There’s a man in a tan trench coat standing in the middle of Ianto’s living room which had definitely been empty a moment ago.
The man is positioned at an angle which means he doesn’t immediately see Ianto. Behind the kitchen counter, he quietly pulls open a drawer and palms the gun hidden there. At the movement, the man turns to fix startling blue eyes on him.
Ianto wavers briefly with indecision before putting on a cautious smile.
“Good evening.” He casually edges sideways to get a better line of sight on the man, readying himself to raise his arm and shoot if the stranger is hostile.
“You will not need the firearm.” The man tilts his head like a bird, his gravelly voice at odds with his appearance. “I mean you no harm.”
Ianto stares. His hand has been out of sight the entire time. The stranger could have been making a really good guess, but somehow he doubts that.
Of course, this is the moment that Jack chooses to let himself into his apartment.
“Sorry I’m late, I got caught up with a programme Tosh was showing me –”
Jack pauses and trails off when he registers the man standing only a few feet away from him.
“I didn’t realise you were having a guest over, Ianto.” Jack gives the stranger an once-over and leers. “Is this an invite-only party or can I join in, too?”
Typical. At least he knows that he’s not hallucinating, that Jack can see the other man too. Unless they were exposed to something in Torchwood and they’re both having the same delusion.
By this time, Ianto has moved out from behind the counter. Jack looks over, and the grin on his face falters when he spots the gun in his hand. His eyes flick up to Ianto’s, who shakes his head tersely.
“Not an expected guest, then?”
“No, I’m afraid not,” he answers mildly.
Jack kicks the door shut behind him and drifts forward nonchalantly, going around the sofa. The grin is back on his face, just a little too cheerful to be normal, and his hand is tucked inside his greatcoat, either around a gun or some other weapon. With a rush of irritation and warmth, Ianto sees that Jack has placed himself between him and the stranger, acting as a body shield.
“So, handsome,” even without seeing Jack’s face, Ianto can picture the flirty smile just from the drawl of the words, “want to introduce yourself?”
The man is still regarding them with bright blue eyes, the intensity and colour reminding Ianto of Jack’s. “My name is Castiel.”
“Castiel,” he tries the name out carefully. “Is there a reason you appeared in my living room?”
Usually, the aliens Torchwood encounters don’t look so humanoid, though there is every possibility that this is a shapeshifter. Another likelihood would be a Time Agent, but Castiel isn’t wearing a wristwatch, and Jack’s behaviour indicates that he doesn’t recognise him. Ianto certainly hopes he’s not a Time Agent; he doesn’t want to go through again the round of chaos that John Hart incited with his appearance.
“This was mostly an accident.” Castiel pauses, a flicker of a frown crossing his face. “I was attempting a return journey back to the right time when I sensed my brother’s trail leading here. I did not realise I would cross the fabric of the universe when I followed him through.”
There’s a goldmine of information in those few sentences.
“You arrived through the Rift?” Jack clarifies.
“If that is what you call the gap in time and space, then yes.”
“Huh. Ianto –”
He steps sideways and forwards so that Jack can see he already has his mobile phone out. Before he can dial the Hub, however, Jack’s own phone starts ringing from somewhere in his coat. The immortal digs around in a pocket, retrieving it and answering the call.
“Captain Jack Harkness… The Rift? How long ago was this, Tosh? … Six minutes ago? … Uh huh… Yeah, it could just be a random spike, but keep me posted if there’s any more activity, okay? … Bye.”
“Six minutes is about right,” Ianto says quietly to Jack after he hangs up. He nods, scrutinising Castiel intently.
“You’re from another universe, huh?” The tense set of Jack’s shoulders has loosened, and he’s more inquisitive than wary now. “And a time traveller, too, from what you were saying.”
“That is correct.” Castiel inclines his head, shifting his attention abruptly to Ianto. “Have you had contact with my brother recently, Ianto Jones?”
