Summary: The 456 are Junkies. Highly intelligent Junkies, with lots of blissed out time in which to think up more ways to get their fix. Why would they gas a building full of people who may yet live to create more children? The gas is more than anyone knows, and it's reaction to one Ianto Jones is more than anyone, even the 456, could have thought
Ianto has live next door to the Rift since he was born, and has encountered so many different kinds of energy that it shouldn't be a surprise that an Alien drug would have an extreme effect on him, but it is anyway.
So to make things clear, each chapter is going to be about 10k, and Chapter 1 was a cross between an intro and me setting the stage.
Hope you all enjoy, and thank you to Guest for letting me know that my Fae scene only shares elements to Blackkat's story, not really too similar beyond that though :D
Warnings for swearing.
And I Wake Up
Chapter 2— I know the Pieces Fit by Tool
It takes a moment to understand that he wasn't in Thames house, wasn't in Torchwood's med bay either (no, that had been blown up), and he certainly wasn't anywhere he recognized-
He looked around him, shifting to hold himself up on one arm, and immediately winced.
His suit wouldn't-
He stopped, and took a deep breath, counting to ten in his head, and then he looked down at himself.
He was still himself, he though, as he inspected his hands, jean-clad legs, sneakered feet, but unless he'd somehow shrunk (which wasn't, actually, out of the realm of possibility), he wasn't the Ianto he was last time he checked.
Looking around him, dark brick and wetly dark cement, mulching leaves in small piles where the wind had blown them once upon a time, and a memory niggled to the forefront of his mind, of Faeries and knotted 'Kerchiefs, of earlier memories of hiding from his Tad, of finding these four amazing, shiny, textured rocks, and he immediately looked around him in search of them.
They were nowhere in sight, and Ianto had a moment to be inexplicably disappointed, before his situation started to sink in.
Sitting cross-legged, uncaring of his filthy fingers, he felt along his face, the rounder cheeks, felt into his hair and noticed it was a bit longer than he now usually wore it (but he'd worn it like this once, hadn't he?), the bridge of his nose didn't have a hair's width little bump on it from the time he'd broken it. His face feels young and elastic in ways he hadn't noticed before.
And his hands, his hands have more calluses from monkey-bars on them than from pens, there wasn't the hard-smoothness on the inside joint of his thumb or on the side of his index fingers from flipping through pages, but there is, strangely, the scar on the fleshy part of his right palm that he got when pulling half-converted Lisa from the burning rooms of Torchwood One, and a ropey burn scar just behind his elbow from landing against a red-hot bit of rebar after the Hub had been blown up.
But mostly what he was noticing was that everything was very soft.
What, exactly, had happened?
He remembered dying-or something very close to his idea of dying.
He also remembered wishing desperately that it was all a dream-but was it that?
He sincerely hoped he wasn't so much a problem child that he could dream up a life filled with Cybermen, Daleks, Fish-headed vagrants, and the kind of Faeries his mother always warned him about. But then, what did it say about him that he could recognize how bad it would seem, discounting the fact that he was entirely certain that everything HAD happened, and that he hadn't convinced himself that there were other stories to his scars, hadn't convinced himself that when he grew up he was going to fall in love with an immortal, crazy (fantastic, amazing) man named Jack Harkness, and die in his arms when attempting to thwart the efforts of aliens who were trying to get millions of children to shoot up on.
Had he even known what shooting up was when he was this age? What was he, 9? 10?
He got up and tried in vain to brush off the dirt and mulch from his clothes, and comforted himself with the thought that at least he wasn't in one of his Armani suits.
Looking around, he decided that the world was a very different place when a 6' man wakes up half the size of himself, or at least feeling that way, something shone from a pile of mulch besides him, and for a moment he wondered if, rather than imagining everything, he'd somehow been sent back to his 8/9/10 year old self's body, and in that moment so many possibilities burst behind his eyelids.
He could convince Lisa not to go into work on Dalek/Cyberman/Doom's Day, he could keep Tosh from having to experience the fear of being the victim of cannibals-could keep her heart from being broken by Mary, or he could go to Jack now and share his knowledge, (Jack would know what to do), and there were dozens-hundreds-thousands of possibilities running through his head in that moment, before years of sci-fi and adventure novels shifted things to what he could change while keeping things as close to the original timeline as possible, so as to not make his foreknowledge redundant. He'd heard enough stories from Jack as well, about his years as a Time Agent, and the risks involved in dipping your fingers in the time-stream, and he had another few moments to wonder what he could do in the years between Ianto-the-child and Ianto-of-Torchwood-One and Ianto-of-Torchwood-Three.
In the next moment, there's disappointment.
The shiny thing half-hidden by leaves is a crumpled and discarded can.
So it was likely that whatever happened in Thames House was to blame for Ianto's change, and so it was also likely that the 456 were still at large. Great.
And Ianto was a child, at a time when children are being round up, and when it comes out that, for all intents and purposes, Ianto is a lone, parentless child, they'd round him up as part of the 456's 10%, and that was not good.
Movement at the opening of the alleyway made him turn, half-expecting Military goons to be trooping down after him, their lone-child-senses tingling, the anti-Lassie of the universe guiding them, but it was a somewhat confused looking kid with blonde hair and in a deep red uniform. He paused for a moment, and looked down the alleyway with a lost expression on his face, and there was something familiar to him, Ianto straining to remember when their eyes locked for one moment.
