Angelystor

Chapter 27 

Chapter 28: Radiant Beams From Thy Holy Face

Jack fell hard against the frozen earth as the shredded gap of time expelled him back into the graveyard. Immediately he rolled onto his side dousing his coat in a thick layer of snow and vomited the hastily eaten Mars he’d digested five hours earlier. Hands grabbed at his shoulders trying to steady him from the brutal retching of his stomach contents but he batted them away; he got to his hands and knees and looked at Gwen’s concerned face. She glanced from him to the fluctuating light expectantly; Jack looked back down at the discoloured snow.

Gwen bit her lip, eyes wide. “Owen, Ianto?”

Jack closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

—————————–

Ianto thrashed in the nightmare of his own thoughts, his body pounding against the sand bags in terror.

Owen tried to calm him.  “Ianto, Ianto, mate, wake up!” He held onto the Welshman’s shoulders to prevent him from harming either of them.

“Jack?” It was a dazed whisper, dappled in the slow rise of the sun.

“Nope.”

Ianto’s eyes shot open. “Owen,” he exclaimed, his voice rasping badly.

He took in his surrounding, his breathing becoming agitated. “Agroná she, she was here.”

Owen sighed. “Yeah, I know.” His eyes trailing away.

Ianto sprang to his feet, surprising the doctor. “He’s out there somewhere on the battlefield, she took his heart…” He looked down at his trembling hands. “…It was still beating, Owen, Jack’s heart, we’ve got to find him, we’ve got to try.” He hopelessly endeavoured to scramble up the side of the trench but his strength had left him and he could find no purchase on the slick layers of mud.

Owen grabbed his collar and pulled the weakened man back onto the sodden boards; it was too easy he noted. “Ianto…”

“No, no…” He fought against the doctor’s grip. “…We’ve got to help him.”

Ianto sank to his knees exhausted. “I saw him, his chest ripped open…” again he gazed at his shaking hands.

Owen crouched down. “Ianto…” He gently turned the Welshman’s head toward him, feeling the heat of his skin in the cool air. “…look at me, Jack’s not dead. He doesn’t die, remember?”

Remember this.’ The words sprang out of nowhere triggering a host of memories; a chorus of hysterical screams, abandoned fires, the pulse of emergency lighting blinking a violent red over the accumulation of corpses, scores of blank faces turning to him as he ran down endless corridors of death, the harrowing march of metal approaching from all sides caging his escape.

He turned to Owen. “I saw them in the flames, Canary Wharf, they accused me, they were right, I gave up, I didn’t fight and I should have. I can still hear them screaming my name.” His words tripped over each other tumbling into the fragile dawn.

Owen slapped his face, hard. Ianto fixed him with a murderous stare which was reciprocated. “Don’t fucking blame yourself for surviving. It’ll eat away at you, make you less than you are. You’re more than that, Ianto, not like…” He looked away.

“You could’ve gone back, you and Jack; I could have saved you…”  Ianto whispered, eyes full of guilt.

Owen stared at his muddy boots. He knew what Agroná had offered Ianto, his life for theirs. She had terrorised him with his own remorse, debased his memories and ripped at the frail stitching holding him together for her own ends. “It was a ploy, Ianto, nothing more. Do you think she would have let us go?”

Ianto went to disagree but somewhere in his muddled thoughts Owen’s statement sank deep; she had lied, pushed him downward and pulled on his flaws. He felt too broken to argue, too many pieces of himself scattered on the wasteland of his self-reproach. He shifted backwards to the side of the trench and sighed heavily as he rested against it. He hurt, inside and out. Owen stayed where he was watching the ripples of mud swamp his feet.

Ianto observed him for a moment as he tried to surface from the stream of rebuke. He massaged his head in an attempt to find some order, a stillness, some peace away from Agroná’s corrosion. “What did she offer you?” His quiet question stretched between them; Owen didn’t answer.

“When I said, ‘Agroná’s here, you said, ‘I know.'” Ianto expanded.

“She offered me a way home.” Owen’s reply was too quick.

Ianto swallowed. “And you didn’t take it, you sure I’m the one with the fever?”

His words pushed at the doctor’s own guilt.  “The price was too high,” he replied simply.

They shared a look; there was a moment’s silence before Ianto said against dry lips, “Owen…”

Heavy gunfire pierced the sky, the sound echoing through Owen’s mind. ‘Do it, do it, end the suffering, kill him, save yourself…”

The doctor shook his head. “The price is still too high, even for someone as shallow as me.” He stood up turning away from the thud of bullets, his voice loud enough to carry, his humour stretching thin.

