The Angel and the Abyss
Set during the final hours of End of Days

1. Defixiones

They had brought his body in and placed it straight onto the autopsy table without a second thought. Amidst the cacophony of shouts and sobs there lay before them the uncompromising solidity of failure. Already the flesh was ashen, cold to the touch, senseless to the surrounding commotion. The face so animated in life cementing into its final expression.

In the small circular space between the curve of the stairs Owen and Toshiko milled around like worker bees each in their own little orbit. Beneath the harshness of the spotlights Owen seemed unable to decide what to do. He hovered between taking a pulse and listening for a heartbeat to checking the pupils for their reaction to light. Neither moves quite followed through to completion. In frustration he kicked the trolley with the defibrillator in Ianto’s direction. Of all the sounds Ianto’s continued silence was the loudest.

Toshiko was measuring again. She had picked up an armful of her more exotic instruments as if they were a child’s toys and was pressing them one after another against the unyielding clamminess of his skin desperate for a number, a wave form, a colour that would reward her perseverance. Discarded equipment lay strewn at her feet, some now broken beyond repair.

Gwen understood Toshiko’s commitment. She herself had held Jack’s body at the wasteland, in the scrub, on the rocks, the bleak industrial hinterland by the water’s edge. She had put her arms around him and tried to will him back to life, the dark strands of her hair brushing his closed eyelids. Her finger at the holes in his shirt hoping to find fresh blood, warmth, a single sign that there may yet be hope.

An arm slid off the metal surface of the trolley to lie at an oblique angle in the air. Ianto stepped forward with a noise midway between a cough and a sob and replaced it carefully, his fingers lingering slightly over the hairless skin and raised veins of Jack’s wrist, over his watch, over his strong fingers.

"Ianto," said Gwen quietly, "can you please make us some coffee." He looked about to argue. She smiled at him as comfortingly as she could manage under the circumstances. "No, really." With a last glance at the body he slowly climbed up the stairs his face again unreadable.


He had always been slow to love, even slower to let go when everything ended, as it must. In his short life they had all been taken from him in the hour of his understanding: Jason, Lisa, now Jack. By the time he had accepted the feelings blossoming inside him it was already too late: a slammed door, a deathly curiosity, a fatal shadow falling. He was left saying goodbye to empty rooms, no flowers to mend the heartache. Somehow he willed himself through each day, locking away the sweetest of memories in a place with no doors, no windows. Loves too precious to recall.

Jason had been the first. A schoolboy crush. They had been inseparable growing up together. It was inevitable come their formative years that one of them would take the lead towards more adult pleasures. But it wasn’t in Ianto’s nature to be the forward one. He had politely but firmly discouraged Jason’s blandishments until his friend had cried out though disappointment and disillusionment, eventually leaving for London in search of a more physical relationship. After he had departed Ianto finally came to terms with the nature of his feelings. He’d gone after Jason but by then it was too late. His friend had died in hospital of a ruptured appendix.

Torchwood One had found him and recruited him and on the rebound he’d met Lisa. Her rosary was still in his pocket. Absently his fingers caressed the wooden beads. At least he thought it had once been a rosary. Given Lisa’s strident nature she hadn’t shown any interest in organised religion so the missing pendant could easily have been an ankh or a Star-of-David or even a swastika or, more probably, merely a piece of costume jewellery. Actually he could picture her easily wearing a swastika just for the sheer joy of arguing Buddhist symbolism to an audience hung-up on Nazi imagery. Their relationship had been a bit like that. Why she had chosen him over all the others he didn’t know. At first he had followed her because it was easier than confronting her. Only later had he admitted to himself that she had needed someone she could bully into submission to cover her own insecurities and he had needed an authority figure to subjugate his lack of will.

He’d never dreamt someone like Jack would ever notice him. He hadn’t meant to fall in love with him, it had happened as inexorably as a sunrise. Where once there had been a willingness to please, to be valued, there was now a sharpness, a pain. An unrequited wound. All of those times he had spurned Jack’s less subtle advances believing there would be a next time, and a next one again. Always leaving his Captain wanting more. Now it was over. He was left with the certainty of regret and the jaggedness of his guilt at saying no once more. Of never having brought Jack to feel the pleasure the man gave to him. It burned like a flame inside him, a furnace squeezing his heart.

The opposite of love is not hate. It is the hell of loss: knowing that there will come no more words in a familiar voice, no more crooked smiles, no more spontaneous embraces in restaurants’ car parks. For ever more there will be questions left unanswered, chairs left unoccupied, cars left undriven.


