Hours later found Ianto locked in the Vaults, just like he'd asked. They made sure to put him in the upper levels, where there was nothing else residing, and they'd lined the floor with blankets and pillows, as they'd done the bunk.
He was sitting in the corner, his knees pulled to his chest as he rocked himself back and forth. At his sides, his arms lay limp, bandaged from his fingertips to his elbows. His right was stuck in a hard plaster, because he'd fractured his ulna, probably slamming it up against something while he thrashed.
In fact, a lot of him was covered in similar wounds, from bruises on his chest to strained ligaments in his knee. Nothing too serious, but painful all the same. Owen had put a brace on his knee just to be safe, and taped and bandaged his ribs to keep them stable.
They'd replaced his clothes with a clean white t-shirt and some track trousers, and now there he sat, rocking back and forth and muttering to himself. He didn't even seem to know that Jack was there, leaning against the stone wall opposite his cell. He'd been in there for hours, since Owen had finished patching him up, and all the time, Jack had been watching him.
It was odd, the way he was acting. At times, he would be like this now, clearly scared and shaking; sometimes he'd even get up, and stumble around the cell – the brace Owen had put on his knee made walking awkward.
But then there were times where he would freeze. His eyes would open and stare straight ahead, but at nothing at all, and his face would twist in horror. Those were the times he would talk.
In those times, he wanted nothing more than to open the cell and hold his lover, but it only seemed to upset Ianto more when there was someone in there with him. Jack could tell he wanted the comfort, the way his eyes pleaded for it, but there was something else there, too. He was afraid to let people close to him, not because he was afraid of being hurt, but because he was afraid of doing the hurting.
"Please run." The noise shook Jack from his daze, and his eyes fell back into focus on the huddled form in the cell. For a moment, he thought he was talking to him, and he was about to assure him that he wasn't going anywhere, but then he realized that Ianto was doing it again. He was staring off into space, like his target was thousands of miles away.
He straightened up, walking up to the glass door and pressing his hand against it. Ianto hadn't spoken so clearly before when this was happening. He'd muttered to himself, but he hadn't spoken.
"I didn't do that," Ianto whispered, horrified. He rose to his feet, then, his eyes darting from side to side. "My…diary!" he cried. His eyes dropped to the ground, like he was watching something be discarded. "No, please! I didn't…it wasn't…Jack has to know!"
His ears piqued at the mention of his name, and he stepped closer to the wall. Ianto was seeing something that wasn't there; he was seeing one of the memories that had him so petrified of himself.
Suddenly, Ianto looked confused. He looked one way, then the other, his eyes nearly falling directly on Jack, before turning away again. His eyes fell to the ground, to the wall where he'd been sitting only moments before, and suddenly his legs seemed to give out from beneath him. He fell back against the opposite wall, and he screamed, his eyes wide with horror. Jack couldn't see what he was seeing, but he had a pretty good idea of what it was. He was crying, his voice loud and agonized, as he hugged his knees to his chest.
Jack couldn't take it anymore. The agony in his voice made Jack's heart ache, and before he could even come to a decision, he was opening the door and stepping quickly inside. He dropped to a knee in front of Ianto and put his hands on his shoulder, forcing him to look up. It was time to get answers.
"What do you see, Yan?"
Ianto wasn't looking at him, but still at the wall, his eyes wet with tears and filled with fear. "I killed her," he whimpered, and then he turned, his head cocking to the side like he'd heard something.
"What is it?" Jack pressed, moving his hands to cup Ianto's face between them.
"Can't you hear it?" he whispered. "I can. All the time. It wants me to remember."
There had to be a reason for it. Ianto was hearing voices, but there had to be a reason for it. He refused to believe that his Ianto was going insane; there was always a reason for it. "What is it saying?"
Finally, Ianto's eyes came to rest, hauntingly, on Jack, as his lips formed around two words. "Remember it," he breathed.
And it was those words that finally made everything click in Jack's head. The note he'd left himself, the items they'd found – everything came back to him in a rush. He could see himself in these very same cells, talking to someone, only there was no one there. He could hear the vaguest whisper, but there was no timbre to the voice, no face to the words. It was like there was a part of the memory that just wasn't there, but all the same, there was enough.
Remember it, he heard. Remember it.
He stood up with a start. The wiped records – they were never cleared entirely. He still had them; he hadn't looked at them before, because he'd told himself not to. If anyone had a good reason for doing anything, it was himself. But now, there were more important things than listening to himself. Ianto was more important than anything he'd ever had to say; he had to fix it.
"I can fix this, Yan," he breathed, the realization suddenly sparking in his head like fireworks. He didn't know how he knew, but the answer to whatever was wrong with Ianto, it was on those tapes. He would find out, and he would make things right. "I know how to fix this."
