Title: The Welsh Groom
Prompt: The Princess Bride
Pairings/Characters: Jack/Ianto, Doctor/Tosh, Andy/Donna, Rhys/Kathy, Mickey/Martha, John/Owen, Wilf/Estelle, Gwen, Mica, Steven, Wilf,
Spoilers: The whole movie of The Princess Bride
Warnings: Attempts at suicide and character deaths
Word Count: 18,884
Disclaimer: I do not own Torchwood, Doctor Who or the movie the Princess bride.
Summary: Grandpa Wilf tells his grandkids an interesting story.
Ianto Harkness-Jones was not having an easy day: half his staff at his café had come down with the nasty flu going around and he was needed to go in, and his two six-year-old twin children had the same flu. He felt bad that he had to leave his two children, but he had a restaurant to run.
His husband, Jack, had offered to stay home, but he couldn’t, not with his big court case coming up soon and, so much still to do.
Which left him one choice, calling upon the grandparents, aunts and uncles: hopefully someone would be able to watch the kids.
Ianto mentally ran down the list of who he could call.
Tosh Smith was off the list --oh he knew his best friend would gladly look after the kids, but she had a time sensitive computer program to finish. And he would hate to get her in trouble.
Then there was Tosh’s husband, John. No- even if he wasn’t working the case with Jack, there is no way that Ianto was leaving his children alone with John ‘Doctor’ Smith: Ianto already had two children, he, didn’t need a third to keep an eye on.
Martha Smith and Owen Harper were also out, as they both were on call at the hospital. Ianto guessed he could call Martha’s husband, Mickey. But no, if memory serves him, he is, on a delivery with Rhys, which, rules them both out.
And Rhys’ wife, Kathy, and Donna’s husband, Andy, were on duty today at the station.
Ianto rubbed his head, feeling a headache coming on; he was running out of people to call. Sighing, Ianto continued down his list.
John Hart was out; there is no way he was leaving his children alone with that man. Last time Jack did that, John taught them to pick pockets, forge his and Jack’s signatures and pick locks.
Donna was out as she is Ianto’s business partner, and the one who called him in.
A light bulb went off in Ianto’s head and he felt so stupid for not thinking of him in the first place.
With a smile, Ianto reached for the phone and called the two people he knew would cheer up the children the most.
Steven and Mica Harkness-Jones were utterly miserable. At first it had been fun to learn that they would get to miss school until they realized they were to sick to enjoy it.
Watching his children Ianto, felt awful that he was leaving his sick children, but he really had no choices.
“Hello, children.” Ianto greeted, entering their room with a special guest. “Look who has come to visit.”
Two sets of blue eyes widen as they spotted him. “GRANDPA!”
Wilf had no doubt that if they were not miserable, they would have flung themselves at him.
Ianto smiled, happy to know that his children were pleased with his choice in babysitters.
He walked over and kissed both kids on the forehead. “Now, you be good for your grandpa, and, Dad and I will try and be home earlier tonight,” Ianto promised.
“Thank you for doing this,” Ianto whispered to Wilf on his way out.
Wilf smiled. “No need to thank me Estelle only wishes she could have had the afternoon off to come help out, too.” Wilf told Ianto while thinking fondly of his wife, who was quite upset that she couldn’t be there to baby their grandkids.
Now, while they were not related by blood to Wilf and Estelle, all the children on the block had come to know and love Grandpa Wilf and Grandma Estelle; and not just the new generation, Wilf and Estelle had been a second parent to those who had grown up in this neighbourhood, like Ianto and Jack.
Estelle knew from the moment four-year-old Jack Harkness and his family moved here that he and Ianto were going to end up together.
Four-year-old Jack was possessive and quick to jealousy and would pout up a storm if anyone else had his Ianto’s attention.
Something that hasn’t changed all that much today.
With a smile, Ianto left his children in the capable hands of Wilf: anyone who could raise Donna could handle two sick children.
Wilf turned his attention to his grandchildren. “Now, would you like to hear a story?” he asked, remembering that when Donna was sick, she loved hearing stories.
“Yes,” Mica and Steven responded at once; they loved Grandpa Wilf’s stories, he told stories even better than their dad.
“So what kind of story would you like to hear?” he asked
“Romance,” that was Mica
“Action,” that was Steven’s choice.
Wilf knew just the right story as he pulled out a story book and decided to change it up just a little, “This is The Welsh Groom.”
“Jack was raised on a small farm in the country of Florin. His favourite pastimes were riding his horse and tormenting the farm boy that worked there. His name was Ianto, but Jack never called him that.” Wilf paused at that to look at his young audience, “Isn’t that a wonderful beginning?” he asked.
He received two grins in return. Wilf cleared his throat continued, “And nothing gave Jack as much pleasure as ordering Ianto around...”
Just outside of the stables, Jack came across Ianto. “Farm boy, polish my horse’s saddle. I want to see my face shining in it by morning,” he ordered Ianto.
Ianto simple smiled and answered, “As you wish.”
As you wish was all Ianto ever said to him
Coming across Ianto, Jack handed him a pail. “Farm boy, fill these with water…please.”
Bowing, Ianto murmured his usual, “As you wish.”
That day, he was amazed to discover that when Ianto was saying ‘As you wish’, what he meant was, ‘I love you.’ And even more amazing was the day Jack realized that he loved Ianto back.
Entering the farmhouse, Ianto silently waited for Jack’s orders.
“Farm boy….fetch me that pitcher,” Jack ordered, pointing to the pitcher on the high shelf.
“As you wish,” Ianto murmured, smiling at Jack.
The other man returned the smile.
A beautiful sunset was the backdrop for Ianto and Jack’s very first kiss.
“Bah it’s a kissing book.” The complaint was silenced by a quick kick from his sister to his shin.
“Wait, just wait, there will be something you will both like,” Wilf quickly explained. “Ianto had no money for marriage, so he packed a few belongings and left the farm to seek his fortune across the sea. It was a very emotional time for Jack.”
“I don’t believe this,” was Steven’s sulky reply.
Outside of his farmhouse, Jack found Ianto packing his few belongings.
“I fear I’ll never see you again,” Jack admitted, grabbing Ianto’s arm and halting him in his packing.
Smiling and turning in Jack’s hold, Ianto stroked his cheek. “Of course you will,” he tried to reassure his love.
“But what if something happens to you?” Jack wasn’t convinced that Ianto would be alright on his own.
“Hear this now: I will always come for you,” Ianto vowed, wrapping his own arms around Jack.
“But how can you be sure?” Jack couldn’t survive if anything happened to Ianto.
Ianto pressed a brief kiss to Jack’s lips. “This is true love. You think this happens every day?” he reminded his love.
“Ianto didn’t reach his destination. His ship was attacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts, who never left any captives alive. When Jack got the news that Ianto was murdered.”
“Murdered by pirates is good,” Steven interrupted.
“No, it’s not.” A trembling lip and teary eyes faced Wilf. “Tad has to be okay.”
Clearing his throat, Wilf picked up where he left off, “Jack went into his room and shut the door, and for days he neither slept nor ate.”
With tears streaming down his face, Jack gazed out at the sunset from the spot where he and Ianto had their first kiss and vowed, “I will never love again.”
“Five years later, the main square of Florin City was filled as never before to hear the announcement of the great Prince John’s bride to be.”
Prince John Hart faced his subjects and happily announced, “My people, a month from now, our country will have its 500th anniversary. On that sundown, I shall marry a young man who was once a commoner like yourselves. But perhaps you will not find him common now. Would you like to meet him?” he asked his people.
The crowd gave a loud, “Yes” as answer.
Smiling, John held out his hand, “My people, the Prince Jack.”
Jack entered the main square dressed in the finest blue silk and with a crown upon his head.
“Wait, Dad’s the girl? He can’t be the girl.”
“Shh, let Grandpa tell the story.”
“Besides, your dad is much more a drama queen than your tad.”
Much later, outside the walls of Florin City, Jack was riding a horse. He sought to escape the place.
Jack emptiness consumed him. Although the law of the land gave John the right to chose who he married, Jack did not love him. Despite John’s reassurances that he would grow to love him, the only joy Jack found was in his daily ride.
Stopping by a river, Jack dismounted and allowed his horse to drink from the river. He decided to take a rest beneath a shady tree.
Closing his eyes, he enjoyed the peace and quiet.
But it was not to last, three shadows appeared before Jack. Upon opening his eyes, he was greeted by two women and one man.
The brunette with doe eyes smiled and Jack saw a gap between her teeth, “A word, my lord. My name is Gwen and we are but poor, lost circus performers. Is there a village nearby?” she asked in an innocent tone.
Curious and a little suspicious, Jack answered, “There is nothing nearby….not for miles.”
The innocent smile faded from Gwen’s face as glee over took her features. “Then there will be no one to hear you screaming!”
Nodding, the lone man of the group moved forward and easily grabbed Jack. Of course Jack would not go without a fight and was knocked out by the hilt of the smaller female’s sword.
Helping the man, Rhys, to tie up their prisoner, the sound of ripping fabric had Tosh turning to face their boss. “What is it that you’re ripping?” she asked.
“It is fabric from the uniform of an army officer of Gilder,” she informed them.
Confused, Rhys titled his head. “Who is Gilder?” he asked, unfamiliar with the name.
Rolling her eyes, Gwen explained, “They are the country across the sea, the sworn enemy of Florin.” Tying the fabric to the horse, she slapped it hard. “Go!” she commanded.
With Rhys carrying the tied up Jack and Tosh keeping a sharp eye out for anyone following them, Gwen led them to the boat she had waiting for them.
Upon reaching the boat, and once they had Jack settled and out of the way, Gwen finished explaining her plan. “Once the horse reaches the castle, the fabric will make the prince suspect the Gilderians have abducted his love. When he finds Jack’s body dead on the Gilder frontier, his suspicions will be totally confirmed.”
Rhys looked horrified. “You never said anything about killing anyone,” he reminded Gwen.
Gwen glared at her giant, wondering again why she hired such a soft-hearted man. “I hired you to help me start a war. It’s a long and prestigious line of work, with a long and glorious tradition.”
Rhys shook his head and gazed sadly at Jack. “I just don’t think its right, killing an innocent man,” he admitted softly.
“Am I going mad, or did the word, ‘THINK’ escape your lips? YOU WERE NOT HIRED FOR YOUR BRAINS, YOU HIPPOPOTAMIC LAND MASS!” Gwen roared.
“I agree with Rhys,” Tosh spoke up, returning the thankful smile Rhys sent her.
Gwen whirled around to face Tosh. “Let me make this clear. What happens to him is none of your concern. I will kill him.” She pointed at Tosh, “When I found you, you were so slobbering drunk, you couldn’t buy brandy.” Next she turned to Rhys, “And you, friendless, brainless, helpless, hopeless. Do you want me to send you back to where you were-unemployed, in Greenland?”
Quite certain that she made her point, she stalked away from the two.
“That Gwen, she can fuss,” Tosh whispered lowly.
Rhys nodded his head, “Fuss, fuss….I think she likes to scream…at us,” he added softly.
Tosh sighed, “Probably, yet she means no harm.”
“She’s really very short on…charm,” Rhys said with a smile.
Tosh returned the smile. “You have a great gift for rhyme,” she told him.
Grinning at her he said, “Yes, yes, some of the time.” Rhys was pleased at the soft giggle he got from the usually shy woman.
“Enough of that,” Gwen ordered.
Looking out into the ocean, Tosh noticed something. “Rhys, are there rocks ahead?” she asked.
“If there are, we all will be dead,” Rhys said with a big grin.
“No more rhymes now, I mean it,” Gwen growled back at Rhys.
Unaffected by the growl, Rhys politely asked, “Anybody want a peanut?”
Gwen let out an angry scream.