“Owen…”

“Christ, Ianto, just leave it will you…”

“Owen!”

Ianto’s yell made the doctor turn back, at the far end of the trench, marked by a pair of stiff legs, a split was opening up.

Owen went across to the younger man and hoisted him up supporting his body weight.

The doctor bit on his lip eyeing the expanding swell of time. “It could be a trap.” He placed Ianto’s arm over his shoulders.

Ianto nodded. “Yeah, yet what have we to lose?” He gave Owen a sideways glance. “Unless you like it here?”

The doctor snorted. “And I always pegged myself as the optimist,” he replied taking a step forward.

“Really?”

“Less of the sarcasm, tea-boy, remember who’s carrying your sorry arse.” The escalating bubble flooded the half-light, the graveyard distinguishable in the balloon of its centre.

“Snow,” Ianto said with all the delight of a small child.

“The sooner we get you on some meds the better,” Owen countered, shifting the other’s weight. “You ready?”

They glanced at each other, Ianto nodded. They took a step forward and stopped as in front of them four shadowy figures materialised from the darkness.

“Shit!” Owen exclaimed, loosening his grip. “Do you think bullets will work here?” He wrestled the gun from its holster.

Ianto swayed on his feet. “There’s only one way to find out.” He looked around him for something to use as a weapon.

“Stay behind me!” Owen yelled.

The young man dragged the splintered remains of fence post from the mud. “What and let you have all the fun?”

“Well, make sure you keep the fuck away from me, I’m bruised enough.”

Ianto staggered slightly causing the doctor to stabilize him against the trench wall; he deliberately stepped a few feet away. Ianto frowned; Owen shrugged and turned back to the visible forms.

Do they matter-those dreams in the pit? You can drink and forget and be glad, and people won’t say that you’re mad; for they know that you’ve fought for your country, and no one will worry a bit.” The man with the crushed face recited the lines while fingering what looked like several military buttons threaded through twine.

“Well, here we are again.” Stuart Bevan stepped forward, cleaning his nails with the tip of his bayonet. “Are you going to use that, Harper, or is it just for decoration?” He gestured to Owen’s gun with a sly grin.

The doctor swallowed. “Step aside,” he retorted with more boldness than he felt.

The boy with the rat giggled. “Make us,” he challenged, with all the cliché of a Spaghetti Western.

Owen felt a sickening lump dissolve in his stomach as he fired; the bullet hit the young soldier with a gentle thud causing no damage.

“Our turn,” Bevan cried, his eyes shining with spite.

Owen put his body between them and Ianto as the dead soldiers collectively stepped forward. “I’ll try and hold them off, you take the chance and get your arse through the rift.”

Ianto swallowed, clutching the post nearer his body. “When we get back we’re going to have a discussion about this fixation you have with my arse. And…” He added hastily. “…I’m not leaving you.”

“Don’t argue with me, tea-boy, I out rank you.”

“The hell you do…”

Owen turned and quickly bundled Ianto towards the gap. “Fucking run you useless twat!”

Hands grabbed at the doctor’s arms twisting him round. “Nice try, Harper,” Bevan spat in his face, “but we’ve got an opening in our little unit here that requires a particular standard that you just don’t meet.”

Owen stumbled over his own feet as he was forced backward toward the swollen breach. “How’s this for a guilt trip, doctor? Be seeing you, soon, ta, ta.” Stuart Bevan smiled cruelly into his wounded face as he shoved Owen into the gap.

“No!” The doctor screamed, watching helplessly as Ianto struggled against the restraining hold of Charles Davis just inches from the fissure. He tried to catch his wrist as he fell past, his fingertips sweeping against the material of Ianto’s jacket before the rift embraced his body.

“No,” he screamed again as he plummeted through the decades in a powerless freefall ending in the snow covered graveyard.

Owen jumped sluggishly to his feet, ignoring the thick braid of his stomach he ran toward the diminishing cavity watching as it faded back into the night.

“No!” It was a heart-wrenching sob that resounded off the cobbled darkness.

He fell to his knees kneading the snow in a harrowing display of torment.

“Owen?” The doctor averted his eyes from the crush of Jack’s questioning stare, his focus remaining on the melt of crystals between his swollen fingers.

Jack swallowed; adjusting his emotions.

“They’re going to kill him.” The plume of Owen’s words stretched against the early morning shadow. “I couldn’t save him.” He bowed his head closing his eyes.

Jack stole a glance at Gwen who gently placed a hand on Owen’s shoulder; he moved violently away from her touch wiping his nose on his sleeve. “They’re coming back.” Owen stood, the dampness spreading from the knees of his torn jeans.

