Disclaimer: Torchwood is not mine, it belongs to the wonderful, wonderful BBC and the no-longer-so-wonderful Russell T. Davies. Seriously – he could have at least done a George Lucas and waited a couple of decades before screwing everything up ....
This is something I wrote for Hallowe'en this year that I wanted to share with you all over here – hope you enjoy!
Ianto yawned and stretched, his eyes itching as he tried to focus on the papers in front of him. The dim light of his desk lamp in the dark made his eyes ache with the effort of reading, and a drip drip drip sound reverberating from somewhere in the depths of the Archives was driving him insane.
Only three more hours work, and he could finally go home. Well, to Jack's bunker, but that was home enough.
"Whatcha up to?"
Speak of the Devil ... thought Ianto.
"Once a decade, we have to take an inventory." sighed Ianto, leaning back in his chair as Jack entered the dingy little office. It wasn't the office Ianto usually used – this one was so deep in the belly of the Archives, he hardly even remembered how to find it, never mind clean it or use it. Jack had obviously had to use some form of heat tracking device to find him this deep down.
"Ahhh yes. I remember ... a mention of that ..."
Ianto raised an eyebrow as Jack came to stand behind him and rest hands on his shoulders. "A 'mention'? I sent you about ... five memos."
"Did you draw rude pictures on?" asked Jack, massaging the knots in Ianto's neck and shoulders gently.
"No." Ianto scowled.
"Then why would I bother to read them?"
"Jack!" Ianto tried to shake him off in annoyance.
"Joking! Joking!" he laughed, kissing his head. "How long are you going to be?"
"Another three hours, I should think. Less if you helped ..." Ianto hoped he'd take the hint.
"Awwww. But it's Hallowe'en! I thought maybe we could go to the wardrobe section and pick out something a bit saucy ... have ourselves some costume sex ..."
"We could ... if I wasn't so far behind."
Jack sighed. "What do you want me to do?"
Ianto beamed at him, and pushed forward a clipboard with some lined paper and a pen. "We need to go down to the level below and write down the names and reference numbers of everything in the first three rooms."
Jack groaned. "Everything?"
"We need to compare them to the census from 1999 – which, by the way, I can't find ..."
"Of course you can't find it. We never did one."
Ianto blinked. "Why not?"
"Boring." Jack shrugged. "No one could be bothered."
Ianto muttered darkly to himself about Torchwood lasting longer than anyone would believe given some of its past (and present) employees. Jack didn't seem to notice, picking at the cookie sat by Ianto's cold coffee and stealing as many chocolate Smarties with little spiders on as he could.
Eventually Ianto pushed his chair back and urged Jack to follow suit, shoving the clipboard into his hands and telling him he had to write down everything he was told to, in two neat columns and in legible handwriting.
Jack was happy to do as he was told as long as he was allowed to keep a step behind and watch Ianto's tight trousers hug his buttocks as he walked.
They descended the stairs, the drip of leaking pipe getting louder and echoing down the tunnel they emerged into, and Ianto took a torch out of his inside pocket after flicking the light switch and discovering it didn't work.
"Make a note of that." Ianto instructed, and Jack obediently began to blindly scribble. "Chances are the electrics need re-wiring anyway. I don't think anyone's been down here for years – oh!"
Ianto had opened the first door expecting to find the typical Archive vault behind, but instead he was greeted by an empty room, dust-filled shelves and another set of lights that weren't working. Jack poked his head in behind him.
"Hmmm." he said. "Nothing to catalogue." He shook his head in mock regret, knowing their expected finishing time had just gone down by at least an hour and a half.
Ianto frowned. "All the rooms on this floor are marked as full on every census so far. What happened?"
"Don't know." Jack shrugged. "During stock-taking I generally ... made myself scarce."
"I'll take it as compliment that you're still here now."
Jack smiled sheepishly, then leant over and pecked his cheek. Had Ianto thought the shyness was an act, he'd have rolled his eyes, but found Jack's little smile and slight embarrassment quite genuine.
"Next room?" he suggested, and Jack nodded and followed him down the corridor a little way to the door across the hall.
Again the lights refused to work, and as Ianto shone his torch around they saw it was in pretty much the same shape as the other one. "All this space wasted." sighed Ianto. "Admin error, d'ya think? Or maybe this is where we keep the invisible stuff, only no one's labelled it right."
"Maybe." agreed Jack.
Ianto rolled his eyes. "It was a joke, Jack."
"I'm bored." Jack declared.
"Aren't you interested to know where the stuff has gone?"
"Or was there any stuff here to start with?" Jack added. Ianto raised an eyebrow. "Ask me again when I'm not horny. I think you'll find I care a lot."
Ianto snatched his clipboard back. "Fine. Go upstairs and wait for me; I'll check if there's anything on this corridor at all."
"And if there is?"
"You'll be waiting a while." Ianto replied curtly.
Jack made an exasperated noise, then began to make his way almost blindly back to the dim light glowing in the stairwell above as Ianto swung the door to the other room shut.
"I'll probably find time to do a bit of cataloguing in the wardrobe section ... if you wanna lend a hand ..."
Jack grinned. "Maybe I could start ahead of you? Find some of the more interesting exhibits and set them aside for your special attention?"
"Sounds very, very helpful."
Jack winked and bounded up the stairs, and Ianto watched him leave with a smile playing on his lips. With a slight shake he remembered himself, and turned to make his way to the next door on the corridor. He wondered briefly how many rooms were on this corridor – usually there were about ten per tunnel, but it varied from level to level. Some tunnels housed only two or three rooms – one of the ones a little further up lead to at least thirty.
The next room was the same, as was the next. He hit the end of the tunnel, approximated six rooms on the floor, three either side, and crossed over to start on the opposing ones. He'd already checked the first one on this side earlier, so after finding the other end one empty, moved to the middle one.
He'd expected the final one to be vacant also, so when blinding light hit his eyes so hard he had to slam the door shut again, he was more than a little surprised. He opened the door a crack, waited for his eyes to adjust a little, then peered inside. Realisation hit pretty instantly: the room was so bright because it was lined with mirrors. Even the ceiling and floor were mirrored, faceted to give as many reflections as possible. Large bunches of futuristic light bulbs appeared in clusters at intervals along the walls, and occasionally the mirrors were interrupted by tall tanks of dead insects and creepy-crawlies, some species of which Ianto hadn't even been aware of.
In the centre of this room stood four stone statues; elegant angels, one of which was covering her face as if weeping; the others were stood staring vacantly ahead, their booked hands lowered as if interrupted in their grief. Their eyes were blank, like Grecian statues were, and their stone was chipped and worn. Their wings bore the brunt of the damage, with harsh angles cut into the bottom most feathers. One of them had fingernail marks scratched down her shoulders and over her chest.
Ianto surveyed the montage through squinted eyes, and a sense of foreboding overtook him. He didn't like looking at those statues. They were ... wrong. He reached for the scanner clipped to his belt, and held it up, waiting for it to beep completion. The room was buzzing with Rift energy, and another kind of residual radiation it couldn't identify. With a shiver, Ianto reached over and flicked off the light, biting back annoyance at whomever had left it on for so many years. He jumped in surprise as the lights in the tunnel flickered on at the loss of power to the statue room, and he shut the door firmly behind him to frown up at the fluorescent tube.
The door behind him creaked, and he nearly jumped out of his skin, spinning faster than he ever had in his life. His heart was in his throat, his breath was catching, cold sweat was stinging his brow: fear, he realised. Through the dim light now cast into the room beyond, he could vaguely see one of those stone angels, closer than he'd initially thought, staring vacantly ahead. With deep, calming breaths, he reached out and shut the door again, turning the catch to lock it in case it decided to swing open of its own accord another time.
Flicking off his torch and making his way back towards the stairs in the new found light, he decided to leave cataloguing for the night, and made a note to check the Archived information on the statues. He decided to name them "Weeping Angels", if they didn't have a name already, and to find out exactly why they were so full of energy and what exactly merited them a special room to themselves on the lower levels of the hub.
Ianto flicked off the lights, and made his way back to the dingy office, shuffling his papers together and boxing them back up.
A crash sounded from somewhere – it was hard to tell where in the echo-y Archives – and he assumed Jack had probably just caused him a good hour or so in reorganisation time. He smiled to himself as a rogue spidery-mouse-thing scurried across the floor and out into the main tunnel, and followed it with a whistled tune.
He tutted loudly, and bent down to tie his shoelace, pausing as the back of his neck prickled and the feeling of being watched made his stomach knot. It was dusky in the tunnel – one of the fluorescent tubes wasn't working – and he couldn't make out much in the dark ahead of him.
It's just the spidery-mouse-thing and the whole 'It's Hallowe'en!' vibe that's getting to you ...he thought to himself, standing and making his way to the main stairs, forgetting his momentary silliness and thinking only of Jack waiting for him.
Little did he know that the spidery-mouse-thing was, indeed watching him. It was the fact it had been watching him, crouched in its shadowy corner, shaking with instinctual terror as it stared at him that had, indeed saved him. Had he turned around, he'd have seen it, too.
A Weeping Angel: cold, vacant eyes; hand and finger extended less than an inch from where his shoulder had only just been, reaching desperately for her prey.
"Well that was ... innovative ..." panted Jack, lying on his back across the desk.
"Yeah ..." Ianto gasped in reply, slumping down into the chair.
Around them were rails and rails full of clothes from all sorts of periods of history – and the future. They were too zoned out to remember which of the large heap of costumes they'd eventually settled on before ripping them off, and they didn't really care anymore.
"Whatimeisit?" mumbled Jack, turning on his side and knocking even more papers and pens off the table.
"Do you think the others will still be here?" he asked, giving a suggestive grin.
"Tosh and Owen maybe." yawned Ianto. "Gwen will have gone home to Rhys. Their night in, remember? We need to get dressed. I'm cold."
They managed to find their original clothes, chatting and laughing as they made their way back up to the main area of the hub. Toshiko was still sat at her workstation, and Owen was cheerily dissecting a strange-looking eight-legged cow with one eye. Gwen had left some little Hallowe'en sweets for them all (apart from Owen. He just got a post-it note, but it was the thought that counted) on her desk, and a little pumpkin-shaped lantern that gave off dull glow.