Even at this distance Ianto could recognize Jack's eyes.
"Steven!" Jogging down the alley, he couldn't believe how desperately he hoped Steven wouldn't run… but then again, Ianto wasn't a 6' tall man in a suit anymore. He thought he might be an inch or two taller than Steven, but from what he recalled he'd been cursed with elbows-and-knees gangliness until he'd started to fill out after high school. But right now? Not terribly frightening.
There was a weary relief on Steven's face when Ianto reached him, more so when Ianto pulled him a bit more out of sight form the road, further into the alleyway. He hadn't seen soldiers, and there were a number of people on the streets (maybe the 456 problem was finished? What happened?), but Ianto didn't want to risk it.
"Steven, where's your Mum? What are you doing here?" Where is here, he wants to ask, but that's not the kind of question that inspires confidence.
"I dunno, just sort of woke up in the play park jus' over there." He gestures vaguely behind him.
"I was with Mum 'n Uncle Jack a little while ago, and now I'm here. How D'you know who I am?"
"I work wi-know your Uncle Jack. He talked about you, showed pictures. Which park did you wake up in then?" Without meaning to, his Trust Me I'm A Kid expression was on his face at the lies, and Steven's expression relaxed a bit.
He rattled off the streets the park were by, and Ianto was surprised to know that he was pretty close to his old neighborhood, pretty close to where Rhi lived with Johnny and her two kids, and contemplated going to her for a moment.
No. How was he going to explain it? Easy: He wasn't.
"What's your home address? I might be able to get you back home."
At Steven's skeptical look, Ianto shrugged, Trust Me expression still on his face. "I'm good with directions."
Ianto had led them through most of the backstreets he'd memorized years and years ago, and had even convinced Steven to go up fire-escapes on sides of buildings to go over easily-accessible rooftops
His fingers burned a bit from the short climb he'd had to do to get to the first level of one, and it was one more reminder he didn't have the calluses for that kind of climbing anymore, but for his pain he'd gained a safe short-cut as well as Steven's awe and respect ("How d'you climb like that? On Brick! Did Uncle Jack teach you that? Why hasn't he taught me that? It's so cool!").
The work-out he was getting while bringing Steven home was bringing forward the previously ignorable fact that Ianto was starving, stomach gurgling even as his straining arms pulled him up and over metal rungs, and child or not, Ianto-the-adult had connected being hungry to also wanting Coffee, and gods did he need a coffee right now.
Though didn't coffee stunt children's growth?
Ianto peered around an alley's edge, and thought screw it; he could stand not being 6' even if it meant he'd have to have his suits retailored.
If he got back to his normal age and height, that is.
They were on Steven's street, and Steven was in the lead now, pointing to his friends' houses and telling stories about what he and his friends had done in various places. Ianto smiled wryly as he listened. He and Steven couldn't have more different childhoods.
Ianto was the one who rang the doorbell when Steven found the door locked, and it took longer than it should have for someone to answer the door. Ianto looked around as they waited, checking for bugs and hidden cameras, and then checking from his vantage point if there was anyone hidden in and around the surrounding houses.
The door opened, and Ianto turned to see an Alice Carter who'd seemed to age about ten years past the most recent photo of her. He had a moment of horror—what if he'd been made a child AND sent ten years into the future? —before he saw the years just about melt from her face as first shock, then disbelief, and then disbelieving joy crossed her face as she took Steven desperately into her arms.
She was also crying.
Sobbing, really, and how long had Steven been missing, exactly?
Ianto nursed at a hot chocolate, watching wide eyed as Alice Carter moved around her kitchen, seemingly unable to spend more than a few minutes not looking at Steven, not able to keep herself from stroking his hair, touching his shoulder as she moved about.
"So who's this Steven?"
"This is Ianto. He says that he knows Uncle Jack, that he was shown pictures. Hey, won't your Mum be worrying about you?"
Alice had stiffened somewhat at the mention of 'Uncle Jack', and Ianto wondered if he'd be able to get a sandwich for the road when he had a chance to explain some things, because he wasn't entirely certain that she wouldn't make him leave once she knew he was part of Torchwood. From the files he'd read, Jack and Alice had a rather strained relationship, but that could mean so many things. Keeping eye contact with Alice, Ianto replied;
"Um, I'm visiting with Jack at Torchwood," Ianto darted his eyes meaningfully towards Steven, unsure how much to say in front of the kid, and raised an eyebrow hoping to get his point across. "He knows where to find me." He shook his head just a bit before focusing on his hot chocolate, wishing it was coffee, and hoping he could get some sort of food soon.
"Steven, you're filthy, go have a bath and I'll look after Ianto until you get back, okay?" Steven grumbled a bit, but finished off his hot chocolate and headed for the stairs, sharing a look with Ianto that he supposed was meant to mean something like "Moms, huh?" and half-smiled in return, unsure as to the proper channels for this kind of child-to-child interaction. Apparently it was the right thing to do (perhaps it said something like "tell me about it," but it had been a long time since Ianto had to interact with a kid like this he had no clue), because Steven grinned and bounded up the stairs.
"So. You know Jack. Don't tell me they're enlisting children now."
"Yes… and I'm not a kid, or at least I wasn't before today. We never formally met, but I worked with Jack at Torchwood Three." Well, he had a vague memory of an awkward brief meeting where Alice knows him only as the man bumming her dad, but he's hoping that she'll have forgotten about that.
