Title: A Place That Never Rains
Characters: Jack Harkness, Ianto Jones, The Master (Mentioned: Gwen Cooper, Owen Harper, Toshiko Sato)
Rating/Warnings: PG-13: Character death, some violent imagery
Spoilers: Set during The Year That Never Was
Summary: Sometimes it's better to lie - to pretend, for his sake, that you can make better what can never be made better.
A/N: This was written for the Jack/Ianto Last Author Standing Community: Round One - Challenge One. The challenge was to write a fiction, between 100 and 1000 words, using the prompt: 'The Right Time to Lie".
A Place That Never Rains
Ianto was the last one to be caught.
Jack had always known he would be. The young Welshman had turned the act of hiding into an art form; carefully crafting his skill to beautiful, glorious perfection.
They'd brought the others to him one by one, hauling them before him and tightening his chains as he watched them die.
Gwen in the first month, brave through her tears even in death; Owen in the third, cursing till the end, yet never pleading for his life; Tosh had held out until the seventh, her skinny frame battered into oblivion in front of him as she pierced him with those dark, strong, intelligent eyes.
Eleven months in: he'd just started to hope that Ianto really could outsmart them all.
To hope is a dangerous thing.
They crashed through the door before he had a chance to fully wake from his unconscious state (it was hardly sleep, after all), hauling him upwards and ripping his wrists from the chains that secured him to the wall. The sudden release sent him falling to the floor; he landed heavily, face meeting the metal grating so that he heard, rather than saw, the guards dropping something next to him.
The way the soft lilt wrapped around his name was so unquestionably Ianto, so achingly familiar, that it sent simultaneous waves of joy and terror through Jack's heart. He scrambled onto his knees, shaking slightly as he struggled to hold his weight on his arms.
The body was heavy against the iron floor; sprawled uncomfortably as Jack eased his arms around him and pulled him inwards. He was skinnier than Jack remembered, his limbs spiky and malnourished as opposed to the lithe strength he had always had. There was a strange huskiness to his breath, the wind scraping against his windpipe as he sucked oxygen into his lungs; his hair, too, was longer, far too long and untidy and his shirt was torn, blackened, reddened, not the way he would have wanted it at all…
Jack swallowed hard to banish the thoughts as he cradled the young man in his lap, resting his hand against his heart to feel the reassuring thumpa-thumpa reverberating through to his palm. For a brief moment, the gentle vibrations sent a wave of foolhardy joy jolting through his synapses.
Then Ianto started to cry blood.
And Jack knew.
It was a poison he recognised from his career with the Time Agency; it broke down the walls of the veins and arteries, slowly letting the blood seep into the body and out through any crevices it could find.
He'd used it before.
It was a painless death. It was also a long death. As the brain became starved of the oxygen it craved, so the mind began to wander and slowly disintegrate. The person was lost before the heart stopped beating.
"I'm going to die."
"No, you're not," Jack brushed away the crimson tear that slid down Ianto's cheekbone, hurriedly wiping the red stain on Ianto's ruined shirt. "You just stay awake."
"Don't go to sleep, Ianto," he leant forward, cupping Ianto's cheek in his quivering hand. "Just keep your eyes open for me, yeah?"
He was far gone already. That's why the Master had done it. Ianto was little more than a child now, a frightened child who could feel himself slipping away. And it was Jack's job to hold him and comfort him and try to make better what couldn't be made better.
More painful than a gunshot wound; sharper than a knife.
"Ianto," he forced a smile as Ianto looked up at him, his grey-blue eyes swimming with an innocent trust that made bile rush to Jack's throat.
"Where am I?"
"Doesn't matter. You're with me. I'm going to look after you."
"They said I had to go," Ianto's lips began to tremble, blood trickling from his nose to mingle with the red of his tears. "I don't want to go."
Something caught in Jack's throat, cutting sharply into the flesh of his windpipe as he swallowed it back.
"It won't be a bad place," he bit his tongue, tasting blood. "It'll be nice. Just like going to sleep and waking up on holiday."
Ianto's eyes were wide, even as his body grew impossibly slack in Jack's grasp.
"Don't be," Jack knew he was trying to convince himself as much as he was Ianto. "It's a beautiful place. It's like Wales, only it never rains. It never rains, Ianto. And all the people you love will be there - you'll see Lisa again, Ianto, she's right there, and she's waiting for you."
He swallowed again, forcing back a single tear.
"Will you be there?"
"What?" the torrent was being held back by sheer force of will; blocked by the knowledge that he couldn't cry in front of Ianto.
"I want you to be there. Will I see you?"
"Sure," he smiled through trembling lips, brushing Ianto's fringe out of his eyes. "I'll pop by from time to time. And the next time I see you…we'll go out, yeah? You and me? Dinner and a movie?"
A tiny smiled danced over Ianto's mouth, lighting up his face as he nodded enthusiastically.
It was the last flickering of a dying light bulb.
When they came for the body, they had to prise the still form from Jack's grasp. He didn't fight – he couldn't. His arms were locked in position, cradling the cooling figure to his chest as if he could will it back to life.
"Impressive, Jack," the Master walked over to him, a smile cracking his face as Jack was strung back into his chains. "You lie like you breathe. You never stop."
But Jack didn't hear the words.
He wasn't there. Not anymore.
After eleven months, he had finally escaped.
With Ianto Jones: in a place that never rains.
I have to give a huge thanks to everyone who voted for this in the actual competition, as it came first in this round! I am completely and utterly gobsmacked, especially as the calibre of writing was so immensely high. It is a joy to be a part of this, and it is an absolute pleasure to be able to read and appreciate the wonderful talents of all those taking part.