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This Is What Happens…

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Neither man slept much, that night.  As soon as Jack finished singing a song, Ianto would prompt either again or another, and cling to Jack even more tightly.  Part of Jack smiled.  Early in their relationship, it had taken him by surprise that Ianto, when not listening to various types of punk or alternative rock, had a partiality to jazz standards, as long as they were not being sung by Frank Sinatra – the wizard had a dislike of the crooner that bordered on irrational.

Ianto was not normally a sentimental man, but there was something about Jack singing a love song to him that made him bashful and affectionate.  It was sweet, really (another word it wasn’t worth one of Jack’s deaths to utter aloud), but also a bit sad, because it spoke to Ianto’s craving for love but inability to fully believe that he was actually capable of gaining it.

It made Jack even more ashamed for reinforcing those insecurities, just as Ianto had begun to believe in their bond.  Now, Jack was fairly certain that he would be leaving with the Doctor the next day, and Ianto was holding on to Jack as though convinced he would not be returning.

How had it come to this?

As though he had heard this last thought, Ianto kissed Jack’s chest.  Stop.

Jack kissed the top of Ianto’s head and pulled him closer.  Ianto hissed in discomfort as he shifted, draping himself over Jack.

“Shhh.  Stay still.”

Ianto settled against him, his arms somehow snaking between Jack and the bedding so he could hold him closer.  Everything still hurt – quite badly, actually – but nothing more so than the knowledge that Jack was leaving.  And though all assurances that Jack would return quickly were heard and even believed, even Ianto recognized that he had not yet fully regained the ability for rational thought to overcome the panic and dread that still coursed through him.

Jack wasn’t entirely comfortable, but there was no way he would ever shift Ianto, who was clutching him with all of his diminished strength.  Jack sent comfort and love and reassurance through their bond and began a new song.  He chose another love song, and he poured all of his love and affection into every word he sang. 

He began to realize that this was what Ianto was asking for more of.  It was like the first time Jack told Ianto he loved him, and Ianto repeatedly begged him to ‘say it again’.  His heart ached at the vulnerability of Ianto’s condition, but he knew down to the very core of his being that they would be all right.  He poured this certainty along their bond, as well. 

Eventually, Ianto relaxed against him and slept.  Jack could now understand why his lover felt as though he was being pulled apart.  There was an intense dynamic between the terrifying dread of Jack leaving and the visceral need for Jack to go, so he could rebuild his shields.  The juxtaposition of the two competing requirements was enough to make anyone feel they were being torn in two. 

Jack continued crooning, and a smile spread across his face when he heard Ianto humming along telepathically, in his sleep.  Jack continued to flood the bond with love and comfort until eventually he slept, as well.

***

Ianto woke to the cool, comforting sensation of the Doctor’s telepathic reassurance.  It calmed the hot, prickly anxiety that had plagued Ianto since he revived.  He burrowed closer to Jack, who chuckled at the sleepy attempt to draw closer.

“Good morning, Love,” Jack whispered.

Ianto sighed.  “Morning,” he muttered, his voice still sounding harsh and broken.

“Shh.  Try not to talk.  Would you like some water?”

I’d like to brush my teeth, please.

“That can be arranged.”  Jack looked up.  “Doctor?”

The Doctor pulled away.  “He is healing nicely.  Still some way to go, though.”  He looked up to see Martha approaching.  “Martha, can we look at his eyes?  I don’t think it would be helpful to try to do it twice.”

“No, the light still pains him too much,” she agreed.  “Ianto, do you feel strong enough to sit up?”

Ianto nodded.  They helped him up, and Martha administered the lung potion with the inhaler and a portion of the painkiller.  Then she removed the heavy sleep mask so she and the Doctor could look at his eyes. 

“It’s as the Doctor expected,” she said as they slid the mask back in place.  “Your eyes are showing signs of healing, but it is very slow going.  Your sight and voice will probably be the last to recover.  In the meantime, you need to speak as little as possible.  We can communicate with hand signals and yes or no questions.  You’ll likely be sleeping most of the time, because working with your grandfather will be tiring.”

Ianto nodded.  Then he took Jack’s hand.  Jack stood from the table and helped Ianto to stand, as well.  He was weak, but he managed to walk to the sink, with Jack’s help.  Jack had brought Ianto’s toothbrush in the evening before, knowing he would ask for it. 

Once Ianto brushed his teeth, Jack helped him to sit back on the table.  He was glad of the thick, comfortable bedding.  Before Jack could help him to lie down, he pulled Jack between his legs, holding him close.  It’s taking everything I have not to beg you to stay.  Please just tell me you’ll be back soon.