Tosh smirked at Jack and Ianto's ruffled state, but said nothing, carrying on with whatever she was doing. Owen rolled his eyes behind their backs, then jumped back in surprise when one of the eight-legged cow's over-impacted intestines decided to combust under his scalpel.
"Bit late for you guys, isn't it?" asked Jack, making his way to his office while Ianto headed for the coffee machine.
"Can't stand Trick or Treat'ers." explained Owen.
"Really, really need to get this done ...." sighed Toshiko, fingers still flying over her keyboard.
Jack shrugged and sat down in his office, smiling as Ianto brought him a mug of coffee before heading off to give Toshiko hers. He put his tray back, then made his way upstairs to his Tourist Office to close it up properly for the night – he'd meant to do it earlier but got ... distracted. He hesitated before shutting down his computer, then decided to make the most of the fact it was powered on, logged in and opened up his Archive catalogue program.
Typing in 'Angel statues' and the Archive level he'd found them, he sat back and waited for the results. He scanned the page that came up, then nearly spat his coffee out in shock. He re-read it again, hit 'print', shut down the computer, locked the doors and practically ran back down to the main hub.
Jack listened carefully, scanned the printout and regarded Ianto with an unfathomable expression.
"... and you switched the light off?"
"How was I supposed to know?" he put his head in his hands, scratching his fingers through his hair and making it stick out. "You'd think they'd put some kind of ... back up, in case someone did – wait! The insects!"
"In the walls there were tanks full of insects. It says there that 'Quantum Locked' means they can only move if a living thing can see them. In the walls they bred colonies of nocturnal insects – even if the light went off, a living thing could see them, even if they can't see each other anymore."
"So ... we're fine then?" Jack breathed a sigh of relief.
"Yeah ... except ... I ... I don't feel fine. And ... the tanks were very ... still."
"There's a chance the creepy-crawlies were all dead?"
Ianto put his head in his hands again. "I'm sorry Jack ..."
"We'll talk about this later. Right now ... we have other priorities right now. Like getting whatever was in that room back in it." Jack stood and walked past him without making eye contact, calling Tosh and Owen and telling them to get down to the boardroom ASAP for an emergency meeting.
"Okay ..." Jack began. "so these things are what's called 'Quantum Locked'. It's the perfect defence mechanism: as soon as any living thing sees them, they freeze, turning to solid stone. That's why they cover their faces – they're not weeping, their hiding their eyes because they can't even look at each other. Whoever locked them down in the Archives put them in a faceted mirrored room – no matter where they looked, they'd either see each other or themselves. They bred insect colonies down there too; in case the lights went out, something could still see them. But the colonies died – the lights were never switched off, night never came, the insects got all messed up and died."
"What do these creatures do?" Toshiko asked in a timid voice.
"They're complicated." Ianto explained. "They're creatures of the abstract. According to our records, they feed on potential energy. One touch, and ... and they absorb the life you could have had by sending you into the past. You live yourself to death in a by-gone era, all your potential ... sapped."
"There's another thing." added Jack. "They're quick. They're much quicker than humans could possibly perceive. You come across one, and you can't take your eyes of it. Not for a moment: not even for a second. You can't look away; you can't even blink. Blink ... and that's it. It's got you. One blink is enough time for it to move in and touch you, and you're dead."
"So when genius here –" Owen said and indicated Ianto, who bit his lip but resolutely did not break eye contact. "– switched the light off in an attempt to save the planet, he actually did a helluva lot worse."
"Well, if Jack hadn't buggered off and left me on my own ..." Ianto muttered.
"Blaming doesn't matter right now." cut in Toshiko. "Should we call Gwen?"
Jack bit his lip. "I think we should have a last defence on the outside. Just in case. Right now we need to lock down the hub so that the Angels can't get to the outside – Ianto, is there any way of doing that without losing all the lights?"
"Yep, but we'll have to re-set the lockdown every three hours."
"Go and do that now. Toshiko –"
"– see if you can formulate some form of strategy. Remember: light in room goes on, light in the tunnel goes off, according to what Ianto saw. Owen?"
"Find one, shove a mirror in front of it, take a sample of the stone and try to figure out their biological makeup, searching for any weaknesses to common human illness, acids, alkalis, plant life: yadda yadda yadda ..."
"Excellent. I'll go and get my huge weapon."
"You always get to do the fun stuff ..." grumbled Owen as he got up to leave. An alarm sounded as their semi-lockdown activated, and the lights flickered for a second before settling on full brightness. "Does he get fired for this?" Owen pondered aloud.
"Depends if anyone gets hurt." Jack replied.
"Ow! I think I just burned my tongue on his coffee!"
Jack rolled his eyes. "Get out, Owen."
Owen shrugged. "Worth a try."
Ianto still had his head in his hands, sat in his small work area and wishing everything was just over.
"Doing an impression?" Jack's voice asked, closer than Ianto would have thought. He jumped, raising his head and frowned. He then realised he'd been covering his eyes in a very similar fashion to the statues, and shuddered at Jack's joke.
"I'm ... I'm really sorry ..." he murmured.
Jack sighed. "It's okay, Ianto. It'll be ... difficult ... but we'll find them. In fact – get on to Gwen's workstation, and track Owen and me on the CCTV. He's going down into the tunnels with a wheelie mirror to try and get a sample, and then I'm going to blast the bejesus out of it with my big gun."
Ianto nodded glumly. "Yessir."
"Oo! Actually ... help get my massive weapon ready first."
Ianto rolled his eyes. "There's only so many times that's actually funny, Jack."
"Let me know when I hit that mark." he winked. "Now c'mon ... stop feeling sorry for yourself. You can be all emo receptionist when you're on your own time ..."
"Okay ... ready Ianto?"
"I've got your heat signals. Patching them through to Ianto, just in case ..."
"Got them, Tosh."
"... good. I'll ... I'll get back to work on the strategy ... good luck."
"Thanks, Tosh." they chorused.
Jack and Owen went carefully, Owen pulling the mirror on wheels that Ianto had quickly knocked together behind them, Jack nursing the gun strapped over his shoulder.
"We'll stick together." Jack had decided. "Take it in turns to blink if anything unthinkable should happen ..."
"I don't need to blink." Owen reminded him.
They walked on in silence, until Ianto's voice sailed over their ear pieces. "There's a bit of poltergeist activity three doors down from where you are now, left hand side. I spent ages organising that room ..." he grumbled.
"Anything dangerous in there?" asked Jack.
"Not unless you have a fear of dead trees or paper cuts."
"Or creatures that move so fast, you blink and you're dead." muttered Owen.
"You're already dead." Jack reminded him.
"Shut up. You get my point." Owen snapped, and hesitated outside the door Ianto had indicated. Listening carefully, they could hear the movement inside as boxes were thrown around and shelves pulled down. "What's it doing?" Owen whispered, mainly to himself.
Ianto answered him first. "I'd ... say it was looking for something."
"You sure?" frowned Jack.
"Each box appears to be rifled through then tossed aside. There's a similar case about four floors down. It's ... creepy to watch."
They could practically hear Ianto's shudder, and glanced at each other. Owen put his hand on the door handle, nodded his head three times in a silent count, and wrenched it open.
"Shit!" he exclaimed, as he and Jack saw the mess inside and the sheer size of the Weeping Angel stood solemnly in the corner. "Bugger. It's covering its eyes, Ianto."
"I ... I can see it now. Now that it's stone, I can see it." Ianto's voice crackled over the intercom. "Hang on! It's ... that thing ... covering its eyes ... that's so that it won't be able to see another of its kind, right?"
"Yeah ..." Jack urged.
"I can only find two of them!"
She was ten feet down the hall, hands together and palms up, lowered from her face. Her eyes were vacant and staring, blank and Grecian. He could feel her gaze going through him, and he glared back at her, defiantly refusing to blink.
"Don't blink, Owen." he ordered, Owen still keeping his dead eyes on the Angel in the room.
"I ... I'm having an issue ..." Owen murmured.
"Why aren't you staring at the other Angel?" Jack demanded.
"It only turns to stone if a living thing can see it. I'm dead, Jack. I've put the mirror in the doorway ... just blow the bejesus out of that thing like you promised, already!"
Jack cocked the gun, listen to it warm and fired with a massive boom of satisfaction, careful not to blink and lose his target. He lowered the gun, the fragments of stone scattered all down the corridor, and finally let his stinging eyes blink.
Ianto practically shouted it down the comms. Jack jumped and blinked again, while Owen cursed under his breath. The Angel that had been lying in fragments took the time Jack had his eyes closed to pull itself back together again, and in those two blinks was whole and towering yet again. It had happened so fast, Ianto had jumped along with them from behind his screen. Toshiko hurried over.
"Blow them up, blink, and they've pulled themselves back together again ..." Ianto told her.
He could see Jack and Owen back away from the statue – it had also found the time to get closer, too – and Jack was trying his hardest not to blink. Toshiko and Ianto held their breath, and tensed when the Angel jumped forward towards Jack and Owen, who tumbled backwards in shock, missing her stone fingers by inches as she appeared in front of them. They froze, staring up at her as if unable to believe their eyes.
"What the fuck happened?" Owen practically shouted.
"I blinked ... that must have been enough time for it to pull itself together."
"Great. Just don't blink agai – Jack!"
"My eyes are killing me, Owen!"
"The Weeping Angel is trying to kill you too, in case you hadn't noticed." he retorted.
"What's the one in the room doing?" Jack asked, not taking his eyes from the newly-reformed Angel in front of them.
"Hasn't moved. I think if it does, it might see itself in the mirror. Unless it moves without uncovering it's eyes."
"Don't give it ideas!" Jack told him, almost exasperated. "Look ... we'll back away slowly, shut the door and seal it. Regroup, think of a new plan."
"Okay, I'll guide you since it doesn't make any difference whether or not I can see the bloody thing ..."
Jack kept the gun cocked and aimed, more for comfort than any real form of use, and allowed Owen to guide him backwards, eyes watering.