Night had fallen by the time Jack had awakened; he hadn’t been too happy and thrown a hissy fit, until Gwen threatened to have him knocked out again. Tosh was glancing behind them frequently.
“We’ll reach the cliffs by dawn,” Gwen predicted. Annoyed at Tosh’s behaviour, she finally snapped at Tosh, “Why are you doing that?”
Not taking her eyes off the water, Tosh asked, “Are you sure nobody’s following us?”
“That would be inconceivable,” Gwen scoffed.
“Despite what you think, you will be caught. And when you are, the prince will see you all hanged,” Jack snarled, tired of being quiet.
“Of all the necks on this boat, Highness, the one you should be worrying about is your own.” Gwen glared at Jack before switching over to Tosh. “Stop doing that, we can all relax, it’s almost over,” she ordered.
Gwen’s reassurances did nothing to calm Tosh. “Are you sure nobody’s following us?” she asked again.
Sighing, Gwen rubbed her forehead. “As I told you, it would be absolutely, totally, and in all other ways, inconceivable. No one in Gilder knows what we’ve done, and no one in Florin could’ve gotten here so fast.” Pausing, she looked at Tosh. “Out of curiosity, why do you ask?”
Tosh shrugged. “No reason. Suddenly, I just happen to look behind us and something is there,” she admitted.
Rhys and Gwen came to join Tosh, trying to see what she saw.
“Probably some local fisherman out for a pleasure cruise at night….through eel-infested waters.” Even Gwen had doubts about what she said.
Given that no one was watching him, Jack, who had, finally got his hands free, took his chance and dove overboard and started swimming away.
Gwen raced to the side. “Wha-wh-Go in. Get after him,” she ordered.
“I don’t swim,” Tosh admitted.
“I only dog paddle,” was Rhys answer.
Gwen felt like she was going to pull out her hair. “VEER LEFT! LEFT! LEFT!” she roared. Turning her attention to Jack she called to him, “Do you know what that sound is, Highness? Those are the shrieking eels; if you don’t believe me, just wait. They always grow louder when they’re about to feed on human flesh. If you swim back now, I promise, no harm will come to you. I doubt you’ll get such an offer from the eels.”
“He doesn’t get eaten by eels at this time.” Wilf quickly reassured the children.
“What?” and “Yay,” were the two mixed reactions.
“The eel doesn’t get him. Now, I’m explaining this to you because you look nervous.”
“I wasn’t nervous, she might have been but I wasn’t. Well, maybe I was a little bit concerned, but that’s not the same thing,” Steven was quick to say.
“We can stop now if you want,” Wilf offered.
“No, you could read a little bit more, if you want.”
Jack wasn’t one to admit fear, but as the shrieks grew closer, he was torn, between going back to the boat or keep on swimming and take his chance.
The choice was taken out of his hands as Rhys easily lifted him back into the boat.
“Put him down, just put him down.” Gwen was starting to think Jack was more trouble than he was worth.
“I think he’s getting closer,” Tosh called from her spot, her eyes locked on the boat behind them.
“He is no concern of ours. Sail on,” Gwen ordered to Rhys before turning her gaze onto the soaking wet Jack. “I suppose you think you’re so brave, don’t you?”
“Only compared to some,” Jack snarled back.
Dawn broke and, as Gwen thought, they reached the Cliffs of Insanity: this voyage was half way done. Soon, she would be rid of the troublesome prince, but it would be a shame to kill someone as handsome as him.
“Look! He’s right on top of us. I wonder if he’s using the same wind we are using.” Tosh was impressed.
“Whoever he is, he’s too late. See? The Cliffs of Insanity. Hurry up. Move this thing, and that other thing,” Gwen ordered to Rhys; they were so close.
Landing on the shore, Gwen smiled up at the cliffs. “Move it, we’re safe. Only Rhys is strong enough to go up our way. He’ll have to sail around for hours till he finds a harbour,” Gwen said gleefully.
Climbing up the side of the cliffs, Rhys easily had no problem carrying Tosh, Gwen and Jack.
Tosh looked down and said with awe, “He’s climbing the rope. And he’s gaining on us.”
“Inconceivable.” Gwen couldn’t believe it until she, too, glanced down and saw the man in black following them. “FASTER!” she ordered Rhys.
“I thought I was going faster,” Rhys wondered out loud.
Gwen was losing her cool. “You were supposed to be this colossus; you were this great legendary thing, and yet he gains,” she snarled to Rhys.
“Well, I’m carrying three people, and he’s got only himself,” Rhys told her.
But it was clear that Gwen was not in the mood to listen to excuses. “I do not accept excuses. I’m just going to have to find myself a new giant, that’s all,” Gwen snapped back.
“Don’t say that, Gwen. Please?” Rhys knew he needed to stay on Gwen good side to keep his job.
“Didn’t I make it clear that your job is at stake?” Gwen reminded Rhys.
Upon reaching the top, Gwen wasted no time in cutting the rope. One look down proved that the man in black was more skilled than they thought as he was now climbing the cliff.
“He’s got very good arms,” Rhys commented.
Gwen couldn’t believe it. “He didn’t fall. Inconceivable.”
Tosh glanced at Gwen. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means,” she informed her boss. Glancing back down she, took notice of the man in black. “My god, he’s climbing.”
“Whoever he is, he’s obviously seen us with the prince and must therefore die.” Pointing at Rhys, Gwen ordered, “You, carry him. We’ll head straight for the Gilder frontier. Catch up when he’s dead. If he falls, fine. If not, the sword,” Gwen ordered Tosh.
A thoughtful look crossed Tosh’s face. “I’m going to do him left-handed,” she decided.
Gwen looked at her like she was crazy. “You know what a hurry we’re in,” she reminded Tosh.
“It is the only way I can be satisfied. If I use my right, it’s over too quickly.” Tosh would not change her mind.
“Oh, have it your way.” Gwen really did not have the time to argue.
Tossing Jack back over his shoulder, Rhys placed a supportive hand on Tosh’s shoulder. “You be careful. People in masks cannot be trusted,” Rhys reminded her.
Tosh nodded her head.
“I’m waiting,” Gwen called from her spot up ahead.
Rhys, with Jack over his shoulder, and Gwen left, leaving Tosh alone to prepare for the masked man.
Looking over the side of the cliff, Tosh called out, “Hello there. Slow going?”
The man in black glanced up quickly before focusing on his difficult climb. “Look, I don’t mean to be rude, but this is not as easy as it looks, so I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t distract me,” he called back.
“Sorry,” Tosh called back down.
“Thank you.” The man in black retuned to his climbing
Tosh paced at the top of the cliff while the masked man continued his slow climb.
Growing impatient for a good fight, Tosh asked, “I do not suppose you could speed things up?”
The man in black looked at her in disbelief before replying, “If you’re in such a hurry, you could lower a rope or a tree branch or find something useful to do.”
Tosh looked what remained of the rope at her feet. “I could do that. I still have some rope up here, but I do not think you would accept my help, since I am only waiting around to kill you,” she offered.
“That does put a damper on our relationship,” the man in black called back.
“But, I promise I will not kill you until you reach the top,” Tosh offered.
Clinging to the cliffside, the man in black answered back, “That’s very comforting, but I’m afraid you’ll just have to wait.”
Tosh kicked the ground. “I hate waiting. I could give you my word as a Japanese lady,” she called down.
The man in black shook his head. “No good. I’ve known too many Japanese ladies.”
“Is there not any way you will trust me?” she asked.
“Nothing comes to mind,” he called back, trying not to slip.
A thoughtful look crossed Tosh’s face and she met the man in black’s gaze. “I swear, on the soul of my mother, Naoko Sato, you will reach the top alive.”
The man in black nodded. “Throw me the rope.” He knew that was not a promise to be taken lightly.
The climb was much easier and the man in black reached the top much sooner. “Thank you.”
Taking a few heavy baths, the man in black tried to catch his breath as he reached for his sword.
Tosh who was in no better shape, having helped the man to the top, managed to get out, “W-w-w-w-we’ll wait until you are ready.”
“Again, thank you.” The man took a seat on the nearby rocks.
Biting her lip, Tosh had to ask, “I do not mean to pry, but you don’t by any chance happen to have six fingers on your hand?”
Even beneath his mask, Tosh could tell that he had raised an eyebrow at her question. Still, he held up both hands and asked, “Do you always begin conversations this way?”
Tosh was relieved and sad to see he only had five fingers on each hand. “My mother was slaughtered by a six-fingered man. She was a great sword-maker, my mother. When the six-fingered man appeared and requested a special sword, my mother took the job. She slaved a year before it was done.” During her story, she had pulled the sword out and handed it to the man.
The man in black admired it. “I’ve never seen its equal,” he told her honestly as he returned her blade.
“The six-fingered man returned and demanded it, but at one-tenth his promised price. My mother refused. Without a word, the six-fingered man slashed her through the heart. I loved my mother, so naturally I challenged her murderer to a duel. I failed and he let me live, but gave me this.” Tosh brushed away the hair from her right side to reveal a long scar.
“How old were you?” the man in black asked.
“I was eleven years old. When I was strong enough, I dedicated my life to the study of fencing, so the next time we meet, I will not fail. I will go up to the six-fingered man and say, ‘Hello. My name is Toshiko Sato. You killed my mother. Prepare to die,’” Tosh informed him.
“You’ve done nothing but study swordplay?” The man was impressed with Tosh’s determination.
“More a pursuit than a study, lately. You see, I cannot find him. It has been twenty years now and I am starting to lose confidence. I just work for Gwen to pay the bills. There is not a lot of money in revenge,” Tosh told him.
“Well, I certainly hope you find him someday.” He truly wished her luck.
Tosh, having noticed that he seemed to have regained his breath fell into a stance. “Are you ready, then?” she asked.
The man climbed to his feet and unsheathed his own sword. “Whether I am or not, you’ve been more than fair.”
“You seem a decent fellow. I hate to kill you,” Tosh told him honestly.
“You seem a decent lady. I hate to die,” the man in black easily returned.
“Begin,” Tosh ordered.
The two swords clashed and Tosh couldn’t help but comment, “You are using Bonetti’s defence against me, eh?”
“I thought it was fitting, considering the rocky terrain,” the man in black told her.
“Naturally, you must expect me to attack with Capo Ferro?” she countered.
The man in black nodded his head. “Naturally, but I find that Thibault cancels Capo Ferro, don’t you?”
Tosh smiled. “Unless the enemy hasn’t studied his Agrippa, which I have.” Their blades clashed again and it had been a long time since Tosh had fought anyone this good. “You are wonderful,” she told him happily.
The man in black smiled. “Thank you. I’ve worked hard to become so.”
“I admit it, you are better than I am,” Tosh told him with a smile.
The man was confused. “Then why are you smiling?” he asked.
“Because I know something you don’t know,” Tosh told him.
He would admit he was curious. “And what is that?” he asked.
“I am not left-handed.” Tosh switched her sword to her right hand.
And with that move, their fight began again and the man in black found he was the one being pushed back.
“You’re amazing,” he told her.
Tosh smiled. “I ought to be after twenty years.”
“There is something I ought to tell you,” the man started.
“Tell me,” Tosh demanded.
“I’m not left-handed, either.” And with that, the man switched his sword to his right hand.
Tosh stared in amazement. “Who are you?” she asked.
“No one of any consequence,” he told her.
But Tosh was not giving up. “I must know.”
But the man was not giving anything away. “Get used to disappointment.”
Seeing that she would not get anything out of him, she shrugged. “Okay.”
And with that, the two resumed their fight, swords clashing as the two danced a beautiful and deadly dance.
But in the end, it was the man in black who won. Accepting her fate, Tosh bared her neck to his sword. “Kill me quickly.” She would face her death with honour, but also a heavy heart that she would never get a chance to defeat the man who killed her mother.
