Jack sighed happily and looked at his lover in the light of the bedside lamp. He reached out and touched his face, tracing the outline of his features with the tips of his fingers. Garrett smiled and pulled him closer. They kissed lazily. Both were in that soft slow time after lovemaking when they were holding off falling asleep just to enjoy the warmth of each other’s bodies a little longer.
“Don’t go to sleep yet, Jack,” Garrett said to him. “There’s something I really need to show you.”
Jack didn’t say anything, but the suggestive expression on his face made Garrett laugh.
“If you’re still in the mood after this, then your luck might be in,” he answered. He leaned over to open the drawer in the bedside cabinet and pulled out a folder. Jack sat up, propped by the pillows, suddenly very awake. He recognised the complicated seal with the Latin motto, Regnum Defende on the cardboard cover.
“Garrett…” he said warily. “You can’t... You’re not permitted to… Don’t…”
“It’s ok,” his lover assured him. “I’m not committing treason to prove my love for you or anything. This… I’ve been given authorisation to let you see. It’s…”
Jack opened the folder and was surprised to find a picture of himself on the front page. A picture taken in 1910, a year after MI5 was originally founded as the Secret Service Bureau. There was another photo which was from his army records as a Lieutenant in the British Army in 1915, another from his service in the RAF in the Second World War, from the 1950s….
In short it was like he had been handed the red book and told This is Your Life – except ‘in short’ wasn’t quite accurate.
“Spook Central has THIS much on me?” he asked, impressed and a little scared.
“I only saw it yesterday afternoon,” Garrett told him. “When the director assigned me to keep an eye on you… to… to…” Garrett blushed. Admitting that he had been told to seduce a man in the name of Defending the Realm was embarrassing when the man in question had seduced him just as much. “They didn’t give me the full file. But yesterday, I was given the whole bio.”
“Because it came with this…” He handed Jack a much thinner folder with the same logo on the front. Jack looked at it and felt almost scared to open it. He looked at Garrett, who bit his lip nervously and nodded to him. He opened it.
“Oh…” As he read the very short document inside, he felt a dozen emotions at once. Joy and fear were the two extremes with everything else piled up between them. “Oh… Garrett…”
“You’re… not my assignment any more… you’re…. my ‘significant other’. I applied for permission to engage in a private relationship with you. They vetted you in the usual way. Only… it took a little less time than it usually does when agents ask for their lovers to be checked out. The agency already knows a good bit about you. And… they know that you’re not a risk to national security…. That… in fact… you yourself actually ARE a Defence of the Realm. You’re a secret weapon against the enemy!”
“I’m…” Jack was astounded. “Garrett… You… actually asked them permission to be with me….” He giggled. “Licensed to shag…”
“I should hope so,” Garrett answered. “The shagging is fun. But I was thinking more like… Licensed to love.”
He took hold of Jack’s hands as he said that, and noticed the way his expression changed. He was scared. Jack wasn’t scared of anything much, except that one four letter word.
“I understand,” Garrett told him. “It scares me, too. Relationships aren’t easy in our line of work. That’s why we’re good for each other. We both already know the score. Our work commitments won’t get in the way.”
“It’s not that,” Jack answered. “It’s…” He flipped the much thicker file. “You’ve read this thoroughly?”
“Yes,” he said. “And… knowing all of that… knowing I’m making love to somebody so incredible… a man who can’t die… who has seen so much…”
“You’ve seen how often… how many times I’ve lost somebody I care about… Relationships don’t work for me. People who get close to me get hurt. The ones who don’t end up broken hearted and alone, wondering why I left... they tend to end up dead.”
“I know about that, too,” Garrett assured him. “And I’m willing to take the risk if you are.”
“I…” Jack pushed the files away and reached out his arms. He hugged Garrett tightly, pressing his face against his shoulder. He thought of some of those people he had loved and lost. Estelle’s face floated across his mind’s eye. So did a young man called Robert who he had met in a ballroom in Swansea in the early weeks of 1915 – at a Red Cross Dance for ‘officers only’. They had both danced with pretty Red Cross nurses, because that was the point of the dance. But later, they had checked into a hotel room together for a weekend in which they managed to forget that there was a war on. They also managed to forget that what they were doing with each other was not only against civil law but would have earned both of them a court martial for bringing shame on the uniforms they had discarded as they tumbled into bed.
Two weeks later, Robert had been torn to pieces by German machine guns on a muddy field with a romantic sounding name that poets still wrote of as ‘glorious’ even though some of them had been there.