“I will.  I promise I will, Kitten,” Jack whispered into Ianto’s ear, causing the wizard to shudder.

Say it.

I love you, Ianto Jones.  And I will come back to you, as soon as I can.  Hopefully before you even have a chance to miss me.

Not possible.  I already miss you.

“Are you getting sentimental on me, Auror Jones?” Jack asked teasingly.

Ianto’s hands found the sides of Jack’s head and he pressed their foreheads together.  I love you, Jack.  With that, Ianto pressed his lips to Jack’s in a sweet, sensuous kiss.  Jack opened to the minty taste of Ianto’s questing tongue and as the kiss deepened, they spent several minutes in a slow, languorous exploration.

Ianto had a hand in Jack’s hair and another around his waist, holding his lover flush against his chest.  Jack had put on his trousers, but was still shirtless, so the skin-to-skin contact was warm and comforting.  Ianto was still too weak for his body to react, but he felt Jack’s response to the kiss and chuckled when he heard Donna clearing her throat loudly.

“Oi.  You two cut that out.  You have company.”

Jack leaned back quickly enough that Ianto knew it must be his grandfather standing above them.  No one else would have made Jack self-conscious in that way.  But Jack pulled back too quickly, and Ianto almost lost his balance.  “Jack?” he flailed, reaching one arm in front to find Jack and the other to the side to help catch himself as he fell off balance.

“Easy, there.  I’ve got you,” Jack’s arms were around him, and that warm, honeyed voice was whispering in his ear. 

Ianto found himself coiling around Jack, once more plastering himself against his lover, begging him not to go.

“I wish I didn’t have to,” Jack whispered, and Ianto could hear all of the emotion lying under those words.

I know.  I’m sorry.  I need you to go.  But I can’t bear it, Jack.

He was sobbing into Jack’s neck, his arms wrapped around the older man’s torso, each leg wrapped around Jack’s.  Jack was completely immobilized, but for his arms, which cradled his broken lover gently as he whispered reassurances to him.

The Doctor joined them, placing a long-fingered hand on the back of Ianto’s head.  He and Jack both sent calming reassurances to the younger man.  Jack went back to pouring love and comfort and the certainty of his speedy return along their bond.  The Doctor sent comfort and calm, as well.  After a few moments, Ianto calmed enough that the Doctor stepped back.

“Here,” Martha stepped closer.  “Draco left this calming potion.”  She handed the potion to Jack, who managed to extricate himself from Ianto’s grasp just enough to help the wizard swallow the potion. 

After a few moments, Ianto sighed, relaxing his hold, just a bit.  I’m sorry, Jack.  I…  Maybe once this puts me to sleep, you should just…  He let out a sob and fell against Jack’s chest.

“It’s all right,” Jack soothed, managing to disentangle his legs and help Ianto to lie down.  He caressed Ianto’s face as he continued, “The truth is, I feel the same way.  I know I need to go, for your sake, but I don’t want to leave you.”  His voice broke as he finished speaking.  He vaguely wished that Draco had left a potion for him, as well.

Once Ianto was asleep, the Doctor spoke.  “He’s right, Jack.  We should go while he’s asleep.  It’s getting more difficult for both of you because unshielded attachments are inherently addictive.  It will actually be easier for him if you’re gone when he wakes.”

“You think so?” Jack asked, still caressing Ianto’s cheek.

“Jack.”

The Doctor was able to get Jack out of the med-bay so he could pack.  He went back to kiss Ianto goodbye, and it took almost an hour and the help of Martha, Donna, and Toshiko to get Jack out of the med-bay and into the TARDIS.  Before he left, he hugged Tosh and shook Theodophilus’ hand.

“Take care of him,” Jack said, his eyes straying towards the med-bay, once more.

“We should go,” the Doctor clapped him on the shoulder.  “Sooner we go, sooner we can return.”

Jack stared for another moment before allowing the Doctor to lead him into the TARDIS.

***

The next few days had their ups and downs.  With Theodophilus’ help, Ianto had rebuilt the bulk of his mental defenses within three days of Jack’s departure.  There was still a bit of work to be done, and the two continued to refine everything when Ianto was not resting.