“I wouldn’t know,” he responds. “Does your brother have a name? What does he look like?”
“I do not believe he would appear to you in his physical form, he would expend too much effort in doing so.” Whatever Castiel is, he definitely isn’t human. He can’t pinpoint it, but there’s something off about him, whether it’s the intensity of his gaze, the deep voice or the set of his stance. “He should have reached you through your dreams or a waking hallucination. My brother goes by many names, such as the Light-Bringer, the Morning Star, or Lucifer.”
Jack’s shoulder and arm is pressed up against Ianto’s, a long line of warmth and affection, so he feels it when Ianto freezes up momentarily. The immortal takes a step away, that small distance like a chasm, filling up with past mistakes and doubt coloured with Lisa, Abaddon, and The Doctor.
“Ianto?” Jack is blank, neutral, non-judgemental. Ianto hates seeing that in his Captain, that cold, indifferent mask sliding over him.
“Jack,” he says the name softly, earnestly, holding his lover’s eyes steadily. “It only happened once, and I wrote it off as a really strange dream. You know that working for Torchwood brings on the most peculiar dreams because of everything we’ve seen. If it had happened a second time, I would have gone straight to Owen for a check-up.”
For several long moments, Jack looks at him, searching, before the coolness in those blue eyes melts, and he says simply, “Okay.”
The utter trust and faith in that single word makes something choke up inside Ianto, and when Jack returns to his side and takes hold of his hand, he returns the grip firmly.
He takes a second to regain his bearings, and when he finally refocuses on Castiel, the man has a sort of sad, wistful expression on his face as he watches them silently.
“So this dream or hallucination…” Jack raises an eyebrow at him questioningly.
“Dream,” he tells him. “About four nights ago. I don’t recall much, only fragments of a voice asking a question.”
“I can’t remember,” Ianto says frankly. “I just found it extremely annoying, very much like a door-to-door salesman. I said no to whatever the question was, and for some reason I woke up with the name Lucifer in the forefront of my mind. You can imagine why I never mentioned it, especially when it was a one-time occurrence.”
“The Devil, door-to-door salesman.” Jack’s lips curl up in a grin.
“But you’re implying that this… Lucifer is more than a figment of my imagination? Your brother, in fact?” he directs the question to Castiel.
“Yes.” The statement is filled with conviction.
“You’re saying that Ianto was haunted in his dreams by a fallen angel?” There’s clear incredulity in Jack’s voice. “That would make you an angel, too.”
Castiel frowns and stares off into the distance, seemingly concentrating on something. Jack and Ianto exchange a look. Castiel is very odd, but for something or someone who came through the Rift, he doesn’t seem hostile or dangerous, a welcome change from their usual inter-dimensional guests.
“I do not believe my brethren exist here, or at least not in the same form as I know them back in my own universe,” Castiel finally says after an extended pause. “You may think of us as multi-dimensional wavelengths of celestial intent. To exist on the physical plane, we require vessels who willingly give their consent.”
Ianto thinks this over. It makes sense, in some kind of way. They’ve encountered aliens without physical bodies before, who need to possess humans to manifest.
“Does your species have a name?”
“We are angels of the Lord.” Seeing their disbelieving expressions, Castiel shakes his head. “That is what we are in my universe. Yours is vastly different.”
“Wait, wait, so there’s an angel –” Jack makes a face as he says it, but until they find a better term for whatever Castiel is, they’ll use that label, “– running around Cardiff asking to possess people?”
“No, the trail was already old when I started tracking it. Lucifer has already left. I suspect he did not wish to waste more time here when he has more pressing business to attend to in our home universe.” There’s a depth of seriousness and solemnity in the way Castiel speaks that, despite the outlandishness, makes Ianto inclined to believe that his words are the truth. “You are a very special man, Ianto Jones, and you made the right choice in rejecting my brother’s offer.”