He looked at Garrett’s face and briefly saw the face of his long dead Robert.
“I’m willing to take the risk,” Garrett repeated.
“So…. So am I,” Jack replied as he found his lover’s lips and let himself melt into a kiss. He allowed himself to hope.
It was a sweet, soft hour later, when both of their mobile phones buzzed at once. They both reached out automatically, having placed their phones carefully so they knew where they were without looking. Even before they hit the call buttons, though, they knew something was happening much closer to home. Jack ran to the balcony window. Garrett was a second or two later, having grabbed his trousers on the way.
The balcony overlooked the River Taff at the point where it had once been a thriving docklands and was now a thriving collection of riverfront apartments. The river was dark, except where a beam of light coming from the sky lit patches of it and showed it up as a murky green colour. Their eyes travelled up to the source of the light. Garrett expected it to be a police helicopter searching the river. Jack knew it was something far more sinister. He was only surprised that it was actually a flying saucer shape. Despite popular belief that was an unusual shape for spaceships. It just wasn’t aerodynamic enough without very specialised engines.
It wasn’t the sort of saucer that still gave him nightmares from time to time – Daleks. He knew that much for sure, and it was reassuring to know.
He didn’t know what race it did belong to.
But he knew what it was doing. The beam of light had an all too familiar pulse.
“It’s searching out lifeforms,” Jack said. “It’s looking for ….”
Garrett gripped his arm as he watched the beam coming closer to where they were standing. The ship was almost directly overhead, partially obscured by the over-lapping roof of the Century Wharf apartment block. But the light beam wasn’t deflected by mere concrete, brick and steel.
“Hold on,” Jack said, turning to his lover and pressing close to him. “It’s less disorientating if two bodies absorb the energy together.”
“What is?” Garrett asked.
“A fucking transmat,” Jack answered as the beam enveloped them both and he felt the stomach churning sensation he had experienced too many times before.
Except when he opened his eyes and looked past the silver specks that floated in front of his vision Garrett wasn’t with him. That fact seared his brain and made his heart sink as he took in his surroundings. He was still naked, lying on a cold metal floor. Not smooth, but a fine metallic mesh that felt rough against his flesh and left its imprint on his hip suggesting that he had been unconscious for some time. He looked at his wrist. But he had taken his watch off. And his wristlet. He didn’t used to do that, even for sex. But lately he had felt secure enough in bed with Garrett to discard it along with his clothes. He felt doubly naked without it. He had worn that wristlet so long the flesh beneath it had taken on the texture of the leather and was distinctly paler than the rest of his arm.
So he had no idea how long he had been here. But as he pulled himself up into a sitting position he knew one thing.
This was a cell. He was somebody’s prisoner.
Three of the walls and the ceiling were covered in that same fine mesh bonded to a more solid metal beneath. The fourth wall was a plasma curtain. He watched the kinetic electricity within it arc and spit randomly, casting eerie shadows over the metallic surfaces around him. A plasma curtain was better than any kind of metal bars for keeping somebody prisoner. There was no need for guards. It was both prison door and warder all at once. If he tried to hurl his body through it he wouldn’t die, because he couldn’t. But he would wake up with the smell of his own burnt flesh in his nostrils and a thumping headache.
He was a prisoner of somebody who had no intention of letting him escape.
Why was he a prisoner? Was this a random alien abduction or was he targeted for some reason?
The question was important. If he was randomly scooped up by some being that wanted to find out what made aliens tick, then he was going to make them regret picking him as an example of the Human species.
But if he was the target…
He had made quite a few enemies over the years, many of them beings with space and sometimes time travel capacity. It might even be somebody with a grudge against The Doctor, seeking out those who had travelled with him through the telltale Artron energy signature that was left on anyone who had spent any time at all in a TARDIS.
If that was what it was all about, then they were going to be in for a long haul. Because he would die before he betrayed any of his friends, least of all that friend. He had died for him. Several times a day when they were both The Master’s prisoners. It had been his endless sick game to kill him in different painful ways and watch him dragged back to life again.
If he had to play that game again to protect the people he loved and cared for, then he would. He wasn’t scared of pain even before he became immortal. He certainly wasn’t now.
Garrett wasn’t immortal, though. The thought of him was weighing on him right now. Was he in another cell like this one, alone, confused?