And with that, he turned on his heel and ran. He barely even heard the door of the vault close behind him as he tore up the stairs, up, up, and into his office where he nearly collapsed in his seat. His hands threw things from his desk, scrabbling for the keyboard to control his CCTVs.
It took some searching, routing through old files and locked bins, until finally he found them. The ghosts of the two days they'd forgotten, encoded and encrypted, secrets written in ones and zeros.
With one last glance at the note he'd left himself – extenuating circumstances, these were – he flicked them on. His fingers danced over the keys of the keyboard, pulling up one window at a time, searching through this file and that, until he found the one he was looking for.
There was Ianto, holding his diary in his hands, a confused look on his face. He fast-forwarded, until something caught his eye. Ianto was on his feet, looking nervously at something. At first, Jack could see nothing, but then a specter materialized. It had no form, no definable shape, but it was there all the same, like the voice had been in Jack's head.
"What's wrong?" he heard, and it was the voice from before. It wasn't identifiable; it had no recognizable tone or timbre, it just was. Ianto jumped away from the specter. "My diary," he breathed, and Jack watched as the book rose, seemingly on its own, on the opposite end of the couch where Ianto's eyes were fixed. "You're not in it." The diary opened, and pages turned. "Everyone else is. Why would I leave you out when you've been here so long?" The diary closed. "Like I'm remembering a man who doesn't exist."
Something in the specter weakened; it loses some of its form, and Ianto watches. "What are you?"
Suddenly, Ianto is slammed against the wall by the specter, and Jack can't help wondering if that's truly where the bruises came from, the cracked ribs. He can tell it isn't something Ianto is doing to himself; the way his feet are lifted from the ground, the way he is propelled backwards…there is someone – something – else.
"Cross me, and I will fill you full of fake memories until your head is on fire, because that's how I exist."
And then it all makes sense. The box, the trinket he found marked "Adam's Property." It made sense why the team was missing two days of their lives, and why Ianto was afraid of something he hadn't done. Something had played with their memories, rooting itself in their thoughts, and to fix it, Jack had wiped everything clear. It was why he couldn't define the voice, couldn't see the specter, because it didn't really exist. It wasn't there anymore, because they had forgotten it, and now Ianto was left with nothing by the memories it had fed to him.
He jumped from his seat, running full speed back to the Vaults. Ianto had to see this. He had to understand what was happening, to see that these memories weren't real. He had to know that he hadn't hurt anyone, because it was tearing him apart.
He skidded to a stop in the Vaults, punching the codes on the lock of the door. He didn't even give it time to slide open all the way before he ran inside, grabbing up Ianto by his shoulders and pulling him out.
Once he caught on to what Jack was doing, Ianto started to struggle, fighting to get himself back in the Vault.
"You need to see this," Jack told him firmly as he wrestled him back out of the Vaults.
"Let me go!" Ianto cried, twisting and thrashing. Jack had him around the waist, half dragging, half carrying the squirming young man up the stairs to his office. Even hysteria couldn't give enough strength to overpower Jack's adrenaline-powered hold.
Jack wrangled him up into his office, forcing him in front of the screen he'd been watching only moments before. He started the recording, holding Ianto by his shoulders.
"No!" Ianto shouted, trying to wrench himself away. What if Jack had seen? What if his deeds had been recorded, and if Jack had found them and, God, he couldn't bear to see it. He tried desperately to get away, but Jack held firm.
"Come here," he said. "Come here, just look." He pointed to the monitor, as Ianto was forced to the ground by this formless specter on the screen. "Look."
"Remember it," said the Voice, but this time, it wasn't just in Ianto's head. This time, it was coming through the speakers on the screen, and this time, Jack heard it too. "Remember it. Remember it. Remember it." The Ianto on the screen screamed as he was forced to the ground by the weight of it all, as he was assaulted by the memories the specter was forcing in to his head.
Ianto sobbed. The voice…it was there, over and over again. It was repeating, and he couldn't escape it. Jack wouldn't let him.
Holding him tight, Jack pressed a kiss to the side of his head. "You didn't do anything, see, Yan?" he said, putting his hand over Ianto's chest. He could feel the younger man's heart thudding quickly against his palm, but he'd stopped struggling. "Something changed you, played with your memories. You're not a murderer."
"But it was so real," Ianto protested, tears streaming down his face in thick rivulets. "I saw it happen."
"You thought you saw it. You thought you remembered it, but it was just this thing."
"But why can't I remember that, then?" Ianto demanded. "I don't remember any of this."
"That's not true," Jack said. "You do. You said those words, back in the Vault. You said it: 'Remember it'."