The Angel simply stared back at them, her hands palms up in front of her, her bland expression on her smooth, stone face giving both Jack and Owen the shivers.
"I really, really need to blink ..." Jack whispered, his eyes burning as salty water stung into them.
"Nearly there ..." muttered Owen.
"Really, Owen ..."
"Two metres to the door, if that ..."
Jack tumbled backwards in shock, taking Owen down with him. They hit the floor with a thud. They stared up, frozen at the Angel now towering above them, Jack's heart pounding in his chest, his breath coming in short, panicked bursts and his eyes streaming.
The Angel was changed. Gone was her calm exterior, replaced by a wide, snarling mouth filled with two rows of jagged, pointed teeth and a tongue that twisted and flicked like a demon's. Her short nails had become claws, sharp and curling at the end of long, tapered fingers, tensed and reaching for Jack and Owen. Her temples were surrounded by deep-set wrinkles, her hair wild.
Her eyes were still blank, though. Blank and staring, as if looking straight through them but seeing them all at once. There was no way to escape that gaze, and Jack could feel it in his bones: these Angels were psychopaths. No regret; no remorse. They would take what they could – and what they could take right now was Jack. Jack, with his eternal life ahead of him, more potential energy than anything in the universe. He briefly wondered how long they would be able to live off him for, how far back they might send him, how long he'd have to wait to see Ianto again ... Ianto and Gwen and Owen and Tosh.
Owen was already on his feet, urging Jack to follow him backwards. They just had to get behind the door that led to the cells and lock it behind them, and be thankful that Ianto kept the Archive codes for the more dangerous stuff they'd found in his pretty little head.
"Jack? Owen?" Ianto was asking over the comms. "Why aren't you moving?"
"Have you seen this bastard thing?" Owen grumbled. "Jack's in a bit of shock."
"Am not." Jack muttered, still holding his gun aimed at the Angel.
Owen wrenched the door open, then slammed it shut again.
"Er ... there's another one outside ..."
They could hear Ianto moving over the comms. "I saw it, Owen." he was saying. "I'll come down and look at it while you two get out."
"At least we now know where three of them are." Jack tried to look for the positives.
"I told you: the other one is searching through the floor below. The other two must be standing guard. Well ... either that or ... y'know ..."
"Know what?" Jack whispered. "Gawd I need to shut my eyes so bad ...."
"Well ... if you look at their formation: bait, watchman – or woman – another to sneak up from behind. They could be hunting."
They could hear Ianto's running footsteps now.
"I have to blink!" groaned Jack. "Hurry up, Ianto!"
"Spidery-mouse-thing!" exclaimed Owen suddenly, stooping to pick it up as it crawled out of the wall. Jack fought the urge to squeal. "I'll stick it on its arm ... there. You can blink and rub your eyes. Spider part of the spidery-mouse-thing doesn't have eyelids."
Jack did so with gratitude, tears streaming down his face. It never felt so good to close his eyes in all in his life.
"JACK!" Owen bellowed. Jack looked up.
The Angel had only moved her arms – one reaching over as if pointing at the other.
"I thought you said it couldn't blink!" he snapped, realising the Angel must have had a window of opportunity and zapped the spidery-mouse-thing backwards.
"Maybe it was a blind spidery-mouse-thing!" Owen snapped back. "Ianto! Where are you!"
"Just turned the corner now. God, those things are ..."
"Wait 'til they snarl at you." Jack interrupted. "Then decide whether or not they're scary. Are you staring it at it?"
Owen opened the door again, and slipped out, guiding Jack after him and avoiding the Angel stood there. He frowned at it. Her face was the blank, serene expression they were used to. However, she was pointing directly at Ianto. Ianto seemed to have realised this, too, and was keeping his distance.
"You okay?" he asked, still not taking his eyes off the statue. It felt like she was staring back at him, and he laboured to keep his breathing calm and even as she silently challenged him to look away.
"We're fine." Jack replied. "Right, Owen: guide us. Ianto and I will take it in turns to keep our eyes on the Angel – what's that?"
The light flickered.
"It can control the electrics!" realised Owen.
"Jack! Keep your eyes on the Angel!" Ianto looked away to reach into his pocket. He pulled out his little torch with an air of triumph and flicked it on, keeping the beam centred on the Angel's face.
Jack and Ianto practically ran backwards as Owen guided them, each of them painfully aware that as soon as they turned the corner the Angel would be able to move again. Would it come straight after them or help its two other friends? Ianto wondered. Did they even have friends? They couldn't even look at each other.
They rounded the corner, where the lights still worked, and Ianto flicked off his torch to conserve it.
"Can we just run flat out?" Owen suggested as Jack and Ianto warily kept their eyes on the end of the tunnel.
"It moves so fast, blink and it's got us, Owen." Jack reminded him.
"There she is." breathed Ianto, the Angel poking her head around the corner they'd just rounded as if playing a child's game of hide and seek. "How far, Owen?"
"About ten metres."
"I need to blink, Jack."
"Go ahead." Jack told him.
He rubbed his aching eyes, and turned to see how far they had to go. He groaned. "Owen! I thought you said ten metres!"
"My estimations are a little off – so what?"
"How far is it? I need to blink, Ianto."
"Go ahead. About fifteen metres, give or take."
"As long as we let each other know when we're blinking, we should be fine."
"Yeah." the other two agreed.
They made it to the other door without allowing the Angel to move, and slipped behind it, spinning the wheel on the back and sealing off the Archive section. They practically hugged each other in relief, and all but ran up to the main area.
"That door won't hold them for long, but hopefully they'll get a little lost before they can work their way up here." Ianto called as he made his way back to Gwen's workstation, checking the CCTV. Owen, Jack and Toshiko came to stand behind him.
"Are you three alright?" she asked.
"Fine. How's the strategy coming?" asked Jack.
"I've got a few ideas, but there's so many variables ... and I was thrown for a loop when we found that Owen ..."
"Keep at it." Jack cut her off. "Remember: we've got every faith in you, Toshiko. Now, what are the Angels doing?"
"The one lower down has moved on to another room, but still appears to be searching." Ianto told him, indicating a CCTV feed full of boxes of papers being moved around and tossed aside. "The other is finishing the room we left her in. Her friend has smashed the mirror and left it face down, so there's no danger of her seeing herself."
"And the two that were hunting us?"
"No idea. Can't see them through the cameras."
"So they're invisible?" asked Owen.
"... or they move so fast the cameras can't pick them up!" realised Ianto. He hit a button, and everything paused.
The Angels searching the papers appeared, mid-throw and snarling. The other two were mid-run, heading up some metal stairs at the opposite end of the tunnel from the door they'd sealed the first one behind. The other had obviously gone back to let her accomplice out.
"Where are those stairs?" asked Jack.
"Opposite end of the tunnel from the room with the Angel and the mirror in. Go up and wind up in Harmless Miscellaneous, go down you find yourself in Military Records, Wardrobe –" He and Jack shared a glance. "– Broken or Incomplete Artefacts, Alien Catalogue ..."
"Anything dangerous? Anything they could use as a weapon of mass destruction?"
"Not that I can think of, but some of the past Archivers were so bad ..."
"Mmm." agreed Jack. "Can we figure out what they're looking for? What's kept in the rooms they're in?"
"Paperwork, mostly. The one lower down is searching through about a hundred and fifty years worth of Militia records. Mostly orders and invoices for guns and ammunition, requests for extra soldiers to accompany Torchwood on missions and stuff."
"The one we came across?"
"That would be where we keep the inventories of everything in the Archives."
"So ... all they need to do is find one of the inventories, find what they're looking for on the list and then run down and tell the others the catalogue number?"
"If they can read." Ianto pointed out, pressing play on the CCTV, letting it run for a couple of seconds then pausing it again.
They all jumped back in surprise and shock.
The screen was filled with the snarling face of the Angel, and they all shivered as her eyes bored into them from the screen.
"Watching the watchers." Ianto muttered to himself.
Jack put a hand on his shoulder, more for his own comfort than his lover's.
"How did the team that originally brought them in get them in that room?" asked Toshiko, throwing down her pencil.
Ianto shrugged. "Doesn't say in the reports. Just says they were found after several cases of mysterious disappearances by Saint Mary's Church in the early forties."
"They were never mentioned to me." grumbled Jack. "Then again ... in the forties I was ... elsewhere. Several times."
They were sat on the couch opposite the workstations, Toshiko and Jack leaning over several scrunched up sheets of paper trying to figure out what to do while Owen had gathered every reflective surface they had together to try and create some form of defence. Ianto had already taken some of the ones Owen had super-glued – watching the sharper knives and scalpels – and positioned them precariously by the tunnel that lead to the Archives in the hope Weeping Angels wouldn't be able to get past them. Some of the surfaces were duller than others, and none of them were sure whether or not a murky reflection would be enough to stop them.
"How long until we need to reset the lockdown?" asked Jack.
Ianto checked his watch. "Forty minutes."
"I think we need to call Gwen in." he sighed. "Three pairs of living eyes are far more effective than two, I'll think."
"What about me?" pointed out Toshiko.
"We need to keep the brains of the outfit safe. It's just a coincidence you're the beauty, too." winked Jack.
She flushed delicately, picked up her pencil and got back to her mind-mapping. Ianto was already dialling Gwen's number.
"Gwen, hi ... it's Ianto. Listen ... erm ... we're in a little bit of trouble, so could you possibly come in for a couple of hours or so? Just ... need to contain something."
"What about Owen and Tosh?"
"We need the full team. Owen and Tosh are already here. Listen: aim to be here in about forty minutes. We're in lockdown at the moment, and that's when it'll end. You need to come down on the hydraulic lift so that we'll be out of lockdown for as short a time as possible."
She sighed down the phone. "Alright, Ianto. I'm coming."
Ianto hung up and turned to the others. "Gwen's going to aim to be here in forty minutes. She's coming down on the lift to save time out of lockdown."
"Good, good." Jack replied absently, reading as Toshiko was scribbling, pointing at a couple of things and sighing as she crossed them out.
"Is there anything significant about the fact the lights in the tunnel go off when the lights in the mirror room go on?" Ianto asked, crossing back to Gwen's workstation to check the CCTV feeds again.