Garrett wasn’t a stranger to pain, either. He wasn’t a stranger to torture, or to the inside of cells. Jack knew what had happened to him in Afghanistan before he transferred from the external to internal Defence of the Realm. When they made love with the lights on the scars on his body were plain to see, and once he had woken in the night to hear his lover screaming in his sleep as he relived some of that horror in a nightmare.
Garrett knew what to expect as much as he did. He knew how to say nothing, no matter the mental or physical abuse meted out to him.
But he shouldn’t have to. This was nothing to do with anything MI5 were responsible for. They were on a space ship, an alien ship. Garrett was trained to fight Human threats, to take Human risks. This wasn’t in his remit.
“It’s my fault,” he whispered. “I’m sorry, Garrett. It’s my fault you’re here.”
He did what he knew Garrett would be doing, too. He checked out the cell, to see if there was anything, a clue to where he was, or a possibility of escape. There was nothing. The mesh seemed unbroken by any access panels, any break of any kind. And the plasma curtain was, as he already noted, impregnable. It was not completely opaque. He thought he could see through the shimmering curtain a corridor with the same kind of mesh floor, possibly other cells.
He didn’t recognise any of it. He hadn’t recognised the ship from the outside, either. He had no idea which alien species had abducted him. He might have some clue if he actually came face to face with one of them. But for now he was alone, helpless and clueless.
To say he was frustrated was an understatement. He actually wished somebody would turn up, if only to explain what this was all about.
But nobody did come. He sat in the middle of the mesh floor, trying to keep as much of his flesh off the uncomfortable surface as possible and waited.
He estimated about thirty minutes had passed by before something happened. He was startled when a bright light snapped on above his head and a voice commanded him to stand up. The voice seemed to come through the walls, floor and ceiling as if every part of it could act as a public address speaker. The voice spoke English. It wasn’t being translated in his head as most alien languages were. But it was English with an accent like somebody who had learnt it as a second language.
The accent reminded him of the gamma quadrant languages, but that still wasn’t much help.
“Stand up,” the voice said again peremptorily and he wondered how anyone knew he hadn’t. Was there a hidden camera in the walls? Most likely there was, of course. Why wouldn’t there be?
“Stand in the centre of the floor and keep still.” The voice ordered. “You will be cleansed by ion bombardment.
“Oh, shit, no!” he protested. “I hate ion showers.” But nobody was interested in his opinion on the matter. He shut his eyes as his body was enveloped in a beam of ion particles that cleansed the body by bombarding the skin until the dead outer cells disintegrated. It was the way most people in the fifty-first century cleaned themselves. At least the city ones. He was a country boy, and he had always preferred water. A shower of water refreshed and invigorated. An ion shower always left him feeling part baked.
This one didn’t just sting, as he remembered. It actually hurt, as if the ion particles were superheated before smashing into his skin. He gritted his teeth and longed for it to be over.
“Oh, shit!” he murmured again when it was over. He felt worse than half-baked. He felt as if a full layer of his skin had been removed. His genitals, the softest, most vulnerable part of his body, were burning. He looked down briefly, expecting them to be bright red. They weren’t, and he managed to ascertain that everything was there. But whether it would be in working order in the near future was another matter. He was glad he had no pressing need for the toilet. Apart from the fact that the cell didn’t have any ‘facilities’, he had an idea it would be an agonising experience.
“You will put on clothes,” he was told and he turned warily towards a soft movement behind him. The seamless wall extruded itself into a sort of drawer in which was a piece of deep red cloth. He picked it up and saw it was an all in one boiler suit not unlike the ones they put the weevils in at Torchwood. It was made of microfabric, as thin as tissue, but strong as linen. He put it on, glad that it was loose around the crotch. He felt a little less vulnerable for being clothed.
He waited for further instructions from his captors, wondering if Garrett had suffered the same cleaning procedure. His heart thudded as he remembered that Garrett didn’t know about plasma curtains and hoped he hadn’t tried to escape.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered again.
“Kneel!” ordered the voice again. “Kneel, facing the plasma curtain.”
“Why the hell should I?” he answered. “What are you and where are you? And why am I here?”
“The prisoner will not ask questions,” the voice answered. “The prisoner will obey all instructions.”
“I will not,” he replied. “Not until I know why I am a prisoner and what you’ve done with Garrett… with my friend you took along with me.”