A few hours ago Owen had shot Jack through the head; watched the wound heal and repair. He’d tried to kill the Captain and broken the oath he’d sworn to uphold at all times: above all do no harm. As betrayals go it had to rival Judas’s for magnitude. Not that he was religious in any respect but the phrase ‘forgive them they know not what they do’ was running rings inside his head. And Jack had pretty much got the sacrificial part bang to rights. He looked suspiciously at the others for a sign of blame but they were just as helpless as he was. He tried to twist his lips back into the semblance of speech. Surrounded by the titanium and anodised steel instruments of surgery his voice sounded fragile, all too human.

"He’s not coming back his time." That was it then. Tears were running down Tosh’s pretty face. She had one fist gripped tightly onto the iron chain of the handrail. He kept his gaze averted in case he started crying too. Fuck, he was a doctor. Used to patients dying. Where was his professional deportment now? The white wall tiles threatened to blur before his eyes. "Christ. I need a drink". He pushed past Gwen and almost stumbled out of the room in his hurry to leave, his hand instinctively reaching for the chain railing, making it jangle in the silence.

Gwen looked at Toshiko. She’d been in enough situations to know how people react to sudden bereavement. "Go and lie down. I’ll stay here." Part of her refused to give in, even if it took a lifetime of waiting. Rhys was safe. That was all the strength she needed to carry on.


There was a long shallow cut on the back of his hand between the thumb and forefinger. He stared at it abstractly, as if it were an ancient ogham engraving waiting to be translated into a curse. Carefully, and with little conscious thought, he took the fallen piece of pottery that had caused the injury and added a small curve to its base. More blood welled out of the wound, running over the ball of his thumb to drip quietly onto the floor. Against his pale skin the colour seemed an obscene extravagance. He watched it for a short while but it wasn’t deep enough to bleed for long or captivate his interest.


Ianto was standing over a pile of broken crockery as Owen entered, Jack’s coat draped over his shoulders like a witch doctor’s skins.

"Haven’t you –" The doctor stopped. There was blood on the floor. "Shit."

"I dropped the Captain’s mug," came the apologetic reply.

"It’s not as if he needs it now," Owen snapped. "Go and get cleaned up. And use some antiseptic, I’m not in the mood for septicaemia right this minute." The coffee machine was spluttering on the counter. Hell, he needed something far stronger than caffeine. Where was that bourbon? The one Jack kept for special occasions.

Ianto was still staring wide eyed at the floor.

"Get a fuckin’ move on" Owen snarled, pushing him out of the doorway. "I’m fed up playing nursemaid to you lot." He collapsed into the leather easy chair with his head in his hands. Oh God, he’d have to perform the autopsy soon. "I’m not bleedin’ doing it sober," he announced to the empty space. No way in hell. Outside the glass wall the semi-darkness of the Hub pressed in, brick upon brick, stone upon stone.


2. La treizième revient

Sometimes mere tears are not enough. There must come a sharpness to drive out the insidious numbness, to reawaken the senses to action. A violence to be kindled, a rage to be reclaimed.

For Ianto these were not the hours of laughter and forgetting. They had all been sintered in the crucible of the Hub, melded together by the Captain’s ardent drive to protect. No, not to protect – to forbid. In the months they had spent there his will had left a certain patina on their lives, a fingerprint of a higher calling. But all that was gone. The light at the end of the tunnel, if there ever had been one, was now extinguished. The Captain had been unique, irreplaceable. Whoever Torchwood high command sent to fill the void would find a team fractured and splintered beyond repair. Put beyond use.

He could not serve another master. He would not supplicate himself before a stranger. There was nothing inside of him left to give – not even obedience. Would the others be angry if I thought of joining you?

It was never silent in the bowels of the Hub. He was comforted in his solitude by the susurrations of the machines, a sylvan language of ticks, whistles and whines; the constant unseen dripping of water; the creak of ancient shelving bending like Atlas under the weight of the Rift's jetsam. Gone though was the electric whip-crack of the cyber-generator; the piercing screams of Lisa floating back to consciousness and remembering her plight; the flat slap of Jack's boots on the flagstones during his infrequent border patrols as he paced the length of his subterranean demesne, a Hamlet surveying the cellars of Elsinore.

He always felt there was a touch of didacticism about the sub levels as if the architects had constructed the archives as a direct analogy of Dante’s Divine Comedy with Escher as the overlord of the Circles directing the builders to place a stair here, a doorway there, a blind curve at the end of a false corridor. It had taken him weeks to get a grip of the labyrinth, mentally transcribe its coils. To navigate the stygian gloom required a certain mindset able to reconcile the dichotomy of steel and brick, plastic and stone. It had become a second home to him – he’d now been in every room cataloguing the contents of bureaucracy; transcribing the holographs of the eighteenth centuries, the concordances of the nineteenth, the closely typed codicils of the twentieth. Whiling away the evening hours between tending Lisa by reading novels, comics, biographies, poetry. Anything to assuage his guilt, his helplessness.