"There must be." sighed Toshiko.
"I don't understand why there wasn't a proper report written." muttered Ianto to himself. "Unless ... Jack!"
Ianto spun in his chair to face him. "If Torchwood captures something living and intelligent –and keeps it permanently on site – what's the procedure for filing the reports? Surely it'd be different in case the intelligent being escaped and didn't want anyone to know how to recapture it?" He didn't wait for a reply before turning back to his screens and accessing the Archive program. It took nearly two minutes to complete the security procedures to access the catalogue for the Secure Archives, but when he did he let out a 'yesssss!' of triumph.
"The Weeping Angels," he read aloud. "were captured in 1943 in the cemetery by Saint Mary's Church, as well as a whole nest of Weevils and tons and tons of weird Rift energy. They didn't really bother with the nest – just stunned the lot of them and left them to it. The Angels, however, had to be captured: nearly thirty disappearances from the time they were first sighted to when they were contained."
"But how were they contained?" asked Owen, nearly gluing his fingers to the metal kidney dish he was trying to stick to a pole at what he hoped was Angel eye-level.
"The only copy is in the Secure Archives safe in Jack's office."
"Go fetch." Jack said, and Ianto rolled his eyes.
"Keep your eye on the CCTV, then." he sighed as he got up to go and find the papers. "Does anyone want coffee while I'm up?"
His request was met with enthusiastic agreement, and he quickly retrieved the reports, set them down in front of Toshiko and crossed to his coffee machine. He hesitated, then nearly dropped the bag of beans.
"Guys! There's one round the corner!"
They all sprang to their feet, desperate to look.
"She's seen her reflection." Owen sighed in relief. "She's probably been there a while."
"Hope so." muttered Ianto. "So where are her friends?"
There was a crash behind them, and they all flinched and turned, seeing a large chunk of debris had been thrown straight into –
"NOOOOOOOOOOO!" wailed Jack. "The coffee machine!"
He ran over to it, pulling uselessly at the handles as if examining a team mate for damage. The machine sparked, then went out completely.
Ianto was shaking, staring at his broken apparatus. "Oh ... now it's personal."
"Those bitches are gonna pay." growled Jack, glancing up then pointing down the corridor. "Two Angels."
The other Angel was practically all the way down the corridor, having run blindly to avoid her reflection and covering her eyes with an arm. She looked like the heroine of an old Victorian melodrama.
"I bet it was her!" Jack grumbled. "She covered her eyes and threw the thing and it killed the coffee machine!"
He marched right up to her, stuck his arms out in front of him and tried to push her over. His attempt was in vain, however.
"Fetch my big gun!" he ordered.
Owen didn't move, but Ianto ran to retrieve it. "The big gun won't help." Owen reminded them.
"Helps me!" snapped Ianto, cocking it and aiming. He fired twice, totally decimating the first Angel and blowing the head off the one poking round the corner. Jack defiantly didn't blink, took the gun from Ianto, closed his eyes deliberately and allowed the monster to pull herself back together again. With a BOOM and the clatter of shattered stone, she was blown apart in a haze of dust and hot fire.
Jack and Ianto high-fived each other, and Jack gave the Angel he'd left in one piece a 'don't mess' glare. The next chance she got, she had disappeared, the hem of the other Angel's skirts, newly reformed, frozen mid-whip as she followed her.
"They better retreat." muttered Jack with a scowl.
"Or regroup." suggested Ianto. "I think we need more reflecti- oooh! I've had a thought!"
"What if we put little mirrors in their hands? That way if they cover their eyes, they'll end up looking at themselves."
"Only if they open their eyes." Jack pointed out.
"Oh ... oh yeah ... worth a try, though."
They walked over to the sofa where Toshiko was still reading through the Secure Archives report from when the Angels were originally brought in.
"Well?" asked Jack, as Ianto resumed monitoring his CCTV feeds and Owen returned to gluing shiny things together.
"The main premise of the original team's tactic revolved around the fact the Angels didn't know it was a mirrored room." she sighed. "They turned the lights in the room off and hid in there, waited for the Angels to come hunting. One by the light switch, the others at the opposite side of the room with their eyes shut as bait. Guy on the lights spots the Angels coming, shuts his eyes, checks their progress every couple of seconds. Once they were all in the room, on with the light and the Angels were stuck. The lights going on when the others lights are off was so that they'd see the Angels in the corridor without giving away too much, as well as also being the result of an energy drain to the mirror room's lights."
"Hang on ... the Angels could control the light bulb in the corridor when we were down there before." Owen recalled. "Why didn't they switch off the lights in the mirrored room?"
"They were lights from the future, or reproductions of the technology. Didn't give off a form of light energy the Angels could manipulate." explained Toshiko.
"So ..." Jack began. "... the original theory was pretty similar to the Angels' own hunting techniques. Bait, watchman – or woman – and the element of surprise."
They were all on edge, and jumped inordinately high when the lockdown suddenly lifted and all the doors unbolted and un-deadlocked. Instantly the hydraulic lift began its descent, Gwen atop and looking very grumpy and wet. She was also sporting mouse ears, drawn on whiskers and a black-tipped nose.
"What's the problem?" she asked, stepping off the lift as Ianto went to reset the lockdown. The sound of everything sealing again echoed through the hub, and they all felt suddenly very trapped.
They explained to her about the Angels, what they did and how they had been let out. They told her about their Quantum Lock and how it worked, as well as how the original team had first imprisoned them.
She nodded and listened, glancing over Toshiko's shoulder to look at her drafts of a plan.
Ianto still felt like it was his fault. He mentally kicked himself yet again, pulling the lever to reset the partial lockdown and taking a deep breath to calm his unsettled, guilt-ridden stomach. He frowned and did a double take, running his eyes over the scattered equipment, sure he hadn't left the far work table in such a state. He stepped over some cabling, mind set on tidying it up at least a little bit – make it presentable, at the very least – and moved a couple of things around.
He definitely hadn't left it like this. Some things looked as if they were broken, some things looked ... smashed or dismantled. When had this happened?
Ianto set down the device he was holding and caught the reflection on the metal table just in time. He spun.
Blood ran to ice in his body, his brow turned cold, his heart pounded so hard in his chest it nearly hurt. His skin was tingling with adrenalin, his hairs were standing on end, his eyes were aching with the effort of keeping them open and his legs became heavy and immobile as lead.
He tried to scream, but no sound came out.
She was too close.
"Ianto?" Jack called.
"No sign, Jack." Toshiko told him, her voice quiet.
"All this stuff ... it's been rearranged."
"You've said, Jack."
"Did he do it? Do you think he was trying to tell us something?"
Owen all but snorted. "What? He told the Angels to 'hang on a moment while I rearrange some crap and leave a secret message, then zap me'?"
Jack bit his lip, and moved over to the steel work bench, picking up a little grey metal machine they'd found three days previous and setting it back down with the other things they'd brought in that day. "Why was that on the floor?" he pondered out loud. "Do you think he was holding it when ...?"
No one replied, and instead they continued scanning the area Ianto was last seen. Jack left them to it, returning to the CCTV feeds that had been left running, sitting heavily in the chair beside Gwen. "I'm going to go over the video coverage." he told her. They could already guess what had happened, but ... he needed to see it.
Gwen scrolled through the cameras, found the feed they needed and rewound it ten minutes. It showed Ianto picking his way past the cables he'd been nagging at Jack to get tied down, resetting the lockdown then doing a quick double-take. The camera followed him to the metal work bench, where he started organising things. Jack turned up the sound, listening to him muttering to himself about how the place looked like a bomb had hit it.
The Angel appeared, pretty much blocking Ianto from view, her arms arched high and clawing the air, her wings spread wide. Jack could only imagine her expression, but Gwen could have no idea.
She switched to the next feed, and this time, when the Angel appeared, Jack and Gwen saw Ianto's face.
His blue eyes swam with tears of pain as he tried to get past the Angel without blinking, but she had him practically pinned to the table. His mouth formed the word 'Jack', but no sound came out, his vocal cords frozen in his throat. Fighting the growing pressure to close his eyes, he seemed to realise what was going to happen, and how inevitable it was.
Gwen couldn't watch it any further.
She flicked off the feed.
"The coffee machine and the two Angels in the corridor must have been a distraction while the other one hid by workbench. Messed things about a bit in the hope of luring one of us in and ... got him."
They all nodded their agreement with Jack.
Tosh and Gwen were fighting back tears. "Do you know when he was sent?" asked Gwen with a sniff, whiskers and black nose-tip still painted on.
Jack shook his head silently. "We need extra watch on the corridor. Gwen: you take watch for the next half hour. I'll come and relieve you once I've finished combing through the CCTV. I ... I know you couldn't watch all of it. But ... I need to ... I need to see the moment ... maybe if we can figure out what they do, we can defend ourselves against it."
Gwen nodded and wheeled a chair to go and sit behind the towers of shiny things near the Archive tunnel. Owen had put more up and around in the hope of warding the Angels off further, and was running out of things suitably reflective. Gwen and Toshiko had donated their handbag mirrors, breaking them in two and giving one to each of the boys in case they found themselves in a similar position to Ianto and could force the Angel to look itself in the eye.
Jack had also been urging them to use the mirrors to look around corners, but Owen just told him to stop being paranoid.
The Captain took a deep breath, hit the 'play' button the on CCTV feed, and watched. Ianto picked his way through the cables, shuffled his things ... froze in terror. His eyes were watering, salty tears leaked from the corners of his eyes ... his lips called a soundless 'Jack' ...
The Angel disappeared, but Ianto didn't.
Jack sat bolt upright and nearly sent his chair flying. Ianto looked as shocked as he was, staring at something just out of the camera's peripheral. Jack typed in the command prompt for the other camera, found the moment the Angel disappeared ... no, moved. The Angel moved. It stepped back from Ianto, pointing the way back into the Archives.
The camera could only pick it up from behind, but Jack knew the direction it was commanding Ianto to go. His heart leapt to his throat, his breathing quickened: Ianto might still be here. Ianto might not have been sent to the past to live himself to death. Ianto may be here and now, not dead in a cemetery never knowing that Jack ... Jack needed him so much.