“The prisoner will obey,” repeated the disembodied voice and he felt an excruciating pain on the back of his legs as if red hot brands had been applied. He was almost certain the source of the pain was the fabric of the boiler suit. It must have micro-membranes within the fabric with conductive properties. He had a brief thought about Toshiko retro-engineering it to produce a boiler suit they could used as a means of controlling prisoners. Then as he himself was subjected to that control and felt his knees buckle beneath him, he thought twice about it. He couldn’t think of any prisoner they ever put in the Torchwood cells that deserved such treatment.
He was kneeling, unwillingly, his spirit still rebelling even as his body was forced to submit. He considered some of the other possibilities of a boiler suit that could actually boil him, electronically castrate him, give him a jolt of electricity direct to the heart, or any number of nasty punishments for disobedience.
“Prisoner will rise,” said the voice.
“Make up your mind,” Jack responded. “A moment ago you wanted me kneeling. I’m not a jack in the box.”
“Prisoner will rise,” repeated the voice, and a pain across his back like a stripe from a whip encouraged him to obey. “And pay respect to the Court of Telligan, presided over by the Lord Chief Justice Asnicar.”
“The what…” Jack struggled to his feet. He wasn’t quite fast enough and received another painful lash. He didn’t cry out. He kept his lips pressed together and suppressed even so much as a groan. Somebody thought hurting him was a sport and he wasn’t prepared to give them the satisfaction of knowing he was feeling the pain.
Besides, they were still pretty amateur compared to some of the torturers who had inflicted pain on him.
They were pretty amateur compared to the tortures he had inflicted on others when it was necessary, in the line of duty, he reflected. But that was another story.
“The Court of Telligan is now in session. Lord Chief Justice Asnicar presides. The prisoner will plead, guilty or not guilty.”
“Aren’t I supposed to swear an oath to tell the truth, first?” Jack asked, risking more pain.
“That is not necessary. You will tell the truth or suffer punishment if you do not,” he was told. “How do you plead?”
“I plead confusion. What am I accused of?” he asked.
“You are accused of the multiple rapes and murders of the Sisters of Mount Telligan,” he was told.
“Then my plea is not guilty,” Jack answered. “I have no idea where Mount Telligan is and I’ve never met any sisters from there.”
As he spoke, he felt a tingling sensation around his entire body – or that part of it encased in the boiler suit. It wasn’t painful, but he guessed it was some kind of lie detector at work and he resented it.
“I guess innocent until proven guilty doesn’t mean anything to you lot?” he asked. “My plea is still not guilty.”
The tingling increased as he spoke. His every word was being tested.
“The plea is entered in the court records as guilty. Even though the veracity gauge indicates truth, it is unlikely that the prisoner would stand accused unless he was guilty. Therefore a plea of not guilty is not permitted.”
“I object,” Jack protested. “Permission to approach the bench…”
“The prisoner will be silent. The court is in session and the evidence will now be seen and heard.”
Jack opened his mouth to speak again, but felt another stinging lash across his back and thought better of it. He watched as the plasma curtain darkened and turned into something like a wide screen plasma TV. On it appeared what could only be described as a snuff movie. The basic plot involved a group of mercenary soldiers landing from a hover-troop carrier in a village that appeared to be populated by a group of tall, slender women dressed from head to foot in blue satin. The mercenaries proceeded to savagely rape every single one of them. Jack noted that the men all had their faces hidden by wrap around protective eye shades and half masks over their mouths. He noted that they were downright cruel and sadistic in ways that boggled even his imagination. All of the women were beaten until they bled as they were being violated. All were forced to endure depravities that went beyond any ordinary sexual appetite.
He noted that it went on for hours. The film was the ‘edited highlights’. Day turned to night as an orgy of forced sex continued. The mercenaries did not seem to be drunk. They had not even that poor excuse to justify their actions. They were stone cold sober and enjoying what they seemed to regard as the spoils of war.
And when they were done, knives slashed and blood flowed. In the dawn of the next morning the mercenaries stood amidst a massacre. Rags of blue satin stained with red blew in the breeze as the women lay dead at their feet.
“A good night’s work, boys,” said the one who commanded them, a tall, slender man who stood above one of the victims. Then he took off his eye shades and face mask and laughed.
Jack was shocked. The commander looked like him. At least, he seemed to. In a bland, vague way. He was the same height, he had brown hair and blue eyes and a square jawline with a dimple. He had straight, even teeth that suggested really good luck or expensive orthodontics. He stood in a heroic pose like somebody advertising the sort of aftershave ‘real’ men wear. It could have been the last scene of some war film staring a Hollywood hunk who had just planted the US flag on Iwo Jima or something - if it wasn’t for what he did next.