His appetite was not quick to return, and his weight had dropped significantly.  He was weak, but his teammates helped him to walk every hour or two, and he was slowly regaining his strength.  Theodophilus wanted to take him home to recover, but Owen felt they needed to continue to watch his progress, particularly as his pain levels were still higher than he would have liked.  His concession was to clear out one of the barracks rooms and, with the help of the others, make it into a comfortable, private room for Ianto.  Not too private, though, as cameras were put in place to monitor him and ensure they were immediately alerted if he required any assistance.

Though Ianto tried to hide it, his mood was particularly low.  He was slowly getting past the hurtful things Jack had said, and how the psychic virus had exacerbated his distress, but sorrow and grief lingered, compounded by Jack’s absence. 

Ianto missed Jack terribly. 

He felt uneasy that his longing for Jack was so strong, after only a few days, but the Doctor had explained enough to Draco, Owen, and Martha for them to be able to put his mind at ease, that the reaction was normal, at least at this stage of his recovery.

Everyone took heart in knowing that despite Ianto’s low mood, he was healing.  He was working through his grief, and though his recovery had been set back, it was still progressing more quickly than a normal human could have expected.  Owen believed that had anyone else sustained the injuries that Ianto had, they would not have survived.  And if they had, they would have been looking at a minimum of six months of convalescence before making a limited recovery.  Thankfully, Ianto was expected to make a full recovery and return to work within six to eight weeks of being injured.

In the meantime, he was absolutely shattered.  He was exhausted, his pain levels were still on the high side of moderate, and he was as weak as Jack’s nickname for him.  (They had all learned the hard way to ignore the endearment, if they didn’t want to be jinxed.  Owen’s favorite was the jelly-legs jinx that Ianto had hit Gwen with after repeated warnings for her to forget the nickname were ignored.)  Owen was hopeful that once Ianto’s mental shields were back in place, the very great deal of rest that he desperately required would come more easily.

Owen looked up from his readings, his musing over his patient interrupted as Gwen entered the hub, carrying a box.  “Is that my supply order?” he asked.

“No, it’s addressed to me,” she replied, setting it on her desk and pulling out a box cutter to open the package.

Owen turned back to his work and barely noticed when Gwen left the main area of the hub.

Gwen entered Ianto’s room and turned on the lights.  She crossed to his bed and saw that he was sleeping on his side, with his back to her.  She reached out and pulled him roughly onto his back, then reached up and snatched the sleeping mask from his face.

“What?” Ianto recoiled from the bright light and the pain of being manhandled.  His body and his eyes were protesting, but there was a nasty feeling slithering through his belly that told him something was terribly wrong.  “What’s happening?” he asked, feeling someone climb onto the bed beside him.

“It’s your fault he’s gone,” Gwen hissed.

“Gwen?” Ianto asked, confused.  She sounded strange.

“He’s gone, and we’re stuck looking after you.  You’re a burden to the team, Ianto.”

Ianto kept his eyes screwed shut.  The lights were causing so much pain that he could almost hear the harshness of them.  So it took a few moments for Gwen’s words to sink in.  She had somehow hit on the very thing that worried him most about how long it was taking him to recover.  He was taking too much of their time, distracting them from what was really important.

He was jarred from those thoughts as Gwen climbed on top of him.  She straddled his hips, placing her knees in his hands, effectively pinning him down.  “Frankly, I don’t see the appeal,” she said, looking closely at him, assessing.  “You’re pale and scrawny and weak,” she spat.

“Gwen, did you come in contact with something unusual today?” Ianto did his best to remain calm, but he was completely immobilized by Gwen’s slight weight.  He was too weak to throw her off of him, and she practically stank of dark magic.  It felt like swallowing motor oil.  He felt ill, and a familiar panic was rising at the feeling of helplessness.  He took a deep breath and went inside, trying to find some small spark of magic, anything that he might use to defend himself.

“But Jack can’t seem to get enough.  Even left, just to please you.”  She placed a hand on the bed on either side of his head and leaned down.  “I wonder what has him so enthralled.”

“Gwen.”

“Have you cast a spell over him?”

“Gwen, please get off of me.”

“That would certainly explain it.”

Without warning, she ground her hips down.  With only the sheet between them, the rough seam of her jeans dug through the thin material of the sheet and his pyjamas.

“Gwen, that hurts.  Stop it.”  Ianto tried to struggle, but he was too weak.  Even his protests lacked the forcefulness of his need for her to just be gone.  And in his panic, he could find no magic to call upon.

“Mmm,” she hummed.  “That’s actually not so bad.  Would be better if you could get it up, though.”

