The dream begins the way it always does. She’s coming back from an errand in town- she doesn’t even remember what it was anymore. She sees Andrew from across the street, in front of Torchwood Tower. He’s come to take her to lunch, to celebrate his little sister’s first job. She smiles at him, ready to run across the street and into his waiting arms. Then the screaming starts.
She knows what will happen; she sees it almost every night. The lines of metal soldiers marching out of the Tower. One splinters off. She watches as it grips Andrew- her only family, her life- with its cold hands, screams as electricity burns through his body, feeling his pain, his fear, his death. She blacks out.
But this time, she doesn’t wake up screaming. Instead, the scene changes. She’s in the Hub, in a room she’s never been in, but somehow it seems as familiar to her as her London flat was. The light flickers over damp stone walls, cold metal. Then she sees the body, and it fills her vision. Brown skin smeared with bright red blood, trapped in a cage of metal. Dead. Lisa is dead. Her mind clouds with rage and despair, covering a pit of horrible, aching loss. She drops to her knees beside the body, blood soaking through her trousers. Her eyes flood with grief.
She looks up at the sound of Jack’s voice, rage becoming the dominant emotion again.
“Ianto, it’s me. Lisa,” the voice says, tinged with an uncertainty so unlike Jack. She blinks back her tears and tries to focus. The figure standing in front of her is Jack, but his head is ringed with stitches and dotted with blood. A fresh wave of revulsion and grief swamps her. Hands shaking, she raises her gun, pulls the trigger, and sends a bullet straight into her lover’s heart.
She was still shaking and sick when she opened her eyes to the soothing peach walls of her new flat. She reached for the Torchwood-issue mobile on the nightstand and hit the first number on her speed dial.
“Ianto Jones,” a reassuring voice answered, sounding awake and alert despite the early hour.
“Ianto, can you and Jack come over? I think I need to talk to you both.”
Jack grumbled a bit about having their cuddle-time interrupted, but he agreed with Ianto that Kyra wasn’t prone to over-reacting. Over the last few months she’d proved to be a stabilising influence on the team. Her presence alone seemed to make everyone more cheerful, and more than once she’d defused what could have been explosive arguments among her teammates. So, if Ianto was worried about his ‘little sister’, then so was he.
It took them fifteen minutes to get to Kyra’s flat, since Jack had been at Ianto’s place rather than the Hub. By then, she’d regained enough composure to change out of the infamous turtle pyjamas and into a pair of jeans and a Chelsea FC t-shirt, and to put the kettle on. When the water boiled, she poured it into a flowered tea pot and sat down at the little kitchen table with a plate of custard creams.
Jack chuckled a little at the similarities between her and Ianto. Trust them to have tea and biscuits at the ready, even in the midst of a crisis. Ianto would have been wearing a suit, but Kyra had put on a pair of tiny gold studs and an antique-looking wrist cuff. He started to make a joking comment about dragging them out of bed just for company, but his worry returned when he took a better look at her. She was pale, with dark-smudged eyes, and her normally expressive face was set.
“What’s going on, Ky?” Ianto asked her quietly, stting down at the table next to her.
She stared down into her tea, gripping the cup like an anchor. “I had a dream. A different dream than usual,” she added, glancing up at him. “You were both in it.”
She told them every detail she could remember, including the emotions she’d felt. Ianto’s face slowly drained of colour and expression as she told him the parts about Lisa. When she finished, she gave a shaky sigh and waiting for their response, fiddling with her bracelet.
“Jack,” Ianto finally said in a choked voice. “I never told her any of those things about Lisa.”
“It’s true. He told me his girlfriend was killed by the Cybermen, but not any of the details. Wait-“ she said, suddenly realising what Ianto meant. She looked like she was going to be sick. “You mean, all those things… Really happened?”
“Yes,” he said grimly. “Only it was a pizza delivery girl’s body she stole, not Jack’s.”
“At least we know it’s not a precognitive dream,” Jack tried to reassure her. “Although it certainly is disturbing.”
“Well, I wouldn’t have called you just for a strange dream, except…” she paused, and looked up again with anxious eyes. “It’s not the first one I’ve had.”
It had been a long day at the Hub. Jack and Owen had gone out on a routine Weevil hunt in the morning and Gwen was on vacation, leaving Tosh and Kyra alone, sorting through an impressive backlog of alien artifacts. The rift had been spewing out flotsam lately like someone was using it for a dust bin.