One of the women wasn’t quite dead. She tried to crawl away. The Commander took two wide strides and grabbed her one-handed by the collar of her blood stained satin gown. He slit her throat with his commando knife held in the other. Her arterial blood spattered his face as he dropped her again. He turned to his men and gave a triumphant smile that, but for the blood spatters, belonged in a toothpaste advert.
The picture cleared and Jack heard a hubbub of voices proclaiming that it was a shame and a disgrace, and various other epithets, all of which Jack fully agreed with. If such a thing had happened, then it was a shame and worse. And the commander who thought that ‘a good night’s work’ deserved the fullest penalty that the justice system could mete out to him.
But he wasn’t that commander. He had never been to Telligan. He wasn’t sure off the top of his head where it even was. Until he witnessed that gruesome movie he had no idea who the Sisters of Mount Telligan were. He guessed by their clothes that they were some kind of religious community. That actually made what happened to them no worse than if it had been any group of women in any village. But people tended to be sentimental about the rape and murder of nuns. He recalled reports of that kind of thing happening in France in The Great War. All the British papers carried terrible sensational news of cathedrals sacked by the Hun and nuns ravaged. Later, a lot of those stories turned out to be exaggerated. It was called propaganda.
And if he was giving an impartial critique of the film he had just seen he would have put it down as the same thing. It was a propaganda film, depicting a cruel massacre of innocent and vulnerable women in order to rouse passions against the enemy soldiers. It was a very ‘good’ propaganda film in so far as there seemed to be real rapes and real murder going on and that was asking a lot of actors reconstructing the scene.
He hoped it was a clever reconstruction. Because if what he had just seen was documentary footage, then it didn’t bear thinking about. Not only did they commit such atrocities, but they did it on film, for posterity.
“For forty years, the Butcher of Telligan went unpunished,” continued a voice with the tone of a prosecuting council as the screen darkened. “His men were handed over as war criminals as part of the Treaty terms but he had disappeared. These images were compiled from the memories retrieved from those men by our evidence gathering mind probes. They show the full depth of the depravity of Commander Jay and his followers. And now, at last, he stands before the court to answer for his crimes.”
“That isn’t me,” Jack protested. “Listen to me. That isn’t me. I have never… I have never been to Telligan. I have never led a mercenary company. And I have never… ever… done anything of the sort.”
“The prisoner’s inappropriate outburst will be struck from the record,” said a deep voice that had to be the Lord Chief Justice himself.
“Oh, yeah?” Jack laughed. “How about the fact that your lie detector says I’m telling the truth? Are you going to strike that out, too?”
“The prisoner will not speak,” said the first voice.
“The lie detector says I’m telling the truth,” Jack repeated. “I am not Commander Jay. I am innocent.”
“The prisoner will not speak,” he was told. “The prisoner will stand to be identified by the last living witness to his crimes.”
“I’m already standing,” he replied. “And what do you mean, living witness? According to your horror feature there were no survivors.”
There was no answer, of course. He didn’t expect one. But as he stood, facing the plasma curtain it turned from black to white and then cleared to glass-like transparency. He saw the corridor beyond his cell, and more such cells, none of them occupied. A door at the end of the corridor opened and several people entered. Two of them were guards in a uniform that included a breastplate and helmet of bronze and a lot of dark blue cloth. Two others were in dark robes and looked like court officials.
And one was a woman, dressed in that blue satin that the ‘Sisters’ in the film had worn. She walked slowly between the two court officials, leaning on one of them as if she was frail. Jack kept his eye on her. If she really was a survivor, a witness to this atrocity, then perhaps she would know he wasn’t the one. Perhaps she would be listened to by this court that seemed to do everything but listen to reason.
She stood up unaided as she reached the cell, and although one of the court officials protested against her exposing herself before the prisoner, she removed the hood and veil of her outfit. Jack saw a woman of maybe fifty or sixty years, but far from in good health. Her hair was iron grey and it fell long and straight around her lined and wasted face. He saw old scars on her face and neck. Deep knife wounds that were intended to kill her, but by some turn of fate left her alive.