“Not likely,” Ianto struggled against her as she continued to grind against him.  “Gwen, stop this.  This isn’t you.”  He bit back a whimper of pain.  She was definitely going to leave bruises.  He could think of nothing less arousing than Gwen forcing her attentions on him, and even if his body was able to respond, he still wouldn’t.  She had never held any appeal for him, but the dark magic made her downright repellent.

Gods and goddesses, this could not be happening.

“C’mon, Ianto.  You do this for Jack, I’m sure.  And he’s not here.”  She chuckled.  “Hey, maybe he went off with the Doctor to get what you can’t give him.”

“Gwen, stop!”

“Did you drive him away, Ianto?” she let out a moan, breathless.  “You don’t deserve him, you know.  You can’t make him happy.”

“I suppose you can?” Ianto wanted to kick himself for rising to the bait, but he was trying not to think about what she was doing.  He could tell she was enjoying herself.  Christ, he could smell her arousal, and he felt a wave of nausea come over him at being used in such a way.  “Gwen, you need to stop.  When the curse wears off, you’re going to regret this.”

“You cursed me?” she hissed.

Wrong thing to say.  He realized that, in retrospect.

“You fucking bastard.  I knew you couldn’t be trusted.”  She did not stop moving.  If anything, her fury made her grind against him even harder.  No, what she did do was wrap her hands around his throat.

Shit. 

It was in a moment of clarity beyond the panic that he realized how strong her hands were, despite being quite small.  The brightness behind his eyes began growing dark splotches.  The darkness that was driving Gwen made him feel dirty, but this was a peaceful kind of darkness.  He welcomed the escape as she moved towards her climax.

He felt his hyoid snap and couldn’t decide if it was sufficient to distract him from the pain of having Gwen bruising the hell out of his dick.  Thankfully the darkness – the nice darkness – was advancing, even as her darkness – the curse – oozed all around him.

He’d never noticed the Harkness rhymed with darkness, before.  Maybe that’s why Jack was his refuge.  His safety.  The nice darkness, that is.

This is what happens when we let Jack leave…

He realized he was drifting when Gwen moaned loudly, and he wished she’d just finish killing him, already.  Anything to get away from her manky bits.   

As the darkness settled around him like an old friend, he couldn’t help but wish for his lover.

I miss you, Jack.

***

Theodophilus apparated into the hub and gave everyone a wave before heading for the room they had set up for Ianto, looking forward to seeing his grandson’s progress.  His mood had been particularly low, but he was healing, and once they had finished reinforcing his mental shields, he would be ready for Jack’s return. 

He quietly opened the door, and was surprised that the lights were on.  Even more shocking was his grandson’s teammate, who was straddling his body (and he immediately shied from that part of the observation in order to get through the next few moments) and was currently in the process of raising a long, ugly dagger above her head.

With a speed that belied his age, he pulled out his wand and sent several spells at Gwen, in quick succession.  First levicorpus, then stupefy.  He stepped out into the hallway and called for help, then went to Ianto’s side.  A quick check confirmed that his grandson was indeed dead.

Owen slammed into the room, first.  “What the hell!” he shouted, running to Ianto.

“I believe Ifan mentioned preparing some magical containment boxes?” Theodophilus asked, and Mickey ran from the room to retrieve one.

“What happened?” Tosh began to move towards Gwen, but Theodophilus raised a hand, halting her progress.

“He’s bloody dead!” Owen ranted.  He gently probed Ianto’s neck, knowing what he would find based on the ugly bruise patterns that had already begun to appear before blood flow had ceased.

“She has been cursed.  It’s probably best not to touch her, until we find the cause.  The dagger is definitely cursed.”  He turned to Owen.  “Can you reach out to someone?  We need an Auror and a curse-breaker.”

Owen nodded and pulled a galleon from his pocket.  Within moments, Draco appeared.

“What’s happened?” he took in the scene and had a bad moment as terrible memories – memories of his own terrible deeds – invaded.  He could practically smell the curse, it was so strong.

“Steady, boy,” Theodophilus said, though not unkindly.  “An Auror and a curse-breaker,” he repeated.

Draco nodded and disapparated.

“Alun!” Theodophilus called, suddenly suspicious of the strange behavior his house elf had been exhibiting, of late.  To their credit, neither Tosh, Owen, nor Donna flinched when the house elf appeared.

“Yes, Sir?”

“Have you been cursed and bound not to reveal the curse to me?”

The house elf seemed to wilt in relief.  “Yes, Sir.”

“If I order you to break the curse, will you be able to do so without harming yourself?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Then please do so, now.”

There was a harsh noise, and then the house elf smiled.  “Thank you, Sir.”