“Then maybe there’s a chance we can get Ianto back.” She looked from Jack to Owen.

The doctor turned on her, his face flushed with anger. “Don’t you get it, you dopey bitch. When he comes back, he’ll be one of them. Torchwood has damned yet another team member!”

Gwen stepped back, holding her hands up defensively.

“Then we’ll have to kill him too.” Both Owen and Gwen turned to Jack; the captain’s face was emotionless.

“Jack…”

“Don’t bother, Gwen.” Owen turned to their leader, his eyes boiling with rage and brimming with guilt.

“Ianto was worried when Agroná took your heart, he shouldn’t have bothered, it’s obvious you don’t need it.” He took a swift step toward the captain, despair fuelling his hostility.

Jack stood his ground. “If Ianto has become a threat then we extinguish it, it’s what we do.”

“What with, captain, sticks and fucking stones?” He prodded Jack in the chest with his finger.

Harkness leant forward with authority. “We’ll find a way.”

Owen shook his head, turning away from Jack. He slicked his hands through his hair and spun back. “You just don’t get it, we can’t fight this, she’s here…” He tapped his temple. “…In our minds, she uses our insecurities against us…”

“We do it every day,” Jack replied.

“Not like this…”

“Maybe we can fight Agroná with the manuscript.” Tosh moved slowly from the tomb she had been resting on holding out the artefact.

Owen snatched it from her grasp searching blindly through its blank pages. “This is fucking useless…”

“I’ve used it before,” Tosh encouraged, taking it back. “I might be able to tap into…”

“No!”

Tosh squeezed the book tightly to her chest. “Jack if there’s a chance…” Gwen pleaded.

Jack shook his head; his tone weighted. “You’re exhausted, Tosh, you can hardly stand, it’s too much of a risk, I’ll not lose another member…”

She held onto Gwen, her body needing support. “I’m willing to risk it, Jack, please, I want to try to get Ianto back, we can’t give up on him…”

“No.” The word made even the gravestones flinch.

Owen rounded on him. “So I was right, he’s just a part-time shag to you, a convenience to use and lose…”

“Owen.” Tosh grabbed at his sleeve seeing through the veil of Jack’s heartache; he shrugged her off without any effort.

“…One of Jack Harkness’s little sexual anecdotes to regale at parties. Well maybe he’s expendable to you but to us he’s…”

Jack punched him, solidly; the doctor crumpled to the ground. “You finished…” he stood over the fallen man, his knuckles burning against the cold.

Owen spat out a mixture of snow and blood. “…Family.” He sobbed into the frozen ground, finally letting go.

Jack closed his eyes and exhaled. He looked down at Owen’s stiff hands clutching the colourless snow in anguish; his eyes carrying the unbearable burden of guilt. “Go and get the med kit from the SUV and get yourself fixed up. Gwen…” He stopped the beginnings of a lecture. “Help him and see what weapons we have, we’ll need to re-arm.”

He held his hand out to Owen; the doctor grabbed his wrist and hoisted himself up. “I tried, Jack, I tried to save him.”

The captain pulled him to his shoulder.  “I know.”

“He would’ve given his life to save us, you know, we can’t just abandon him.” Owen’s voice was smothered in the folds of wool.

“And I won’t, I’ll do what I have too.”

Owen stepped back and looked at him closing his eyes in acknowledgement he turned towards the church gate Gwen in tow.

Tosh drew level with Jack observing him closely watching the yew; his hand trembled slightly in the dawn, its light illuminating the grief on his face. “I can’t afford to get emotional,” he said without looking at her directly; she remained silent.

“I still have three of you left, Tosh, to lead and keep safe, I can’t let one man…” He paused, swallowing. “…No matter how much it hurts.”

She turned to the yew. “Will you be able to do it, will you be able to kill him?”

He let out a bitter laugh. “Without compunction, that’s the sort of monster I am.”

Monster. The word devastated the soft light. He had hoped this day would never come.

Her hand wrapped around his, he directed his gaze to its embrace. “Was it wrong, for Ianto and me..?” His voice trembled slightly, seeking release.

Toshiko’s focus remained on the tree creaking under its decorated canopy. “To love…?”

Jack shook his head. “That’s a big word, Tosh.” His words froze on the air like his thoughts.

She smiled into the brimming tears. “Torchwood’s full of damaged people, Jack, destroyed before they even get here, alive but not really living, if two of them can pick up those pieces and find something…” She let out a gasp and wrapped her arms around herself.

“Tosh!”

“They’re coming,” she whispered.

Copyright ©RMC October 2018

 

Poem – Does It Matter Siegfried Sasoson 

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