“This was your doing,” she said to Jack in a cracked voice. “You… who I never thought to look upon again. Who I lived to see die one painful death in justice for all the deaths you inflicted on me. Every time I remember what you did… I die in my soul. I was seventeen. A novice… not yet a full member of the sisterhood. And you… you yourself, Commander Jay… destroyed me as surely as you destroyed those whose bodies were burnt upon the funeral pyre.”
“Lady,” Jack said patiently. “I am so very sorry for what happened to you. But look again. Look closely. I am not the man who did it to you. I would… I would slit his throat myself, knowing what he was responsible for. But it was not me. Please look closer and see that. See that I’m telling the truth.”
For a moment, he thought she might have believed him. There was a flicker of doubt in her eyes, a very brief fraction of a second when she might have turned to the court officials and told them that they had the wrong man. Then her eyes clouded again. Her face hardened with bitterness and she nodded emphatically.
“Let justice be done to the Butcher of Telligan,” she said and turned around. The court officials held her arms as she walked away. The guards followed. Jack watched their retreating backs as the curtain turned opaque again. He sighed miserably. If there was any hope at all that this strange court with its wrong-headed idea about justice might exonerate him it was gone as soon as that woman had spoken. She had condemned him.
“The evidence is complete,” said the first voice. “The Lord High Justice will now retire to consider the sentence to be passed on the accused. All rise to honour his Lordship.”
Jack was already standing. He stood where he was. He kept standing, wondering just how long it would take for the Lord High Justice to decide how and when to execute him.
A few minutes later when he heard sounds outside the plasma curtain he thought he had the answer to that question at least. He watched fearfully as the curtain was ‘raised’ and then gave an emotional cry as Garrett stepped into the cell. The curtain was ‘dropped’ again but he didn’t notice. He was too busy hugging and kissing his lover.
“We have an hour,” Garrett told him. “They said… it was… a conjugal visit.”
“You’re kidding?” Jack was stunned. “They seriously think I would want to… You don’t…”
“Christ, no. Not… in these circumstances. Oh, shit, Jack…”
“Just… don’t think about it for a moment. Just hold me. I’ve been worried about you. I was thinking of you… locked up like this, not knowing what was happening.”
“I wasn’t locked up,” Garrett told him. “I came around in a sort of waiting room. They told me I was… your independent observer. To ensure that you got a fair trial.”
“Do you think I got a fair trial?” he asked.
“No. I think… I think this is madness. These people… they…”
“Do you think I’m innocent?”
“Yes,” Garrett answered without hesitation. “Yes, I do. I don’t care what their evidence says. That Commander Jay… he looks a bit like you. But so does every Holywood matinee idol. It wasn’t you. And that woman… it happened forty years ago. She was terrified out of her mind, expecting to be murdered. She got it wrong.”
“Thanks for your faith in me,” Jack said. “Would it… change your mind if I told you I’m not entirely sure about it myself?”
“What do you mean?” Garrett held him in a tight embrace, kissing his lips, his cheeks, lovingly. It felt good to have him do that, but Jack knew there was something he had to say.
“There was a time…when I was with the Time Agency… Two years of my life that I can’t remember. It’s a total blank. I don’t know what I did. I COULD have led a bunch of cold hearted mercenaries in an attack on a community of innocent women. I could have raped and murdered. I don’t know. Not for certain.”
“I do,” Garrett answered. “I know you, Jack. I’ve made love to you. I’ve slept beside you. I’ve heard the things that you cry out about in the night just as you’ve heard me. I know you’re not capable of that.”
“Yes, I do,” Garrett replied. “Jack don’t even think about it. You’re innocent. And I know you are. Don’t give in to any doubt in your own mind.” Garrett pulled him even closer. They sank down on the uncomfortable floor together and hugged and kissed silently for a long, bittersweet time. Jack was scared. He knew that his life hung by a thread and that thread was getting shorter every minute. But the nearness of his lover, his kisses and caresses, eased his aching heart.
“Garrett,” he said after a while. “You know they’re almost certainly going to execute me.”
“They might not. They might… there could be other punishments…”
“They’re going to kill me. And I don’t think they’ll wait to hear any appeals. It’ll be soon. This is… the last time… our last chance…”
“But you can’t die…”
“I don’t know what their method of execution is. I’ve survived being shot and hanged more than once. But I’ve not been beheaded before. And I doubt I could survive any kind of disintegrator beam or that kind of thing. I think this is it. I really do.”
“I want to say…”
But he couldn’t. The words choked him. He couldn’t say it. Besides, was it fair to declare his love for Garrett if he was going to die soon? Was it fair to tell him that and then leave him alone?