But without her presence to gnaw at his conscience it provided a refuge of sorts. Here, at the deepest part of the pit, so many metres below the tarmacadamed surface of Cardiff could he finally stop and rest, slumping down against the rough wall, Jack’s greatcoat pulled tightly around his shoulders, smelling as it did of comfort and fraternity. His face lit by lights of the consoles: lilacs, carmines, jades. Every colour made of tears.


She hadn’t left his side since he was brought in, broken and limp. The others had gone: abandoned her to her false gods of hope and faith. Left her in the small tiled space with little room to sit and fewer places to pace. Owen had gone out, he said, to drown in a small ocean of whisky and vodka. He’d given Tosh a mild sedative to help her sleep but hadn’t waited around long enough to ensure she swallowed it. The rest of the bottle had been offered to Gwen presumably on the grounds she was sane enough not to take them all. It had been pocketed without a thought. Sleep was the last thing on her mind.

And Jack. Well, he hadn’t moved. Despite her added prayers he had been deaf to their pleas. It wasn’t so long ago she had joked with him that if he had been two feet shorter he’d have been the spitting image of Tom Cruise. Instead of chuckling he’d lectured her on growth disorders. Always unpredictable was Jack. Now she would have done anything just to have him sit up and admonish her for not being at home with Rhys.

They’d been at home the night before last, eating Chinese and thinking up collective nouns for each other. A solidity of Rhyses, a dedication of Gwens. She’d spent the latter part of the clearing up silently extrapolating the game to her Torchwood compatriots. A sneer of Owens; a hesitancy of Toshikos.

An adoration of Iantos…


The Hub had never before seemed so menacing. The high electric lights exposing insects and arachnids scurrying along the walls and ceilings. He touched a wall to feel the wet stone. It seemed almost organic, a petrified intestine carrying the waste of their lives from organ to organ. Something slimy stuck to his fingertips. He smelled them first then licked the foul substance. It coated his tongue with an oily film, the bitterness of it burning his taste buds. Sunt lacrimae rerum – these are the tears of things. He scooped as much of the stuff up as he could, forcing it into his mouth. As expected his throat and stomach reacted instantly and he vomited explosively onto the floor. He knelt over the mess careful not to get any onto the long coat. Never mind. Ianto could clean it up later. Sated for the moment he moved off along the corridor.

He paused by the room where the thing that had been Lisa died. The scorch marks were still visible on the walls and ceiling. Ianto ought to have made a better effort of his scrubbing. He'd mention it to him later if he saw him. A sharp pain in his stomach made him double-up for a moment. It faded slowly. He waited to see if it reoccurred. It did. Savagely. The agony of retching left him on the ground panting for breath. There was a darkness to the spoils. Like old rust. Smiling between contractions he staggered in.

His throat was getting dryer. His lips parched as if in a desert. Somehow in the cold of the room he was being irradiated with warmth.

"Hailing frequencies closed," said Lisa, carefully removing the cyber implant from her left ear. The long white tentacle was streaked with grey matter. Ianto didn't want to dwell to much on what it meant.

The Captain chuckled. "You know, I never figured it would be me wearing the red shirt." He glanced down at the two holes in his chest. They had begun to slowly weep a red fluid.

"You're hurt, Sir."

Jack shook his head. "It's only wine. It was water earlier but I got fed up of having wet feet." He looked back at Ianto thoughtfully. "I see you’re eating your greens. Good boy."

Instinctively Ianto put a hand to his mouth to wipe off the slime. He was having difficulty following the train of the conversation. There was a fuzziness to his thoughts that refused to lift, and the trickle of wine was making him thirsty again. "You're playing cards."

"Happy families." His boss placed a card on the wooden table and smiled at Lisa. "She wanted to play bridge but it was difficult with just the three of us. I did try get one of your weevils to join our merry band but it was too busy trying to eat the remains of Jason so we gave up."

Ianto peered past Lisa's shoulder. In the gloom a figure sat motionless in the shadows. Half its face had been chewed off. He waved at his old friend but there was no response.

"Too much heaven on his mind," muttered Lisa. She had started to gently peel off a piece of the silver frame from her forearm. Underneath the flesh was livid, raw. Tendons glistened like eels between darker muscle.

