He jests at scars who never felt a wound

Earl Grey in a scotch 'n' soda highball. It burned his fingers as he lifted the glass to his lips savouring the wisps of bergamot steam. Amazing how the mouth could accept a scald the outer skin would blister at. But even so, it did nothing to shift his mood into a higher gear. He was for smashing mirrors today. Driving out the daemon who stared back at him from the silvered sheen. Today was for drums, and church organs and Christian death metal. For a choir of banshees and a host of tormented seraphim. Today was for screaming into the vacuum.

"I thought of doing psychology once." Toshiko's voice from the doorway. He didn't look up. "But I couldn't decide between Jung's determined mysticism or Freud's obsession with sex." Hesitant footsteps closed on his location. "You think there's a school of thought for people who deliberately drink hot tea from handleless cups?"

He grunted in reply then feeling such an act was hypocritical added "Make me a case study." The glass wasn't emptying fast enough so he tipped the contents into the rubber plant's pot and watched guiltily as the stem wilted slightly.

"I like to think you and I are close enough friends that you can talk to me."

There was a blister forming on the tip of his ring finger. He picked at it absently until it burst and the clear plasma dripped onto the pile of old Readers Digests he'd been attempting to throw out. "Does that count as self harm?"

"Ianto!" She came up beside him and put a hand on his arm. "Whatever has happened? I passed the boardroom earlier and judging by Jack's over-loud yells you were both having a whale of a time."

"Maybe that's all I'm good for. A quick shag to get his rocks off. Something to take his mind off the paperwork."

A headshake. "You're far more than that to him. He really cares for you."

"Does he?" Ianto asked unable to keep the bitterness from seeping into his tone. "You know what fucking stupid me did earlier? No?" He swallowed. "I told him I loved him." His shame burned on his cheeks. "I lay in his arms and told him I loved him."

Toshiko's hand went instinctively to cover her mouth. "What did he say?"

"Nothing." He spat. "Not a single bloody word." By tomorrow his humiliation would be all round the Hub. "Absolute fucking silence." That was the worst. He could have coped with ridicule, with spiteful laughter, with a patronising pat on the head and arse. This went beyond rejection. He'd reached out in openness and honesty and been stonewalled. Was it all a game on Jack's part? Playing with puppies. A thing to put back into the box when it no longer entertained him. But it was out there now. He could neither retract it nor pretend he hadn't done it.

"Sometimes Ianto," Toshiko said gently, "you wear your heart on your sleeve."

"If I didn't," he said, meeting her eyes, "I'd put it down somewhere, like Jack, and lose it."


O! she doth teach the torches to burn bright

"Vrei sa pleci dar nu ma, nu ma iei." She picked up the white plates from the table in front of the band and threw them down on the floor in time to the music. "Nu ma, nu ma iei, nu ma, nu ma, nu ma iei." The silver hem of her dress flashed over the cellar floor. "Chipul tau si dragostea din tei." Shards of pottery scattered as her heels ground them down. "Mi-amintesc de ochii tai."

Extraordinary breath control, Owen mused, watching the way Zalina's chest heaved and glistened above him on the dais. He nodded with approval. "You're right Jack. She is very good." It was a shame he'd no idea what she was singing about but the musicians were lively enough and a pretty brunette in a tight dress was always worth paying attention to.

"It's a traditional Romanian number," Jack explained, never taking his eyes off the chanteuse. "About mobile phones and trees." A hand tapped on his leg as the violinist took centre stage for a solo.

Owen could never tell when Jack was being serious. "Loses something in translation, huh." He found himself humming along. Nu ma, nu ma iei. Zalina was dancing with a hand in front of her face. It had an eye drawn on it. Gypsy charm he surmised. Probably to ward off his own evil thoughts. The red blouse and headscarf might have been a cliché too far though. Less was often more. "How long does this song go on for?"

Jack laughed. "Forever." He was definitely captivated too. "They just play faster and faster until one of them falls over exhausted." His eyes followed Zalina's muscular ankles as they scurried out from under the heavy hem. "She'd be great on a soccer field."

Nu ma, nu ma, nu ma iei. "Didn't you say she wasn't into ball games?" Chipul tau si dragostea din tei.

"She's just not met the right coach." They were almost out of plates now, he could see. He'd never managed to figure the meaning of broken crockery. A way of proving how well off they were, he guessed.

Chipul tau si dragostea din tei. The hand with the eye drawn on it snaked down Zalina's front drawing the audience's attention to her cleavage before swaying in the air like a cobra. Mi-amintesc de ochii tai!

It blinked.

"Uh oh. Feeding time." Jack unholstered his gun causing panic in the busy club. "Torchwood. Please vacate the premises in an orderly manner." He ignored the elbows jabbing into his sides as people surged past towards the fire exits in blind terror.

The violin whizzed by Owen's ear and cracked against a pillar sending splinters into his neck. He tasered the owner. "What about our Zalina?" The singer hissed as her name was mentioned. Two black tongues flickered in the air as if tasting their presence.

Jack advanced, covering her with his gun. "This can go two ways. Choose wisely."

She ignored him, head swinging to and fro in search of a safe refuge. Finding none she launched at him, talons outstretched towards his jugular. The first bullet went through her shoulder. "Sugi pula!" The second lodged in her chest. Owen was surprised to see the blood matched the colour of her dress. "Ohhh. Futu-i."

"Careful Jack!"

The warning was too late. As Zalina fell at his feet her tongues lashed out and slapped him heavily on the sides of his head. Concussed he staggered backwards a few paces then collapsed on top of her body as the blackness took him.


A glooming peace this morning with it brings

The sea was rushing in around him. Wave upon wave crashing into the rocks. The sea. The sea.

Owen lifted an eyelid and shone his pencil torchlight into the pupil. Movement was sluggish but any contraction was promising. "Your ears are bleeding. That's never a good omen." He gave Jack a V-sign. "How many fingers am I holding up?"

Jack slowly opened the other eye and looked dazed at the proffered digits.

"How many fingers?" Owen waved his hand over his face.


"Jack, can you hear me?"