“How long has this been going on?”

“Two days, Sir.”

“And what was the purpose of the curse?”

“To see to the ending of Master Ianto, Sir.”

Theodophilus growled a Welsh curse.  “Can you break the curse that she and the dagger have come under?”

The house elf turned to Gwen and gave a sniff.  “I cannot, Sir.”

“Ah, well.  I knew it was unlikely.  Can you determine whether Ifan has taken on any part of the curse?”

The house elf turned to Ianto.  “He has not, but she has… used him, Sir.”  Alun turned back to Theodophilus, his eyes sad.  “May I wash and change him?  I know he would not wish to wake to the evidence of her defilement still lingering.”

“Yes, Alun, that is a good idea,” he answered.

Owen pulled the curtain and watched as the house elf levitated Ianto, stripped him and the bed linens, making them disappear.  He then replaced the mattress with a superior one, and remade the bed with extremely fine linens.  Then he did something that seemed to clean Ianto before lowering him back onto the bed.

Owen cursed again when he saw the bruises on Ianto’s genitals, hips, and wrists where Gwen’s knees had dug in as she’d moved.

Once Owen had looked Ianto over, the house elf waved a hand, and the wizard now had on clean pyjama bottoms.  He and Owen pulled the sheet and blanket up to cover Ianto and Owen replaced the sleep mask as Alun opened the curtain.

Meanwhile, Mickey had returned with the containment box.  Theodophilus levitated the dagger into the box and closed it, cautioning the others not to touch it, and to refrain from touching Gwen’s desk until the curse-breaker had given it the all-clear.

He lowered Gwen and bound her hands, as she began to come around.  She immediately began raving and cursing and spitting.  Her eyes, even the normally snowy-white corneas, had turned a glittering, inky black.

Not wishing to risk the curse being transmitted by contact, Theodophilus levitated her to the cells, where Mickey and Donna locked her in and stayed to watch over her.  He quickly returned to his grandson’s side to await his recovery.  It was unnerving, to see Ianto lying there, unquestionably dead.  Despite knowing that the younger man would revive, Theodophilus found the situation dreadful.

He turned to Alun.  “Please go home and break any other curses that you find, and ward the house.  No one outside of family will be permitted to enter until this has been resolved, and we know who has harmed Ifan.”  He hesitated.  “Do you know how you came to be cursed?”

Alun nodded sadly.  “It was one of the potatoes in the week’s shopping.  Someone must have added it in to our grocery order, at the market.”

“Any of the others?”

“Yes, but I can break the curse, now.”

“Go, then,” Theodophilus smiled at the house elf as the creature bowed and disapparated.

“If he could break the curse on him, why not the one on Gwen?” Owen asked curiously. 

“A house elf’s first loyalty is to the family he or she serves.  The curse was too strong for him to fight on his own, or even speak about, to warn me.  But as soon as I ordered him to break it, he was able to mobilize his magic to do so.”

Owen nodded.  “I’m assuming that’s a pretty nasty curse.”

“Unless your coworker is normally homicidal and prone to committing sexual assault,” Theodophilus snarked.  Then he sighed.  “I am sorry.  It’s just difficult to see him, like this.”

“It’s all right.  I get it.  It goes against every instinct, to just let him lie, like that.”

In the next moment, Draco apparated into the room, along with Hermione Granger and Bill Weasley.  Once introductions were made, Bill strode to Ianto’s bedside. 

“Merlin, it’s true, then,” he muttered.

“He’ll revive, once his body has mended enough,” Owen confirmed.  He remembered the scarred, once-handsome man from the time of Ianto’s suspension, so he felt a bit less uneasy that yet another person now knew about Ianto’s condition.

Theodophilus quickly explained what he had seen, and the steps he had taken.

Bill nodded.  He gave Ianto’s hand a squeeze, then took out his wand.  After several incantations, he said, “The curse has not affected him.  We should go look at the muggle, as well as the dagger and her work area.”

“I’ll go do some preliminary work,” Hermione offered as Toshiko entered the room with her laptop.  Hermione nodded to her and headed out to the main part of the hub.

Tosh set up her computer on the bench along the wall.  “Owen, get the door.  I don’t think anyone else needs to see this.”

Draco and Theodophilus nodded their agreement as Owen shut the door and she called up the footage from the room.  They watched in horror as Gwen assaulted Ianto, her mean-spirited comments and physical abuse difficult to watch.

“I know they’ve had their differences in the past, but that isn’t Gwen,” Owen said.

