Title: Stranded On Halloween – Chapter 2
Characters: Jack, Ianto, special guests
Word Count: 3386
Spoilers: Everything Changes, They Keep Killing Suzie, Fragments, Cyberwoman.
Summary: Jack and Ianto have encounters of the ghostly kind.
Written For: Challenge #98: Haunted at fan_flashworks.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
Jack didn’t know at first what had woken him. Everything was quiet and the fire was still burning well so he couldn’t have been asleep all that long. Ianto stirred beside him.
“Jack? Everything okay?” he asked drowsily.
“It’s fine, just thought I heard something. Stay put, I’ll be right back.”
Jack slid out of their blanket cocoon, tucking it warmly back around Ianto, who was already drifting off again. Pulling on his mostly dry trousers and shoving a torch in one pocket, just in case, he picked up his Webley and one of the candelabra, padded silently to the parlour door, and slipped through, closing it behind him. It was colder in the hall, away from their roaring fire, and a draught made the candle flames flicker, throwing weird shadows on the walls.
Yes, that was what had woken him, someone was calling his name; just a breathy whisper of sound but somehow it was clearly audible above the storm that still raged outside. Looking around, he saw a dim light at the far end of the long hallway and walked cautiously towards it, only to see it slip sideways into one of the rooms to the rear of the house. Curious but cautious he followed, stepping into what looked like it had once been the music room. A slender, dark-haired woman stood by a battered grand piano, running one hand lovingly across the dusty top. As if sensing his presence, she started to speak.
“My mother used to play piano. She told me she’d teach me when I was old enough to reach the pedals, but then she died and daddy sold the piano. I hated him so much for that.” She turned away from the piano and smiled sadly at Jack.
“Hello, Jack. It’s been a while. You still look the same.”
“Suzie? How can you be here?”
“It’s Halloween, Jack. The night the dead walk the earth. Well, those of us who have unfinished business anyway. And you can put the gun down; you can’t kill a ghost. I’m as dead as it’s possible to get.” She smiled wryly. “I ended up dying quite a lot, didn’t I? Not as often as you though.”
“What do you want? Why are you here?” He watched her warily, noting that she didn’t cast a shadow.
“I just wanted to see you, and to apologise. Not that it’ll do any good, it won’t bring back the people I killed. That wasn’t me though, not really. The glove did something to me, changed me somehow.” She sighed and shook her head, then looked right at Jack. “It wasn’t your fault, you have to know that. There must always have been some… darkness in me, a kind of hunger, greed, a need to know and understand, to control. The glove… it found that part of me and latched on the first time I touched it. That was entirely my fault; you always told us never to touch with bare hands if we didn’t know what something was. But I did and it got inside my head, took control. It was like an addiction, I couldn’t get enough; it twisted my thoughts so I believed I was controlling it but I wasn’t, it was using me for its own purposes. I think I went mad. Anyway, there was nothing you could have done; from the moment I touched it I was beyond saving.” She shrugged. “I just wanted you to know that. I’m free now; the glove is destroyed. You need to stop blaming yourself.”
She looked like the Suzie he’d known at the start; a strong, vibrant girl, full of curiosity and wonder, not the jaded, hard-eyed woman she’d become. His heart ached at what Torchwood had done to her.
“I don’t know if I can. I should have known there was something wrong, should have seen the signs. You’d changed and I never even stopped to wonder why.”
“Torchwood changes us all over time, it’s gradual and inevitable. None of us are the same people we were when we started. You gave me so much, Jack, showed me that there was more to the universe than I ever could have imagined. You trusted me, and you gave me a purpose. I’m sorry I let you down.” She stepped close, leaning in to lightly kiss his cheek, the touch of her lips barely tangible. “Goodbye Jack, forgive yourself and be happy. If it helps, I forgave you long ago,” and with that, she vanished, leaving Jack standing alone in a dark, dilapidated room. He set his candelabra on the old piano and shoved one hand though his hair, drawing a shaky breath.
“Okay, that was weird.”
“I suspect that was only the beginning.” Jack jumped as a tall figure stepped out of the shadows by the wall. “Good to see you, Jack. You’re looking well.”