“What do you suppose this is?” Kyra asked, holding up a black cylinder with several round projections.
“I don’t know, but don’t show it to Jack,” Tosh laughed. “Are you sure you have the right box? I made the mistake of looking through his office cupboard once, and I thought I’d never stop washing my hands.”
“Oh no!” she giggled. “Ianto gave me a list of ‘off-limits’ areas when I first started. For my own good, he said. Maybe I should make you a copy.”
“Please,” Tosh begged, taping up a cardboard box of what basically amounted to alien children’s toys. “This one’s ready for the Archives.”
“OK. Wow, this one is pretty,” she held up a round silver ball covered with swirling patterns in blue and gold. She traced one of them with a finger, the intricate design making her vision blur a bit as she tried to follow it. It seemed to warm under her touch, and filled her with an inexplicable sadness. She placed it reluctantly in the box marked “Further Study” and started to move onto the next pile when a sudden light-headedness hit her. “Ooof. What time is it?”
“A little after noon.”
“Hmm, time for a lunch break then!” Kyra bounced up, enthusiastic as ever when it came to food. “What sounds good?”
Jack and Owen came back in the late afternoon, much the worse for wear and arguing like schoolchildren.
“If you’d shot that one when I told you to!”
“I was a bit busy, fighting for my life! I had two on me at once!” Owen defended himself hotly.
“And that’s another thing, the Weevil spray clearly needs to be updated again.”
“Yeah, I’ll get right on that as soon as I’m done sewing up this gash in my side, Sir.” Owen stomped his way down into the med bay, Tosh hot on his heels.in case he needed help.
“I could use some coffee. Strong coffee,” Jack told her over his shoulder on his way up to his office. “And is there any food left?”
“Yes, Sir, right away!” She barked back, drawing a smile from him despite himself.
It took hours to get the new Weevils settled in, and then she had to clean up the mess that Owen and Jack seemed to make by merely existing. By the time she was done, it was nearing midnight and she saw no point in driving back to her flat. She’d made a cot up for herself in a little room off the archives for just such occasions. It wasn’t as comfortable as her own bed, but the hum of the Hub was oddly restful once you got used to it. She pulled on a pair of pyjamas stashed in one of the bottom drawers and was asleep almost as soon as she lay down.
She opened her eyes in a tiny concrete room, pinned to the floor with despair. She didn’t bother to sit up. There was nothing to look at but rust-stained concrete and the moving bars of light from the slatted window high above. Time stretched out endlessly on all sides, even as the walls around her seemed to constrict. She was trapped, dying.
“What?” she said aloud and sat up, startled at the thought. No, not dying. Imprisioned by UNIT, for the crime of trying to save her own mother. She shook her head to clear the tangle of thoughts. Oh God, now she was going mad.
The intercom sparked to life. “Prisoner Sato, prepare for inspection.”
She got to her feet slowly, having learnt the hard way that resistance wasn’t worth the price. The heavy metal door swung open, and she looked up to glare defiantly at the guard.
A tall, elongated figure stood before her, hunched over as if in pain. “Where… am I? Help me...” It whispered. The pain was overwhelming. She felt crushed under the weight of it, walls pressing in, smooth, cold metal beneath her fingers.
“And then I woke up.” Her hands shook as she stacked the empty plates and moved to take them to the counter. Ianto put a restraining hand on her shoulder and took them from her.
“Why didn’t you tell us about it when it happened?” Jack asked, sounding half irritated boss and half concerned friend.
“Well, it didn’t mean anything at the time. As far as I knew, it was just a weird dream. Then, the day before yesterday, I was helping Owen clean up the autopsy bay, and that night I had another nightmare which I’m pretty sure was his.” Her face started to blotch the way it did when she was about to cry.
“It’s OK,” Jack told her as he and Ianto both moved automatically to comfort her.
She took a long swallow of tea and composed herself. “So the only people I haven’t had dreams of yet are Jack and Gwen. The ones I have seem to come right after I’ve spent a lot of time with that particular person. Gwen’s been out on vacation, and Jack hasn’t been at the Hub very much, so that explains them.”
“What about Yan? You didn’t see him at all yesterday. He was at work and you were in London visiting your…” he trailed off as Kyra and his lover both blushed furiously. “You weren’t visiting friends,” he finished flatly.
She shook her head guiltily.
“Jack, it’s not what you think,” Ianto began.
“No, it never is,” he said, exasperated. Ianto and his sister-surrogate had the strangest idea of fun he’d ever encountered, which was saying a lot for a former Time Agent. “What was it this time? Stealing lawn gnomes?”
