It's been two years today. Everyone says," she said.
"Yes, sweetheart," said Rhi.
Ianto asked David, "What maths did you learn?"
"Division. It's like multiplication, but backwards."
Mica kept talking. "Marissa says it's special because it's two years, and we ought to sing songs or something."
"You take a big number, and you see how many times the smaller number goes in."
Ianto and Rhiannon shared a look, but there was nothing to be said. With Johnny dead, Ianto had stepped up for the children, but there was only so much he could give with everything else he had to do to keep them all alive. Rhiannon was still not used to being a single parent, but she also knew they were lucky. Most of the children down here had no parents left at all. The few families they had saved - mainly from the estate, hiding in the church with Rhi - were wrecked, their missing members haunting them like phantom limbs. Ianto himself was insanely lucky. Of everyone he knew, he was the only one who hadn't lost anyone he'd loved the day the dragons rained fire down upon them. After was a different story, but he knew he'd averted tragedy in a way no-one else could claim, which he supposed was why he was the one whose lover died almost every day. Even that was unfair. After all, it was Jack who did the actual dying. One of these days, his luck was going to fail him.
He let David tell him more about school, as the other children wandered into the kitchen wanting their dinner. (Beans and a bit of bread.) He took his own plate to Jack's office, where he could be alone for a few minutes. Below, the Hub bustled with people going about the tasks that made up their daily lives here: cleaning, mending, and the few who'd proven trustworthy working on whatever bits of alien tech might help them live longer, or kill the dragons, or both. Nothing they'd tried so far had worked. If Tosh were here, she could have found something by now.
Ianto shut that part of his brain down, not wanting to deal with it. He sopped up the last of the salty sauce with his bread, leaving his plate almost as clean as if he'd washed it. Then he saw the perimeter light flash. Someone or something had entered the Tourist Centre.
He set his plate down on the desk and headed up. His sidearm was always on him, but as he approached the steel door, he heard the knock.
Dragons never knocked.
Ianto released the lock. Jack pulled the door open. He was naked but for a few charred remnants of his trousers, making him look like nothing so much as a post-Hulk Bruce Banner, tired and sore from walking back alone and barefoot.
They didn't speak as they closed the door, nor as they walked together to Jack's office and climbed down into the bunker below, where Jack could strip off the last of his ruined clothing. When Ianto went to press his lips against Jack's, it was only intended to be a quick kiss, a brief touch of affection. Saying "Thank you for burning to death so we could live" was beyond Ianto's capabilities.
Jack tasted like ashes, and that hurt, but his mouth parted with a sigh, and the kiss deepened. Their roommates were elsewhere. They were alone for once. Ianto made a rapid decision, pressing Jack's shoulders down to the bed and tugging at his own clothes. The kisses became messy, as hands fumbled for skin to touch and the soft whispers they always shared became a chorus of "Please" and "Jesus" and "Yes." The condoms had long since been donated to the couples who needed them for contraception (and still a defective one had got Gwen up the duff) and the lube was running low. It had been such a long time for this, though, for stretching and slicking and the simple, pure beauty of fucking.
They didn't have much time, but they could take this moment for themselves, give that to each other today on the anniversary of the day the world ended.