“Looks like you rebuilt the team and carried on after… Well, after the millennium. I always figured you’d just take off, get away from Torchwood at the first chance you got. I underestimated you, but I guess I did that a lot. You would have made a far better leader than I did. I should’ve said no when Hartman offered me the job; I couldn’t handle the stress.”
“What are you talking about, Alex? You were a great leader.”
Alex snorted disparagingly. “I was a mess; depression, paranoid delusions, post-traumatic stress. I was good at hiding it though, had Torchwood One’s psychiatrists completely fooled. Thought I could handle it by myself, then one little vision of the future tipped me over the edge and I… I killed them all, didn’t I? Left you to clean up the mess and took the easy way out. They didn’t deserve to die like that.”
”No, they didn’t. They were good people, Alex; young people with their lives ahead of them. You cheated them out of that.”
“I know, and I’ve apologized to them. Maybe in time they’ll be able to forgive me.”
“You’ve seen them? Since you died?”
“Oh yes. Not that they want anything to do with me. I don’t blame them for being angry.” He looked at Jack with a tired smile. “What about you, Jack? Do you think you’ll ever be able to forgive me? I saw what was coming, the Battle of Canary Wharf, and instead of trying to find a way to prevent it, I took the coward’s way out. You wouldn’t have done that.”
“I couldn’t find a way to prevent it either. Maybe there wasn’t one. I tried to warn Yvonne, but she didn’t listen. She never listened to me, and sometimes I think she got exactly what she deserved, if only she hadn’t taken so many innocents down with her.”
“At least you tried. I just gave up. I’m sorry.”
“I forgive you. I’ve made more than my share of mistakes; I don’t have any right to judge others for theirs.”
“Thank you, Jack, that means a lot. Maybe one day I’ll be able to forgive myself. Take care of your team; they’re good people.” Alex nodded and turned, melting back into the shadows, leaving Jack alone, the silence of the room broken only by the strangely distant sound of the storm outside. He wondered who else he might see tonight; was there anyone else he’d even want to see? Old lovers, former team mates, the original Captain Jack Harkness telling him he forgave Jack for stealing his name? Maybe not, some things were best left in the past where they belonged.
He almost jumped out of his skin, spinning around.
“Ianto! What’re you doing here?”
“I could ask you the same thing. You said you’d be right back, but you weren’t. I got worried. Who were you talking to? I thought I heard voices.”
“Do you believe in ghosts?”
“I’m not sure. Sometimes. Places like this, on a night like this, I could probably be persuaded. Why?”
“I think I might have just talked to a couple.”
“Just random ghosts, or people you knew?”
“The latter. Just now, it was Alex Hopkins.”
“Your predecessor? The guy who massacred his whole team?”
“Aside from me. Yeah, that’s the one. And before that, I’d swear I was talking to Suzie.”
“Suzie? Seriously? What did she have to say?”
“That what happened to her wasn’t my fault.”
“I’ve been telling you that practically since it happened. Maybe now you’ll believe it.”
Jack smiled faintly. “Maybe I will. Come on, let’s get back to the fire, it’s chilly out here.”
“You’re just noticing that?” Ianto rubbed his arms; he was mostly dressed, but still feeling the cold.
“No, but I didn’t feel it so much when I was talking to… Do you think it really was them?”
“Halloween is supposed to be the night the spirits of the dead come back to visit. If there’s any truth at all in the old myths and folk tales, then it’s possible.” They left the old music room and started back down the hallway side by side, when Ianto suddenly stopped dead. “Did you hear that?”
Jack nodded. “Yeah. Sounded like someone calling your name.”
It could almost have been an errant gust of wind, it was so low and breathy, but they both knew it wasn’t. Turning around, they saw a faintly glowing figure standing by a doorway, back down the hall.
“Lisa?” Ianto grabbed Jack’s arm. “Jack, that looks like Lisa, the way she was before Canary Wharf.” He turned to the other man. “What should I do?”
“Go and talk to her? I’ll wait here for you.”
“You’re not coming?”
“It’s not me she wants to talk to. Ianto, if that’s Lisa, the real Lisa, then you can’t waste this chance. It might never come again.”