(She has a bad enough relationship with Jack without her associating him with pedophilia)
Ianto set his empty mug on the table, and stood to offer his hand. "Jones, Ianto Jones at your service. I joined Torchwood One in London in 2005 when I was 22, Survived Canary Warf, and joined Torchwood Three in 2007. I am not a child." Ianto didn't want to be treated like a child, hadn't liked it when he was one, didn't like it now.
Alice was frowning, likely trying to see him as an adult.
"You're Ianto Jones? Really? Oh gods, that video… And what do you want? Why are you here? How did you bring Steven back?"
Ianto frowned. "Well mostly I'm hoping for some food right now, if you don't mind, I'm feeling a bit starved, and I came here because I recognized Steven from pictures, and knew the way back to your place." At her questioning look, he shrugged. "Eidetic memory… But what do you mean how?" It seemed like the wrong word to use, considering. And what did she mean by video?
Alice looked towards the stairs a moment, lips pursed, and in the silence Ianto could hear the shower running somewhere upstairs.
"Steven… Steven died. A-about five months ago, with the, uh, with the alien things, the 678 or whatever they were called." She broke off to grab a tissue, dabbing at the corners of her eyes, and twisted her lips into something resembling a smile at Ianto's wide-eyed look.
"Yeah. Good old Dad used him to drive them off; whatever it was he did killed him. His own grandson. My little boy." Her voice cracked, and tears escaped her dabbing to streak down her cheeks, lips trembling.
Ianto's only experience to crying women was to offer alcohol, a proper blanket, and movies, but he didn't think that that was the proper response here.
What was, he was at a loss. He thought perhaps the last time he dealt with a crying woman was one time with Lisa, but Lisa wasn't a woman who liked to be seen crying, and the only other time he could recall was a couple of acquaintances from his past, a few female friends from University, and a few times with Rhi.
Rhi just needed a hand on the shoulder, and a hug after that.
Alice jumped at the small hand on her arm, and that automatic smile mothers got on their faces when confronted by a child, the one that said "no, no, I'm fine, go on and play" and Ianto smiled awkwardly back, eyes darting to the side. She choked out a little laugh, and thankfully that wobbling lip thing (how could it be so alarming?) stopped.
"Look at me, being comforted by a dead man in a child's body…"
A dead man.
A dead man?
Ianto blinked when the video finished, warring states of emotions battling it out under his shock.
And this went viral?
Steven had come down from his shower near the end of the video, and at some point Alice had brought out a tray of sandwiches.
Ianto ate mechanically, eating two halves to every single that Steven did, and tried to get his mind around the fact that he was, officially and legally speaking, dead.
And unofficially a child.
He was confused, trying to figure out what was happening, and he was angry, because he had every fucking right to be angry (He died? More than five years of his life in Torchwood, more than ten years in the roughest neighborhood alongside it's occupants, and he was gassed? By Child-hopping Junkies?), and he was really, really embarrassed.
His last words—the words the world apparently knew him for—were him declaring love for Jack, and then being insecure about if Jack would remember him.
And where was Jack anyway?
And what had happened?
Ianto had started thinking that it had something to do with the gas that made him into a child, made the stronger argument when considering that about 4 months ago he was apparently made dead (or something imitating death? All he could think about was the Draught of the Living death, from Harry Potter, but what if there was something similar on another planet?) by the gas, but how did that explain Steven?
And if it was the same force that brought them back to life (again: Was he actually dead? He needed more information…), then why wasn't Steven a baby? Or an embryo, since Ianto was about 15 years younger?
If it was the gas (how could Steven be affected by it), then Ianto could start making something resembling sense, though it would include a lot of hypothesizing, and a lot of assuming that there was some kind of technology and biological advancement to make things so.
And even then it didn't explain how he managed to get to the alleyway. That specific alleyway. He recognized it… was that on purpose?
But, if it was the gas, then Ianto could only assume that it was a plan by the 456, and it sort of made sense.
Why… he pondered… would a group of aliens looking to get high off of children, destroy so many adults?
One needed adults in order to make more children, Ianto was certain that for as many differences as he could imagine between different alien species and Humans, there must be some similarity between that. Unless a species asexually reproduced, or perhaps developed off of another organism—but no, then it would be the same case. Why remove so many producers of the drug?
(He didn't want to think of children as a drug—especially as he was in the body of one—but to understand this, he has to look at things differently)
So, what if as a way of terrorizing the Humans (and there was an interest in terrorism there—look at the dramatics with the children. It was certainly not necessary, not if they were advanced enough to do it in the first place, but it would be something to do if one wanted an entire species to be afraid and confused), they found a way to rewind someone's genetics? With some sort of programmed or necessary time delay (like, say, four months), wherein the recipient of the chemical (drug?) appeared dead, only to wake up again later.
But why younger?
And it still didn't explain Steven.
Ianto also had to wonder if this was happening to anyone else.
He knew that the building hadn't been evacuated when they'd gone to confront the 456, and they'd gassed the whole building.
If 30-50 odd people got turned into children, then that would support the gas theory. He still didn't understand the age thing (why would they do that if they wanted the 10% of children well before the 4 months were up?), but…
Ooh, this was making his head ache.