Jumping to action, Jack opened Toshiko's heat tracking program. The little red dots that indicated himself, Gwen and Toshiko were all in the main area, but there was another one, four levels down and wandering down a corridor that could have only been Ianto.
"Everyone!" Jack called. "You gotta see this! I'll relieve you for a moment, Gwen."
They watched the feed, then all turned to each other. One by one they checked the heat signal, then the CCTV cameras near the location of the fourth to confirm it: Ianto was still in the hub. Blindfolded and guided by something the cameras could not see, but very much in the present day.
"Can they touch us without sending us back?" frowned Gwen.
Toshiko chewed her pencil. "I don't think so. From the way he's holding his arms out, I'd say ... they're talking to him. They're giving him directions."
"Y'what?" shouted Jack from his chair by the tunnel.
"They're giving him directions rather than guiding him through touch!" Gwen shouted back. "He's blindfolded."
"Oh ... he's used to that." Jack smirked to himself. "Excellent coordination."
Owen frowned to himself. "What do they want with Ianto?" he asked. "I mean ... what's he got that you lot don't? Why didn't they just do the zappy-to-the-past thing?"
"They're looking for something." Gwen thought out loud. "If you're looking for something in the Archives, who do you ask?"
"Ianto." agreed Owen.
Tosh practically threw her pencil down in frustration and rubbed her eyes. "I can't do it!" she almost wailed. "I can't think of how to do it! There's no way we can tie them up, imprison them with a certainty they won't get out, luring them probably won't work unless we find out what they're looking for and get to it first without Ianto. They won't explode, they can control all of our lights and they're complete and utter psychopaths! I've ... I ... I've failed you all ... I can't do it ..."
Owen put his arm around her. "C'mon, Tosh! Don't be stupid. Think about this carefully."
"Jack?" she croaked.
"Can't you think of anything?"
"You could at least say something inspirational ..." suggested Owen.
Jack sighed. "Okay ... their greatest strength could always be their greatest weakness?"
"That we've established." Gwen pointed out. "Their greatest strength because stone can't die and most living things need to blink; greatest weakness because if they accidentally look at each other they're permanently buggered."
"Okay ... okay ..." said Jack. "Ermmm ... could we put something on them? Like a cape – or gloves?"
"... we could super-glue mirrors to them ..." Owen pondered. "... get our shiny things, super-glue mirrors to them ... if one of them looks at the other and sees its own reflection, she's stuck."
"What about those anti-gravity clamps we got from the wreckage of Torchwood One?" piped up Toshiko. "We could put one on one Angel, one on another and move them to face each other. If we go about it the right way ... maybe even get them back into their room!"
"We'd have to lure them down to the right tunnel. How would we do that?" Gwen asked.
Jack shrugged. "Demand a parlez? Negotiate whatever they're looking for in return for Ianto? No casualties, no fuss: swift exchange."
"GAS!" Toshiko suddenly shouted. They all jumped and looked around, sniffing the air to see if they could smell it.
"Where? Owen, fetch the masks!"
"Oh ... no sorry ... I had an epiphany ..." blushed Toshiko. "The lights in the mirrored room ... they just looked futuristic – but ...." She reached for the Archive photo and squinted. "... they're just artistic! They used gas lamps to light the room when they realised the Angels could manipulate the electric ones! That's why the lights in the corridor go off when the others go on: a complete switch in source for the entire level. The heat of electricity in wires so close to the amount of gas needed could have been catastrophic – that's why the other Archive rooms in the tunnel were unused: they were wired electrically, so no one could see to use them. That's why they're marked as 'Full' on the inventories!"
Toshiko took a deep breath. ".... so I say we take gas lamps down with us, just in case."
"Right," Jack clapped his hands together, not taking his eyes from the Archive tunnel still. "Toshiko: you get that full plan drawn up, you bright little spark of brilliance you. Owen: you're going to have to go into the Archives and find the clamps. Gwen! Come here and look beautiful while we watch this tunnel and figure out how to leave a message for our Weeping Angels. I think the stone has eroded about two hemi-demi-semi-nanometres since I started my watch. Fascinating stuff."
Jack was interrupted by the sound of Owen banging his head on a desk and groaning. "I hate finding shit in the Archives without Ianto. I hate it. Why does it have to be me?"
"Because the Angels don't have anything to zap from you, so you're a threat to them." explained Jack.
"Hmph." replied Owen, then moaned again. "What does this number mean, Tosh?"
Tosh glanced over and rolled her eyes, though couldn't help but smirk to herself over Owen's uselessness.
"That would be the date, Owen ..." she said. "... and you've set it wrong."
Owen listened as carefully as he could, painfully aware of every single sound around him. He knew that really, it was only theory that the Angels couldn't send a dead thing to the past and he could very well take one breath in the 21st Century and the next in the 11th. He squinted at the scrap of paper he'd written the Archive reference on, ignoring thedrip drip drip of something somewhere, the scurry of spidery-mouse and what he hoped was only rats' feet on the ground. The gas lamp Toshiko had managed to somehow knock together in under fifteen minutes (self-ignition included) swung unilluminated from his hip, ready in case the Angels should come and try and switch the lights off.
Not that it mattered. Owen's eyes didn't belong to a living thing, and the Quantum Lock couldn't work.
"C'mon, c'mon, c'mon ..." he muttered to himself, the keypad rejecting his hurriedly mis-typed passcode. It took it the second time, and he slipped into the Archive chamber and shut the door behind him.
"Any sign?" Gwen's voice asked through the comms.
"Not yet." breathed Owen, looking around and reading the numbers on the containers neatly shelved around. "I'm in the right room – I think – just need to find the right box."
"Okay. Keep us updated. Jack's going mental in the silence – oh, and Toshiko let him have a donut. He's on sugar, Owen."
"Shit." he groaned. "You coulda kept a closer eye, Gwen! – I think I've found the container."
He paused his conversation, and grunted as he pulled the container off the bottom shelf. It went back a lot further than he'd anticipated, and with a great effort he managed to pull it out far enough to see inside.
"Er ... guys ... the container's empty ..."
"You sure?" asked Gwen. "Stick your hand in and have a feel around. What do the clamps look like?"
"Wha – 'stick my hand in and feel around'? I can't feel, Gwen. Sensory preceptors are dead?"
"Sorry. Um ... are you sure you got the right box?"
"Yep." Owen shone a pen-light into it, and hesitated when something caught his eye. "... and we've been left a note."
Ianto's neat handwriting covered the little scrap of paper on one side, but the basic message could be found clearly on the other:
"Get back up here, Owen." Jack's voice commanded.
Owen decided that for once, he didn't need telling twice. He left the box as it was, pocketed the note and turned to leave.
The container had been pushed over.
There was one in the room with him.
Had adrenalin been released into his body, he'd probably have been more frightened than he already was. Maybe even panicky. As it were, he felt relatively calm.
"Oh my God, Gwen! There's one in here there's one in here there's one in here and I can't fucking see her!"
"Calm down, Owen. She can't hurt you." Gwen assured him as the light began to flicker. "She's just trying to scare you because she knows she can't hurt you. Criminals do it all the time ..."
"Those are criminals, not psychopaths! I – I can't open the door! The lights are going!"
"Your gas lamp, Owen!" Jack's voice barked. "And calm down – you're frightening the other kids."
Owen turned the little knob on the side of the gas lamp, watched the flint spark and the gas ignite, and held it up as the light bulb in the chamber went out. He pulled his gun out, though he knew it was just for comfort; like Jack and his gun, it was something assuring to hide behind when things were a little out of control.
Metal containers rattled on one shelf, then another, then another ... "She's playing with me." Owen realised, and Gwen 'mmm'd' her agreement. Owen pointed his gun and shot it about randomly, jumping when the container he'd left out tipped again. This time, it was indented, however. As if ... as if something heavy had fallen onto it ...
The room felt suddenly empty and still. Whatever the Angel did to the lights was reversed, the bulb glowing back into life. The lock on the door behaved itself, allowing Owen to leave with no fuss.
"Oh my God ..." he whispered to Gwen. "I think I killed it ..."
Jack stared at the two words, definitely in Ianto's hand writing, and ran them over in his head.
"They know our plan, then? How could they know our plan?"
Silence met him as they all thought, then Toshiko groaned. "We keep our comms open – Ianto was wearing his when he disappeared."
They rubbed their eyes and cursed themselves.
"Okay – radio silence until we sort this out. Communicate only by passing notes if we have to. I want the CCTV in this area of the hub off, and one of us has to stand guard by the tunnel. If Owen did kill one of them, the other three aren't going to be best pleased and will probably come looking for him – or one of us as compensation."
"What if ... what if they hurt Ianto?" Gwen asked.
"We'll cross that bridge if we come to it. For the time being, monitor the CCTV while me and Toshiko get back to work."
She nodded, and brought up the CCTV of Ianto in the Archives. He'd stopped moving around now, and he was sat on the floor in a chamber in the lower vaults, blindfolded with his knees drawn up and hugged to his chest. There was a nasty scratch on the back of one of his hands and she was certain a bruise was blossoming on his face. Had they hit him with something? Had he fallen?
Jack and Toshiko were staring at the note, wondering at it.
"It's not like Ianto not to leave some form of ... something." sighed Toshiko. "I get secret messages in my biscuits."
"They've let a harsh restraint, carved high." frowned Jack.
"'They've let a harsh restraint, carved high,
Thrashed, hot-tempered, incurable.
Drat! This jawbreaker conquers,
Ten valleys you've let in or whirled."
"Is that some ... attempt at poetry or something?" Owen asked.
"On the back ... he's scribbled some stuff on the back. The first line is 'They've let a harsh restraint, carved high.'. That doesn't even make sense. I thought at first he'd just had to tear some paper from a report already written on but ... can you make anything from that? 'They've let a harsh restraint, carved high.'?"
Toshiko took a scrap of paper and a pencil, scribbled out the phrase and looked over it carefully for a minute or two.
"It's an anagram. 'The Angels have the Archivist'." she grinned. "What's the next line?"
"'Thrashed, hot-tempered, incurable'." Jack read aloud.
