Much like the Dylan Thomas poem, Ianto Jones did not go gently into that good night.
Ianto had never been an especially big fan of Thomas. He had always considered Thomas's work – especially that particular poem – to be more to Jack's taste, although the subject had never come up for discussion. Really, he couldn't imagine Jack ever taking death quietly, or with stoic acceptance.
No, that was his task, to accept death peacefully. Stoically. Which was why he was so surprised that, as the world went dark and the last thing he saw was Jack's tear-streaked and stricken face, all he felt was grief and rage. The rage was at the aliens that had stolen his life, and left his lover so bereft that even the words 'I love you' were agony to hear. It was directed at those who had tried to take Torchwood out of the equation and, in doing so, put them all on the back-foot, effectively diminishing their capacity to think the situation through.
Would he have gone into Thames House without any sort of precautionary measures (i.e., a hazmat suit?) had they been working with the government officials instead of around them? Of course not. And had the Hub not been blown up, they would have had the ability to analyse everything about the 4-5-6 and perhaps find an actual solution that didn't include dying.
Oh, Ianto felt rage at the injustice of it all, even more than he'd felt at Tosh and Owen's deaths. Rage for himself, and rage and grief for Jack.
In the end, he was never quite certain which emotion it was that brought her to him.
One minute he was dying in Jack's arms. The next, he was standing in a room filled with dead bodies covered with stark red sheets. Two places were marked where bodies had once been, but were no longer. Jack's, he assumed, and...
He looked down at himself, half-expecting himself to be transparent, but his body seemed solid enough.
"Oh, you're all there, sweetie. I checked myself."
Ianto felt a telltale blush creep up his neck and cheeks. He turned to face the one who had spoken and all words were lost before they could even form on his lips. The woman before him was possibly the most beautiful that he had ever seen. As she sauntered towards him, he had to fight an urge to drop to his knees.
No one, but no one got him to do that, except Jack.
"Why am I not dead?" he asked, opting for what he thought was the most reasonable question, given his circumstances. The unidentified beauty actually pouted at him.
"Well, what makes you think you're not? Maybe you are dead, and I'm your own personal angel."
Ianto almost laughed, but a deeper instinct warned him that this woman, if that was what she really was, would not take kindly to being laughed at. Assuming she had everything to do with the reason why he was not currently dead on the floor, along with all the other unfortunates, he didn't care to do anything that might provoke her into reversing it... whatever it was.
"Firstly, I appear to be breathing. I would have thought that breathing become somewhat obsolete at the moment of death. Secondly..."
Ianto faltered as he searched unsuccessfully for a pulse. He couldn't find one.
"Okay," the woman said with enough perky cheer to make the young man physically ill, "enough with the backplay."
Ianto blinked at her choice of phrase. He assumed she meant 'foreplay', but she was going on before he had a chance to even contemplate correcting her.
"I'm Artemis," she told him grandly, and Ianto's mind slipped automatically into archive mode.
"Artemis, Greek goddess of the hunt? That Artemis?"
"Very good," she praised him dryly. "One goal to you, sweet cheeks."
He restrained himself from correcting her, again assuming it wouldn't appreciated. Instead, he fell back on familiar, if somewhat redundant protocol.
"Is there something I can do for you, Ma'am?"
Her nose wrinkled slightly, as though she couldn't work out whether she'd just been insulted or not. Ianto tamped down on his nerves, wondering at the same time why he was nervous at all if he was, indeed, dead. Then again, he conceded to himself that it was possibly a question to which he didn't really want to know the answer.
"On the contrary, sweet cheeks, it's what I can do for you. You're angry about dying, aren't you?"
Ianto looked down, his mind retreating briefly to that sickening moment when he'd realised that he was going to die. He recalled the grief and despair in Jack's voice, and on his face, as he'd begged him to stay. He remembered the unfairness of it all, and the rage bubbled up inside of him afresh. This time, though, it was tempered slightly by hope.
"Can you undo it?" he asked Artemis, only to realise immediately that she couldn't. A moment later, she confirmed it herself.
"Sorry, sweet cakes. No can do. But I can offer you the chance to avenge what happened to you... if you want it."
Ianto's breath caught. It was oh so very tempting. The idea of revenge against the likes of that bitch, Agent Johnson, or maybe even against the 4-5-6...? But if he'd learned nothing else during his too-short-life, it was that nothing came without a catch, or consequences.
"What will I owe you for this... opportunity?" he asked, trying hard to keep his voice completely neutral. Far from being annoyed at the question, Artemis seemed to be pleased.