Ianto's face contorted into a mask of despair. He wanted to badly to believe what Jack was telling him; he wanted to believe that he wasn't a murderer, just like Jack believed, but it couldn't just be coincidence. "Two days, Jack! I don't remember two days!"
"Because I made you forget them," Jack told him, turning Ianto away from the screen to look him in the eyes. "This thing, it lived out of our memories of it. Out of the memories it gave us. To kill it, we all had to forget."
"Then why am I remembering it?" Ianto whimpered, his fists clenching in Jack's shirt, his fingers twisting in Jack's braces.
"You're not remembering it," Jack said. "It's gone. That's why it has no voice, no shape. We did kill it, Ianto. What you're remembering…it's like a scar. It hurt you, Ianto, whatever that thing was. It left scars, and I didn't see it, and I'm so, so sorry." He pressed his hand to Ianto's cheek, brushing away the tears wetting it. "You didn't hurt anyone, Ianto; you're not a monster."
"But I saw it," Ianto protested weakly. "I saw my hands around their necks, I felt it. I saw the life drain out of their eyes."
"Because he made you see it, Yan. You're not a murderer. Please, just trust me." He pulled Ianto into a hug, wrapping his arms around him and stroking his fingers through his hair as Ianto fell into harsh, wracking sobs. "Trust me when I say you're innocent. Just trust me, and let me help."
For a long, heart-stopping moment, Ianto didn't say anything, and when he did, it was enough to bring tears to Jack's own eyes. "It hurts," he choked out. "I thought I deserved it."
Jack rocked him on his feet, his hand cradling Ianto's head as the younger man cried into his shoulder. "Shh," he soothed. "You don't deserve any of this. Maybe we can go see Owen, see if he can help any, okay?"
Ianto stiffened. Even in his daze, he hadn't forgotten the hours he spent on that autopsy table, Jack holding him tight as Owen picked the glass shards out of his arm. Twenty-three stitches it had taken to piece him back together, and then Owen had had to right his arm to put it in the plaster. Add that to being stripped naked with nothing but a cloth in his lap while they picked over the rest of him with the proverbial fine-tooth comb, and it was understandable why he wasn't too keen on the idea of going back there.
If only we'd gotten back just a few minutes sooner. He wouldn't have taken those damn pills. If he hadn't taken the codeine, they could have just sedated him. He wouldn't have had to suffer through that, but then, if he had been sedated, he might never have said the words that helped Jack make the connection.
After a little while with no response from Ianto, the younger man pulled back. Just enough to see Jack's face, he noticed, but not enough to be free of Jack's arms. He wanted the contact, needed it, and now he wasn't too afraid to allow it. "Where are the others?" he whispered. He didn't want to be around them just yet; God only knew what they'd seen, what they thought of him now. He didn't think he could bear it just yet.
Jack smiled soothingly. This was progress, wasn't it? Talking about something else, letting Jack hold him. He was still shaken and upset, sure, but he was starting to relax, and Jack allowed himself to think, just maybe, he'd gotten through to him. "I told Tosh and Gwen to go home; it's about five in the morning. Owen's hanging around here somewhere. Do you want to go see him about maybe getting something to help you sleep?" It had been about six hours, now, and he wasn't showing any signs of an overdose. If nothing else, maybe he could give him a local or something to help with his arms. From the way he was cradling the one in the plaster, Jack got the feeling it was hurting him pretty bad.
But Ianto shook his head. "Don't want to go anywhere," he mumbled, leaning his head against Jack's chest. It seemed that the adrenaline was wearing down: all that hysteria had really taken it out of him. He could only go so long; days without sleep, without rest, it had left him worn down, and now, as he finally started to relax in Jack's arms, as his fears had finally been lifted, he was fading fast.
"Let's at least get you somewhere you can sleep, huh?"
At that suggestion, Ianto nodded, a grateful expression stretching across his face. It was almost a smile, and the sight of it released the vise that seemed to have wrapped itself around his chest. The relief was unimaginable.
With Ianto's semi-broken arm, there was no getting him down to Jack's bed, and he definitely wasn't putting him back in the Vaults. That left the sofa, but Jack wondered if Ianto wouldn't be a little nervous about that couch, given that was where the specter had cornered him. It didn't leave him many options.
There was always the air mattress; it would fit well enough in the space behind his desk, and that way he could keep Ianto close and maybe even sort through the small mountain of paperwork that had piled up while he'd been otherwise occupied. He'd go ahead and put in for a week off work for Ianto, too, just so they could have it on file.
"You mind hanging out here for just a few minutes?" he asked, and when Ianto shook his head, he helped him into his office chair. Before he left, he couldn't help it – his eyes did a quick scan of his desk to make sure there was nothing sharp or potentially harmful.
And then he began his scavenger hunt.