“Don’t say anything,” Garrett told him. “We don’t need words anyway. We know. We know.”
An hour seemed like a long time. But it wasn’t long enough. All too soon the curtain was raised again and two armed guards told Garrett he had to leave the cell. One more kiss, one more touch and Jack was left, sitting on the cell floor, his blue eyes dry and tearless, but only by the greatest exercise of willpower. He saw Garrett standing outside. He saw one of the guards step into the cell. The other remained outside with Garrett as the curtain arced and spat electricity but remained transparent. Garrett stayed there, watching him, holding back his own tears. He saw more guards arrive, and the court officials in black with the lady in blue, her veil restored. He knew why they were all here even before the formal announcement.
“The prisoner, known as Commander Jay, the Butcher of Telligan, is found guilty on all capital charges. He will be executed immediately. There is no appeal. The court is adjourned.”
Jack struggled to his feet. He felt the guard pulling something over his head. A hood that covered his face. That was something he had experienced before a couple of times. It was always terrifying, even if he knew he would be resurrected in a little while. This time, he wasn’t even certain of that.
A couple of times before, there had been a padre of some sort saying prayers. He didn’t particularly believe in prayers, but they had been a comfort because they proved that his executors regarded his death as a necessary evil, not something they revelled in. This time, there were no prayers. He wondered if they would let him say one, if he asked.
He doubted it. He whispered the names of some of the people he had loved, and still loved. Estelle was one of them. Robert, his first world war soldier was another. The Doctor… Rose. Ianto, Garrett. He held onto a tender memory of each of them and others who had meant more to him than a hedonistic one night stand. They calmed his heart and head as he waited for the moment and wondered how painful and lingering it was likely to be.
Garrett waited, still biting back tears, knowing they would be unworthy. He was aware of the woman in blue stepping closer. She stumbled. Automatically he reached out his hand to her. She was the one who had condemned Jack. But she was an old woman. He held her arm. She turned and her eyes fixed on him, through the veil.
“I…” she said in a low voice that only he could possibly have heard. “I’m not… I think… I could have made a mistake. I’m not sure…”
“What?” He turned around desperately to look into the cell. “No. Stop. Stop the execution. She said…”
But it was too late. Jack’s single cry of pain punctuated his words as a lethal jolt of electricity stopped his heart. He slumped to the floor of the cell. Around him, coming from every part of the mesh floor, walls and ceiling, a triumphant voice proclaimed that justice was done. The Butcher of Telligan was dead.
“I want his body,” Garrett shouted. “I want him, now. And don’t you dare try to stop me. You’ve had your trial. You’ve had your justice. Now I’m taking him home.”
They did as he demanded. Garrett groaned sickly as he found himself lying on the balcony of his apartment block in the grey pre-dawn of morning. Jack’s body, still within the execution suit, lay beneath him. He pulled the hood off and looked at his face. His eyes were open still. His flesh was cold and waxen. Garrett passed his hand over Jack’s face and closed his eyes, then he lifted his body into his arms. He stopped just long enough to pick up his car keys. He prayed there was nobody else awake in the apartment right now. Later, he would pull some strings to confiscate the CCTV from the lift and underground car park that showed him lugging a body into the back seat of his car.
He drove without really seeing the road ahead. There was no traffic anyway. He ignored the red lights and made a two minute drive take less than one minute. He ignored the signs telling him that Roald Dahl Plas was a pedestrian zone, too, and drove right up to the fountain. As he was dragging Jack’s body from the car Owen and Ianto stepped off the invisible paving stone. Owen took Jack from him. Ianto reached and held Garrett upright. He hadn’t realised until that moment how sick and dizzy he felt. The lift down to the Hub was a daze.
“They killed him,” he said. “They killed him… and then let me take his body. I don’t know what to do next… how to…”
“You don’t have to do anything,” Owen told him as he brought Jack to his office and laid him on the sofa in the corner. “It just happens. You’ve never seen it before…”
“No,” Garrett admitted. “I know he can… I read it in his file… But I never saw… And… I don’t want to now. I can’t. I brought him back to you lot because… you need him. But I can’t…”
Garrett turned and stepped out of the office. He clearly intended to walk away, but Gwen stopped him.
“You’re just going to leave him? When he needs you most?”