“No,” Tosh agreed.  “There’s a grain of truth buried in there, but it’s not something she would act on, so overtly.”

“It does give me some ideas regarding the nature of the curse, though,” Bill stated, looking thoughtful.

“Should we,” Draco seemed reluctant to speak.  “Should we ask him if he wants us to obliviate this?”

Theodophilus patted Draco on the shoulder.  “We can ask, but I doubt he’ll agree to it.”

“But how will they work together, after this?” Draco asked.

“Oh, I doubt that will be a problem,” Owen shook his head.  “I have a feeling Jack will Retcon her and send her back to Heddlu.”

“You think so?  I know she has done things deliberately in the past to sabotage Jack and Ianto, but this time she was cursed,” Tosh frowned.  She couldn’t believe she was defending Gwen, but in fairness she wasn’t exactly in control of her actions, this time.

“Let me see what we’re dealing with, and then we’ll speak with Ianto, once he wakens,” Bill recommended.  Tosh led him out into the hub so he could begin his work.

***

It was an hour before a small clicking noise told them that Ianto’s hyoid had repaired itself.  Just a few minutes later, he revived.  Theodophilus held his hand as he woke.  “You’re all right, Ifan.  You’re safe.”

“Gwen,” Ianto rasped.  He swallowed, but then winced in pain. 

“Try not to speak, Son,” Theodophilus soothed. 

Ianto shook his head, but then seemed to regret the movement.  “Cursed,” he added, needing to warn them.  His voice was even more damaged now, and Draco helped him to drink a potion.

“We’ve restrained her, and Bill Weasley is here to break the curse,” his grandfather reassured.

“She all right?” he whispered.

Theodophilus shook his head in wonder and ran a hand through Ianto’s hair.  “Bill is checking her out, now.”

“She hurt me,” he whispered, ducking his head.

“I’m sorry, Son.  But you’re safe, now.”  Theodophilus was concerned for his grandson, who was still far too vulnerable.

Ianto nodded, but refrained from saying anything else.  He missed Jack terribly, and was trying very hard not to think about how much he wanted his lover back by his side.  Jack made him feel safe, and he needed that, right now. 

“Ianto, mate, can you give me a number?” Owen asked.

Ianto held up eight fingers.  He could feel Draco’s potion helping to mend the damage to his throat, but it was doing nothing for the pain.  And all of his other pains had redoubled, it seemed.

Owen gave him a few puffs of the lung potion, an ice pack for his bruises, and a shot for the pain.  Ianto didn’t have the wherewithal to be embarrassed about the ice pack.  He sagged in relief as the drugs swept through his system, but as Owen approached with a sedative, he held out his hand and shook his head.

“You need to sleep, mate.”

Ianto shook his head again.  He didn’t want to sleep.  Not without Jack watching over him.

“We’ll keep you safe, Ifan,” Theodophilus reassured.  “I’ll make sure that a wizard and one of your team is always with you.”

Ianto slowly relaxed, and Owen gave him the sedative.

He fell into a troubled sleep.

***

When he woke, Ianto felt a bit steadier.  He was beginning to learn just how off-balance dying made him feel, immediately after reviving.  He resolutely turned his mind from the memory of Gwen straddling him and asked for food that he did not have an appetite for in order to convince his grandfather that he was well enough to continue working on his shielding.

“I think you should rest, Son,” Theodophilus tried to persuade.

“Taid, if someone is after me, and willing to use such dark magic against my team, then I need to do what I can to be able to defend myself,” Ianto replied.

Theodophilus sighed.  His grandson had a point.  He needed every protection he could muster, particularly since whoever was after him had gone to such lengths.  But it was unsettling, to see how dreadful Ianto looked.  How much more so, after this attempt.

Ianto did not let anyone see just how unnerved he felt.  His blindness, which up until now he had been able to be patient with, was terrifying.  As was Jack’s absence.  Even Bill’s answers were far too vague for Ianto’s liking.

The curse-breaker had been able to determine that a small curse was on the note to Gwen in the box, assuring her that everything she had ever wished for would come true, if she had the resolve to remove the obstacle standing in her way.  The curse on the note was meant to override any misgivings she might have regarding taking the dagger in hand.

The dagger merely needed to touch Ianto’s blood to do its work.  The curse was meant to kill, and prevent any attempts to revive its victim.  Presumably it was meant to prevent the vortex from bringing Ianto back.  They were all relieved that Gwen had not had the opportunity to use it.