"You are good. Well, at least he can't accuse me of recruiting you without giving you the heads down."
"Up," Ianto said automatically, and immediately wanted to slap himself. Artemis, however, appeared oblivious to his correction.
"Okay, the deal is that you get one act of revenge. No holds barred. You can tear whoever you like to shreds, if you like. But when you've got what you want, then I get what I want."
"And that is?" Ianto wondered, all the while thinking that all he really wanted was to be with Jack again.
"Your soul," she answered, and Ianto couldn't help but gape.
"I'm sorry. I thought you just said that you want my soul."
She smiled sweetly at him. Too sweetly.
Pushing past the urge to freak out, Ianto forced himself to ignore the insanity of her statement, and think logically.
"Right, then. Say that I agree. What, theoretically, would you want with my soul?"
"Well, I suppose you could call it security. I'll hang on to it, and in turn you'll serve me as a Dark Hunter. There's a whole world out there, Ianto Jones, that you're not aware of, and you wouldn't have believed if you'd heard about it before now."
Ianto couldn't help himself. He lifted an eyebrow and spoke dryly.
"Ma'am, I was killed more or less by an alien fart. You might be surprised by what I'd believe."
She did look slightly put-out by that, but obviously not enough to drive away.
"There's a race called Daimons," she told him. "They prey on humans. The Dark Hunters stop them."
"And when you say stop them, that would mean...?"
"Kill them," Artemis confirmed. "Sword through the heart... that sort of thing. It's pretty simple, really."
Ianto seriously doubted that. Nothing was ever that simple.
"And I assume my life would be altered significantly as a consequence?"
Artemis tried to look innocent and failed miserably, though Ianto had no intention of telling her so.
"Well, there might be a little bit of a lifestyle change involved."
Ianto remained silent, but kept his eyebrows lifted. Artemis smirked unapologetically.
"You are so cute, did you know that? Okay, there are some rules to follow. Number one, you can't go out into the sunlight. Number two, you're going to have to be careful around the humans, because you won't have a reflection, and they might react a little negatively to your fangs."
"Please don't tell me I'm allergic to garlic now, as well," Ianto said dryly, at the same time running his tongue instinctively over his teeth. So far, there were no such fangs there, to his quiet relief.
"Relax, sweet cakes. You won't be a vampire. Look, I can get someone else to give you all the outs and ins. Just tell me, do you want to take the deal, or not?"
Ianto looked around the room slowly, his gaze sweeping over the numerous bodies. He'd wanted to protect people as part of Torchwood. Maybe, just maybe, if he took Artemis up on her offer he might be able to prevent something like this from ever happening again.
"How long will I have?" Ianto asked. "What sort of lifespan will I have?"
"Sweetie, you'll have forever, providing you don't get yourself killed, and trust me, you'll want to avoid that at all costs. Dying without a soul would be seriously bad."
The warning swept over Ianto's head. He heard the word 'forever', and that was it. His mind was made up.
"I accept," he answered firmly. "I offer you my soul. In exchange for one act of vengeance, I offer you my servitude as a Dark Hunter."
Glee lit up Artemis's face, and she squealed in a very ungodly fashion.
"Oh, you are proper, aren't you? All right, sweetie. You get your one act of vengeance, and then you're mine. When you're done, get your cute butt to New Orleans, and find Acheron. He'll teach you everything you need to know."
She reached out towards his arm, but instead reached around and closed her hand over his left buttock. Ianto yelped at the brief, painful burning sensation, and leapt away from her.
"What the hell was that?"
"Just leaving my mark on you, sweet cheeks."
"You couldn't just shake my hand on it? And why the rear?"
She grinned cheekily at him.
"I just couldn't resist. You do have a cute one. Go on, now. Do what you have to do, and then get yourself to New Orleans. And remember, stay out of the sun. By the way, you'll have a nice surprise waiting for you when you swing by your place. Go on, get moving, and no stopping to fraternise."
And as abruptly as she'd appeared, she was gone.
Ianto stood there for nearly a minute before finally moving. A part of him wanted to believe that he'd just imagined all of that, but for two facts. One, his butt hurt like hell; and two, he wasn't dead. He was standing in a room amongst dead bodies, which he should have been one of, but wasn't. Slowly, his mind began to work again, and his thoughts turned to alien on the top floor, and the innocent child trapped with it. He knew the child couldn't be saved, but he could at least be released.
As for the aliens...
Feeling the rage surface once again, Ianto went to take his one act of vengeance for the life which had been so callously stolen from him.
to be continued...