“I can’t deal with that,” Garrett said. “You don’t understand. I’ve… In Afghanistan… I saw two colleagues beheaded by the Taliban… No, you wouldn’t have read about it. They were MI6. They were never officially there at all. I saw them die… I’ve seen others… blown up… shot… burnt to death… And now… now I’ve seen Jack die… And in my head… whatever it says in his file… dead is dead. He’s gone… like all those others. And my hopes… for the two of us… they’re over. I can’t…”
“You love him, don’t you?”
“Yes, I do.”
“And he loves you?”
“Jack would never say those words. I think he does. I think… But… It’s over… He’s… I can’t handle it.”
“Yes, you can,” Gwen said to him. “I have. I’ve waited for him. When everyone else thought I should have given him up, I kept on waiting. I didn’t give up on him. You can’t. You have to give him that chance.”
“Please don’t walk away from him.” Ianto came behind him, putting a gentle hand on his shoulder as he spoke. “You’re not the only one who’s been freaked out by it. We all have. I’ve held him in my arms, his body broken and his heart still. I’ve cried for him. And felt him come back to life. It’s a miracle. It’s a blessing to those of us who love him. Garrett… don’t walk away. Don’t lose him. Come back and see the miracle happen.”
Garrett looked at both of them. He seemed uncertain. Then Owen left Jack’s side and came to him. He took him by the arm and brought him back into the office.
“Sit by him,” Owen told him gently. “Hold his hand. Ianto will make coffee. He likes a cup of Ianto’s coffee when he comes back from the dead.”
Ianto looked as if he would like to hold hands with Jack, but the coffee was a more practical suggestion. Owen kept hold of one hand, anyway, or the wrist at least, waiting for the pulse that would suddenly restart.
“What if it doesn’t?” The question went through Owen’s head every time he witnessed one of Jack’s deaths. “What if this time is the one he doesn’t wake up from?”
“What if…” Garrett began. Then Owen felt what he was waiting for. He nodded to Garrett who turned and looked as Jack’s eyes flickered and he groaned out loud, complaining that his head, chest and balls all ached.
“I can give you aspirin for the head,” Owen said. “The rest of is your own problem. I’ll do you the usual post-resurrection medical in a bit. Meanwhile, Ianto’s bringing coffee and we’d all like to know what the fuck happened….” He noted Jack’s expression. “But that can wait till later.”
“Damn right it can.” Jack sat up and took the mug of coffee from Ianto, who pressed one into Garett’s hands, too. At the door, Alun, Gwen and Toshiko were watching him anxiously. “Did none of you go to bed last night?” he asked. “Your loyalty is appreciated. But go on, all of you. I’m ok. The UFO’s gone now?”
“Half an hour ago,” Toshiko confirmed. “It’s been in geo-stationary orbit over Cardiff all night. We’ve been monitoring… answering calls from the police, Jodrell Bank, UNIT, Whitehall, MI5, MI6, three different sets of alien conspiracy freaks who seem to have found our phone number on the internet. But it just sat there, and then went away.”
“It won’t be back,” Jack assured them. “It’s over. They got what they came for. They’ve no need to come back here again.”
“I’ll log it as a closed file, then,” Toshiko said.
“Do that, please,” Jack answered.
“Is that all you have to say about it?” Garrett asked when they finally had a quiet moment. “‘It’s over.’ They executed you for something you didn’t do.”
“They executed The Butcher of Telligan. It’s over for them. Their search for justice is at an end.”
“But that wasn’t justice… You’re innocent. Even the woman… she said she wasn’t sure.”
“Doesn’t matter. It’s over,” Jack insisted. “Question is, now you’ve seen the trick with your own eyes… Does it freak you out too much?”
“Yes, it freaked me out,” he answered, truthfully. “The whole thing did. I’ve lived with the possibility that one of us could be… taken… the work we do. That’s our risk. But having you literally snatched from my arms. That freaked me. I felt… absolutely devastated. Watching you die… Christ almighty that hurt. You would not believe how that hurt. Watching you come back to life again… That’s the freakiest thing of all.” He took a deep breath before the next thing he had to say. Because this was a lie. He only hoped the others would keep a secret for him. He didn’t want Jack to know how close he had been to running away.
“No, it’s not too much. Not if it means I’ve still got you after all that happened tonight.”
“And you still don’t think I was Commander Jay the murdering bastard of Telligan in my missing years?”
“No,” Garrett answered, still without hesitation.
“Then… I’m a lucky man,” Jack said as he let his lover kiss him.
“So am I,” Garrett answered.