"But there are other clamps hidden!" squeaked Toshiko, getting excited. "Next line?"
"'Drat! This jawbreaker conquers.'"
"Umm ..." Toshiko scribbled it down, frowned and scowled at it, tried a few words, then looked up grinning again. "The wardrobe in Jack's quarters."
Jack facepalmed. "Oh God! Yeah!" He took in Toshiko and Owen's raised eyebrows, and cleared his throat. "A bit of ... experimentation ... the next line is 'Ten valleys you've let in or whirled'."
She scribbled, frowned, crossed out and found her answer. "'Don't ask, I'll never ever tell you."
"GUYS!" Gwen called from the CCTV station. "Who's monitoring the corridor?"
Jack leapt to his feet, and ran to the mouth of the tunnel. "Nothing there!" he assured them.
"Not there!" Gwen called back. "There!" she pointed.
"Jesus." breathed Owen. Stood by the disemboweled coffee machine were two Angels. One of them was holding out a tie, as if offering it to them. Her blank eyes stared around the room, while her companion covered her face in her hands.
"Owen! Get your gun! Chase them back down there if you have to!" ordered Jack. "Toshiko; Gwen: it's your job to track their progress. They're only Quantum Locked if one of you can see them."
"We know, Jack!" shouted Gwen, trembling slightly. She hadn't actually seen one of these things before, and neither had Toshiko. They were so much more threatening than they imagined – and what they had imagined was pretty damn frightening. "What are you going to do?"
"I'm fetching a clamp!" he called back, sliding down the ladder to his office efficiently and pulling the doors of his wardrobe open. Sure enough, the clamps he and Ianto had been "experimenting" with were still there, and he bundled the two together and climbed back up the ladder.
He hurried over to the Angels, and whipped the tie from her hand. Clearly it was Ianto's; a token of sorts, to show they still had him.
"Gwen, help me with this: when I say blink, it's okay for you to blink. Got it?"
"Okay." she agreed. She watched Jack stick one of the clamps to the Angel that had held Ianto's tie, and took the handle with him to drag it back towards the Archives.
"Blink." commanded Jack, and she did so gratefully. She hadn't realised how often she needed to blink until five minutes ago, and was relieved that she was at least facing these creatures with some form of prior knowledge instead of turning up somewhere and ... being got.
They rounded the first corner into the Archives, hauled the Angel into one of the rooms and shut the door, flicking the catch.
"If we can get them all together ..." panted Jack. "... we can maybe ... build the mirrors ... around them?"
"We need the gas lamps." Gwen reminded him.
"Oh ... yeah ... – Toshiko!" he remembered, and ran back to the main area where Owen was trying to chip bits off the Angel while Toshiko stared at it quite comfortably.
"Tosh! Are you ... you can blink if you want ..."
She blinked a couple of times and smiled, no signs of discomfort whatsoever. Jack raised his eyebrows in surprise. "How can you go so long without blinking?" he asked.
"Pick a spot in the middle distance and relax your eyes. The lack of focus puts less strain on the eyes and means they're less likely to need the break a little blink provides. It's how people win staring competitions." she shrugged. "You don't need to look at them, they just need to be in your peripheral and the Quantum Lock activates. Er ... you guys didn't figure any of that out?"
"I thought about it." grumbled Owen. "Not that it mattered."
Gwen rolled her eyes. "Can we have a break from the 'you're dead and you hate it' reminders – please? Just five minutes?"
Jack and Owen began dragging the second Angel while Gwen and Toshiko watched, making sure she stayed solid. Gwen went first into the room they'd locked the first one in, and dragged her snarling frame back from the door with Toshiko's help so that they could get the other one in.
Done, they returned to their posts. Owen was back to his default job of collecting shiny things (though evidently the Angels were now simply covering their eyes and running blindly until they got past the reflective dam), Jack watched over the tunnel, Toshiko was getting gas lamps and stratagems finalised while Gwen kept her eye on Ianto on the CCTV.
He didn't seem to be holding up too well. He was talking to the Angel still with him, but Gwen could only make out a few words. The word 'please' passed his lips too many times for her comfort, and she could only guess the remaining Angel was taunting him and hurting him with words. Occasionally something would be thrown at him, and unable to see he couldn't protect himself with his bound hands or legs, and whatever it was would hit him square on the chest and sometimes on the head.
"There's only a threat from one Angel. Can't we go down there and fetch him?" she called to Jack.
Jack half turned in his chair, Ianto's tie – with a small bloodstain – slung round the back of his neck. "We don't know if they've found what they're looking for – if not, they may be luring us down there to help .. I don't know. Activate? Fuel it? We ... we need to be prepared. If we scare that one Angel, it'll only take a touch to a blindfolded man and he's gone."
Gwen nodded her concordance, and flinched as something else was thrown at Ianto. "She's angry." she told them all. "She keeps throwing things at him. I wish the cameras that low down had sound ..."
Jack said nothing, running the tie around the back of his neck through his fingers and worrying silently.
"Ten minutes and we're good to go!" called Toshiko.
"Thanks, Tosh." they chorused.
Jack sincerely hoped it wouldn't be ten minutes too many.
He paused when he heard the door round the corner crash open as the Angels escaped – not that he hadn't expected them to, the doors on this level were far too flimsy – but none appeared in the tunnel so he assumed they'd gone back downstairs.
Gwen paused a couple of CCTV images to see them, caught mid-step practically flying down a further tunnel.
She sighed, pausing the footage of Ianto sat on the floor.
"Jack! You might wanna see this!"
He hurried over, leaving Tosh by the tunnel temporarily.
"What? oh ..."
Next to Ianto was stood an Angel, bent as if whispering in his ear, hand drawn up to cup her mouth as if sharing a secret. Lying by his feet, however, was another Angel, sprawled and frozen in a totally different way than if she had simply turned to stone.
"She's dead. Owen actually killed her." breathed Gwen.
"They dragged their dead from upstairs." Jack observed. "Toshiko! Can you factor into the plans the fact that Owen can actually kill the bitches?"
"Do we have to kill them?" asked Gwen. "Can't we just lock them in the room? Is killing them necessary?"
Jack, Tosh and Owen stared at her.
"Okay ... try and kill them ..." she sighed.
Owen took Jack aside. "It was only a lucky shot I got that one before. You know how fast they are." he muttered.
"Get a machine gun, then." shrugged Jack. "If you stand in the middle of the room, you'll get them all eventually. It's just safer for you to do it than us."
"Fine, fine ..." he sighed.
"JACK!" Gwen shouted. "Jack, the Angels have written something on the wall in the chamber!"
They ran to the workstation, and Gwen pointed to the CCTV. Above where Ianto was curled on the floor, lying down now and breathing evenly, was written a harsh, stark message:
"WE HAVE WHAT WE WANT. NEGOTIATE RELEASE."
"Oh my God ..." breathed Toshiko. "That's ... that's written in blood ..."
Jack grabbed a gas lamp and his big gun, strapped a clamp to his back and bolted down the tunnel before the other three properly registered he'd gone.
Jack hurtled down the corridor, running flat out and not caring if he came across any Angels. He had to get to Ianto. He had to make sure he was safe. Owen's voice was in his ear, telling him to slow down, to stop, to think – but he couldn't. His one thought was his team mate, his friend, his ... lover? His Ianto. Jack's one thought was his Ianto.
The stairs didn't seem to end, going down and down and down into the belly of the Welsh earth, the walls becoming damper and damper as he hurtled lower and lower, the stairs giving way from metal to wood, and eventually to hewn angles in the rock. He'd never been down this low before. He didn't even know it went down this far.
He hadn't come across any Angels. This made him wary, and the exercise of running had sent oxygen through his brain, which was eventually kicking into gear. He slowed his pace, and took Owen's whining voice out of his ear before looking around warily.
The bottom of the stairs opened out into a wide tunnel, and according to the CCTV Ianto was in the chamber at the far end. Jack unstrapped his gas lamp, turned the knob and watched the flint spark and the gas illuminate. Holding it up, he cast its glow down the tunnel until he found the light switch, half hidden behind damp tendrils of a long-forgotten plant growing out of the wall. Cautiously, he flicked it and jumped back in case it sparked. The wall lights flickered on, and at the far end, by the door, stood one of the Angels.
Her face was stoic and blank, her back straight and her wings folded. She pointed at the door to her right, and Jack recognised that it was blood smeared over the door frame. "IN HERE" it read.
Owen's tinny voice was shouting at him from his pocket. Jack was fairly certain this was a trap, but he didn't care right then. He had to at least make sure Ianto was alright, and find out what it was the Angels had or wanted.
Not taking his eyes from the one by the door, Jack slipped into the chamber and turned up the gas lamp.
The other two Angels were in the corner of the room, one of them with her eyes covered and the other holding out a note, blank eyes harrowing into Jack's. In the centre of the room stood one of the secure containers – one that needed two passcodes to get into, and not even Ianto knew Jack's. The body of the fourth Angel was still sprawled by Ianto, and it sickened Jack to see they'd moved the body to lie in a very similar position to how Ianto was now. He was curled up and foetal, bruises peppering his face, back against the wall and shivering. There was duct tape around his ankles, neatly wrapped, but around his wrists it was messy and hurried. Jack could only assume he'd had to tape his own feet, while starting off on his hands for the Angels to finish without touching him.
Ianto jumped at his voice, groaning, his clothes bloodstained. "J-J-Jack?" he croaked, throat dry.
Jack dropped to his knees before him, lifting his head gently and cradling his torso. "It's okay ... it's okay ..."
"The Angels ... they want ... th-they w-want ..."
"Shh it's oka – woah!" Jack exclaimed, a piece of paper shoved under his nose. The Angel had moved, forcing him to read her note.
"DO NOT TOUCH HIM.
DO AS TOLD.
OPEN THE CASKET."
"I ... I have to come away from you, Ianto."
"No! Jack! Don't leave me!" Ianto tried to grab at him with his bound hands, but Jack prised his fingers loose and pulled him off.
"It'll be okay."
A piece of stone flew past Jack and clipped Ianto's forehead, and Jack spun around to see a cajoling Angel – all three were in the room now – clearly very pleased with herself for hitting her target.