A glass of orange juice was set in front of him, and Ianto noticed that the TV was on in another room. Steven was nowhere to be seen, so Ianto assumed that's where he went.
Alice sat down across from him, a question in her eyes, and slid over another plate of sandwiches.
Ianto was still hungry.
Had he ever been this hungry? He didn't remember having an appetite like this when he was younger… but would he?
"So…" he started, but didn't know where to continue from there. He didn't have any answers for either her or himself, so he took one of the halves on the plate (and halving his sandwiches for him. He'd already told her he wasn't a child right? He assumed it was some maternal instinct, or else having to raise a child had made the sliced sandwich an automatic thing) and looked to the side.
Well what now?
"Do you have any clue what's going on then?"
Ianto shook his head and swallowed. "I have some ideas… did Steven get exposed to any kind of gas before he… you know…"
Alice shook her head.
"No, they had us under surveillance for a bit, and Steven played football with some of the agents… And then Dad… Could he have done something?" Her eyes spoke of hope, and Ianto had to wonder.
Was it for an easier explanation, or maybe proof that Jack wouldn't do that to his own grandson—her son.
He shrugged uneasily.
If Jack had done something… Ianto drew a blank.
Back to the sandwich.
Why's and how's were floating about in his head, and he was trying to think of anything they currently had archived that could do something like this—the gauntlet. The Risen Mitten…
But Jack wasn't around. Hadn't been. Ianto woke alone (and he really hadn't felt like he'd been dead, just like he'd had a nap), and Steven had been wandering on his own.
"So what now?" Ianto looked up, the last bit of crust making it's way in his mouth and his hand automatically going for another on the plate. Glancing out the back door, he grimaced. It was getting dark out.
"If you wouldn't mind letting me stay the night, that would be appreciated. We should probably try getting in contact with Jack and Torchwood—"
"I've been trying. Jack isn't answering, and I don't know the number to whatever Torchwood you came from."
That wasn't terribly helpful… And he had no way of knowing how much of the Hub had been repaired, how many communications were back up. If the same number was being used…
He could probably get to the servers through Alice's laptop, but while he knew that the 456 were dealt with (he still needed to get the full story on that, but Alice didn't know the particulars. He didn't blame her; she'd just seen her son die), he didn't know if the government was still after Torchwood. He didn't know if Gwen was still alive, of Rhys, and while he knew Jack was somewhere out there, he was out of contact.
Since he'd been gone (dead), a couple of videos had gone viral, including the one they'd used to blackmail the governments in charge of dealing wit the 456 (he'd also seem videos of the riots that sprung up after that, and the beginnings of Denise Riley's political takeover were duly squashed as the world heard her trying to only save her own family, talking about some children being expendable), and a voice-over review of what had happened before (oh Martha, back from your Honeymoon and hitting the scene running?)…
(And his death)
So what if Torchwood was still on the radar?
Ianto wasn't going to worry until he was certain things had actually gone all to shit again, but telling himself that didn't make the little twist in is stomach go away.
But hacking back into the Torchwood servers might raise alarms.
Where else could he get the information?
Unless… Right. To London, and then to Cardiff.
"Okay… Then if I'm allowed to stay here for the night, I need to get to London."
"No… not yet at least. If I can get cab fare, or a lift, it would be appreciated. I don't want to trouble you, but—"
"But nothing." Ianto was startled by the firmness in which she said that, and she continued, "you brought my little boy home, a place to sleep and a lift to London is the least I can do."
Ianto swallowed, and reached for another piece of sandwich and met an empty plate. He flushed lightly.
"And the sandwiches didn't hurt, either. Now why don't you get yourself to bed then, hmm? We, or you, have a big day tomorrow."
Ianto frowned, and began to open his mouth.
"No, I know that you aren't a child, but you're in a child's body, and you've had enough action to make that body need rest. Do I really need to point out who would know better right now? Now off to bed with you. Go was up, it's the second door on the right up the stairs, and I'll bring you a pair of Steven's pajamas in a moment."
A yawn caught him unawares, and he only raised an eyebrow at her before he stood with a smile and headed upstairs.
He knew when he was beat; he just wanted to be sure she was aware that he wasn't actually a child. He called out to Steven as he headed up the stairs (it seemed like the thing to do), telling him what was happening, and he got an answering grunt.
Still thinking, he wondered if he'd be getting his answers any time soon.
Ianto stared at the passing scenery, the clothes he'd woken up in the previous day washed, and one of Steven's old knapsacks next to him on the back seat, 100 pounds in one pocket and a change of clothes and a lunch inside, including two sealed water bottles.
Ianto was only slightly tempted to pull out the set of sandwiches, but thankfully the odd hunger of yesterday was absent.
Steven was excited to go into London again (Ianto wondered if he remembered his death. Personally, he remembered that day in Thames house a bit like he imagined one might remember almost drowning: hard to breathe, struggles, and then, ultimately, you were alive and breathing just as normally as you usually do, everything else a bad memory), and Alice was bringing him in with his papers to get him back in school. She didn't think this would be too difficult, and while Ianto had some reservations, he'd had some time to cruise recent events in the paper that morning.
With so many children taken from their homes, while most were, by now, safely back in their homes, with their parents, a great many were still being held in various housing units until their parents could be found. Still more were being found in hiding places, or wandering the streets.