"Listen Ianto, you were my right hand man all along," Jack leaned forward conspiratorially, "and believe me my love for you hasn't died…"

The space had become a wilderness to him. The lights bore down, their violet hour an oppressive weight. He sought protection in the gloaming, squatting down the way a traveller in the desert will try in desperation to hide in the syncopated shadow of a dead bush. All conscious though has fractured. He sees scenes as a zoetrope of holiday slides; a succession of events without continuity. The vague memory of the past like a child being reminded by his parents about a day at the beach. A splintered existence where the only cohesive factor is his continuing desire for the Captain. He is no longer a whole individual. He has become a cipher, an archetype. Has given up his future for an unending present. To live in the moment forever. His skin is flushed, scarlet with fever. His brow hot and dry. A febrile glint lurks in his eyes.

"Thirteen minutes, I waited," Jack said pointedly, still toying with the stopwatch. "I knew after the first six you’d chickened out."

"I got scared. I’m sorry, Sir."

"It was your idea, Ianto. Your suggestion. Do you know how much that hurt me?" Sad, not angry. That was the worst of it all. Anger he could have defended against. "You betrayed me with a kiss. Judas required thirty pieces of silver."

"Don’t look at me," said Lisa, grimacing in frustration. "I don’t want to hear any more excuses for failure." She had ripped out all traces of the exoskeleton from her left arm but now there was nothing to stop the bones dislocating when she moved it. Through the holes in her skin Ianto could see the white lines of the bones grinding against each other.

He turned back to the Captain in askance, his face twisted as though in pain. "What shall I do?"

Jack told him.

The household gods have departed. Their offerings scuttle back into the dark places of the walls, antennae flickering over the pits and scars of the stonework. Carapace walking on carapace. A thousand legs scrabbling a thousand miniscule leagues to lairs unseen. Ianto finds the noise deafening.


Toshiko had a headache. She’d finally taken Owen’s proffered medication but the pressure at her temples made her only listless in her cot. The migraine had come on her like the premonition of a thunderstorm. Ignoring it didn’t help. She needed something to blitz the pain and damn it to hell if she cared whether it reacted with the sedative or not.

Using the icy steel banister for guidance she made her way past the phallic water feature and up the concrete stairway to the mezzanine. Someday she’d find the person who sold Feng Shui to the West and slice him into sashimi. She had the nagging suspicion it would turn out to be Jack.


"Oh thank God," Gwen exclaimed as Ianto appeared at the top of the stairs. "I’m dying for a pee. You wait here." It wasn’t until she was level with him that she noticed he was wearing Jack’s coat. "Ianto?"

Savagely he grabbed her arms and threw her outside the room, hitting the emergency door button as he did. Before she could react the thick transparent sheet dropped down from the ceiling. "Ianto!"


It took her a moment for the situation to pierce the ache behind her eyes. A bloody thumbprint had left a smear of red over the glass front of the drugs cabinet offending the stark hygiene of the room. On the melamine countertop, arranged in four neatly calculated columns, stood a regiment of pill bottles. Dumbly Toshiko picked one up from the second line and read the label. Atropine. Then the third. And the fourth. Finally the first. In a moment of psychotic clarity someone had indexed the all the relevant drugs into precise formation: J, A, C and K. Most were empty.

Fingers skittered over the tiny keys of her mobile. Eventually she hit the right combination for Owen. Always assuming it wasn’t him on a suicidal bender… After an age the call was answered. "It’s Tosh. Get back here now. We have an emergency."

The voice at the other end slurred but still lucid. "Whaaat?"

"How do you treat an overdose of atropine? And aspirin – "she started reading out the names not caring whether Owen had already knocked over a row of bar stools on his way to the exit.


There was nothing Owen could do. Ianto had already metabolised half the chemicals in his stomach. Even if the security door had not been in place there was little he could have done except try to flush out Ianto’s system with saline.

They watched in horror as Jack’s coat slipped to the floor. Underneath Ianto was naked. Patches of his back were a vivid red as if burned. With infinite tenderness he pulled the white sheet off the Captain’s body and laid on top of him. The wheels of the trolley screeched in protest at the extra weight. Carefully he took the Captain’s sex into his mouth and tried to coax some life into the organ.

"No Ianto. Not that." Tears were running down Gwen’s face. All thoughts of Rhys gone.

"If you don’t come out I’ll fucking kill you," screamed Owen, hammering at the door with his fists.