“Cosplay,” Kyra squeaked.
“OK, I know that’s got to be something kinky.” Jack couldn’t help himself. Kyra blushed so hard he was afraid she’s burst a blood vessel.
“Jack,” his boyfriend warned.
“Oh, just show him. You know he’s never going to leave us alone.” She passed him her mobile, and he flipped it open, clicked a few buttons and passed to Jack.
Jack snorted with uncontrollable laughter at the sight of Kyra with pink hair and kitty-cat ears, and Ianto dressed like a Japanese club kid.
The Welshman snatched the mobile back. “Fine. Now that you’ve had a giggle, can we get back to the problem at hand?”
They went over the details of the situation backwards and forwards until the sun was well up and they all had to think about getting to work. Finally they decided on a "watch and wait" approach. Kyra suggested it might just be the close-knit and stressful environment playing havoc with her natural empathy, and therefore not really something to worry about. Ianto had some very vocals doubts about that, but in the end he agreed that she should keep working as usual as long as Jack kept an eye on her.
Most of the day passed uneventfully, as far as she was concerned. She and Tosh continued sorting through the "Rift trash", and Owen worked through the mountain of unfinished reports that he invariably put off until they were in danger of avalanche. All three of them tried to ignore the alternating shouts and deathly silence from the office above. Gwen was back from her vacation spent visiting Rhys' family. She'd spent most of the morning in Jack's office, and the raised voices indicated it wasn't exactly a happy homecoming.
"... too dangerous!" Kyra heard Gwen shouting as she climbed the stairs with coffee and sandwiches.
"There's no reason to assume it's that dangerous. It's a perfectly routine investigation. Ianto and I will be right there backing him up."
"This is Torchwood. The "routine" IS dangerous! Just because you're willing to put your boyfriend in the line of fire doesn't mean I-" she choked off, realising she'd gone too far but unwilling to back down. Kyra could feel the heat of Jack's rage radiating through the door.
She knew it was her job to keep the Captain from committing homicide, at least when he'd regret it later. She opened the door with a perfunctory knock and stepped into the stony silence. "Sorry to interrupt. I thought you might need lunch- keep your strength up." She gave Jack a lopsided grin, and while he didn't smile back, she did feel his rage ebb a little. She put his coffee and the plate of sandwiches on his desk and carried Gwen's mug to where the Welshwoman still stood in the middle of the room, quietly seething but wise enough not to push Jack any farther.
Their hands touched as she accepted the cup, and suddenly Kyra was engulfed by a wave of grief and guilt. She was kneeling on cold cement, blood coating her hands- Rhys' blood. Her love was lying in front of her, blood seeping through the front of his shirt. He's going to die, she thought, and it's my fault, my fault.
"Help him!" she screamed, looking around wildly for Jack or Owen.
"Help... me," a voice said weakly, and she looked down again, but it wasn't Rhys anymore. A tall, long-limbed person with greyish-green skin, obviously alien, lay in front of her, absurdly dressed in Rhys' clothes. It reached a slender hand with too many joints up towards her face, and she jumped to her feet in alarm.
The vision faded. She was back in Jack's office, on the floor; spilt coffee and broken shards of ceramic lay all around her. Jack and Gwen were kneeling over her, faces full of shock and concern.
"What happened?" Gwen asked, her brown eyes wide and shiny.
"Are you OK?" Jack helped her sit up, very carefully. "Go get Owen," he told Gwen, ignoring her question. She looked at him sharply, but didn't argue.
"I had another dream," she told him shakily. "But this time I was awake. It was just as strong, though. I felt like I was really there, inside Gwen's head when Rhys was shot." She stopped, thinking. "Except then it wasn't Rhys."
She looked up at him, her gaze abruptly direct and penetrating. "I think I know what it means, Jack. I think it's a cry for help."
"From who? Or where?"
She shook her head, frustrated.
"Well, let's have Owen check you out, and then I'll call Ianto. He's going to kill me."
"It's not your fault."
"Try telling Ianto that," he replied grimly, helping her to her feet.
"I told you to look after her!" Ianto yelled at Jack, taking the med bay stairs two at a time.
"I did!" he said defensively. "She was just giving Gwen some coffee, and then she collapsed!"
The Welshman rounded on Gwen, who raised her hands as if to ward him off. "What did you do to her?" he shouted.