But the man in black had no such plans. “I would as soon destroy a stained glass window as an artist like you. However, since I can’t have you following me either...” The man in black hit Tosh over the head with the hilt of his sword. He caught her limp body and carefully lowered her to the ground. “Please understand, I hold you in the highest respect.”
“I’m so glad that Auntie Tosh lived, she was so cool.” Mica said, starry-eyed.
Halfway up a hill, by a set of boulders, Gwen was shocked to see the figure in black moving towards them.
“Inconceivable. Give him to me,” she ordered Rhys. The giant had no choice but to do as he was told. “Catch up with us quickly,” she ordered, keeping a firm gripe, on Jack’s bound hands.
Rhys was confused. “What do I do?”
“Finish him; finish him, your way,” Gwen growled.
“Oh good, my way, thank you, Gwen,” Rhys said smiling, then paused. “Which way is my way?” he asked.
Gwen pointed at the boulders. “Pick up one of those rocks and get behind the boulder. In a few minutes the man in black will come running around the bend. The minute his head is in view, HIT IT WITH THE ROCK!” Gwen roared.
Rhys frowned as he watched Gwen drag a struggling and gagged Jack away. “My way is not very sportsmanlike,” he muttered under his breath.
Approaching the boulders the man in black slowed down. It seemed this was a good idea, as a rock disintegrates just in front of him.
Rhys came out from behind the boulders. “I did that on purpose. I didn’t have to miss,” he informed the other man.
“I believe you,” the man in black told him. “So what happens now?” he asked, keeping a good grip on his sword.
“We face each other as God intended…sportsmanlike. No tricks, no weapons, skill against skill alone,” Rhys told him.
The man in black looked doubtful. “You mean, you’ll put down your rock and I’ll put down my sword and we’ll try and kill each other like civilized people?” he asked.
Rhys raised the rock in his hand. “I could kill you now,” he offered.
“Frankly, I think the odds are slightly in you favour at hand fighting,” the man in black told Rhys, knowing he was out classed by the giant.
Rhys shrugged his shoulders. “It’s not my fault being the biggest and the strongest. I don’t even exercise.”
Putting down his sword, the man in black rushed to tackle Rhys, only to find he could not make the other man move an inch.
“Look, are you just playing around with me or what?” he demanded, still trying to figure out away around the other man’s strength.
Rhys smiled at the man. “I just want you to feel you’re doing well. I hate for people to die embarrassed,” he explained.
Rhys made powerful swipes at the man in black, who managed to dodge each of them with success.
“You’re quick,” Rhys noted.
“And it is a good thing too,” he agreed, knowing if he was slower, Rhys’s blows would do serious damage to him.
Rhys had a question he had needed to ask ever since he saw the man in black. “Why are you wearing a mask? Were you burned by acid or something like that?” he asked.
“Oh no, it’s just they’re terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be wearing them in the future.” he explained with an easygoing smile, still trying to figure out a way to beat the giant.
Rhys would admit he was amused by the man in black’s attempts to beat him. “I just figured out why you give me so much trouble,” he commented.
Eyeing the boulders behind Rhys, the man in black asked, “Why’s that, do you think?”
“Well, I haven’t fought just one person for so long. I’ve been specializing in groups. Battling gangs for local charities, that kind of thing,” Rhys informed the other man.
While Rhys had been talking, the man in black had climbed onto the boulders and leaped off of them onto Rhys’ back, wrapping his arms around his neck in a sleeper hold. “Why should that make such a difference?” he asked, holding onto Rhys as the man backed up into the same boulders, trying to shake the man off.
Both knew one of them was going to win; either the man in black could hang on long enough to cut off the air to Rhys’ lungs or Rhys’ strength plus the boulders would break every bone in the man in black’s body.
The man in black really hoped Rhys would drop soon; he didn’t know how much longer he could hold on for.
“Well, you see, you use different moves when you’re fighting half a dozen people than when you only have to be worried about ….one.”
Finally, Rhys dropped to one knee. Sensing that his victory was near, the man in black held on and soon the giant dropped unconscious to the ground.
Releasing Rhys, the other man climbed to his feet. “I do not envy you the headache you will have when you awake. But, in the meantime, rest well, and dream of large women,” the man in black told the sleeping giant.
“That was intense,” Steven said, eyes alight.
“Is Uncle Rhys going to be okay?”
Prince John and a loyal set of guards, which included Count Owen, had reached the sight of the sword fight.
Prince John himself studied the scuff marks on the ground.
“There was a mighty duel. It ranged all over. They were both masters,” Prince John murmured under his breath.
Leaning forward on his horse, Count Owen asked, “Who won? How did it end?”
John recounted the duel himself. “The loser …. ran off alone, and the winner followed those footprints….towards Gilder,” John informed them.
“Shall we track them both?” Owen asked, holding the prince’s horse steady for him to climb back on.
John shook his head no. “The loser is nothing. Only the prince matters. Clearly this was all planned by warriors of Gilder. We must be ready for whatever lies ahead,” John ordered.
“Could this be a trap?” Owen asked what was on everyone’s minds.
“I always think everything could be a trap, which is why I’m still alive,” John informed Owen as he ordered his horse forward.
Further up the path, the man in black reached an open area to find Gwen seated behind a covered table. Jack, blindfolded, was sitting to her left. One the table was a bottle of wine and two goblets.
Gwen smiled at the approaching man. “So, it is down to you, and it is down to me. If you wish him dead, by all means, keep moving forward,” Gwen warned, pressing a knife against Jack’s neck.
The man in black raised his hands. “Let me explain…” he began.
Gwen tightened her grip on the knife. “There’s nothing to explain. You’re trying to kidnap what I have rightfully stolen,” Gwen snapped back.
“Perhaps an arrangement can be reached?” the man asked, taking a step closer.
Gwen pressed the knife deeper against Jack’s skin. “There will be no arrangement, and you’re killing him,” she informed the man.
A sigh escaped the man’s lips. “Well, if there can be no arrangement, then we are at an impasse.”
Gwen nodded, agreeing with the man. “I’m afraid so. I can’t compete with you physically, and you’re no match for my brains.”
The man raised an eyebrow that was not seen behind his mask, understanding this woman’s weakness. “You’re that smart?” he asked in a disbelieving tone.
Gwen’s smile was one full of pride and arrogances. “Let me put it this way; have you heard of Plato, Aristotle and Socrates?” she asked.
“Yes,” the man answered.
“Morons,” Gwen told him.
“Really? In that case, I challenge you to a battle of wits.” The man declared.
Gwen stared at the man before her. “For the prince.”
The man nodded.
“To the death.”
The man nodded again.
The man in black moved forward to take the free chair. “Good. Then pour the wine,” he ordered while pulling out a small vial. He uncorked it and held it out to Gwen. “Inhale this, but do not touch,” he warned.
Gwen did as she was told. “I smell nothing,” she told him.
“What you do not smell is called iocane powder. It is odourless, tasteless, dissolves instantly in liquid, and is among the more deadly poisons known to man,” the man explained.
“Hmmm,” Gwen murmured.
Taking the two goblets and turning away from Gwen, the man in black poured the poison in. He turned back around and placed the goblets back on the table, one in front of each of them.
“All right, where is the poison? The battle of wits has begun. It ends when you decide and we both drink, and find out who is right….and who is dead,” the man in black explained.
“But it’s so simple. All I have to do is divine from what I know of you. Are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own goblet or his enemy’s? Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool; you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me,” Gwen explained.
“You’ve made your decision then?” the man in black asked.
Gwen shook her head. “Not remotely. Because iocane comes from Australia, as everyone knows, and Australia is entirely peopled with criminals, and criminals are used to having people not trust them, as you are not trusted by me, so I can clearly not chose the wine in front of you.”
“Truly, you have a dizzying intellect,” the man in black told Gwen.
“Wait till I get going. Where was I?” she asked, losing her place.
“Australia,” the man in black helped her out, wondering where she was going with this.
Gwen nodded, remembering her place. “Yes, Australia. And you must have suspected I would have known the powder’s origin, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.”
“You’re just stalling now,” the man in front of her pointed out.
“You’d like to think that, wouldn’t you? You’ve beaten my giant, which means you’re exceptionally strong, so you could’ve put the poison in your own goblet, trusting on your strength to save you, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But, you’ve also bested my sword master, which means you must have studied, and in studying you must have learned that man is mortal, so you would have put the poison as far from yourself as possible, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me,” Gwen continued on.
“You’re trying to trick me into giving away something. It won’t work,” the man in black calmly informed her.
“It has worked. You’ve given everything away. I know where the poison is!” Gwen happily informed him.
The man in black merely smiled at her, gesturing to the table. “Then make your choice.”
“I will, and I choose-what in the world can that be?” Gwen asked, gesturing up and away from the table.
As the man looked away, Gwen quickly switched the cups.
“What? Where? I don’t see anything,” the man in black told her as he turned back to the table.
Gwen shrugged innocently. “Well, I could have sworn I saw something. No matter,” Gwen replied, smirking.
“What’s so funny?” he asked.
Picking up her cup, Gwen told him, “I’ll tell you in a minute. First, let’s drink. Me from my glass, and you from yours.”
They both drank at the same time.
“You guessed wrong,” the man tells Gwen.
Gwen laughed at that. “You only think I guessed wrong! That’s what’s so funny! I switched glasses when your back was turned! Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly well-known is this; never go against a Welsh woman when death is on the line! Ha ha ha ha ha ha h…”
Gwen suddenly stopped and fell over dead to the right.
The man in black moved towards the still-tied up Jack.
“Who are you?” Jack asked, feeling his bindings coming loose.
“I am no one to be trifled with. That is all you will ever need to know,” the man in black warned Jack.
The man in black hauled Jack to his feet and Jack glanced over at the dead body of Gwen. “And to think, all that time it was your cup that was poisoned.” He was slightly frightened of this man; he had beaten his entire kidnappers single-handed.
The other man shook his head. “They were both poisoned. I’ve spent the last few years building up immunity to iocane powder,” he explained.
Grabbing Jack’s wrists, the man in black dragged him away from Gwen’s dead body.
Not long after his escape, Prince John’s party reached the boulders where the man in black had defeated Rhys
“Someone has beaten a giant. There will be great suffering in Gilder if Jack dies,” John vowed.
Further up the path, Jack and the man in black were traveling along the hilltop of a grassy mountain.
“Catch your breath,” the man in black ordered Jack as he released his arm to allow him rest.
“If you’ll release me, whatever you ask for in ransom, you will get it, I promise you,” Jack offered.
The man in black laughed. “And what is that worth, the promise of royalty? You’re very funny, Highness.”
Jack glared at the laughing man. “I was giving you a chance. It does not matter where you take me. There is no greater hunter than Prince John. He can track a falcon on a cloudy day. He can find you,” Jack snapped at the other man.
“You think your dearest love will save you?” the man in black mocked.
Jack’s glare deepened. “I never said he was my dearest love; and yes, he will save me. That I know,” Jack told him.
“You admit to me that you do not love your fiancé?” the man in black asked.
“He knows I do not love him.” Jack wasn’t sure why he was telling him this.
“Are not capable of love is what you mean,” the other man corrected.
Jack was enraged. “I have loved more deeply than a killer like you could ever dream of.” He wanted to strangle the other man.
The man in black’s hand came flying up and Jack flinched, expecting the blow.
“That was a warning, Highness. The next time my hand flies on its own, for where I come from, there are penalties when someone lies,” the other man warned.
Jack nodded and the two continued on their journey.
Prince John and those travelling with him came across Gwen’s dead body shortly after.
“Iocane, I’d bet my life on it. And there are the prince’s footprints. He is alive, or was an hour ago. If he is otherwise when I find him, I shall be very put out,” John growled under his breath.
Unknowing of their trackers, the two men were still walking among the hilltop, but were now near a gully.