Jack strode up to her, showing none of the fear he had previously felt for these creatures. Clearly, they needed either him or Ianto for something – and if he got sent back, he could hang around and wait to return.
"Do you want to end up like her?" Jack threatened, his voice low and dangerous. He pointed at the body by Ianto's feet. Behind him, he heard pen scratching paper, waited for it to finish and turned back to the other two Angels. He took the note from the proffered hand and read it.
"DO YOU WANT HIM TO END UP LIKE HER?"
The other Angel was holding a silver blade – Jack recognised it as having belonged to Beth, the Sleeper Agent – and pointing it threateningly at where Ianto lay shaking. It was dripping with blood. Jack also noticed Ianto was trying to touch his face, pulling at the blindfold and scratching an itch he couldn't seem to sate.
'Keep them distracted from Ianto ....' thought Jack.
"So ... you are all female then?" he asked. "Nice to meet you, ladies. Cap'n Jack Harkness. What are you? Triplets? Sorry - quadruplets, how insensitive of me. You're my favourite, by the way." He indicated the one holding the blade, who had turned to face him when he had allowed himself to blink. "Oh yeah ... are you the youngest? When you snarl in faces, you tend to have the least wrinkles. Is that a good thing or a bad thing in your culture? Do you have a culture?"
He blinked, and the Angels all crowded into the corner, another message added to the note.
"HE IS COMING"
"Who? Who is coming?"
Jack squeezed his eyes shut and opened them again.
"Jack? What are they .... aowwwww ..." Ianto groaned. "B-Be careful, Jack ..."
"Who's coming?" Jack repeated, blinking again.
Owen burst through the door machine gun aimed, Toshiko behind him and Gwen bringing up the rear, carrying a large gas lamp.
"Everyone! Blink!" Jack ordered. They did so, warily and confused but at the same time.
"GET IT AWAY
THE IANTO WILL DIE"
"Like you haven't hurt him enough already!" Jack practically yelled. "Tell me: is that his blood on the walls? Above the door? On the blade?"
"WE HAD NO PAINT"
Owen had come up behind him, and managed to stop him from breaking his fist on the cold stone of the Angel's rather smug face.
"Jack! That's gonna do no good!"
Jack stared him down a second, and then recalled Owen was on his side. He took a deep breath and looked back at the Angels, who were now slumped in the corner, huddling away from Owen. He frowned at them.
"What do you want?" he asked. Toshiko and Gwen were still in the doorway, undecided as to whether or not they were as safe from the Angels as Jack and Owen. Ianto was still on the floor, though he was trying to sit himself up as blood wept from a wound in his thigh.
"Jack ..." he croaked. "Jack ... the container ..."
"Ianto ... what's in it ...?"
"I ... I don't know ... it ... owwwwww ..." he groaned. "... it's from ... it's from Wardrobe ..."
Jack turned to the Angels, who were still cowering from Owen. "Let Owen look at his wounds. I'm not waiting for an answer: it's happening."
Owen crouched by Ianto as Jack watched, face pale. Gwen hurried over with her gas lamp, kneeling beside him and letting him lean into her warmth and comfort. She started pulling back the blindfold and gasped in horror.
"Oh my God! JACK!"
"His ... his eyes ..."
Ianto moaned as she peeled back the cloth. It was soaking and sticky with ... blood.
"His eyes ..." she gasped again. "They pulled out his eyes!"
They turned to look at the Angels, frozen in a morbid tableaux of hysterical laughter. One was holding her stomach, her lips drawn back over pointed teeth as she threw her head back and laughed. Another was covering her eyes, knees bent and mocking. The other was bent double with her apparent amusement, pointing a clawed finger at two small, white, red and blue orbs lying useless on the ground by her feet.
"EVERYBODY OUT!" Jack roared. "NEGOTIATION OF ANY FORM IS OVER! OWEN: I DON'T CARE HOW YOU DO IT. KILL THEM!"
Jack scooped up Ianto, and not sure whether it was morbid or not, pocketed his eyes, too. Gwen grabbed the container and Toshiko kept her cool, though now teary gaze on the Angels so that they couldn't move, taking Beth's blade from them.
"Wish me luck, Tosh ..." muttered Owen, raising his gun.
"Good luck, Owen." she sniffed, and closed the door.
The Angels disappeared, and Owen could hear them squealing, screaming and laughing. It was deafening. He forced his eyes shut, mustering his resolve, raising his machine gun.
"This one's for Ianto." he growled, and squeezed the trigger.
He kept it squeezed until the ammo stopped.
The sound of the Angels had stopped too.
At least he wasn't in pain any more.
Owen had pumped him full of painkillers, to the point where he could think clearly – if a little dopily – and breathe and talk without any discomfort. His eye sockets were redressed, and his eyes themeselves left in a kidney dish. Owen didn't know how they could put them back in, but that didn't really matter. The wound in Ianto's leg was too deep. They hadn't nicked the artery, but his flesh had been hacked into so long ago and allowed to bleed copiously, his vital signs were too weak and his breathing becoming too shallow. Owen hadn't needed to bother making sure he didn't give him too many painkillers.
The best they could do was make him as comfortable as possible.
Gwen and Toshiko were huddled up to Owen while they cried quietly, and eventually he guided them up to the sofa and left Jack and Ianto alone in the medical bay.
"It's not that bad." Ianto told him, his voice getting weak. "At least I'll be high as kite."
"Yeah." sniffed Jack, grasping his hand.
"Hold me?" Ianto asked.
Jack climbed up onto the gurney behind him, settled Ianto's torso between his legs and let his head rest on his shoulder. Jack tried to cry quietly, but his gasping sobs couldn't be hidden.
"I know, Jack. I know." Ianto squeezed his hand. "Me and the coffee machine in one night – how can you go on?"
"I d-d-don't kn-know." He sobbed harder.
Ianto would have rolled his eyes if he'd had them. Clearly, Jack didn't get that the coffee machine bit was a joke.
Around them there were several clunks and mechanic whirrs as the lockdown lifted.
"It'll be getting light outside." sighed Ianto wistfully as Jack cuddled him tighter. "November first ... made it through Hallowe'en at least."
"Yeah ..." Jack buried his head in Ianto's neck, inhaling his scent, committing it to memory.
"We didn't get any trick-or-treaters." complained Ianto. "Last year some kids came to the Tourist Centre. I gave them sweets and chocolate ... I was looking forward to this year ..."
Jack was rocking slightly, still cradling Ianto in his arms, kissing his cheeks and face and nose.
"I'm trying to speak, Jack." he complained. "I don't generally get to talk much, and when I do you always kiss me!"
"It's that deep timbre and the Welsh vowels. I can't help it." Jack smirked, even though Ianto couldn't see.
"You're smirking, aren't you?" Ianto practically whispered, a smile playing on his own pale lips.
"How did you guess?" Jack asked with a small laugh, wiping away more tears.
"Because I'm The Ianto – I know everything. I want that on my memorial stone by the way: 'The Ianto: He Knew Everything'. And above that I want a picture of me with my thumbs up."
"Are there any pictures of you with your thumbs up?"
"Fair point. We could take one now. At least we're not in any danger of unexpected red-eye."
The joke made Jack cry even harder, his rocking more profound.
"Jack ... you're giving me motion sickness."
"S-s-sorry!" Jack managed to cease his rocking, running his fingers through Ianto's hair and kissing the flesh of his neck. Ianto sighed regretfully.
"I've been thinking ... when was the last time I saw your face? I think it was ... we were sat by the sofa ... Gwen was on the lift dressed as a mouse. You kept glancing over at me and smiling in that way you do ... that way that means even though you're concentrating on the task in hand, you're finding time to also concentrate on what you're going to do to me when the task in hand is complete ... what were you thinking, Jack? What were you planning?"
Jack took a shuddering breath. "I was thinking ... maybe go to your place. We've only been once, and we were too drunk to remember properly." He dropped his voice to a whisper. "I was going to lay you on the bed, undress you so slowly ... take you so slowly ... I fantasised about it ... for weeks I've been thinking it ... tonight ... I put it off for so long ... and ... tonight I promised myself I'd show you how much I ... I ..."
"I love you, too." Ianto told him, knowing Jack wouldn't be able to say it. Jack hiccoughed and gave him a squeeze, wiping away more tears on Ianto's jacket. "Jack ... I need you to do some things for me ..."
"... my sister. I need you to tell her that I'm sorry I wasn't around. Tell her I was ... anti-terrorism or something. No! Tell her I was a spy. Like James Bond, only less promiscuous and even better dressed. I didn't pop by as often as I should because I was too busy chasing criminals on speed boats in Venetian Canals ."
Jack gave a small laugh. "Okay ... sure. Sure."
"There's about seven years' worth of birthday and Christmas presents for them in the walk-in wardrobe. Make sure you don't box them up with my things. Make sure they get them."
"I promise." Jack sniffed.
"There's some for you, too."
"Yay!" Jack perked up.
"They're all wrapped already ... don't ask why. But you have to save them for Christmas."
"Tell my niece and nephew how much I loved them, even if they were little brats who I couldn't stand sometimes."
"And ... one last thing ... before I go ..."
"What is it?"
"The Archive container ... what ... wh-what was in it? What was it they wanted?"
"I haven't looked yet. I'll ... I'll go and fetch it."
Jack ran as quick as he could, grabbed the box without looking at the rest of the team, then bound back down to Ianto. Ianto told him his code, and he typed it in quickly followed by his own. It hissed and creaked, and the top popped open. Pushing it back fully, Jack looked inside and frowned.
"What is it, Jack?" Ianto asked weakly. "Quickly! What is it!"
"A bit of ... coral ... and a note and ... and ... and ... a fobwatch."
"I'm going to die because they wanted coral and a timepiece?" Ianto gasped, his breathing becoming short and ragged. Jack didn't reply, staring at the swirls and circles and shapes engraved into the watch, knowing he'd seen this exact same kind of watch before ...
"Jack! Jack where are you?"
Jack snapped out of it. "I'm here, Ianto ... I'm right here ...."