“Not that I don’t agree that Ianto’s very special,” Jack winks at him, Ianto rolling his eyes in response, “but if your brother’s anything like you, why would obtaining a vessel be a bad thing?” He smiles widely again, and it’s just like Jack Harkness to hit on two people at once in the same sentence.
It’s also an explicit declaration that Jack doesn’t think Castiel is an enemy. Ianto doesn’t disagree and isn’t surprised; Jack doesn’t view aliens with the instinctive misgivings that the rest of the team – well, actually, any human in this time – does. Co-existing with aliens was his way of life in the fifty-first century, after all.
“I am sure your accounts of the Morning Star’s fall from grace do not differ from my world’s. It is not a wise idea to allow him a vessel to wreak havoc upon the earth, let alone a vessel which matches him and is able to contain him without burning out, as Ianto Jones is.”
The Devil from the Bible? Satan? Angels, with halos and wings and swords? Ianto wants to ask, he really, really does, but after a long mental struggle decides not to. Because Castiel obviously believes what he’s saying, no matter how ridiculous everything sounds, and Ianto can tell that he’ll stand there and calmly counter everything they throw at him for as long as they have questions. And maybe, just maybe, there’s a silver of chance that it may be true, because it’s another universe and the same rules may not apply.
Jack obviously comes to the same decision to ignore the big issue and goes for the details instead. “So, there’re different kinds of vessels?”
“All angels have specific bloodlines more suited to be their vessels, but archangels like Lucifer require stronger ones, because their grace is powerful enough to burn out an incompatible vessel.” Castiel falters, and Ianto abruptly realises that throughout the course of their conversation, the ‘angel’ has been getting paler and paler, lines of stress and exhaustion slowly becoming visible on his face. “As far as I can sense, we do not exist here, so vessels are even rarer than they are in my world. Ianto Jones is one such vessel that would be able to contain Lucifer sufficiently until he convinces his chosen one in my world. I –”
Castiel blinks, stumbling. Instinctively, both Jack and Ianto step forward to catch hold of him as the man crumples. Up close, his pallor is almost grey.
“Whoa, buddy, easy there.” They lower him gently to the floor so that he’s sitting with his back against the wall.
“I –” Castiel rasps, “ – must be getting back to my own world, since there is no threat here –”
Castiel closes his eyes, and for a split second, light seems to grow and spill over under his skin, but just as quickly it’s gone, and the man starts coughing up blood instead.
Jack curses in a language Ianto doesn’t recognise, probably alien.
“Enough of that,” Ianto tells Castiel sternly. The ‘angel’ blinks open unfocused blue eyes, blood dripping down his chin. “You’re in no condition to go anywhere. Whatever you’re doing, stop it.”
Whatever protests Castiel has are lost, because his eyes slide shut again a second later and his head lolls to the side, falling unconscious.
By unspoken agreement, they don’t bring Castiel in or mention him at all to the others. It’s a breach of their usual protocols, but frankly after hearing Castiel’s story, both of them are reluctant to lock him up in a cell, which would be the only option in the Hub. Instead, they place him in Ianto’s guest room.
They nearly call Owen, if only to check on Castiel’s injuries, but Ianto spends the night monitoring him with the handheld medical scanner he nicked from the medical bay and whatever internal injuries the man has are already healing at a rapid rate.
Castiel finally wakes up on the third morning, which Ianto is grateful for, because his tolerance for Sleeping Beauty jokes by Jack is running out. The ‘angel’ is clearly tired and worn-out, though his strength improves daily. They learn that Castiel’s somehow been losing his power, and time travelling takes a punch out of him. There’s an explanation about falling which makes them raise their eyebrows, but it’s clearly a sensitive issue, judging from Castiel’s moroseness, so they don’t push.
Castiel spends his time sitting on the steps of the Plass, where they sometimes encounter him, or in the apartment avidly watching whatever TV programme is on. They discover that Castiel watches TV the same way they do – expressing his scepticism out loud at whatever impossibility or inanity has just occurred onscreen. It makes for several entertaining nights.