The man in black noticed that Jack was getting tired. “Rest, Highness,” he told Jack.
“I know who you are. Your cruelty reveals everything. You’re the Dread Pirate Roberts, admit it,” Jack demanded.
The man now known as Dread Pirate Roberts bowed to Jack. “With pride, what can I do for you?” he asked.
“You can die slowly, cut into a thousand pieces,” Jack snarled at Roberts.
Roberts wiggled a finger at Jack. “Tsk-tsk-tsk, hardly complimentary, your highness, why let loose your venom on me?” he asked.
“You killed my love,” Jack told him, fighting back the tears.
Roberts shrugged, looking uncaring. “It is possible. I’ve killed a lot of people. Who was this love of yours? Another prince like this one-ugly, rich, and scabby?” he asked, not really caring.
“No, a farm boy, poor and perfect, with eyes like the sea after a storm.” Jack fought back the tears. “On the high seas, your ship attacked. And the dread pirate Roberts never takes prisoners.” Jack was nearly spitting with rage.
“I can’t afford to make exceptions. I mean, once word leaks out that a pirate has gone soft, people begin to disobey you and it’s nothing but work, work, and work all the time,”
Dread Pirate Roberts told Jack.
“You mock my pain!” Jack cried.
“Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” He paused as if remembering something. “I remember this farm boy of yours, I think. This would be what, five years ago? Does it bother you to hear?” he asked Jack.
Jack shook his head in denial. “Nothing you can say will upset me.”
“He died well. That should please you. No bribe attempts or blubbering. He simply said, ‘Please….please, I need to live.’ It was the ‘please’ that caught my memory. I asked him what was so important for him here. ‘True love,’ he replied. And then he spoke of a man of surpassing beauty and faithfulness. I can only assume he meant you. You should bless me for destroying him before he found out what you really are,” Roberts snarled.
Jack crossed his arms. “And what am I?”
“Faithfulness he talked of, mister, your enduring faithfulness. Now tell me truly, when you found out he was gone, did you get engaged to your prince that same hour, or did you wait a whole week out of respect for the dead?” Roberts growled.
“You mocked me once. Never do it again! I died that day!” Jack snarled. “And you can die too for all I care!” And with that, Jack shoved Roberts down the hill.
As the Dread Pirate Roberts rolled down the hill he called out. “As…..You….Wish!”
Jack couldn’t believe his ears. “Oh my sweet Ianto, what have I done?” he gasped before he jumped down the hill, rolling after him.
“I knew tad couldn’t be dead.” Mica stated, clutching her stuff teddy bear
Prince John and his men had reached the hilltop.
“He disappeared. He must have seen us closing in. It might account for his panicking into error. Unless I am wrong, and I am never wrong, they are headed dead into the Fire Swamp,” John informed his fellow riders, urging his horse on.
At the bottom of the hill near a gully laid a mask-less Ianto, with Jack resting upon his chest.
Jack drank in the sight of his lost love, so grateful that Ianto had lost his mask on the way down.
“Can you move at all?” Ianto asked, scanning Jack’s body for injures.
A true smile lit across Jack face. “Move? You’re alive! If you want, I can fly.” For the first time since hearing of Ianto’s “death”, Jack felt truly alive.
Ianto smiled at his love as he stroked Jack’s cheek. “I told you I would always come for you. Why didn’t you wait for me?” Ianto couldn’t keep the hurt out of his voice that Jack would have such little faith in him.
Jack hated to hear the hurt in Ianto’s tone and tried to explain himself. “Well, you were dead,” he explained himself badly.
“Death can not stop True Love. All it can do is delay it for a while,” Ianto told Jack.
Jack leaned in closer. “I will never doubt again,” he vowed with his mouth inches from Ianto’s.
“There will never be a need,” Ianto whispered before the two reunited lovers shared their first kiss again.
Steven scrunched up his nose. “Aw, no, no please,” he begged.
Wilf looked up from his book. “What is it? What’s the matter?” he asked, concerned.
“They’re kissing again. Do we have to hear the kissing part? Skip on to the Fire Swamp. That sounded good,” Steven demanded.
“No, Grandpa, I like the kissing part.” Mica pouted.
Wilf felt torn. “Well, let’s humour your brother for now; I’ll make it up to you later. Okay, sweetie?”
Mica gave a soft nod.
Wilf picked up his book and skipped past the kissing part, “Ah, here we are, Ianto and Jack raced along the ravine floor.”
Ianto and Jack raced across the ravine floor and ahead of them looms the dark of the Fire Swamp.
As Ianto led the way, he kept a tight grip on Jack’s hand; he was not going to lose his love a second time. “Ha! Your pig fiancé is too late. A few more steps and we’ll be safe in the fire swamp.” Ianto happily told Jack as he looked up and saw the search party on the ridge.
Jack didn’t share Ianto’s cheerfulness. “We’ll never survive,” he told Ianto.
Ianto merely smiled at Jack, “Nonsense. You’re only saying that because no one ever has,” he cheerfully called back.
Jack moved closer to Ianto as they entered the Fire Swamp; he already hated it here.
“It’s not that bad,” Ianto commented to Jack, only for Jack to give Ianto a disbelieving look. “Well, I’m not saying I’d like to build a summer home here, but the trees are actually quite lovely,” Ianto said, gesturing to the trees.
Jack just gave his love a fond look.
They walked for quite a bit without any trouble, until a series of thumping noises approached Jack. A Flame Spout appeared beside him shortly after.
Jack would deny it later, but he let out a frightened, girly scream as his pants caught on fire. Ianto was immediately at Jack’s side and quickly smothered out the flame.
Ianto grinned at Jack. “Well now, that was an adventure. Singed a bit, were you?” he asked, concern lacing his voice.
Jack shook his in the head negative. “You?” he asked
Ianto also shook his head negatively. “Well, one thing I will say. The Fire Swamp certainly does keep you on your toes. This will soon all be but a happy memory.” Ianto looked ahead. “Roberts’ ship Revenge and waits at the far end. And I, as you know, am Roberts.”
This was something that had been bothering Jack since he learned his beloved Ianto was alive. “But how is that possible, since he’s been marauding twenty years, and you only left me five years ago?” he asked.
A distant look overcame Ianto’s face. “I myself am often surprised at life’s quirks. See, what I told you before about saying ‘please’ was true. It intrigued Roberts, as did my descriptions of your beauty. Finally, Roberts decided something. He said ‘All right Ianto, I’ve never had a valet, you can try if you’d like. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.’ Three years he said that. ‘Good night Ianto. Good work. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.’ It was a fine time for me. I was learning to fence, fight, anything anyone would teach me. And Roberts and I eventually became friends. And then it happened.” Ianto trailed off there.
Jack didn’t want the story to end; he wanted to hear how his loveable Ianto became the Dread Pirate Roberts. “What? Go on,” he demanded.
Ianto couldn’t help but pull Jack close; that was his love, impatient as always. “Well, Roberts had grown so rich, he wanted to retire. So he took me to his cabin, and told me his secret.
‘I am not the Dread Pirate Roberts,’ he said. ‘My name is Andy. I inherited the ship from the previous Dread Pirate Roberts, just as you will inherit if from me. The man I inherited it from was not the real Roberts either. His name was Tommy. The real Roberts has been retired for fifteen years and living like a king in Patagonia.’
“Then he explained that the name was the important thing for inspiring the necessary fear. You see, no one would surrender to the Dread Pirate Ianto. So we sailed ashore, took on an entirely new crew, and he stayed onboard for a while as first mate, all the time calling me Roberts. Once the crew believed, he left the ship, and I have been Roberts ever since. Except now that we’re together, I shall retire and hand the name over to someone else. Is everything clear to you?” Ianto asked.
Jack nodded, but there was doubt in him, how could Ianto give up the life as a pirate for someone like him? Who would give up on their love and agree to marry another that they had no feelings for?
Jack took a step and unknowingly walked right into a patch of lightning sand and promptly disappeared.
“Jack!” Ianto cried as he cut a nearby vine and dove in after him.
Several heart pounding moments passed before Ianto and Jack broke the surface of the sandpit.
Coughing and gasping for air, Jack held onto Ianto as the other man pulled them to safety.
Once on solid ground, Jack glanced at Ianto. “We’ll never succeed. We may as well die here,” he cried.
Ianto couldn’t help but chuckle at Jack’s overdramatic outburst. “No, no. We have already succeeded. I mean, what are the three terrors of the Fire Swamp? One, the flame spurt, which are no problem; there is a popping sound preceding each, we can avoid that. Two, the lightning sand, but you were clever enough to discover what that looks like, so in the future we can avoid that, too,” Ianto counted off on his fingers.
Jack still looked doubtful. “But Ianto, what about the R.O.U.Ses?” he asked.
Ianto raised an eyebrow, a look that usually had Jack jumping the younger man. “Rodents of Unusual Size? I don’t think they exist,” Ianto said with a shrug.
Of course, as soon as Ianto finished speaking a large R.O.U.S appeared and pounced on him.
A scream of pain escaped Ianto’s lips as the creature latched on.
“Ianto!” Jack could only watch on helplessly as Ianto fought for his life.
Ianto and the R.O.U.S. fought upon the ground, Ianto somehow managing to keep the giant rodent away from his neck, which was no easy task. But hope came as Ianto heard a familiar pooping sound. Taking a chance, he rolled the rodent over onto the erupting flame spurt, igniting the fur of the rodent. Climbing to his feet, Ianto grabbed his sword and stabbed the rodent.
A horrible screeching noise escaped the creature before it twitched and took its last breath.
Much later, Jack and Ianto finally exited the Fire Swamp, coming into a lightly wooded area.
Smiling, Jack flung his arms around Ianto. “We did it.”
Ianto wrapped his arms around Jack. “Now, was that so terrible?” he asked, grinning at the man in his arms. Their eyes locked and their heads drifted towards one another, both seeking another kiss.
Only for their moment to be ruined by the sound of horses.
Pulling away from Jack, Ianto tugged Jack behind him and pulled out his sword in a defensive step.
Prince John sat regally upon his horse. “Surrender!” he ordered.
Ianto smiled. “You mean you wish to surrender to me? Very well, I accept,” Ianto told him.
John felt his lips twitch; this man was very foolish or very brave. “I give you full marks for bravery. Don’t make yourself a fool,” he told Ianto.
“Ah, but how will you capture us? We know the secrets of the Fire Swamp. We can live there quite happily for some time, so whenever you feel like dying, feel free to visit,” Ianto told John a dangerous tone in his voice.
John was through playing nice. “I tell you once again, surrender!” he growled.
“It will not happen,” Ianto growled back.
“For the last time, surrender,” John roared.
“Death first!” Ianto would never surrender, and neither would the Dread Pirate Roberts.
Jack shoved himself forward. “Will you promise not to hurt him?” he demanded to know from John.
“What was that?” John asked, unsure he heard right.
“What was that?” Ianto echoed John, not believing what he was hearing.
Jack looked at John, not daring to glance at Ianto, knowing if he did, he could not go through with this. “If we surrender and I return with you, will you promise not to hurt this man?” he asked.
“May I live a thousand years and never hunt again,” John vowed.
Jack nodded. “He is a sailor on the pirate ship Revenge. Promise to return him to his ship,” he pleaded.
John looked solemnly as he promised. “I swear it will be done.”
Once Jack turned back to Ianto, John leaned over and whispered to Owen. “Once we’re out of sight, take him back to Florin and throw him in the Pit of Despair,” he ordered.
“I swear it will be done,” Owen vowed to his prince.
While this was being plotted, Jack had to face a heartbroken and betrayed Ianto. “I thought you were dead once and it almost destroyed me. I could not bear it if you died again, not when I could save you,” Jack explained, trying in vain to keep the tears from falling.
Ianto could only watch as John rode up and helped Jack onto the back of his horse.