"Calm down, big brother," Kyra soothed, propped on her elbows on the exam table. He turned and focussed all his attention on her, coming to her side and reaching for her hand.
"Better not touch her," Owen interjected. "Unless you want her to black out again," he commented under the force of Ianto's glare.
"Have we figured out what's causing this, then?"
"Ky thinks it's some kind of distress call, but we haven't figured out the origin yet," Tosh informed him from her perch in front of Owen's computer. "I can't pinpoint any sort of radio transmission, so more than likely it's some sort of psychic interference that we can't track. Probably from a nearby object."
"Have we had any unusual artifacts come through lately?" Jack asked. They all looked at him as if he'd gone mad.
"Are you kidding? We've been up to our eyes in Rift trash for weeks! Haven't you noticed the boxes everywhere?"
"Sort of. I just figured you were re-organising or something," he shrugged.
"Whatever it is certainly could be in there, but it'll be like looking for a needle in a haystack. I touched nearly all of it, and nothing struck me as odd at the time."
"We should start with the ones you and Tosh were sorting through the day you had your first dream," Ianto suggested.
Kyra sighed. "Well, I guess it's better than living everyone else's nightmares. Can I at least order some food before we get started?"
By the time the pizza came, they had separated out the boxes that she and Tosh had sorted the week before and made it through one of them. Jack refused to let anyone else touch the artifacts themselves, on the grounds that he was more likely to resist any ill effects and he didn't need more team members out of commission. He ruled out more of them off-hand than they had, which had the added benefit of significantly lightening their "Further Study" boxes.
"Quoreg whistle," he muttered, tossing a flute-like object aside. "Androvian foot massager." He frowned when they started to giggle at the black cylinder he held. "What's so funny?"
"Nothing at all," Kyra sniggered.
The next thing he pulled out was a dull grey ball the size of a softball.
"Oh!" she exclaimed. "I remember seeing that. Only it was brighter..." She reached out to take it from Jack with both hands. As soon as her fingers wrapped around it, the object flared with bright gold-and-blue light, blinding them. When it faded to a pulsing glow, she and Jack were both staring vacantly, holding the ball the ball between them as though it were weightless.
"No!" Ianto shouted, shaking them. He tried to pry her fingers off, and stopped when she responded with a painful keening. "What's happening to them?!"
Jack sat by his lover's hospital bed, holding his hand as his lifeforce slowly ebbed away. Ianto's eyes were closed, his breathing soft but regular. "Resting comfortably," the doctor had said, reassuring his patient's devoted grandson. The staff had been very sympathetic; sweet old Mr. Jones was a favourite patient, always so polite and gentle. He'd been in and out of hospital for the past five years now, his health finally failing after an extra fifty years of being boosted with Jack's energy. The hospital records said that Ianto Jones was ninety-eight, but in fact they'd just celebrated his hundred and fifty-third birthday last month. The little cottage had been packed with Gwen and Kyra's grown children and grandchildren, as well as a few babies here and there. They'd all toasted their honourary Grand-tad with tears in their eyes, knowing what Jack even now refused to admit- that this would likely be the old man's last.
To his Captain, he would always be the smart-ass teaboy in the cute suit; his friend, lover and life-mate. He would die for him, but there was finally nothing more he could do to keep him alive. Even the immortal Jack Harkness couldn't stave off death forever from those he loved. His tears slid silently down ageless cheeks. They fell hot on the blanket and on the withered hand he clutched like a lifeline.
"Don't cry, cariad," Ianto's cracked voice said softly. Jack blinked away the cloud of tears and leaned forward to kiss his forehead. "It was a good life. I couldn't have asked for a better. Or a better love. You've taken such good care of me..." He broke off, coughing.
"Shhh. Rest now. We'll have you home soon."
He tried to shake his head, but was caught by another coughing fit. "No, Jack. It's my time, and past."
"Yan, no. Not yet," Jack whispered desperately, tears pouring down anew. "I still need you! I'll always need you." He laid his head on Ianto's shoulder, and his lover stroked it gently.
"Shh, shh, cariad. You'll be fine."
"No! No, Ianto, I need you, I love you, don't leave me," he repeated, hopelessly, frantically. Then, "No!", louder, as the hand on his head stilled and he moved away to see his love lying peacefully, eyes closed, not breathing.