The past few weeks have been fairly quiet, so much so that a lot of backlogged paperwork is actually being done. Ianto knows because the stack of reports from the team on Jack’s desk that the Captain has to sign off on has been growing, and he knows because the others start bothering him in the archives due to boredom; he usually manages to lose them in the countless number of shelves. When he emerges to make them coffee, more often than not Gwen is in the break room reading the paper, Tosh is playing a game of solitaire on Mainframe, and music is drifting out from Owen’s lab that means the doctor isn’t actually doing anything important.
Jack orders the team to take some time off; they don’t all have to be in the Hub at the same time, after all. It saves Ianto’s sanity, because Gwen has taken to trying to get into Myfanwy’s good graces. The pteranodon doesn’t appreciate the woman’s attention, and Ianto spends an entire afternoon and an immense number of chocolate bars coaxing Myfanwy out of the rafters.
During their shifts together – Jack has of course always arranged it such that their schedules match – they debate about the angel thing. Ianto searches through the archives, but there turns out to be a lot of beings without physical bodies. Not all of them are capable of possession, and those who are generally are labelled as ‘evil’ because they force their way into their vessels and wreak havoc with them. He can’t find anything about creatures who require consent from their vessels without trickery or deception.
“Maybe his people are like the faeries. Remember what I said about them?” Jack kicks his legs up onto his desk, nearly toppling a stack of reports. Ianto absently reaches out to straighten them.
“Part myth, part spirit world and part reality jumbled together, all moving backwards and forwards through time,” Ianto recites. “They’re not really faeries, it’s just something we call them because we don’t know how else to address them.”
Jack grins, pleased.
“I suppose, then, for convenience’s sake and lack of anything better, we can term Castiel as an angel,” Ianto concedes reluctantly.
“A very hot angel, too.” Jack winks.
Ianto rolls his eyes, but doesn’t refute Jack. Castiel needs a better suit, but the trench coat is rather fetching.
Of course, two days later, a hoard of Weevils materialises in the warehouse district and Jack has to endure Gwen’s swearing when he calls to interrupt her date with Rhys. Ianto leaves Castiel to Hell’s Kitchen and heads out.
The team engages in a mad chase within the maze of buildings. Several hours later, after getting separated from the others, he checks in with everyone. Gwen and Tosh are together, the latter suffering a concussion but nothing else serious. Owen, in the far corner of the area, has several cracked ribs. Ianto tells the women to pick Owen up and return to the Hub while he locates Jack, his heart aching. He knows what Jack’s failure to respond to the comm call likely means.
He follows the mobile tracking device tuned to Jack’s phone to a dimly-lit warehouse. There, he finds three dead Weevils and Jack slumped on the floor, bleeding to death.
Jack is already unconscious and unresponsive. He removes the greatcoat and sets it down on a nearby crate so that it doesn’t get even more blood-stained than it already is. Making a mental note regarding the dry-cleaning, he sits on the floor and gently gathers Jack into his arms, murmuring nonsense words into his hair.
When Jack finally goes limp, Ianto blinks away tears in his eyes and holds his lover more tightly. He’s being ridiculous, but he can’t help it. Despite all evidence to the contrary, he’s always terrified that each death will be Jack’s last. It makes him feel selfish, especially when he knows that part of Jack will always view his immortality as a curse.
There’s a sound like a flutter of wings, and Castiel is suddenly standing in the middle of the warehouse. He looks momentarily discomfited by his surroundings, but upon catching sight of them, grows wide-eyed and alarmed, as much as the deadpan angel can be.
“He’ll be fine,” Ianto hastily assures Castiel. “It usually takes several minutes, at least, but Jack always comes back.”