By the time Toshiko’s lance burned through the thermoplastic Owen calculated Ianto had been clinically dead for at least twelve minutes. It took all three of them to pull his body from Jack. At the moment of his death he had released his seed on the Captain’s stomach where it had crusted over. Toshiko had shaken so badly at the sight of it that Owen had sedated her on the spot. Together he and Gwen had carried her back to her cot and tenderly pulled the green blanket over her.

Suddenly Owen wanted nothing better than to go down to the firing range and loose a dozen barrels against the side of his head.


He awoke with a glint in his eye, stretching out as if he’d just surfaced from a deep slumber. "I had the most wonderful dream, Gwen." Cold though. So very, very cold.

She nodded. Not the response he’d expected. "Don’t I at least get a ‘welcome back, Jack’"?

"Welcome back, Jack." Automatic. No emotion. Well, he supposed they’d all been through a lot recently.

"Where are the others?"

Gwen hesitated noticeably. "Tosh is sleeping, and Owen is sitting at her side playing computer games badly."

"And our lovely Ianto?" Surely he would have waited close by? He watched Gwen’s eye’s give a betraying glance behind him.

He looked. As he saw the second trolley with its occupant a hundred thousand cries welled up inside him. When he felt his voice was once again under control he asked, "Was it the monster? Did Abaddon get to him?"

She stared hard back, then said pointedly, with a voice dipped in belladonna: "Not that monster.  No."

And the accusation cut him to the bone.


3. Εξελóυ Με

They placed Ianto's personal possessions into a damp cardboard box. There were fewer items than expected - CDs of Evita and Jesus Christ Superstar (discovered hidden beneath an immaculate copy of the Watchtower, presumably to ensure Owen would not find them and begin another round of ridicule); half a dozen hardbacks from the local antiquarian shop – collected works of Eliot, Blake, Byron; biographies of Mao and TE Lawrence; a history of the American Air Force. The latter, according to the receipt used as a bookmark, purchased less than twenty four hours before his death. Jack had seen it and fallen quiet.

All the accumulation of Ianto’s time at Torchwood reduced to a few second-hand kilograms. The Captain put the box into the safe along with the coffee machine. No one had questioned him when that had gone in. They were all drinking coke or tea now. Their mugs lay abandoned in the kitchen, museum exhibits, the morning drinks ritual an unspoken taboo. No one wanted to be reminded of their loss, least of all Jack.

Without Ianto’s diligence Jack had expected the Hub to collapse under the weight of their own garbage. He'd envisaged having to climb over a mountain of crushed takeaway cups to reach what Ianto had started calling the improbability slab. It hadn't happened like that. If anything the Hub was neater. All spills were cleaned up immediately as if in homage to their fallen colleague. Anything carelessly discarded picked up a few seconds later in shameful silence. A week on and the atmosphere approached a Trappist Monastery for repressed conversations. No one thought it healthy. But no one wanted to be the first to raise their voice, risk the timbre of their speech breaking mid conversation into a sob or, heaven forefend, an accusation.

The Captain was no longer in command although his orders were obeyed without question. He spent hours in the voluntary prison of his office, trapped behind the open door by an unyielding wall of hostility and blame, watching them at their stations on the CCTV network swapping text messages in substitution for spoken words. It was a dreadful feeling, to be denied the normalcy of comradeship, to wait on the blind icons on his terminal to blink in an invitation to talk which may never come. They had forbidden him the right to find tranquillity in the quietness.

Scattered on his desk were personnel reports from Central. Recommendations for Ianto's replacement. They lay there in mimicry of work though he could not bring himself to open the manila folders and read the contents. If he had his way they would stay there until hell itself froze over.

The low sotto voce murmurs stopped when he passed desks, faces averted, hands paused mid-keystroke. A world went on behind his back. If Ianto had died on the battlefront things would have been different. It was the manner of his departure that had hit a primeval nerve, ripped the curtains from their eyes and brought the full uncaring splendour and misery of the universe to their attention. And they could not forgive him for the part he had played in Ianto’s fall: an Icarus having flown too close to the sun, wings aflame.

Skias onar anthropos. Man is but a dream of shadow.  As he lay in his camp bed, sleep as impossible as friendship, his mind revisited the old wounds. True, Ianto had been an unlikely source of interest to him. But something about his innocence, his freshness, had pierced Jack’s normal pachydermal reserve. Perhaps if he’d pushed things further. Made his intentions clearer. Perhaps if he hadn’t been drawn to the real Jack Harkness… The others hadn’t known how sly Ianto had been at times; brushing up against his Captain when no one else was watching; his hand touching Jack’s for just a moment too long when handing over fresh cups. Strong hands they were, yet not insensitive. The little fair hairs on his arms as soft as fox fur.