Ianto wondered if there would be any mention of kids saying they were adult in children's bodies, but put that thought to the side. If the time delay brought everyone back as a child then they would be confused and scared for a little while yet, and it would be a while longer before anyone started to think that there was any merit in what they were saying.
(If this was actually the case, that is. Ianto still couldn't be sure it was a result of the gas. He wondered what, exactly, had happened with Steven.)
Even if it wasn't necessary to hide form soldiers, Ianto was glad that he'd bought Steven and him back to Alice unnoticed.
With the way things were, people would have thought they were lost children and would have tried to help (while being utterly unhelpful).
But, thinking about Alice going to go bring Steven officially and legally back to life, he had one other mortifying thought.
He still didn't know how much had been recovered from the Hub (all the paper had to say about it was that things were still being cleared up), but if they'd gotten the mainframe set up again, someone likely found the time to plug in that he was dead.
His ears burned, and he desperately hoped that his message hadn't played.
He knew it wasn't fair of him, considering that with the message he would also be directing them to the USB drives he'd hidden with backups of all programs and files they had on hand, but really?
He pressed his cheek against the cool glass of the window and hoped that whatever was keeping Jack was also keeping him from seeing that message.
Alice had told him to wait before he left to go 'wherever it is that you need to go' but Ianto had started to see that particular look she was getting when looking at him.
He wasn't a child, but he looked like one. He may be Torchwood, but he was also the (not) little boy who led her son back home safely.
He may be associated with Jack, but her thought dead little boy was back in her arms, wasn't he?
And Ianto did look like a little boy.
And, Jack's daughter or not, Ianto couldn't (didn't want to) bring a civilian and her son to where he needed to go.
So he pulled out the notebook she'd thoughtfully packed in his borrowed backpack, and a pen, and scrawled her a note—Sorry, had to go, don't worry, keep trying to get Jack, will get back to you when I have answers, sorry again, bye, Ianto—and took to the back streets.
So long away from them, but he'd relearned them form CCTV camera's after so long away, and it was almost as simple as slipping on a favorite pair of shoes.
Almost, because it was like those shoes had a rock in them, and maybe was wearing a hole in the heel. He wasn't as fit as he was as a teenager, he didn't have the calluses to grip at handrails and crumbling brick, his arms were shaking, and soon enough he had to crack open that first water bottle, and from his vantage point on the roof, he still had a ways to get to the site of Canary Warf.
Of course, there was that thing about Torchwood an timing again, and Ianto misses two riots (one just starting up, one in full swing), only to make a wrong turn (it was the right way, but wrong turn, wrong moment) and run directly into the middle of a knife-fight.
Nearly directly into a knife, too, which was again one of those timing things since he'd only just noticed to stop in time.
The tall men (everyone was tall, now) turned at his abrupt entrance, and one barks at him to "fuck off you little shit" before thy turned back on each other.
Ianto turned to do just that and nearly ran into a third and fourth man, one of which caught at his borrowed jacket, fingers bruising, and held him so that he had to twist on his toes to keep from having something sprained.
The one who told him to 'fuck off' swore, and tried to run, and the man not holding him pulled a switch knife on him and got him when he ran past past.
Ianto just caught the rancid scent of a gut-wound when he was pulled deeper into the alley, and his heart was pumping, and his arm hurt, and goddammit seriously?
Ianto Jones, killed during negotiations with 456, brought back to life 4 months later, killed again shortly after in a knife fight gone much worse than you could have ever hoped.
Then, for one glorious moment, when Goon 1 (not Grabby Goon 2, or Knifey Goon 3) was pulling out a phone ("yea, we got a kid ere too, 'e saw, you wan' us ta—"), Goon 2 shifted his grip, and Ianto could twist and shove, using his momentum to drive his fist into Goon1's gut, reach and twist the hand still holding a knife, take it, and run past.
There was a dumpster pushed up against the wall, and he leapt off of another box in his path to get up it, despite the shouts behind him, and leap off of it and the brick wall to the fire escape above and beside it, knife handle in his teeth.
There was a metallic thump as the three below him slam into the dumpster, but Ianto is already clambering up the side of the escape, the aches in his fingers negligible in the face of one of the worse fears of his teen years, the burn in his lungs hardly an irritation, and then he was pushing against the wall in order to reach the ledge, blistered fingers screaming at the cold cement there, but that was something he could deal with later.
On the roof, he only allows himself a moment to rest, to take the knife out of his mouth (he hadn't meant to take it, he didn't want it, but some things just happen, are just automatic, and at least it wasn't the one that gutted that man), close it up into something safer to carry, and caught his breath a bit.
All in all, tat was maybe two minutes, and he could still hear the men below, so he ran, only just making the jump between buildings before her was letting himself down a couple of levels of balconies, jumping to reach a lower building, and running some more.
He made it about an hour's walk away from where he needed to be, and made a detour to the park, looking around for large men and heading for on of the few wooded areas.
His heart was pumping what felt like adrenalin and starch through his blood stream, but he didn't stop walking until he couldn't hear the babble of voices, cars only just audible, at which point he collapsed.
His hands ached, felt five times too big, but it wasn't that, his aching, cramped body, or his startling case of cottonmouth, that woke him up.
Blearily looking around, wincing when a patch of sunlight hit his face directly, he tried to identify the noise and it's maker.
There was a glow just out of the corner of his eye, and it moved when he turned his head to see it, and there was that noise again, directly behind his head now.