"Ianto!" He pulled him up into a fierce kiss, willing him to life with all his strength. But there was nothing left to bring back. He let go of Ianto's empty body, let it fall back on the bed, reached blindly into the inside pocket of his greatcoat for the small revolver there. He pressed the cold metal against his temple and took a deep breath. This time, he was damned if he was coming back- nothing, nothing would ever make him leave Ianto's side.
"NO, Jack!" The gun was wrenched from his hand and he jumped to his feet, ready to fight. He found himself facing a still-young, VERY angry Kyra. Each freckle stood out sharply against her white face, and her eyes blazed with fury.
"Give it to me! I have to go with him!"
"No! Jack, it's just a dream," she cried as he lunged for the revolver. She stepped aside, throwing him off-balance. He stumbled into her, and she dropped the gun to the floor and caught him, wrapping both arms around him with a surprisingly strong grip. He struggled for a few seconds and then collapsed onto her shoulder, sobbing. She held him, rocking him gently and stroking his hair just as Ianto had, which make him cry even harder.
Finally he was reduced to noiseless shaking, and when that subsided he pulled away, drying his eyes on his coat sleeve.
"It's just a dream, Jack," she repeated gently, touching his arm.
"I know," he said hoarsely. "But it won't always be. Someday this will be real, if we're lucky and it doesn't come even sooner. And I can't live without him, Ky, I just can't."
The bleak emptiness in his voice terrified her, and on the heels of her fear the anger returned.
"WHO ARE YOU?" she shouted. "Why are you doing this to us?"
"My name... is Thalius," a weak, reedy voice spoke from the hospital bed. They turned to see the alien from Kyra's vision lying where Ianto's aged body had been, looking up at them with dim, sunken eyes. "Who are you? Where are the Healers? Why have I not been Returned?"
"I'm Kyra, and this is Jack," the empath told him, stepping forward to take charge of the situation. "We're from Torchwood. I'm sorry, but I don't know where your people are. Your sphere fell through a Rift in time and space, and we found it. We didn't even know what it was."
The alien seemed to grow grey with distress at this news. "Then I am not on Orulus? Where is my body?"
"I'm sorry, I don't know. Can you tell us what happened to you?"
"My body... Was damaged. The Healers placed my consciousness here, in stasis, until it could be repaired and they could Return me to it. But if my body is not here, then I am doomed."
"Can you tell us anything more about your planet? Maybe we can send you back there and your Healers can perform your- Return," Jack said.
Thalius closed his eyes and spread his hands over the blanket. "No, there is no time. Once the sphere is activated my consciousness must be moved before the statis field disintegrates. When it does, I will die. I can already feel the field weakening, and myself with it."
"But how was it activated?" Kyra asked. "Is there any way to put it back into stasis?"
"The sphere must be activated by the touch of a Healer, one who can sense the consciousness of another. Then they will enter into it and perform the Return. But without a body, that process cannot be completed. There is no way to stop the disintegration."
"Oh no," she whispered. "I must have activated it when I was sorting the artifacts. I'm so sorry."
"You could not know. And if I have fallen through a... Rift, as you say, there is nothing that could be done. I would have been lost forever. At least now I can join my ancestors, and someday be reborn. I thank you for that."
"Is there anything else we can do?" she asked, moving to sit by his side and taking one of his long-fingered hands in hers.
"Would you... Stay with me? Until the field has gone? It is my people's custom for the loved ones to hold vigil, to ease the passage between one state and the next. It is a time to share our life's wisdom and joys."
"Of course," Jack told him firmly, taking a place at the other side of the bed.
"We'd be honoured," Kyra agreed with a reassuring smile.
They sat on either side of Thalius, holding his hands and listening to the stories of his life as a poet and storyteller on his planet. Kyra and Jack, in return, told him stories of Earth, and in Jack's case, the other planets he had visited. They talked and listened for hours as the alien gradually grew weaker and more quiet. Finally, he released their hands and moved them to rest against his closed eyes.
"Thank you, my friends. The statis field is almost gone. I am grateful for your compassion."
"Good-bye, Thalius," Kyra whispered. "We'll remember you."
"Good-bye," Jack told him, giving a small salute. "Glad to have met you." The alien's image wavered, and then the hospital room with it.
Jack and Kyra opened their eyes to the solid reality of the Hub and the concerned faces of their team. They were instantly surrounded. Owen started taking Kyra's vitals and Ianto took hold of Jack's face, peering intently into his eyes.
"Are you all right? What hap-" The rest of his question was muffled by Jack's passionate kiss.
The sphere, now a dark and featureless ball, fell from his hand and gently rolled away into the shadows.