He reached forward to climb back onto the gurney behind him, watch still in hand. It slipped a little, and Jack accidentally depressed the pop on the top, and the cover sprung open.
Instantly, Jack knew what had happened. The memories of Yana came back – the Master – and panic set in. Was this the Master again? A different Time Lord? Good or bad? What would it do without its owner's body close by? Was the body even alive still? How long had it been waiting?
"What's going on? What's that tingling?" Ianto asked, sticking his arms out, trying to feel.
Jack tried to close the watch, but it wouldn't go. The Vortex energy and the Time Lord soul were forcing their way out, so bright it hurt Jack's eyes. He grabbed at Ianto, holding him close as the Energy snaked and coiled and ... aimed for him.
Thrown backwards, Jack gasped and groaned on the floor, half shielding his eyes from the blinding glow. Ianto was calling his name, then suddenly ... silence.
Owen, Gwen and Toshiko appeared on the balcony, staring down at Jack on the floor and Ianto sat far too upright. He was moving slowly, gracefully. Tentatively pressing fingers into the dressing over his eyes, ghosting fingers over the solid form of his chest and arms and neck.
"This body is dying." he said regretfully, and pulled himself off the gurney.
The other three stared on in shock as Jack dragged himself up from the floor, Ianto – or Ianto's body, standing straight.
"Don't regene – no!" Jack cried, as the yellow, blinding light burst forth from neck and hands, engulfing them with the Vortex Energy. Gwen, Toshiko and Owen were covering their faces, watching through the lattice of their fingers. They could hear Ianto screaming and yelling, and Jack stared on, helpless.
The figure in the yellow Energy moved, crossing his arms over, pointing the Energy and redirecting it to ... the eyes. Less than thirty seconds later, the Energy dispersed, and Ianto – or the same body as Ianto had had – staggered backwards into the gurney.
"What ... the ... fuck ...?" breathed Owen.
Ianto was pressing his fingers into the eye-dressings again, but this time he was peeling them back.
"Ianto ... don't ..." Owen began, then stopped in shock as two sparkling baby-blues met his, and cheeky grin playing on Ianto's face. He pulled the whole dressing back and tossed it onto the gurney, then tested his leg to see if there was any aches or difficulty moving.
"You ... you ..." gasped Jack. "... you're a Time Lord? How come you didn't ... change?"
"Ianto wasn't. I am. Does that make sense? He was human, I'm Time Lord. See – two thump-thumps." He pointed at the scanner on the wall – sure enough, two hearts. Or 'thump-thumps'. "I didn't change because the extracted eyes served as a biological match for the form I wanted to keep. Fix the body, syphon the excess energy into them. Why change? I like this form. You do, too." he winked.
"What else does he have two of?" Gwen muttered.
"Yeah ... 'cause I don't get that all the time. And don't get any ideas, Mrs Williams – I know your track record for fidelity."
Gwen turned crimson, and everyone felt suddenly awkward – except Jack.
"You ... you fixed him so ... just ... go back in the watch. Go back in the watch ... give him back ..."
"I ... I don't want to go back in the watch." said the Time Lord. "He's in here, though, Jack. He's still part of me."
Jack shook his head. "Not the same." His voice rose high as he fought back tears. "I want him."
"I'm sorry, Jack. He ... he's in me, but ... you'll never be able to draw him out and keep him separate. Even if I did go back into the watch – which I won't – the human body I'd leave behind would be a blank slate."
"I don't get what's going on." Owen called from the balcony. "What was all the glowy-ness? Is he possessed or something?"
"I'll explain." began the Time Lord, straightening out Ianto's bloodstained and crumpled shirt. "This watch isn't a watch. It's a ... thing. This thing keeps a lot of Vortex Energy and the soul of a Time Lord inside – extracts the Time Lord from the Time Lord's body and leaves a human form behind with false memories and a false life. The Time Lord is safely hidden, and human potters about and lives and lives until the time is right for the Time Lord to come out again."
"Ianto was a Time Lord all along?" Gwen frowned.
"So ... Ianto's ... dead?" asked Toshiko.
"In a manner of speaking." shuffled the Time Lord. "So much of me was in him, and so much of him is now in me. All his memories are my own, and all my memories were always his. A melding."
"But you are the dominant party?" Jack asked bitterly.
"Of course. Time Lords are far, far, far, far superi – I'll end that one there."
"What's your name?" asked Jack.
"The Archivist. But you may continue to call me Ianto: I really, really like that name. Ianto Jones. Ianto Jones. Ianto Jones. Ianto Jones Ianto Jones Ianto Jones Ianto Jones. Rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?"
"So why did the Angels want you?" Owen asked, folding his arms and thinking to himself resolutely this is not Ianto.
"They weren't particularly concerned about the watch. I mean, they knew it was me, but I wasn't their concern as long as I stayed in the watch." The Archivist explained. "They wanted my little baby ..." From the box he pulled the coral, that had grown significantly since the fobwatch had been activated. He set it on the gurney, cooing at it. "This is my little baby TARDIS, full grown there would have been enough Vortex Energy swirling around inside her that the Weeping Angels could have channelled and absorbed and switched off the sun. Not that switching off suns is hard – all you need is a really long hosepipe, about a three planets' worth of water and massive fire engine. Or just a really, really, really, really big candle snuffer. I love that word: snuffer. Snuffer. Snuffer. Snuffer snuffer snuffer. Snuff. I like snuff. I'll never understand why snorting something up your nose in public went so out of fashion. In most circles anyway. Actually – fashionable for a different reason rather than in decline. Snuff. Enough. Had enough of snuff. Ha!"
"This is the most I've ever heard Ianto say. Ever." Owen told them, gaping a little.
"That's because he's not Ianto." Jack scowled. "I'll ... I'll be in my office."
"Jack!" called the Archivist. "Jack ... wait!"
"What?" Jack snapped, turning suddenly, part way up the stairs. They stared each other down a second.
"Nothing ..." sighed the Archivist. "We'll ... we'll talk when you've calmed ..."
"Will we?" Jack narrowed his eyes.
"What makes you so certain?"
"Because I know everything." he said bluntly, then winced at the pain that flicked through Jack's eyes. "I meant because of the Vortex!" he called after him as Jack turned on his heel and shut himself in his office.
Gwen, Owen and Toshiko all brushed past him on their way back to the rec area.
The Archivist stood alone by the steps to the medical bay, looking around as if hoping someone might be there.
He hugged himself.
Three days later, and the Archivist was still hanging around. It was hard to mourn Ianto when someone so like him – physically, and personality-wise – was wandering around doing all of his chores, dressing in his clothes and using his voice. He avoided them mostly, but would occasionally ask them something, or give them pointers on a case, or identify several mis-labelled or new things.
Jack never looked up when he brought him coffee or reports or paperwork. Toshiko would only 'mm' her thanks when he pointed out a glitch or left her her favourite biscuits. Gwen would occasionally smile if he found a missing link, noticed a mistake or took her a sweet latte. Owen ignored him completely.
Shortly after the incidents of Hallowe'en, Jack had researched Ianto's sister. As the Archivist had said, she was a false memory. As were her husband and children, parents, grandparents, friends, exes, bosses, workmates ... all were false. And Ianto had spoken so affectionately and animatedly of them; he'd believed them as real as he was.
He heard the cog door roll open and closed as Owen finally left for the night. The Archivist generally shut himself down in the Archives, re-arranging rooms, re-labelling wrongly labelled things and tending to his now slowly-growing TARDIS. Tonight, however, he took an extra cup of strong, black coffee to Jack, and set it down with some pastries and a hot chocolate for himself. He didn't wait to be asked before sitting down, sipping his own drink and waiting for Jack to acknowledge him.
"What?" asked the Captain gruffly, realising he wasn't going away.
"It's Tuesday." replied the Archivist.
"On the first Tuesday of every month, I 'randomly' bring extra coffee, pastries and some hot chocolate for myself ... and we talk."
"Me and Ianto used to do that. You are not Ianto."
"You won't give me a chance? I brought jam donuts."
Jack leant back in his chair, folding his arms and watching him with narrowed eyes. "You're not going to go away are you?"
The Archivist knew he meant more than just going away tonight. "You're not going to send me away, either though?"
Jack glanced away. "Why have you stayed?"
"I ... want to. I want to stay here. I want to ... I want to find what ... to find what we had before. We can find it again, Jack."
"You're not Ianto."
"I'm a version of him. With add-ons. A little more mouthy, and an extra thump-thump ... but he's still here. The core of him is still here. I'm still here."
Jack regarded him coolly, drinking in the plain back suit, the purple shirt ... the waistcoat. Everything that was Ianto's armour ... but even on Ianto's body, there was something different. Was the Time Lord somehow neater? Cleaner? How was it he looked so much sharper, so much more dapper? His hair was so perfect, his skin so smooth, his eyes twinkled so bright – and Jack recalled those eyes so dark with lust, wanton and glistening as they stared up at him, or down at him, or back at him. The memory of those same eyes discarded on the stone floor of the vault came back to him too, and he shuddered.
"You're not Ianto."
"I'm not." agreed the Archivist again. "But he's still here. And the part of me that's him is missing you so much. You're not the only one who's lost, Jack. I love you."
Jack hid his face in his hands, rubbing the tears away from his eyes. He made a sudden movement to get up, but the Archivist had anticipated it, moving quickly and holding him, not allowing him to run away. Tentatively, Jack's arms wound around him to hold him back.
"I am Ianto. I can be Ianto. And I shall never leave you. For as long as I can I shall never, ever leave you, Jack." He lowered his voice to a whisper. "I'm not the Doctor."
Jack pulled back a little to look him in the eye. He cupped his face hesitantly, examining the blue depths.
"Oh ..." he breathed. "There you are, Ianto ..."
They kissed with a new passion, an new understanding and a new relationship. For millions of years they sailed the stars together, hand in hand, smiling, saving a planet or saving the Universe: it didn't matter. They had each other, and they had their TARDIS. The caused chaos, restored order, freed the poor, set right the rich ... and tried to re-trend the use of snuff throughout the Space Time Continuum.
It didn't really take off again, to be honest.
Existence had had enough of snuff.