What was interesting was that Gwen assaulting and killing Ianto was not a part of either curse, other than the dagger being meant to stab the wizard.  Bill could only surmise that there was a power in the suggestion in the note, combined with the curse lowering her inhibitions, that led to her actions.

Draco and Hermione had taken Gwen to St. Mungo’s after Bill had done what he could for her.  Now it would be a matter of the right potions and a bit of time, but she was expected to make a full recovery.  Donna and Rhys would be meeting them soon, to be taken to the wizarding hospital to be with her.  Ianto had weighed in and insisted that Rhys only be told that Gwen had touched a cursed object that had forced her to harm Ianto.

“He does not need to know the details,” Ianto said, forcing his hands not to shake as those same details flooded his memory.

His throat hurt terribly.  No one was going to tell him how bad the bruising was, or how much worse he sounded, now.  Draco assured them that his vocal chords would heal, as would everything else.  Because Ianto was refusing the sedative now, Draco had doubled the dosage of the calming potion, which did not seem to impair his thinking, as much.

They were all on high alert.  Bill had not held back when giving them instruction regarding anything strange coming into the hub.  They had tried not to laugh at him, but his belief was that the alien tat was less likely to be cursed than something ordinary, like a book or letter or postcard.  He set out wards that would sound alarms in Ianto’s recovery room if another cursed item was brought into the hub.  He also suggested that a witch or wizard and a Torchwood team member remain with Ianto at all times.

After working on his shielding with Theodophilus for a few hours, the older wizard insisted that Ianto rest.  Even without access to his magic, Ianto was still a formidable Occlumens.  It had taken surprisingly little time for him to rebuild his shielding, and with Theodophilus’ help, he had even reinforced certain aspects of it.  The older wizard was pleased to note that despite his physical condition, Ianto’s mind was as strong as ever.

Before Ianto had become too tired, they had worked on the mental equivalent of a containment box, so Ianto could isolate any dark magic he came into contact with.  It might not prevent a curse from working, but it might provide an edge in breaking it.

Theodophilus left the hub that night, hopeful that Jack would return before the threat to Ianto reasserted itself.  He could tell that Ianto’s state of recovery kept him vulnerable, but the bolster to his spirits that Jack’s presence would provide might help him access his magic more quickly. 

***

When Ianto woke it was to a very quiet room.  It did not take long to realize he had been left alone, despite the assurance that Owen and Ron would remain with him, at all times.  He managed to pull out the IV and leave the bed, and he’d stumbled as far as the door when the alarms to Bill’s wards went off.

Ianto slipped from the room and felt his way down to the archives, finding his desk easily.  He knew that it would take anyone else a while to find him there, so he kept himself calm and attempted to access Mainframe using a voice interface through a comm link he found in his desk. 

He was frustrated that he had to attempt three different authorizations before Mainframe recognized him.  His voice and eyes were too damaged, though she was able to extrapolate that this might be due to injury and asked for a voice command using one of his security authorizations.

They got there, in the end.  She was able to tell him that Tosh and Mickey had been called out on a retrieval, leaving Owen and Ron alone in the hub.  A strange wizard had then apparated into the hub and had quickly ambushed both men, infecting them with a curse, likely the same one that had overcome Gwen.

Mainframe had been able to identify the stranger as Lisander Wolverton.  Ianto set aside his confusion and ordered Mainframe to initiate a lockdown of the hub and stay connected to him through the comms.  He then made his way through the archives to find a perception filter to keep him hidden from his friends and enemy.

He found the perception filter, a heavy metal disk that looked like a washer and was about the size of a two pound coin, and hung it around his neck with a length of twine.  And it was none too soon, because in the next moment he heard Owen calling out in a sing-song voice.

“Oh, Tea Boy!  Where are you, ya twat?  We only want to talk to you.  Wolverton wants to ask you a question.”

Ianto leaned heavily against one of the shelves as Owen and Ron moved past the aisle he was hiding in.  As they moved deeper into the archives, he began to quietly make his way back towards the exit. 

He cursed to himself when he knocked into a book and it fell from the shelf.  He heard Ron and Owen back in the aisle, about thirty metres away, by the sound of it.  Ron shouted “Homenum revelio,” and Ianto cursed again and stumbled towards the door, knowing that the perception filter had been neutralized. 

He slammed the door shut and gave Mainframe the authorization code to lock it, hoping it would take Ron a few moments to remember he could still apparate back into the main part of the hub.  He kept moving, and as he made the turning from the archives’ main corridor to the one that would take him up to the hub, he ran into Wolverton.