Sly. Almost vulpine. He sat up suddenly as a thought coalesced into action. Blaidd Drwg.

Grabbing his coat he bounded out of the office. Stood for a brief moment, fists clenching the railing. "Starve the fox and feed the wolf." Then he was gone, with the echo of a growl in his throat.

Toshiko glanced back at the source of the disturbance and shrugged at Gwen disinterestedly.


He must have seemed a strange sight from the precinct: a man in a retro-Air Force coat yelling at the implacable clock faces in the empty shop. For an hour and forty minutes he had sworn and cursed in every language he knew.  Spat the most lurid of  threats at the timepieces, the bare floorboards, the cast-iron spiral staircase. A gnawing pain had grown in his stomach as desperation set in. But the patrician walls: purple murex and avocado green, were singularly unaffected.

There was a black Bakelite lamp on the old desk at the back, complete with fabric flex and round-pinned plug. Jack had gone for that first. Examined every inch of it. It was pristine enough to have been made yesterday. Which, he reflected, was probably the case.

A particularly hideous French clock had caught his eye. Gilt, blue-enamelled dial. Mid nineteenth century. It had the kind of overwrought ornateness which usually indicated extreme expense rather  than  sophistication. Manger had given it pride of place on a shelf of its own. On a hunch Jack had picked it up and inspected the base. The maker’s name was carved into the brass: Emile Gustav St Germain. The engraver’s hand had slipped on the ‘v’ making it almost into a ‘y’.  As he dropped it casually on the floor where it broke he could have sworn he heard an audible sigh of annoyance.

The pieces vanished. On the shelf, looking to the world as if it had never been smashed sat an identical clock. Jack picked it up. As he suspected the mark on the base was still there. It was then he began his tirade at the absent shopkeeper.


There is something both sinister and comforting about a room full of analogue clocks. The regular tick becomes a measured heartbeat. A rhythm of the biological. But the movement of time is relentless, a clockwork analogy of the inexorable approach of death. It was a macabre irony that Bilis Manger of all people would run a horologists shop, he for whom every moment was another reminder of unending boredom.

"Thank you for not destroying the rest of my stock."

Jack turned. "I was beginning to think you weren’t going to show."

"Oh," Bilis paused mid step on the staircase, "I was enjoying your soliloquy. It’s not often these days you get to listen to some juicy dog-Latin. I especially liked the way you dealt with the security guard." Lips were pursed. "Are you here to ‘take me down’ in your parlance?" Still wearing the same pinstripe suit and burgundy cravat, Jack saw, wondering if it was a stock uniform for the demon-raising brigade.

"I don’t think I could," he replied honestly. "But I am here to make a deal." Jack’s hand made a sweeping gesture towards to his previous attempt at vandalism.  "Doesn’t bringing the same thing back break most of the laws of time?"

Bilis snorted, finally deciding it was safe to descend the stairs. "I never much cared for laws." He walked past Jack to adjust his precious clock on the shelf. "I go where I want, as often as I want. There’s never been anything to stop me." Only when he was satisfied it was positioned correctly did he look at the interloper. "You said something about a deal?"

I was right, thought Jack. You can operate in the same time over and over without hindrance. "I figure you know about me now. In every possible scenario you could create I’ll always defeat your monster. I beat Abaddon this time. I’ll beat him the next and the next again." For all he knew he may well have fought and won a thousand times already. "You’ll never win your freedom that way. I have a solution."

Bilis looked unimpressed but stayed silent.

"I want you to go back and save Ianto. Simple as that."

"Just Ianto?" came the surprised reply. "Not your American friend? I could sweep him away from his aerodrome and back into your arms as easily as I replaced that clock. Imagine," he continued, "a life together. Peace and joy and the certainty of a happy ending. Or," Bilis said, a peculiar glee in his black eyes, "you could have both."

Jack shuddered. What was that old saying? If you sup with the devil use a long spoon. It was impossibly tempting. Part of him could envisage a life on an Arkansas farm with his two friends cutting corn in the yellow sunlight. Or surfing the waves in Truro, their small beach house pummelled by the English winds… Days of wine and roses… Waking up with a dead man’s semen drying on his stomach was a horror he couldn’t quite come to terms with so soon. It made refusing Manger’s offer harder. Almost inexpressibly hard.

"Just Ianto." His voice faltered for a second before returning to practicalities. "And a small matter of architecture. I want a security door removed from the Hub’s original plans."

"And what do I get out of this act of philanthropy? A warm glow around my conscience? You must know there’s no point in appealing to my better nature." Fussed around the old lamp like a hesitant moth around a fire, a handkerchief brushed lightly over the smooth surface. Fastidious.