Owen came up to Ianto’s side. “Come, sir, we must get you to your ship,” he told Ianto.
Ianto turned to face Owen. “We are men of action. Lies do not become us.” Ianto was no fool; there was no way that John would let him make it back to his ship alive.
Owen smirked. “Well spoken, sir.” He couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow as he noticed Ianto staring at his hand. “What is it?” he asked.
“You have six fingers on your right hand. Someone has been looking for you,” Ianto told Owen, thinking fondly of the brave Tosh.
Owen glared at Ianto before knocking him out with the hilt of his sword.
“We know find ourselves in the pit of despair, where Ianto is strapped to a table in front of a large machine that consists of a waterwheel, levers, and pumps and so on. A dark skin man is tending to Ianto wounds.”
Ianto woke and discovered that he was trapped in an unfamiliar place, strapped to a table in front of a large machine that consisted of a waterwheel, levers, pumps and other things he could not make out. A stranger with dark skin tended to his bite mark from the R.O. U.S. “Where am I?” he asked.
A menacing voice answered him. “The Pit of Despair. Don’t even think….” The voice was cut off by coughing and a gasp for air. The menacing voice was replaced by the man’s real voice. “Don’t even think about trying to escape. The chains are far too thick. And don’t dream of being rescued, either. The only way in is secret, and only the prince, the count and I, Mickey, know how to get in and out,” Mickey told Ianto.
“Then I am here till I die?” Ianto asked.
Mickey shrugged. “Till they kill you, yeah,” he agreed.
Ianto was slightly confused, so he asked, “Then why bother curing me?”
A sigh escaped Mickey’s lips. “The prince and the count always insist on everyone being healthy before they’re broken,” he explained to Ianto.
“So it’s to be torture then?” he asked and Mickey nodded his head. “I can cope with torture.” Ianto told him and Mickey shook his head. “Don’t believe me?” he asked.
Mickey had to give the young man his credit. “You survived the fire swamp, you must be very brave, but nobody withstands The Machine,” Mickey told him.
At the castle John watched a melancholy Jack through his window. He relaxed as a pair of familiar arms wrapped around him.
A sigh escaped his lips as he leaned into Owen’s body and addressed him. “He’s been like that ever since the Fire Swamp. It’s my father’s failing health that is upsetting him,” John lied through his teeth.
Owen nodded his head, even though he and John both knew the truth, “Of course.”
Days later, in the Florin Market, John addressed the crowd from the balcony. The king had died the night before, and before the following dawn, Jack and John were married.
“And at noon he met with his subjects again, this time as their king.” Wilf told the children.
John began his speech. “My father’s final words were…”
“Hold it, hold it, Grandpa. You read that wrong. Dad can’t marry Uncle John, he married Tad. I’m just sure of it, after all Tad did for him, if Dad didn’t marry Tad, it wouldn’t be fair,” Steven butted in.
Mica nodded her head, agreeing with her brother.
Wilf hid a smile. “Well, who says life is fair? Where is that written? Life isn’t always fair,” he told the twins.
Steven wasn’t buying it. “I’m telling you, you’re messing up the story, now get it right.”
“Do you want me to go on with this?” Wilf asked the children.
“Yes,” both twins cried.
“All right, then. No more interruptions. “At noon he met his subjects again, this time as their king.”
John addressed his people. “My father’s final words were: ‘Love him as I loved him and there will be joy.’ I present to you your king, King Jack,” John announced.
The castle doors opened and Jack appeared, forcing a smile on his face as he walked out into his bowing subjects.
“Boo! Boo! Boo!” an elderly lady known as Estelle shouted at Jack as she moved in front of the crowd.
Jack stared at her with confusion and a little hurt. “Why do you do this?” he asked her.
Estelle looked at him like he was the biggest fool on the planet. “Because you had love in your hands, and you gave it up,” she told him.
“But they would have killed Ianto if I hadn’t done it.” Losing Ianto a second time had been the hardest thing he ever had to do.
“Your true love lives! And you marry another. True love saved him in the Fire Swamp, and he treated it like garbage. And that is what he is, the king of refuse. So bow down to him if you want, bow to him. Bow to the king of slime, the king of filth, the king of putrescence. Boo! Boo! Rubbish! Filth! Slime! Muck! Boo! Boo! Boo!” Estelle yelled at Jack.
Jack didn’t want to listen to any more; he knew she was telling the truth.
With a gasp, Jack shot up in bed, thankful to see it was all nothing but a dream.
Wilf couldn’t help but grin at the children’s relieved sighs. “It was ten days till the wedding. The king still lived, but Jack’s nightmares were growing steadily worse.”
Steven looked smug. “See? Didn’t I tell you he would never marry Uncle John?”
Mica nodded her head. “Yes, you’re very smart. Now be quiet,” she told her brother.
Jack had gone to John’s office to talk to him.
“It comes to this. I love Ianto. I always have. I know now I always will. If you tell me I must marry you in ten days, please believe me, I will be dead by the morning,” Jack told John.
John moved to his desk and took a seat. “I could never cause you grief. Consider our wedding off.” John turned to face Owen. “You, uh, returned this Ianto to his ship?” he asked.
Owen gave a simple answer. “Yes.”
John smiled a false smile that only Owen could see through. “Then we will simply alert him. Beloved, are you certain he still wants you? After all, it was you who did the leaving in the Fire Swamp. Not to mention that pirates are not known to be men of their words,” John reminded Jack.
“My Ianto will always come for me,” Jack informed John. He would never doubt that Ianto wouldn’t come for him. Look at what he went through to save him from his kidnappers.
“I suggest a deal. You write four copies of a letter. I’ll send my four fastest ships, one in each direction. The Dread Pirate Roberts is always close to Florin this time of year. We’ll run up the white flag and deliver your message. If Ianto wants you, bless you both. If not, please consider me as an alternative to suicide. Are we agreed?” John made the offer.
Jack just nodded his head in agreement, never for once believing that his Ianto wouldn’t want him. True love was not something that could be stopped.
John and Owen watched as Jack took his leave from them.
“Your prince is really quite a winning creature. A trifle simple, perhaps, but his appeal is undeniable,” Owen commented to John.
“Oh, I know, the people are quite taken with him. It’s odd, but when I hired Gwen to have him murdered on our engagement day, I thought that was clever. But it’s going to be so much more moving when I strangle him on our wedding night. Once Gilder is blamed, the nation will be truly outraged. They’ll demand we go to war.” John smiled, proud of his plan. He leaned forward and kissed Owen possessively. “Never forget, you are the one I want; he is nothing but a pawn,” John reminded his lover.
“Good, I hate to kill him before you can completely your plan,” Owen growled.
John laughed before proving to his lover just who he wanted.
Later that day, in a forest, Owen searched a particular tree trunk as John watched his progress.
“Hmm, now where is that secret knot? It’s impossible to find,” Owen muttered under his breath to John as he continued to search. The prince’s eyes were, of course, glued to Owen’s arse.
“Hah!” Owen let out a sound of triumph as he found what he was looking for. “Are you coming down into the pit? Ianto’s got his strength back. I’m starting him on The Machine tonight,” Owen said to John with barely contained glee.
John smiled. “Owen, you know how much I love watching you work, but I’ve got my country’s 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my husband to murder, and Gilder to frame for it. I’m swamped,” John told him.
Owen rested his hand on John’s shoulder. “Get some rest. If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.”
John reached up and gave Owen’s hand a lingering caress before stepping away from Owen, who, under the watchful eye of John, entered the pit.
Owen entered the pit of despair and he made his way over to Ianto and The Machine. “Beautiful, isn’t it? Took me half a lifetime to invent it; I’m sure you’ve discovered my deep and abiding interest in pain. At present, I’m writing the definitive work on the subject, so I want you to be totally honest with me on how The Machine makes you feel. This being our first try, I’ll use the lowest setting,” Owen boasted to Ianto.
Owen moved a leaver from zero to one. Water started flowing, powering The Machine. Ianto tried as he might to withstand it, but could not help but writhe in pain.
Owen took note of this and decided to explain how The Machine works. “As you know, the concept of the suction pump is centuries old. Well, really that’s all this is except that instead of sucking water, I’m sucking life. I’ve just sucked one year of your life away. I might one day go as high as five, but I really don’t know what that would do to you, so let’s just start with what we have. What did this do to you? Tell me. And remember, this is for posterity, so be honest. How do you feel?” Owen asked Ianto.
Ianto couldn’t help but whimper.
“Interesting,” Owen murmured.
Harold Saxon, John’s chief enforcer entered Prince John’s office. The prince was at his desk, busy plotting…something.
“Ahem!” Harold called out.
John looked up from his work. “Harold,” he happily greeted.
“Sire.” Harold stood, awaiting orders.
John climbed to his feet and motioned Harold to join him. “As chief enforcer of all Florin, I trust you with this secret: killers from Gilder are infiltrating the Thieves’ Forest and plan to murder my groom on our wedding night,” John told him.
Harold frowned. “My spy network has heard no such news.” He couldn’t believe he hadn’t heard such rumours.
Before John could say any more, Jack appeared at the door of his office.
“Has there been any word from Ianto?” Jack asked, hope in his voice.
John shook his head, looking sadly at him. “Too soon, my angel, have patience,” John told him.
Jack’s eyes narrowed as he spoke. “He will come for me,” he vowed.
John nodded his head. ”Of course,” he agreed.
Jack turned on his heel and left John’s office, not willing to give up hope on his Ianto coming for him.
John turned back to Harold. “He will not be murdered. On the day of the wedding, I want the Thieves’ Forest emptied, and every inhabitant arrested,” he ordered.
“Many of the thieves will resist. My regular enforcers will be inadequate.” Harold could already see problems forming.
“Form a brute squad, then. I want the Thieves’ Forest emptied before I wed.” John would not let anything ruin his plans.
Harold still had doubts as he told him, “It won’t be easy, sire.”
“Try ruling the world sometime,” John muttered under his breath.
The day of the wedding arrived. The brute squad had their hands full carrying out John’s orders. They moved from hut to hut in the Thieves’ Forest, rooting out possible troublemakers
Harold watched the work of his men and looked to his assistant, Adam. “Is everybody out?” he questioned.
Adam shook his head. “Almost, there is a Japanese giving us some trouble,” he admitted.
“Well give him some trouble. Move,” Harold ordered.
Adam looked sheepishly. “Actually, it’s a woman,” he admitted.
Outside a hut, Tosh was sitting, nursing a bottle.
“I am waiting for you, Gwen. You told me to go back to the beginning. So I have. This is where I am, and this is where I will stay. I will not be moved,” Tosh slurred out drunkenly.
Adam came up to her. “Ho there.”
Tosh glared at him. “I do not budge. Keep your ‘Ho there,’” she snapped at him.
Adam blinked at her. “But the prince gave orders,” he told her.
“So did Gwen. When the job went wrong, she went back to the beginning. Well, this is where we got the job, so it’s the beginning. And I am staying till Gwen comes,” Tosh said before she took a swipe at Adam with her sword.
Adam spied Rhys and waved him over. “You, brute, come here,” he ordered.
Rhys did as he was told.
“I am waiting for Gwen,” Tosh slurred out.
Rhys came to stand beside his friend. “You surely are a meanie, then. Hello,” he told Adam before greeting Tosh.
Tosh stared up at him before smiling at him. “It’s you,” she said in disbelief.
“You don’t look so good,” Rhys told her honestly.
Tosh sputtered nothing but utter nonsense in response.
“You don’t smell so good either,” Rhys continued on.
Tosh took a quick smell of herself and shrugged, not smelling anything, “Perhaps no. I feel fine,” she told him.
“Yeah,” Rhys said in disbelief as he watched as Tosh tried to stand on her own two feet, only to fail.
Adam, seeing that the giant had the drunk under control, left them; he had other things to do besides babysitting a drunk.