Rather, he ran into Wolverton’s dagger.

Ianto felt a sharp pain in his left side as Wolverton grabbed his right shoulder and chuckled.  “So I finally got you, Jones,” he snarled, pulling out the dagger and stabbing Ianto again.  “Where is it?”

“Where…” Ianto panted, confused.  He let Wolverton hold him up as he mobilized his defenses against the curse that was now slithering through his bloodstream.  If he could hold it off…  “Why?” he asked, still confused as to why Wolverton was here, why he was after him.

The man had disappeared before he could be questioned for giving Theodophilus Jones the location of the Torchwood hub.  While everyone had thought it strange, the investigation had not been made a top priority, and though Ianto knew the Aurors were still searching for Wolverton, he had gone to ground quite effectively.

All they knew was that he had cleared out his vault at Gringotts and abandoned his only known home.  It had been several months since Torchwood had received its last update on the status of the investigation, and it appeared that the trail had gone cold.  Ianto had the dizzy thought that perhaps he should notify the Ministry that Wolverton had been spotted.

“Oh, I think you know why, you thieving bastard,” Wolverton spat. 

Ianto wasn’t sure what was worse, the dagger in his side, laden with dark magic, or the evil madness rolling off of the man stabbing him.  Either way, he did not feel an overabundance of guilt for what he was about to do.

Wolverton cursed and stepped back as Ianto’s eyes flashed a glittering shade of gold.  As his eyes returned to their blue and still mostly red state, Ianto stumbled back into the wall.  “What?” he asked, too shocked to react.

“Bastard,” Wolverton gritted, advancing on Ianto once again and stabbing him a third time.

Ianto vaguely wondered why Wolverton wasn’t going for his heart, but he realized that the reason it had taken him this long to get to Ianto was that Wolverton didn’t have the stomach for his own dirty work.  Not because he wasn’t capable, but rather because Ianto wasn’t his type.

Ianto shuddered.  He felt Wolverton’s breath on his face as the man cursed him for a thief and demanded his property.  Ianto could hear Ron apparating out of the archives with Owen, and he knew that Wolverton planned to kill them, next. 

Ianto reached inside with a will that defied his weakness and his injuries.  He had to protect his friends, so he reached so much deeper than he had been able to reach when only trying to protect himself.  He prayed for strength and forgiveness as he found his magic and pulled it forth, forcing it to the surface, ready or not.

“Avada Kedavra!”

The spell burst from him and Wolverton was blasted away from him with such force that he slammed into the corridor wall six feet away.  Thankfully, he’d kept a firm grip on the dagger, and Ianto heard it clattering to the floor, as well. 

Unfortunately, Owen and Ron were barreling down the corridor, still hell-bent on killing him.  He reached inside again, noticing how strange his magic felt, even keeping the curse at bay, and managed to turn on the spot just as his cursed friends reached the corridor.  He heard them shouting after him even as pain and fatigue and dizziness overcame him.

He arrived at his destination, and he could tell it was the right place, by the smell, as well as by the hiss of displeasure at his sudden appearance.  He fell to his knees and noted that there would be even more bruises.  With unseeing eyes, he turned towards his unsuspecting host and pleaded, “Please, hide me!”

He heard a huff, then a rustling as he assumed a place was being prepared to either hide him or… well, no point in considering the alternative.  He realized that besides all of the many things paining his still healing body (must remember to never damage all internal organs at once, ever again), his throat hurt, as did his bruised manhood, and his side, though the stab wounds were ominously numb. 

And now his right forearm.  With his left hand, he touched the offending area and hissed as he felt bone.  He realized he must have splinched.

Well that was just embarrassing…

He reached down and tore one of the legs of his pyjama bottoms and wrapped it around his forearm.  He stuffed another bit of material into the stab wounds, hoping to staunch the heavy flow of blood that was making him woozy.

Then he felt someone guiding him close to the wall, where he lay down and was covered.  He knew it was a bad idea to allow himself to fall asleep, but he was feeling weaker by the moment.  It was all he could do to keep the curse contained.  But that velvety darkness was inviting him to enjoy another taste of sweet oblivion.  He knew he should fight it, but he was just so tired…

In the next moment, he felt a jolt along the bond and realized that Jack was back, at least in this time zone, perhaps even on the planet.  He felt a thrill of pure joy and smiled as he felt Jack respond, in kind.  Then he realized that he could not fight the darkness any more as it seeped into every corner of his mind.  He felt a pang of disappointment as he was swept under.

I love you, Jack…

***