Carefully turning his head again (gods his neck was stiff), Ianto frowned at the little glowing figure there, uncomprehending.
The little glowing face, indistinct except for a razor slash of a mouth, tilted, and a little arm came up to give him a little wave, and that noise came again.
Tinkling laughter straight out of a children's tale, but behind it he could hear the rustling of leaves, the gurgling of a brook, the creaking of trees, a rush of wind through a roaring fire.
All these things, and what scared Ianto most was that they were appearing to him like this.
But he was much too sore to do anything but stare.
"Hello Little Boy…"
"Sad Little Boy…" came from somewhere above him.
"Afraid Little Boy…" came from by his feet.
"Fast Little Boy…" another giggled.
"You are from Before…"
"How, Little Boy…"
"Sad Little Boy…"
"Old Little Boy…"
"Yet still so Young, Our Little Boy…"
"Yes, We See You, You could have been Chosen…"
"You could still be Chosen…"
"But How is That, Our Fast Little Boy?"
Ianto shook his head minutely, and his lack of understanding must have shown.
"And still Slow Little boy…" One of the Faeries mocked.
"He doesn't Understand…" One takes up.
"So Fast and Slow…"
"So Old and Young…"
"So Good with Truths…"
"Such a Good Little Liar…"
"Sees so much…"
"Stays so well Hidden…"
"Doesn't See what has Happened…"
"Can't answer any questions…"
"But Knows so Much…!"
Ianto tried to keep up, and there were dozens of the little glowing creatures around him, all small and quaint and glowing like something out of a dream, and they were resting on his body, tugging insistently at bits of his clothing, flopping over the folds, and he could see a gaggle of them sitting on his backpack, sticking flowers into its openings.
"But still doesn't See yet…!"
"No, not yet, doesn't Know, doesn't Know…!"
"But no! How, Little Boy, could You be Chosen if You Aren't…?"
"But Could Be…"
"But We Cannot See You…"
"Except now, You're Here…!"
"How? How, Yan-toh?" They asked, cajoling, drawing out his name.
"How, How, Yan-Tao?" (The mucking up of his name shouldn't have irritated him as much as it did, but Ianto didn't much like people butchering his name)
"Our Welsh Little Boy…
"Gift of Gods…"
"Gift to Us…?"
"Our Little Boy Gift…"
"Gifted Little Boy…"
"Remembered Little Boy…"
"Missed Little Boy…"
"I don't know." Ianto managed to croak out, and he managed to pull himself upright, arms creaking and shaking form that small action, whole body feeling like one big bruise.
"Don't know, don't know…"
"But so close, can tell…"
"And Distracted! So much Danger…"
"Such Danger for Our Yan-toh…"
"For Our Possible Chosen…"
"For Our Impossible Un-Chosen…"
"We shall See…"
"Yes, Little Boy…"
"But what is it you'd like…?"
"Yes, Tell Us Little Boy…"
"Sweet Little Boy…"
"Hurt Little Boy…"
"So full of Ouches…"
"Full of them, Our Little Un-Chosen…"
"And so Full of Energies…"
The Fae climbing over his body like their own playground changed, glowing green like sunlight through leaves, and Ianto couldn't keep his eyes open, lids turning to molten lead, and despite his struggles they closed, hot tears escaping into his hair line.
"Sleep, Tired Little Boy…"
"Dream, Sad Little Boy…"
"Rest, Hurt Little Boy…"
As a last ditch effort, Ianto raised his eyebrows as high as they could go, a response from his childhood to tiredness, and in the small crack, he could see flat green faces staring down at him, piranha teeth bared in a grinning mouth.
"And We will Watch Over You…"
A little while before this, in the East End of London, a Man turns over on the grass of what had once been his back yard years and years ago, and frowns.
At the same time, elsewhere in London, a Woman is doing the same a little ways away from a pond she'd played by, years and years ago, and if the frown comes less easily to her face than to the Man's, it's up to interpretation as to what that meant to their characters.
The Man gets up stiffly, and, startled, checks his own pulse.
The Woman gets up, embarrassed, and wipes down her dress, smiling awkwardly at the few people walking about the park so early in the morning, and wonders how she got here, when last she remembered…
The Man curses, and gets up, looking around, and swears again, before storming to unlatch the gate to get to the main street, heart thumping in his chest. Last he remembers…
Even while sleeping, Ianto's mind works.
It works at a problem, reviews information, and determines the correct course of action, whether it is pursuing a train of thought, following up on a certain lead, or getting more or new information.
If one option is to get more information, it then reviews places where he might find what he what e needs, whether that's in the library, on a certain site, in the Archives, or, rarely, if no other place is available or likely to have what he needs, then his thoughts will turn to the likelihood of a certain place still standing.
The likelihood is always high, as it was on the fifth floor underground, and even so long after the incident, the possibility of construction making it's way that far down is so minimal that even if the area hadn't been reinforced to survive a nuclear war (or Daleks and Cybermen invading), that doubt is negligible.
But though this place is always an option for gaining more information on any subject, there are usually several things holding Ianto back from going and getting those answers.
Lisa needed taking care of, as did the rest of Torchwood. He couldn't check to see if the conversion process could be reversed, or any other possible way to try.
So he did what he could.
Jack and the rest of Torchwood needed tending, and London was a fair bit away.
So he did what he could.