Rhys was overjoyed with being reunited with his long-lost friend. And as Rhys nursed his inebriated friend back to health, he told Tosh of Gwen’s death and the existence of Count Owen, the six-fingered man. Considering Tosh’s lifelong search, she handled the news surprisingly well. Once Rhys had cleaned the soup off of her face, that is. This was done with great care, in the form of two buckets of ice-water, into which Rhys repeatedly dunked Tosh’s head.
Tosh sputtered, having enough of Rhys’ revival tactics. “That is enough! That is enough! Where is this Owen now, so I may kill him?” she demanded to know.
“He’s with the prince, in the castle. But the castle gate is guarded by thirty men,” Rhys informed her.
With fire in her eyes, Tosh asked him, “How many could you handle?”
Rhys counted on his fingers. “I don’t think more than ten,” he told her.
Tosh looked thoughtful. “Leaving twenty for me. At my best, I could never defeat that many. I need Gwen to plan. I have no gift for strategy,” Tosh admitted.
“But Gwen is dead,” Rhys gently reminded Tosh.
Tosh shook her head. “No, not Gwen. I need the man in black,” she told Rhys.
Rhys blinked at her. “What?” he questioned.
Tosh sighed. “Look, he bested you with strength, your greatness. He bested me with steel. He must have out-thought Gwen. And a man who can do that can plan my castle onslaught any day. Let’s go,” Tosh ordered.
“Where?” Rhys questioned.
Tosh rolled her eyes-hadn’t she made it obvious? “To find the man in black, obviously,” she informed him.
“But we don’t know where he is!” Rhys reminded her.
“Don’t bother me with trifles. After twenty years, at last my mother’s soul will be at peace. There will be blood tonight!” Tosh vowed, stalking out of the village.
Back in the castle, Harold entered John’s office to find him at his desk. He bowed to John.
“Rise and report,” John ordered.
Harold did as commanded. “The Thieves’ Forest is emptied. Thirty men guard the castle gate,” he reported.
“Double it. My prince must be safe,” he ordered.
“The gate has but one key, and I carry that,” Harold reminded John.
Before John could respond, Jack entered the office and all of John’s attention was on his betrothed.
“Ahhh, my dulcet darling, tonight, we marry,” John greeted before turning his attention back to Saxon. “Tomorrow morning, your men will escort us to the Florin channel, where every ship in my armada waits to accompany us on our honeymoon,” John informed the man.
Jack looked at John sharply. “Every ship but your four fastest, you mean.” Jack paused as it suddenly became clear to him why Ianto never came for him. “Every ship but the four you sent,” he reminded John.
John hid a wince as he realized the mistake he made. “Yes, of course, naturally not those four,” he agreed with Jack.
Harold was confused; for all he knew, none of Prince John’s ships had been sent anywhere. “Ahem, your majesty,” he started.
“You never sent the ships. Don’t bother lying. It doesn’t matter; Ianto will come for me anyway,” Jack lashed out at John.
“You’re a silly boy,” John sneered at Jack.
Jack nodded his head. “Yes, I am a silly boy, for not having seen sooner that you are nothing but a coward with a heart full of fear,” Jack snarled, anger filling him. He couldn’t believe he ever trusted this man.
“I would not say such things if I were you,” John warned.
“Why not, you can’t hurt me. Ianto and I are joined by the bonds of love. And you cannot track that, not with a thousand bloodhounds. And you cannot break it, not with a thousand swords. And when I say you are a coward that is only because you are the slimiest weakling ever to crawl the earth.” With that said, Jack stalked away from the room, leaving Saxon stunned and John fuming in rage.
“I would not say such things if I were you,” John snarled under his breath before storming from the castle.
Full of rage at Jack’s words, John decided to make the one Jack loves the most suffer. “And suffer he shall,” John vowed as he entered the Pit of Despair and stood over Ianto.
“You truly love each other, and so you might have been truly happy. Not one couple in a century has that chance, no matter what the storybooks say. So I think no man in a century will suffer as greatly as you will,” John snarled down at Ianto.
Stalking over to The Machine, John put it to the highest setting.
“Not to 50!” Owen warned.
A scream of pure pain escaped Ianto’s lips as The Machine did its work.
Tosh and Rhys were walking down another village road, still having no luck in their search for the man in black. Tosh halted as a noise reached her ears.
“Rhys! Rhys! Listen! Do you hear that? That is the sound of ultimate suffering. My heart made that sound when Owen slaughtered my mother. The man in black makes it now.” Tosh’s heart went out to the man.
“The man in black,” Rhys asked after hearing the sound himself. He was not able to believe such a strong man could make such a scream.
“His true love is marrying another tonight, so who else has the cause for ultimate suffering?” Tosh reminded Rhys as she started to move through a crowd.
“Excuse me. Pardon me, it’s important. Rhys please.” Finally, Tosh turned to Rhys when she could not get through the crowd.
Rhys stood up straight and bellowed, “Everybody MOVE!”
The crowd parted and Tosh looked up at Rhys with gratitude. “Thank you,” she told him before moving down the clear path.
Outside of the entrance to the Pit of Despair, Rhys and Tosh stopped Mickey, who was pushing a wheelbarrow.
Tosh took hold of Mickey and is questioned him. “Where is the man in black? You got that from this grove, yes? Rhys, jog his memory.” Tosh ordered when Mickey failed to answer her.
Rhys shrugged and bonked Mickey over the head, leaving him out cold.
“I’m sorry, Tosh. I didn’t mean to jog him so hard. Tosh?”
While Rhys was apologizing, Tosh had drawn her sword.
Tosh had her eyes closed and she was praying. “Mother, I have failed you for twenty years. Now our misery can end. Somewhere, somewhere close by, is a man who can help us. I cannot find him alone. I need you. I need you to guide my sword. Please, guide my sword.”
Tosh stumbled around, led by the sword. After several swerves and swaggering steps, the sword hit a tree. Tosh leaned against the tree in defeat, accidentally pressing the hidden knot and falling through the now-open entrance.
Tosh and Rhys entered the Pit of Despair, and upon spotting the man in black, they rushed to his side, freeing him from the machine.
“He’s dead,” Rhys informed Tosh after checking over the lifeless man.
Tosh shook her head sadly, her heart breaking for the man. “It’s just not fair.”
“Grandpa, Grandpa, wait what did Rhys mean ‘he’s dead?’ He can’t be dead,” Mica cried, not liking the idea of her tad dead.
“Yeah, Tad can’t die; he is the hero of this story,” Steven agreed with his sister.
“If you’ll just let me finish the story, you’ll find out what happens,” Wilf reminded the twins.
“Well, the Satos have never taken defeat easily. Come along, Rhys, bring the body,” Tosh ordered.
Rhys blinked at Tosh. “The body?” he questioned her.
“Have you any money?” Tosh asked Rhys as he picked up the man in black.
“I have a little,” Rhys informed her.
“I just hope it is enough to buy a miracle, that is all,” Tosh muttered under her breath as she and Rhys exited the Pit of Despair with Ianto’s body thrown over Rhys’ shoulder.
Tosh led Rhys to a lone hut in the forest. After several sharp knocks from Tosh’s fist, the door opened to reveal a man’s.
“Go away. What, what?” the man demanded.
“Are you the Doctor who worked for the king all those years?” Tosh asked the handsome man before her, trying not to blush.
“I was until the king’s stinking son fired me. And thank you so much for bringing up such a painful subject. While you’re at it, why don’t you give me a nice paper cut and pour lemon juice on it? We’re closed.” The Doctor than slammed the door in their faces.
Not willing to give up when her revenge was so close at hand, Tosh knocked again.
The Doctor opened the door and glared at them. “Beat it, or I’ll call the brute squad,” he threatened.
“I’m on the brute squad,” Rhys informed him.
The Doctor looked Rhys up and down and told him, “You are the brute squad.”
Tosh butted in. “We need a miracle. It’s very important,” Tosh told the Doctor.
“I’m retired. And besides, why would you want someone the king’s stinking son fired? I might kill whoever you wanted me to miracle,” the Doctor told them sadly.
“He’s already dead. Tosh informed him.
That caught the Doctor’s attention, “He is huh? I’ll take a look. Bring him in.” He moved away from the door, inviting them to follow him in.
The Doctor had Rhys lay Ianto on the table, where the Doctor examined him. “I’ve seen worse,” he informed them as he continued to study Ianto.
“Sir….sir,” Tosh called out.
The Doctor looked up at her. “Huh?” He questioned in a distant tone.
“We’re in a terrible rush,” Tosh told him, needing this to hurry up.
The Doctor glared at her. “Don’t rush me, girly. You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles. You got money?” He looked questioningly between the two of them.
“Sixty-five,” Tosh told him.
“Sheesh, I never worked for so little. Except once, and that was a very noble cause,” the Doctor trailed off.
“This is noble, sir. His wife is …crippled. The children are on the brink of starvation,” Tosh lied.
The Doctor raised an eyebrow and informed her, “You are a rotten liar.”
Tosh turned serious and decided to tell him the truth. “I need him to help avenge my mother, murdered these twenty years.”
The Doctor could tell she was serious and his heart went out to the beautiful woman before him. “Your first story was better. Where’s that bellows crammed? He probably owes you money, huh? Well, I’ll ask him.” The Doctor wore a maniacal grin.
Tosh was beginning to worry about the Doctor’s sanity as she pointed out to him, “He’s dead; he can’t talk.”
“Well, look who knows so much. Well, it just so happens that your friend here is only mostly dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Please, open his mouth.”
Tosh and Rhys did as he asked.
“Now, all dead…well, with all dead, there’s usually only one thing you can do,” the Doctor once again trailed off; it was beginning to annoy Tosh.
“What’s that?” Tosh asked, trying not to run the man through with her sword.
“Go through his clothes and look for loose change,” the Doctor told them, before he putting the bellows to Ianto’s mouth and blowing air in. “Hey! Hello in there! What is so important? What you got here that’s worth living for?” he shouted into Ianto’s ear.
“T-R-U-E L-O-V-E,” Ianto manage to get out.
“True love, you heard him? You could not ask for a more noble cause than that,” Tosh told the Doctor.
“Yeah, true love is the greatest thing in the world, but for a nice watercress sandwich, nothing better than a nice fresh watercress sandwich. But that’s not what he said; he distinctly said ‘to blave’; and as we all know, ‘to blave’ means ‘to bluff’. So you were probably playing cards, and he cheated.” The Doctor was cut off from whatever he was going to say as a redhead stormed into the room.
“Liar! Liar! Liar!” Donna yelled at the Doctor, getting right into his face.
“Get back, witch,” the Doctor ordered, backing away from the woman.
“I’m not a witch, I’m your sister, but after what you just said, I’m not even sure I want to be that anymore,” Donna shouted at him.
“You never had it so good,” the Doctor reminded her.
“True love, he said ‘true love’, John,” she growled at him.
“Not another word, Donna.” His voice held a warning in it, one that Donna completely ignored.
Donna turned to face Tosh and Rhys. “He’s afraid. Ever since Prince John fired him, his confidence is shattered,” she informed them.
The Doctor began pacing. “Why’d you say that name? You promised me that you would never say that name!” the Doctor reminded her.
“What, John?” she asked, a wicked glint in her eyes.
The Doctor released a scream and Tosh and Rhys watched as Donna repeated ‘John’ over and over again as she chased her brother around the room.
The Doctor even went as far as sticking his fingers in his ear. “I’m not listening,” he told Donna in a sing-song voice.
“His life’s expiring, and you don’t have the decency to say why you won’t help.” Donna looked sadly at her brother.
“Nobody’s hearing anything,” the Doctor growled.
“John! John! John! John!” Donna was starting up again.
Seeing they were running out of time, and feeling sorry for the Doctor, Tosh spoke up. “This is Jack’s true love. If you heal him, he will stop John’s wedding.”