Don’t I just, Jack thought. He put on his best smile and began – "A new world. I’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe: attack ships on fire off the shoulders of Orion. I’ve seen c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tanhauser Gate –"

"Please!" cried Bilis in mock-horror. "I’ve supped mint tea with khedives. Watched the whores of Pompeii buried alive in ash. Stood shoulder to shoulder with Tyndareus as he vetted his daughter’s suitors. Played cribbage with Goebbels over a map of Stalingrad." He shook his head sadly. "Is that the best you have on offer to tempt me? A couple of Philip K Dick quotes?"

"Something far rarer – I’m offering adventure. The farthest horizon… A universe where the script has not been written. Cultures beyond your reckoning. Wonders as numerous as grains of sand." It wasn’t until Bilis nodded thoughtfully that Jack realised he’d been holding his breath.

Without warning Manger was upon him, his wrinkled hands improbably strong on Jack’s arms. The darkness of the abyss stared unblinkingly at him from that ancient visage. Words echoed around his mind unformed by a human throat. "If this is what you want – cometh the hour, cometh the man!"


She had been there too when they placed his body on the tray in the morgue, walked uncertainly over the gantry to the drab doors of the cold store, to the pall bearers with their working clothes and funereal expressions.

Ianto was there half-standing, half-leaning against the wall of doors for support. His hands were in his pockets as if waiting for a bus but his lower lip was bleeding from where he had bitten it and his eyes had been bloodshot: the face of a man whose parachute had failed to open.

Toshiko eyes were fixed straight ahead, not looking at Jack, not looking at the body. Her hands on the side of the tray were gripping white as bone. Every so often a faint shake would pass its way through her frame, the only sign of movement.

Owen. You could see the anger in his eyes. All the rage of a doctor unable to help a friend. He looked about to break into violence and smash the corpse into pulp. But for the others there he may yet have done so. He’d labelled the shroud: "Harkness J. Species: N/A" as if his analysis of the body had failed to prove its humanity.

"I want to sit with him," she’d said. Don’t push him inside. Don’t close the door yet. Don’t fasten the latch and give up on him. "I want to sit with him." They left her watching over the corpse. There was an old inventory pasted on the inside of the chamber door. Peeling, yellowing. Someone had scrawled unintelligibly over it with black ink. She wondered if the message had been written from inside the locked compartment. She was bloody well sure that wasn’t going to happen with Jack.

"Wake up," she had whispered. And he had done, eventually, when the hours of waiting turned into days and the others had started telling her more forcefully it was time to let go. She kissed him farewell and walked away. Only then had he opened his eyes. You had to give it to the Captain, Gwen thought. He did have perfect timing.


You could almost taste Toshiko’s squeal of joy on seeing her Captain pink cheeked and ivory toothed. She’d nearly dropped the chromatography pump out of shock. Ran across the walkway, and leaped at him for a hug.

Even Owen had been embraced and forgiven. In his relief he sobbed uncontrollably into Jack’s shoulder not caring if the others saw.

But the greatest greeting was reserved for Ianto. There was a hesitancy to Ianto’s reactions. A hand half-raised to shake his boss’s, not quite sure where the boundaries of public affection lay. Then his true feelings came to the fore and he wrapped his arms around Jack, holding him tightly, lovingly. The kiss when it happened was deep, natural, the best feeling in the world. A taste of milk and honey. Jack’s hand hard against his back, pulling him closer. Eyes closed against the harshness of the world, drinking in Jack’s scent, the maleness of his sweat.


There was a certain massy fluidity to the layout of the Hub, to mix metaphors. If one dismissed the rather unfortunate symbolism of the central wet pillar penetrating the subterranean depths from the Plas above one was left with a strange architectural pot-pourri that in places seemed part disused-subway, part forgotten fallout shelter, part Victorian pumping station. Given the nature of the establishment within it was difficult to tell whether the perception was in some way engineered by the warped mind of the planners or whether indeed the whole place had been assembled bit by bit from other buildings and somehow materialised in place using the same technology Jack was always trying to prevent being used. It had a veneer of post-modern eclecticism around the central area but once out of the relative comfort zone of the inhabitant’s desks it transmogrified into a workplace more in keeping with the denizens of Jules Verne's novels than a twenty-first century hothouse.

The Captain's office was fashioned in a similar vernacular. Crystal glasses and plasma displays. Old mortar and new plastic. Bilis popped a red grape into his mouth as Jack entered.

"I was hoping you were just a bad dream."