“I don’t understand.” The angel totally ignores the Weevils, crouching down by their side and looking deeply upset. He reaches out a hand to Jack’s forehead, but stops an inch away before his palm makes contact. “Oh. That is… unusual.”
“We thought you knew.” They had assumed that Castiel knew about Jack’s immortality the way he knew Ianto’s name and other minor details throughout the week the angel has been with them.
“I sensed that the Captain was not quite human, but did not probe deeper as Dean has often chastised me about doing so. It would also have been an unnecessary use of my grace.” A flash of pain flits over his face. “I would have known this information instinctively if my powers had not been waning.”
They wait quietly, Ianto glancing at the gaping wound in Jack’s chest every so often. Blood has caked all over Jack’s front, so it’s impossible to tell in the dim lighting if Jack is healing, and he can’t quite bring himself to check.
“You mentioned that Dean would chastise you when you used your powers for certain purposes.”
It’s dark and Ianto can’t be entirely certain, but he can almost swear that the angel is blushing.
“Dean is… a friend. A righteous man who has fought alongside me during numerous battles, and taught me much about humanity.”
Ianto raises an eyebrow. The tone Castiel with which he addresses this Dean as a ‘friend’ is the same one he uses with his sister when he inadvertently brings up Jack during their phone conversations.
“You are a very fortunate man, Ianto Jones,” Castiel murmurs suddenly, apropos of nothing.
He keeps his eyes on Jack’s still chest, willing it to start moving. “How so?”
“You have friends, a team whom you trust and cherish, and they you. A firm belief in the purpose of your work. A companion who loves you deeply and whom you love in return. Do you not consider yourself fortunate?”
Ianto considers it. “I suppose, yes. But those are all so easily taken from us. People can change.” Lisa, and the team’s fragmentation in the wake of Abaddon are all proof of that.
Castiel tilts his head. “You doubt Jack’s feelings for you?”
“No.” It’s true, he knows that Jack loves him, but… “He’s going to live forever. Has already lived for several hundred years.”
It feels like the floodgates have opened. He’s never spoken of these thoughts to anyone before. His team members, and possibly his intuitive sister, are the only ones who know of his relationship with Jack. He certainly can’t discuss it with his sister, and he’s never had reason to speak in such depth about his feelings for Jack with the team.
“I’ll be around only for the next several decades, and that’s being highly optimistic, considering my line of work. That’s an eye-blink for Jack, in the long run. He’s loved others in the past. Will love others in the future, long after I’m gone. I – ”
He stops, finally getting a sense of what his subconscious is afraid of.
“A thousand years from now, he’ll forget me,” whispers Ianto.
“He will not forget you, Ianto Jones. An eternity later in the future, he will remember you fondly as a man who once saw and accepted him for all he was, flaws and doubts and mistakes made and all. You will have left a mark on him during the time you spent together, and he will be the better for it. He will be lonely and weary, because that is the nature of his existence, but he will carry your memory with him as a beloved part of him, and it will sustain him as he journeys the passages of time.”
From the intensity and ferventness in the angel’s voice, he’s not referring only to Jack.
“Is this not enough for you?”
In his arms, Jack gasps back to life, breathing Ianto’s name in a wrecked, broken voice. He whispers back I’m here, Jack, I’m here for you.
Yes. Yes, it’s enough.
He bids them farewell solemnly. Ianto shakes his hand and tells him to be careful in the war.
Jack is giving Ianto a pleading look, nearly bouncing on his heels. A grin tugging at his lips, he gives an exasperated sigh, which is equivalent to Yes, Jack, I’m giving you permission to do something insane.
He’s still standing next to Castiel after their handshake, so Ianto gets a close-up view of the scene when his Captain stalks right up into the angel’s personal space, grabs a handful of that trench coat, and pulls Castiel into a deep, open-mouthed, dirty kiss.
Ianto’s not sure why he lets Jack talk him into these things.
Castiel leaves for home with rumpled clothes and kiss-swollen lips.