The Doctor pulled his fingers out and turned to Tosh. “Wait, wait, I make him better, John suffers?” he asked, a grin begin to form on his face.
Tosh nodded, finding herself returning the grin. “Humiliations galore,” she promised.
“Well, now, that changes everything. Give me the sixty-five, I’m on the job,” the Doctor told them.
Donna let out a little cheer at her brother’s answer and rushed off to get the Doctor’s miracle pill.
Tosh stared at the now chocolate-covered pill. “That is a miracle pill?” she questioned doubtfully.
Donna smiled at the young woman who caught her brother’s eye. “The chocolate coating makes it go down easier, but you have to wait fifteen minutes for full potency, and he shouldn’t go in swimming after for at least-” Donna’s explanations were cut off.
“An hour,” the Doctor called out.
“Yeah, an hour,” Donna agreed.
“A good hour,” the Doctor butted in again.
Once Rhys had gotten Ianto settled back over his shoulder and they paid the Doctor, they were about as ready as they could be until Ianto returned to the land of the living.
“Thank you for everything.” Tosh cursed herself as she felt her cheeks heating up.
Donna leaned forward to whisper in Tosh’s ear. “When this is all over, make sure to come back and visit. I think you and my brother would be good for one another, and I can tell he likes you.” Donna grinned at the blush that covered Tosh’s cheeks.
Donna and the Doctor continued to wave as the trio left them.
“Have fun storming the castle,” the Doctor called out. His ‘come back safely,’ was left unsaid.
“Think it will work?” Donna asked, truly wondering what their chances were.
The Doctor’s smile faded and a frown took over. “It will take a miracle,” he whispered and Donna prayed that one would happen.
After a long trek back to the castle grounds, Tosh and Rhys were hidden atop a battlement overlooking the gate.
“Tosh, there’s more than thirty,” Rhys whispered urgently to Tosh.
“What’s the difference? We’ve got him. Help me here. We’ll have to force-feed him.” Tosh was unconcerned with Rhys’ dilemma.
With Rhys’ help, she managed to force the pill down Ianto’s throat.
Time passed slowly, and yet it seemed to go by quickly for Tosh and Rhys.
“Has it been fifteen minutes?” Rhys asked.
Tosh was growing impatient. “We can’t wait. The wedding’s in half an hour. We must strike in the hustle and the bustle beforehand. Tilt his head back. Open his mouth.” Tosh was going to bring Ianto back herself.
“How long do we have to wait before we know if the miracle works?” Rhys was getting bored and worried they would be spotted.
“Your guess is as good as mine.” Tosh felt her fingers twitching; she was so close to finally getting her revenge.
Ianto soared to life with a growl. “I’ll beat you two apart! I’ll take you both together!” he snarled, lunging forward, only to fall flat on his face.
“I guess not very long,” Rhys commented as he picked Ianto up and set him against the wall.
Ianto tried to raise his arms, only to find he couldn’t. “Why won’t my arms move?” he asked them.
“You’ve been mostly dead all day,” Rhys informed him.
Tosh nodded. “We had the Doctor make a pill to bring you back,” she added.
Ianto was, for lack for a better word, confused. “Who are you? Are we enemies? Why am I on this wall? Where’s Jack?” Ianto growled out the last part.
Tosh took a deep breath. “Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up. Jack is marrying John in little less than half an hour, so all we have to do is get in, break up the wedding, steal your beloved, make our escape, but after I kill Count Owen,” Tosh explained.
Ianto looked at her like she was crazy. “That doesn’t leave much time for dilly-dallying.” He wiggled his finger at Tosh.
“You just wiggled your finger! That’s wonderful!” Rhys happily noted.
“I’ve always been a quick healer. What are our liabilities?” Ianto asked; all that mattered was getting to Jack.
“There is but one working castle gate. And it is guarded by…sixty men,” Tosh informed him.
Ianto did not like where this was going. “And our assets?” he asked.
“Your brains, Rhys’ strength, my steel,” Tosh told him.
“That’s it? Impossible; if I had a month to plan, maybe I could come up with something but this,” Ianto shook his head.
“You just shook your head! That doesn’t make you happy?” Rhys asked, confusion lacing his voice.
“My brains, your strength, and his steel against sixty men, and you think a little head jiggle is supposed to make me happy? Hmmm? I mean, if we only had a wheelbarrow, that would be something,” he said, a vague plan beginning to form in his mind.
Tosh turned to Rhys. “Where did we put that wheelbarrow that Mickey fellow had?” she asked.
“With Mickey, I think.” Rhys wasn’t too sure.
Ianto stared at the two of them. “Why didn’t you list that among our assets in the first place? What I wouldn’t give for a holocaust cloak,” Ianto wished.
Tosh shook her head. “There we cannot help you,” she told him sadly.
‘Would this do?” Rhys asked, pulling out a cloak he had folded in his bag.
Tosh stared at him. “Where did you get that?” she asked, not remembering her friend having it before.
Rhys smile sheepishly as he answered. “At the Doctor’s; it fit so nice, he said I could keep it.”
“All right, all right, come on, help me up. Now, I’ll need a sword eventually,” Ianto ordered, needing to get to Jack.
Tosh raised a disbelieving eyebrow. “Why? You can’t even lift one,” she pointed out to him.
Ianto nodded knowing that was accurate, but he reminded her, “True, but that’s hardly common knowledge, is it?”
Tosh shook her head and Rhys supported his weight. “Thank you. Now, there may be problems once were inside,” Ianto warned them.
Tosh smiled grimly. “I’ll say. Namely, how do I find the Count? Once I do, how do I find you again? Once I find you again, how do I escape?” Tosh’s rambling was cut off by Rhys hand over her mouth.
“Don’t pester him. He’s had a hard day,” Rhys whispered into her ear.
Tosh nodded, seeing that Ianto was not in a good mood and, really, who could blame him? He had been dead and his beloved was supposed to marry another tonight.
“Right, right, sorry,” Tosh whispered once Rhys released her mouth.
Rhys turned to look at Tosh. “Tosh?” he called softly.
Tosh turned to look at Rhys, “What?” she questioned softly.
“I hope we win,” Rhys whispered to her and Tosh found herself agreeing with him.
Inside the castle, John entered Jack’s chambers and took note of the sad and angry look his fiancé wore.
“You don’t seem excited, my little muffet,” he commented, coming over to stand behind Jack.
“Should I be?” Jack snarled at him.
“Grooms often are, or so I’m told,” John replied.
Jack turned to face John. “I am not marring you tonight. My Ianto will save me,” Jack vowed.
John laughed harshly before he exited the room, leaving Jack alone with his thoughts. It would not be long before the ceremony started and he would be done with Jack forever.
‘This shouldn’t be happening. Ianto, where are you?’ Jack tightened his gripe on the king’s arm as he walked him down the aisle to where John was waiting from him at the altar.
Jack tried not to flinch as John took his hand in his.
The Clergyman began. “Mawwiage, mawwiage is what bwings us togethew today. Mawwiage, that blessed awwangement that dweams within a dweam”
If Jack had not been so heartbroken, then maybe he would have heard the distant voices in the background calling out, “Stand your ground, men, stand your ground!” But Jack didn’t.
Outside the castle gate, the guards on duty were greeted with a sight that had the guards’ knees shaking as a cloaked figure of man that towered above them all seemed to glided towards them.
“Stand your ground!” the captain of the guards ordered to his men.
“I am the Dread Pirate Roberts! There will be no survivors!” Rhys roared in that deep voice of his from atop of the wheelchair.
“Now?” Tosh asked, looking excited for her role.
Ianto shook his head. “Not yet.”
“Many are here, I am here. But soon, you will not be here,” Rhys continued on as they grew closer to the guards.
“Now?” Tosh asked again, holding up the flaming torch.
Ianto nodded. “Light him,” he ordered.
Tosh lit the wheelbarrow and, with all her strength pushed the now-flaming cart towards the guards, hoping that Rhys would be okay.
“The Dread Pirate Roberts takes no survivors! All your worst nightmares are about to come true!” Rhys roared as he grew closer to the guards.
The guards were panicking.
Back in side the chapel, the Clergyman was still continued on despite the fact that many were listening to what was happening outside. “And love, twue love, will follow you fowevew.”
“The Dread Pirate Roberts is here for your souls!” Rhys, the towering inferno, told the terrified guards.
“Stay where you are! Fight! Stay where you are!” the captain called down to his men who were taking steps back the closer the Dread Pirate Roberts got closer.
“So tweasure youw love,” the Clergyman said before finding himself interrupted by a worried prince.
“Skip to the end,” John ordered.
The Clergyman blinked at the prince and asked, “Do you have the wing?”
Jack looked smugly at John. “Here comes my Ianto now.” He felt happiness for the first time since he left Ianto in the swamp.
“Rhys, the portcullis,” Ianto called out to Rhys in the courtyard.
“Your Ianto is dead. I killed him myself,” John hissed in a low tone so only Jack could hear.
“Then why is there fear behind you eyes?” Jack hissed back. There was no way his Ianto could fall at the hands of someone like John.
Ianto’s plan had worked-they managed to scare away the rest of the guards and managed to catch Saxon, pinning him to the castle gate.
“Give us the gate key,” Ianto ordered; time was running out for him to get to Jack.
“I have no gate key,” Saxon lied.
“Rhys, tear his arms off,” Tosh ordered the giant and the man took a menacing step closer to Saxon.
Saxon paled and quickly pulled out a gate key. “Oh, you mean this gate key.”
Tosh happily snatched it from Saxon.
The Clergyman looked at Jack and asked, “And do you, Pwince Jack,” only for him to once again to be cut off by the prince.
“Man and husband! Say man and husband!” John ordered.
The Clergyman did as he was ordered. “Man and husband.”
John turned to his father. “Escort the groom to the honeymoon suite. I’ll be there shortly,” he ordered.
“He didn’t come.” Jack was numb.
Moving through the castle corridor, Ianto found himself being carried piggy-back by Rhys, as he still had not regained the full use of his body.
And who should they come upon but Count Owen and a handful of guards?
Owen turned to his men and gave the orders. “Kill the woman and the giant, but leave the third for questioning.”
Owen could only watch as Tosh, Rhys and Ianto took out his men one by one.
Her sword drawn and stepping over the fallen soldiers, Tosh made her way towards Owen. “Hello, my name is Toshiko Sato. You killed my mother. Prepare to die,” she growled out.
Owen looked at her and stepping into a fighting stance, only to turn and run down the corridor. With a snarl, Tosh gave chase.
Sadly, Owen not only had a head start on her, but also knew the castle, so Tosh was a moment too late as Owen ran into a room and locked the door behind him.
“Rhys!!!! I need you!!!” Tosh yelled as she slammed herself up against the door, trying to break it open.
Rhys looked at the still-weak Ianto. “I can’t leave him alone,” he called back.
“He’s getting away from me, Rhys! Please!” Tosh was begging as the door was too thick and solid to break under her small frame.
Rhys spotted a suit of armour and dragged Ianto over to it. He threaded Ianto’s limp arms through that of the suit. “I’ll be right back,” he promised before heading off to help Tosh.
Tosh was still struggling against the door; no door was going to keep her from her revenge. She backed up to take another run at it, only for two big hands to slam against it,
breaking the door under the force. Tosh looked up at Rhys and gave him a heartfelt, “Thank you.” Then she was gone.
Rhys made his way back to where he left Ianto, only to be greeted by an empty suit. “Where did he go?” he asked the empty space.
In a different part of the castle the king was escorting Jack to the honeymoon suite.
“Strange wedding,” the king muttered to Jack.
In response Jack gave the king a kiss.
The king looked at Jack with shock in his eyes. “What was that for?” he asked.