“You’re right. There are things I never got to say to her, things I only said to the Cyberwoman thinking it was still my Lisa.” His voice cracked slightly on the last words and he looked at Jack again. “I still love her, but I…”
“I know. Go on, quickly. She might not stay long.” Jack squeezed Ianto’s hand and smiled encouragingly.
“Thank you.” Ianto hurried towards the doorway as Lisa’s ‘ghost’ drifted into the room. Entering after her, he found himself in a mouldering library. Old books in varying stages of decay clustered in worn, sagging bookcases; leather wingback chairs with the stuffing oozing out sat around an empty fireplace. Lisa was standing by the bookcase on the far side of the fireplace.
“Once upon a time, this must have been a beautiful room. Imagine sitting in one of those chairs, a roaring fire in the grate, sipping cognac and reading one of these books while the wind howled outside.”
Ianto smiled. Lisa had always had a vivid imagination.
“Sounds perfect; I always wanted a room like this.” He looked at the figure before him. “Is it really you?”
“It’s me. It’s good to see you, Ianto. You look good; you’ve filled out a bit and I swear you’ve grown taller!”
“Maybe an inch or so. Lisa, I’m so sorry…”
Moving gracefully across the room, she put a finger to his lips, barely felt. “Hush. I didn’t come to make you feel guilty, love. You have nothing to apologize for. I didn’t suffer for long; it was very fast, as soon as the conversion process started I was gone. All that was left was the machine and some stolen memories. I know what you tried to do, and I’m so sorry that thing deceived you, making you think I was still alive, but in a way, it did you a favour.”
“What are you talking about? It killed you!”
“I know; I was there. But I know you, Ianto Jones; if you hadn’t thought you could save me, you would have just given up, like the other ‘survivors’. Caring for what you thought was me, it gave you a purpose, a reason to keep going, and I can’t help being grateful for that. I died, but you’re still living.” She chuckled. “Jack’s obviously good for you.” There was that old teasing glint in her eyes, the look she always got when she knew something he didn’t know she knew. Ianto started to smile, but then realised what she’d just said.
“Wait, you know about Jack?”
“Of course, idiot! I’ve been keeping an eye on you from time to time, just to make sure you’re okay. I was worried about what you might do after you realised that metal monster had tricked you.”
“So, you’re okay with it?”
Lisa laughed, just the way she used to, happy and carefree.
“Why wouldn’t I be? Ianto, I want you to be happy, to really live and have a good life. You deserve that so much. Jack makes you happy, he’s just what you need. I like him, even if his ego is even bigger than his…” She trailed off with a filthy grin.
“Lisa!” Ianto blushed furiously.
“What, I can’t look?” she giggled. “I’m dead, let me at least have some fun! I would have gone for a threesome with you two, given half a chance.”
“I wouldn’t. I could never have shared you, Lisa. Not with anyone.”
“I know. I love you, Ianto. Always will. But I’m glad you’re getting on with your life, I don’t have to worry about you anymore.”
“What about you? Are you happy? What’s the afterlife like?”
“I can’t tell you that; I think it’s probably different for everyone anyway, but am I happy? Yes. I can look in on you sometimes, and I’ve been granted this chance to talk with you again. Thank you, Ianto. You made me so very happy when I was alive, I wouldn’t trade the time we had together for anything.”
“Neither would I. I still miss you.”
“Miss you too, love. Just remember that I’m watching over you, even though you can’t see me. I’ll try not to stop by at inappropriate moments. Well, not too often anyway. I have to go now.” She backed away slowly, as if reluctant to stop looking at him.
“Lisa, wait!” As she paused, he took a step forwards. “Will I ever see you again?”
“I don’t know. Maybe there’ll be another Halloween when you’re in the right place. The world of the living and the afterlife are very close in this place; it makes reaching across the gap much easier. I won’t say goodbye. Take care of yourself.”
“You too, Lisa. I’ll always love you.”
“You’d better!” She winked cheekily, took a step back and was gone.
Ianto let out a breath and wiped his eyes, happiness at seeing her warring with reawakened grief over her death. Seeing her again, being able to talk with her, was a blessing, but that didn’t mean it didn’t still hurt.
He stood quietly for a few minutes, deep in thought, remembering all the good times they’d shared, before finally turning towards the door. He didn’t want to keep Jack waiting too long. But before he’d taken more than a couple of steps, another voice from behind him brought him to a halt again.