Aliens may be breaking his friends hearts, there may be a strange alien drug going around, and Owen was dead, and then still dead but animate, and there was still Jack to take care of (except for the time when he didn't, because he wasn't there to be taken care of), and there were still a dozen other things to do on top of continuing to organize the Archives.
So he did what he could.
And sometimes, that's all he could do.
Sometimes, that's enough.
Sometimes, that's more than enough.
It takes both the Man and Woman a little over 5 hours to get to Cardiff, the three-hour travel time made longer by the fact that both the Man and Woman woke up without money, without id, and by waking up when the majority of the population were getting themselves sorted, but were still otherwise confused and by extension making a nuisance of themselves trying to figure things out.
But the trip would have been infinitely longer had there not already have been people who managed to sort themselves and others out, and had there not been hordes of people willing to help people who are as confused as they once were. As out of luck as they were.
And if that meant that they had someone to tell all their theories About What Happened to, well, that'd just be them doing their civic duty.
Ianto wakes up to the smell of Cedar and Lavender, and something sweet.
Prepared for pain, he rolled towards where he remembers dropping his knapsack, shivering slightly as cold air hit his wet back, and did feel pain.
But that's an understandable pain, as he rolled his hip and waist onto an apple.
There wasn't, surprisingly enough, pain anywhere else.
Ianto knew from experience that you needed to cool down after a workout; that you needed to stretch your muscles, prevent kinks, knots, shake out your limbs and keep moving.
But he'd pushed his body earlier, desperation to get away giving him energy and a willingness to push on that his younger body wouldn't have otherwise been able to keep for as long as he did.
And then he'd collapsed.
He'd gotten away, sure, and though Ianto wasn't sure that the three Goons would have followed him past the first or second rooftop, the area wasn't safe.
Unless he managed to be really unlucky, he was out of whatever amount of territory the three would look around.
(Well out of it.)
Scooting back, Ianto sat up properly, and saw a couple of apples on the ground around him, and his fingers clenched in grass that was much thicker than he knew it would grow in the cooling weather.
In a small burst of warm air, the back of his shirt dried, and Ianto shivered again, the hair at his nape standing on end.
Ianto looked around him, trying to spot either and both small glowing sprites and twiggy, branching green humanoid figures, carefully following swaying branches with his eyes, listening.
Hesitantly, Ianto picked up one apple and brushed it off on his pant leg before biting into it.
Sweetness burst on his tongue as he crunched on the pieces he bit off, and wondered where the Faeries went.
He didn't particularly want to see them again, but it seemed fairly obvious that they'd healed him somehow (and how had they done that? As far as he knew, the Fae had control over the four elements, and healing flesh and bone had never been something they were known for in his Mum's stories. Or Jack's), but he wanted to check.
If he was right, then that meant he very likely owed them something, and that was not something he wanted to leave standing.
Loan Sharks wish they could make a debt last as long as a Faery could.
Ianto finished one apple and moved onto another, just as juicy as the last, and thanked whatever power was out there (other than the faeries) that he wasn't as ravenous as he was when he first woke up in the alleyway.
Checking his pack once the second apple was done, he ate a couple of handfuls of the berries in there, and winced at the stains in the spare pair of jeans that were in there from them, and pulled out one of the water bottles from where they'd slid to the bottom.
The Faeries had filled the empty one up again.
Ianto shook his head. He wasn't going to be thankful for something they could do with a thought.
The more thankful you were for something the Fae did, the more they could ask from you.
He didn't have any solid proof that this was the way things actually were, but Ianto had put a lot more faith into what his Mum had taught him way back when.
Until proven otherwise, he was taking it for fact.
He only wished she'd mentioned something about these 'Chosen One's', because while it was obvious that something his Mum did when he was a kid kept them from seeing either him or his sister (or being able to concentrate on either of them, he wasn't sure), he didn't know anything about them beyond what Jack had said.
The Chosen Ones were human children whom Faeries would protect and avenge if harm came to them. Eventually, the Faeries would claim these children and take them to their "Lost Lands," something that his mother had told him was something like all the wilderness that was once in the world condensed onto one plane of existence. She said she imagined it was a land made up of eternal forests, where everything went bump in the night and nothing was restricted to shadows. Where you didn't have to go looking for beauty, and everything wonderful was just beyond the trees. Jasmine Pierce had left happily with the faeries, and Gwen hadn't been the only one to see her face in the supposedly faked Faerie pictures.
He didn't know what to think about him being an "Impossible Un-Chosen" let alone a "Possible Chosen".
Ianto shrugged out of his jacket and inspected his arms and hands.
Scrapes and bruises he knew he'd gotten were gone along with the aches and pains, and the blisters that seemed to encase his fingers from scraping against metal and rough brick and cement were gone, and he could feel the rough patches of new calluses where he'd scraped his skin raw. He rubbed his fingers together, scraping the backs of his nails against the healed skin, and flexed his legs, shoulders, feeling for any aches, pulled muscle, anything.
Ianto sighed and frowned, staring at his hands.
He wished he could believe that things were looking up, but he didn't know what was happening with Jack, he didn't know what happened to Gwen or Rys, he didn't know what was happening—what had happened—to him…
There were just so many unanswered questions.
A lump of worry sat heavily in his stomach
The Woman made it to Cardiff approximately 30 minutes before the Man.