“Because you’ve always been so kind to me, and I won’t be seeing you again, since I’m killing myself once we reached the honeymoon suite,” he informed him.
The king laughed, “Won’t that be nice? He kissed me!” The king laughed again as he escorted Jack to the suite.
Tosh and Owen engaged in a very intense duel out of the room, down a set of stairs, and into the cellar dining room.
Try as she might, it seemed Tosh was no match for Owen, as she had many bleeding wounds. “Sorry, mother. I tried. I tried,” she murmured as she slumped against the wall.
Owen took a good look at her, finally placing the woman. “You must be that little Japanese brat I taught a lesson to all those years ago. Simply incredible; have you been chasing me your whole life, only to fail now? I think that’s the worst thing I have ever heard. How marvellous,” Owen gloated.
In the honeymoon suite, Jack sat in a chair with a knife poised to strike his heart; he refused to live in a world where he could not be with Ianto. ‘Maybe we will be together in our next life,’ Jack thought.
“There is a shortage of perfect chests in this world. It would be a pity to damage yours,” a voice spoke up from behind Jack.
Whirling around, Jack dropped the knife at the sight of Ianto laid out on the bed.
Like a shot, Jack was off his chair and on the bed pressing kisses on Ianto’s face and letting his hands roam everywhere. “Ianto! Oh, Ianto, darling.” Jack pulled back to look at Ianto. “Ianto, why won’t you hold me?” Jack asked, a pout forming on his very kissable mouth.
Ianto cursed his body, wishing he had more strength to do what Jack wanted. “Gently,” Ianto was forced to tell him.
Jack could only stare at Ianto like he was crazy. “At a time like this, that’s all you can think to say, ‘gently’?” With a huff, Jack released Ianto’s head.
“Gently,” Ianto reminded again as he hit his head, a slight sound of pain escaped his lips.
Down in the dining room, Owen gloating at the memory of her beloved mother’s death gave Tosh the strength to climb to her feet.
“Good heavens. Are you still trying to win? You’ve got an overdeveloped sense of vengeance. It’s going to get you into trouble someday,” Owen told her.
Tosh took a step forward, her rage giving her strength. “Hello. My name is Toshiko Sato. You killed my mother. Prepare to die.” With that said, Tosh lunged at Owen.
Owen found himself on the defence as Tosh struck back with vengeance. He barely dodged the fatal blow, but not without taking a slash to the arm.
“Hello. My name is Toshiko Sato. You killed my mother. Prepare to die.” Tosh told him as their swords clashed.
“Hello. My name is Toshiko Sato. You killed my mother. Prepare to die,” Tosh snarled as Owen ducked her swing and her sword knocked everything off the mantel behind him.
“Stop saying that!” Owen roared, becoming unsettled at Tosh’s endless litany.
Tosh didn’t answer, just lunged at Owen. They duelled some more and soon Tosh had Owen pinned to the table, the tip of her sword at his neck.
“Hello. My name is Toshiko Sato. You killed my mother. Prepare to die,” she said fiercely, moving her sword across his neck.
‘No!” Owen begged.
“Offer me money!” Tosh ordered, stabbing Owen in the shoulder.
“Yes!” Owen agreed.
“Power, too. Promise me that!” she demanded.
“All that I have and more. Please,” Owen pleaded.
“Offer me everything I ask for!” Tosh snarled at him.
Owen nodded his head. “Anything you want,” he agreed.
“I want my mother back, you son of a bitch,” Tosh snarled as she stabbed him through his heart.
Back on the bed in the honeymoon suite, Jack was stroking Ianto’s cheek. “Oh, Ianto, will you ever forgive me?” he asked, not sure how he could bear living with Ianto hating him.
Ianto glanced at the man laying on top of him still. “What hideous sin have you committed lately?” Ianto asked his beloved.
“I got married. I didn’t want to. It all happened so fast,” Jack confessed to Ianto.
Ianto shrugged. “Never happened.”
Jack stared at Ianto like he was crazy. “What?” he questioned.
“Never happened,” Ianto repeated.
Oh, how badly Jack wanted to believe what Ianto was saying was true. “But it did. I was there. This old man said ‘man and husband’,” Jack sadly informed Ianto.
“Did you say ‘I do’?” Ianto asked.
Jack thought about it for a second. “Uh, no. We sort of skipped that part,” he admitted.
“Then you’re not married. If you didn’t say it, you didn’t do it. Wouldn’t you agree, Your Highness?” Ianto called over to the doorway, where John stood.
“A technicality that will shortly be remedied, but first things first, to the death,” John declared holding out his sword.
“No, to the pain,” Ianto countered, propping himself up with is elbows.
John looked at Ianto with confusion. “I don’t think I’m quite familiar with that phrase.”
Ianto smirked. “I’ll explain. And I’ll use small words so that you’ll be sure to understand, you warthog-faced buffoon.”
John glared at the man. “That may be the first time in my life a man has dared to insult me.”
“It won’t be the last. To the pain means the first thing you will lose will be your feet, below the ankles. Then your hands at the wrists, next your nose.” Even though he was still on the bed, Ianto was able to look quite menacing.
John rolled his eyes. “And then my tongue, I suppose. I killed you too quickly the last time, a mistake I don’t mean to duplicate tonight,” he promised.
“I wasn’t finished. The next thing you will lose will be your left eye, followed by your right,” Ianto continued on.
“And then my ears, I understand, let’s get on with it,” John ordered, falling into a fighting stance.
“Wrong! Your ears you keep and I’ll tell you why. So that every shriek of every child at seeing your hideousness will be yours to cherish, every babe that weeps at your approach, every woman who cries out ‘Dear God, what is that thing?’ will echo in your perfect ears. That is what ‘to the pain’ means. It means I leave you in anguish, wallowing in freakish misery forever,” Ianto told him in an even tone.
“I think you’re bluffing.” John’s voice shook just a little, something Ianto caught onto.
Ianto shrugged. “It is possible, pig. I might be bluffing. It’s conceivable, you miserable vomitous mass, that I’m only lying here because I lack the strength to stand. Then again, perhaps I have the strength after all.” With that, Ianto climbed to his feet and pointed his sword at John. “Drop…your…sword,” he ordered, deadly calm.
John, not quite as stupid as he looked, saw he had no choice and did as he was told.
“Have a seat,” Ianto offered.
John carefully arranged his robes and sat on a nearby chair.
Ianto turned to Jack. “Tie him up. Make it as tight as you like.”
With a happy grin, Jack did as Ianto asked, taking great pride in making sure they were tight. John let out a noise of protest as his wrists were bound tighter than they needed to be. Once that task was done Jack returned to Ianto’s side. His beloved was leaning against the bedpost, his strength gone from him.
Having searched for Ianto, Tosh followed the sounds of voices, entering the room, she noticed one of them was missing. “Where’s Rhys?” she asked.
Ianto blinked. “I thought he was with you.” He admitted the last time he had seen the other man, he was off to help Tosh.
“No,” Tosh shook her head; she had thought Rhys had come to find Ianto.
Ianto got a thoughtful look on his face. “In that case--whoa!” Ianto had tried to take a step away from the bed, only for him to nearly fall on his face, save for Jack’s quick reflexes.
“Help him,” Tosh ordered, moving towards John to keep an eye on the prince.
Fear gripped Jack as he supported Ianto’s weight. “Why does Ianto need helping?” he asked Tosh.
Tosh saw the fear and worry in Jack’s eyes and let a soft smile take over her face. “Because he has no strength,” she informed him.
“I knew it! I knew you were bluffing! I knew he was … bluffing.” John’s gloating faded away as Tosh’s sword, still dripping with Owen’s blood, pressed against his throat.
“Shall I dispatch him for you?” She asked Ianto.
Ianto shook his head in the negative. “Thank you, but no. Whatever happens to us, I want him to live a long life alone with his cowardice,” he informed Tosh.
Seeing his point, Tosh removed the sword from John’s neck, her eyes clearly telling him he got off lucky, and then, whispered just for his ears alone, “Count Owen is dead, and to live without the one you love is the perfect punishment for you.”
John felt unbearable pain explode in his chest at the knowledge of a life without Owen.
“Tosh! Tosh! Where are you?” Hearing the calling of her name, Tosh helped Jack to move Ianto towards the window. Looking down they found Rhys holding the reigns of four white horses.
“Oh, there you are.” Rhys smiled up at the three of them, “Tosh, I saw the prince’s stable, and there they were, four white horses. And I thought, there are four of us, if we ever found Ianto’s beloved. So I took them with me, in case we ever bumped into each other. I guess we just did,” Rhys happily explained to them.
Tosh was impressed and a little shocked. “Rhys, you did something right,” she informed her friend.
“Don’t worry; I won’t let it go to my head,” Rhys told her with an easygoing smile.
Tosh looked at Ianto. “You know, it is very strange. I have been in the revenge business so long, now that it’s over, I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life,” she admitted to him.
“Have you ever considered piracy? You’d make a wonderful Dread Pirate Roberts.” Ianto told her seriously.
Tosh grinned. “You never know I might, but that will have to wait. I have a Doctor to visit.”
“They rode to freedom. And as dawn arose, Ianto and Jack knew they were safe. A wave of love swept over them. And as they reached for one another...”Wilf trailed off.
“What? What?” Steven demanded.
“Well it’s kissing again: you don’t want to hear that,” Wilf reminded Steven.
“Well Mica likes it, so I won’t mind all that much,” Steven told him.
Since the invention of the kiss, there have been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, the most pure.
This one left them all behind.
And just like their first kiss, the dawning of the new day was the backdrop as Ianto and Jack shared the kiss that only those who are with their soul mates, their true love, can share.
“The End. Now I think it is time for you two to go to sleep,” Wilf told them.
Steven and Mica both snuggled down into their beds. “Grandpa, maybe you could come over and read it again to us tomorrow,” Steven called out.
Mica nodded her head in agreement.
Wilf smiled at the two. “As you wish.”
Ianto and Jack both arrived home about the same time, which was late into the evening. They meet in the driveway where they shared a brief but passionate kiss, leaving Ianto no doubt that his husband was up for some alone time tonight.
Wilf smiled as the two entered, love shining in their eyes.
“Thank you for doing this,” Jack told Wilf before looking over his shoulder at Ianto. “I’m going to go check on the kids,” he informed his husband. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Wilf, it was just that they were his babies and they were sick.
Ianto gave him a fond look and Jack bounced up the stairs.
Ianto turned to look at Wilf. “Were the kids any trouble?” he asked.
Wilf shook his head. “No, I read them a story and they were good as gold.”
Jack smiled as he entered the children’s room. Seeing they were asleep, he pressed a kiss on Steven’s forehead, glad to see it felt cooler than before. “Daddy loves you, little man,” he whispered.
Jack then moved on towards Mica and smiled as he saw she was a little awake. “Hey there, sweetie, did you enjoy Grandpa Wilf’s visit?” he asked, placing a kiss on her forehead.
Mica nodded sleepily. “I liked the story he told; Taddy and you were in it.”
“Was I the dashing hero?” Jack asked; he liked playing the hero.
Mica shook her head no. “Nope, Tad was, you were the princess that needed to be rescued,” she informed him.
Jack stared, slack-jaw. “And why did Grandpa make me the princess?” he asked, not believing it.
“He said something about you being a drama queen. Night, daddy,” Mica told her dad before snuggling closer and letting sleep retake her.
A slight chuckle at the door had Jack turning his glare on Ianto.
After giving his own good night kisses to the twins, Ianto bit back a grin at the pout forming on Jack’s face. “You will always be my dashing hero,” Ianto purred at Jack. “Why don’t I show you?”
The pout quickly faded into a leer as Jack happily followed Ianto. Catching him around the waist, Jack pulled Ianto into a purely loving kiss outside of the children’s bedroom.
Little Mica opened an eye and softly sighed, “So that’s a true love kiss.”