"You mean was your young man’s demise real or did I just plant the image in your mind?" The idea seemed to amuse him. "Can you really afford to take a chance?" Cold fingers pulled another fruit off the stem. He had taken the arrival of the police box in his stride as if such spectacles were commonplace.

They didn’t have much time. The noise of the Tardis materialising would bring the others soon. Jack placed the letter he’d written onto his desk where Ianto would find it, glancing at himself in the mirror to see if he looked presentable. Not too bad. Right. Playing around with time to get the Doctor’s attention wouldn’t necessarily buy him a friendly smile. Best foot forward. Not knowing quite what reception awaited him he pushed his way through the blue doors. They swung back leaving a small dark crack between them. There was a brief staccato burst of speech then silence.

Manger looked down thoughtfully at the thin envelope. "The shape of things to come."

"What was that?" A voice from inside the box. Not Jack’s.

"Nothing." A cunning hand slipped something flat and crisp into a pocket.  "HG Wells, if you must know."

"I met him once," came the disembodied reply.

"Really? What was he like?" Intrigued Bilis edged closer to the doorway, trying to peer inside. "I always felt he let his politics overshadow his imagination."

"Ah. Err. Um. Best to leave it. It was an episode I’d much rather forget. Now do come in Mr Manger."

Bilis pushed his way inside.

"Do come in." The tone of the voice darkened. "Any friend of Jack’s…"

The door to the police box slammed shut behind him.





All chapter titles are named after musical works by Diamanda Galás.

1. Defixiones - Curses placed on gravestones warning against disturbance of the dead.

Jason. Gacked shamelessly from the official Torchwood site. There is a suggestive note to Owen about bedside manners. I thought it might be fun to hint of a back story with Ianto.

2. La treizième revient - The thirteenth returns.

"Would the others be angry if I thought of joining you". A paraphrase of Diamanda Galás's version of Gloomy Sunday. The spirit of this song pervades the story: death, suicide, then awaking to find it was only a dream. There have been many variations on it but the Galás lyrics are by far the darkest.

"Hailing frequencies closed." and the "red shirt". The first of two stock SF references - in this case Star Trek.

"…heaven on his mind." A Jesus Christ Superstar reference. There are several others in here too. Jack is paraphrasing Judas's speech. There were thirteen people at the Last Supper, supposedly the source of the 'unlucky number' superstition.

"…the violet hour" (from The Waste Land) was much beloved image of TS Eliot who appears briefly, albeit in hardback form in Part 3.

"The household gods have departed" is a line from Derek Jarman's The Last of England, which includes among its soundtracks both La treizième revient and Elexou Me (Deliver Me). The Romans, which Bilis refers to obliquely later, worshipped personal family deities.

Atropine poisoning. Classic symptoms - blind as a bat, mad as a hatter, red as a beet, hot as a hare, dry as a bone. From Atropos, the Fate responsible for cutting the thread of life.

"…a voice dipped in belladonna." Another derivative, like Atropine, from the Deadly Nightshade plant.

3. Εξελóυ Με - Deliver Me.

Props for the Jesus Christ Superstar and TS Eliot quotes appear - Ianto needs a basis for his hallucinations to hang on. Mao's biography is there only because of my previous Torchwood short story 'The Chairman Dances'. TE Lawrence is a pet hero of mine. Like Ianto he is often portrayed as a tortured gay icon.

"improbability slab". A side reference to the improbability drive of Douglas Adams's classic Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. A further hint that Ianto is an SF buff.

"an Icarus having flown too close to the sun." The Fall of Icarus is a famous painting by Pieter Breughel the Elder. The painting is also an important feature in Auden's poignant and beautiful poem about suffering, Musée des Beaux Arts (a personal favourite); a segment of which forms the final lines from my vampire fic Pounamu. It also suggests that Ianto is the winged angel of the title rather than the more literally correct Abaddon - the Angel of the Abyss.

"Blaidd Drwg." The Bad Wolf scenario. A hint of the deus-ex-machina ending to come, of time manipulation.

"St Germain". The name of a hermetic figure who legend has it found the elixir of youth and lived forever.

"…attack ships on fire." The second of the stock SF quotes. I wanted Bilis to recognise this primarily to add a note of uncertainly to Ianto's visions. After all, we already know Bilis can make people see things. If Bilis is also an SF fan then it becomes possible that Lisa's speech is not caused by a random firing of Ianto's imagination but by the arch-manipulator himself.

Tyndareus was the father of Helen of Troy.

"It was an episode I’d much rather forget". HG Wells appears in the 1985 Doctor Who story, Timelash.