“You must have loved her a great deal.” The voice was vaguely familiar, but Ianto couldn’t quite place it. He turned towards the window and stepped back in shock.
“Hi, Ianto!” She grinned and gave him a little wave.
“Oh God, Annie! She killed you, and it was all my fault!” Ianto’s guilt at the death of the friendly pizza girl had been eating away at him since she’d become a victim of the cyberwoman.
“Don’t be so daft. I always was too nosy for my own good. My gran used to tell me it would get me killed one day; guess she was right. If anyone was to blame, it was me and the monster that did the deed.”
“The monster wouldn’t have been there if I hadn’t hidden her. It.”
“And I wouldn’t have been there if Tony hadn’t called in sick and Simon hadn’t asked me to cover for him. It was supposed to be my night off. Ianto, there are a thousand, maybe a million ways it could have been different and none of them matter. Everything happened the way it did, and maybe there was a reason and maybe there wasn’t, but blaming yourself doesn’t help anything. I’m dead, and honestly? It’s not bad at all. I get to see all the people I love who passed on before me; I’ve been home and freaked Moe out completely! The first time, anyway. He got used to me after that. Cats can see me, how weird is that? People can’t though. Not most of the time, anyway. Doesn’t matter, I can see them. Thanks, by the way. For telling them it was a hit and run. My maniac brother drives a lot more carefully now. I used to worry he’d hit someone, he came close to sideswiping motorcyclists a time or two.”
“How can you be so casual about everything? Your family were devastated!”
“I know, and I’m sad about that, I am, but no one lives for ever, and at least it means I didn’t disappoint my parents.”
“What d’you mean?”
“They’re both teachers, so are my brothers, they all wanted me to follow in their footsteps, and I tried, I really did, but I was failing my classes at Uni. Badly. I just wasn’t cut out to teach, and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Dying solved quite a few problems. I’m enjoying being dead a whole lot more than I enjoyed my last few months of life. It’s opened my eyes to a lot of things. I think I’m where I’m needed now. That’s really what I wanted you to know: Don’t feel bad about my death, I don’t blame you so you shouldn’t blame yourself. We were friends, yeah? Sort of, anyway. I don’t want my death to weigh you down. You have so much ahead of you, Ianto! If you only knew what I know… But I can’t tell you. Spoilers. See you around sometime!” Laughing happily, she slipped into the shadows and faded from view, leaving Ianto feeling a bit dazed. Turning slowly, he wandered out of the library, frowning a little, and almost walked straight into Jack.
“Whoa there! You okay? You look a bit… I don’t know, confused I think.”
Ianto nodded slowly. “Confused would be an accurate description at this point. Do you remember Annie? Pizza girl, the one Lisa… the cyberwoman killed?”
“I remember. She was pretty. Great body.”
“Of course, should’ve known that would be the first thing to cross your mind.” Ianto rolled his eyes; Jack was so predictable sometimes. “Anyway, apparently she quite likes being dead. How does that even work? She had all her life ahead of her, a family who adored her and were devastated at losing her, but she’s enjoying her death. Oh, and I have a lot to look forward to but she can’t tell me what because of spoilers.”
“Well, as long as she’s happy that’s what matters, right?”
“I suppose. It’s just weird seeing someone shrug off their death as if it was just a momentary inconvenience.”
“I thought you were talking to Lisa though.”
“Yep! Lisa first, Annie second. Must be some sort of two-for-one deal on ghosts. One night only.” Ianto stopped dead in his tracks. “I just talked to ghosts!”
“We both did!” Jack was almost bouncing. “How cool is that? It means there really must be something beyond death!”
Ianto couldn’t help smiling at Jack’s excitement. Anyway, he was right; it was rather reassuring to know that death wasn’t the end. That Lisa and Annie were both happy in death. He dug his elbow in Jack’s ribs. “Lisa’s been spying on us.”
“Oh yeah, I think she’s become quite the voyeur since she died! She likes you.”
“What’s not to like?” Jack grinned his cheesiest grin. “Come on, let’s get back to the others, where it’s warmer.” He slipped his arm around Ianto’s waist as they made their way back to the front parlour and the warmth of their blanket, managing to settle back in without waking anybody.