It would have only been 20 if the Man hadn't had an epic hissy fit at the third person to ask why he was in a lab coat. He didn't know why he woke up in it, not when he didn't remember wearing it when… "But for fuck's sake, can't a man walk around in a lab coat without being asked about it all the fucking time?"
Both the Woman and the Man headed straight for the Roald Dahl Plass, the Woman reaching the Bay area first.
She stands a little ways off, watching as men in reflective vests and uniforms block the area off, removing rubble and debris. Staring in disbelief and confusion, she somehow makes it to a nearby bench before her legs give out, eyes unable to look away from the wreckage.
The Man, having worked himself into a righteous snit at the nerve of some people who couldn't leave well enough alone, gets there shortly after, and stares.
Then he swears under his breath, running one hand through his hair, and swears again, louder.
A mother walking by with her son's hand clutched tightly in her own scowls at him as she passes, and the Man makes a face at her.
The Man looks around, searching for someone familiar—there should be someone, right? There should be someone around, someone to explain the fucking situation—and sees the Woman.
"Thank God." He breathes, and hoped he'd get some answers to whatever mess this was.
"Tosh, what the fuck happened?"
It took her a moment to look away from the rubble, and when she did she stared with wide eyes up at the man. Her eyes got wider.
She pursed her lips, and her face crumpled. A sob escaped her as she threw her arms around him, and more followed.
"Oh my god, Owen!"
Patting Tosh's back, Owen wondered at the crying woman in his arms, and looked out at the wreckage that was once the Hub.
What the fuck was going on?
Owen knocked hard on Gwen's apartment door, ignoring the man that went past and gave him and Tosh a strange look. Tosh was holding tight to the sleeve of his lab coat, eyes red.
"Gwen! What the hell is going on?"
This was all he needed, really, after waking up (again) after dying (again), and finding out that his fucking workplace had been blown up (admittedly, a first), and Tosh had apparently woken up just like he had (he didn't want to think about what that meant), months after they both remembered the date being, and where was Jack?
Nowhere to be found. No Tea Boy either, but Owen could figure that the two would be off somewhere getting each other off or something… Honestly, Jack had no restraint, and it wasn't like Ianto was going to say no to the pervert.
So they were at Gwen's, where she was likely cuddling with her cozy little husband.
Her apartment was closer than Tea Boy's anyway, but now she wasn't answering the fucking door! He wanted answers!
"Gwen Fucking Cooper, you better get out here and answer some questions!" He pounded on the door a few more times, and Tosh tugged on his arm.
"Don't cause a scene, you'll get us thrown out." Tosh was still looking at him wide-eyed, something that was solidifying his theory that yeah, he'd died (again, watched himself dissolve until his eyes went), and then was brought back! AGAIN!
"What did I tell Harkness, I said don't try bringing me back after I'm dead again, and what does he do? He brings me back! Of Bloody course he would, and what's with dumping me in my old neighborhood? No respect for the dead, that one, but then, he can't be considerate and stay dead himself, no…" he muttered to himself, resolutely not thinking about the fact that Tosh was being quiet about what happened after the nuclear waste had flooded the room he was in, ignoring how her eyes darted away from him at the mention of bringing him back, because he could only deal with one problem right now, alright?
"Oy, oy, oy! What are you doing that for, Gwen's at—!"
Tosh and Owen turned to see Rhys, and both men stopped their shouting.
"…Work." Rhys finished weakly. "Weren—weren't you two…?"
Owen looked at Tosh, and tried, for a moment, to imagine her dead.
Not looking at him, Tosh offered up a wobbling smile. "Do you think you could call Gwen? We don't have any electronics… or money…"
"Hello? Rhys? I'm a bit busy—"
"Owen and Tosh are in the living room."
Ianto left, the few apples left stuffed into his backpack, feeling grimy but physically well, and paused just before he went into the park.
One last chance for the Faeries to show up again.
They didn't. Ianto carried on, finding the nearest street corner's to orient himself before setting off at a slow jog to the nearest short cut. There would be less of them the closer he got to Canary Warf, after all.
"Why didn't you say you got killed? When? How?"
"It didn't come up, I—"
"It didn't come up? What else were we talking about? How did it happen? That bloody Harkness, how soon after me did you go? What the fuck Tosh?"
"… Grey shot me in the stomach, when you were asking how to fix the problem with the nuclear plant…"
"… But." Owen frowned. "But Tosh, you were telling me how, you were on the com, you were talking me through it, what…?"
Tosh gave one of her small, slightly self depreciating smiles.
"I know, I wasn't much help, was I?" She didn't seem to know where to look, and huffed out a small laugh. "Look where it got you… I don't know how much longer it was after that that I… Well."
"Tosh… You couldn't have figured that that energy spike would happen."
Her eyes finally landed on Gwen and Rhys' computer, and she busied herself there, clearing her throat.
"Well, let's see what's been happening then—oh, hold on, this shouldn't be popping up here…"
"…What? Rhys, they're—"
"They're in the living room. Yes it's them, Owen's being an arse and Tosh managed to fix the thing with the blinking light and the thing that kept popping up—"
"I'll be home in 20."
Hope you enjoyed, and look forward to the next 10k (and yes I know this was only 9, but last chapter was 12, and next will likely be 9 as well to help me keep track of when I should be posting. By chapter 3 I should have 30k in this story, or thereabouts.)