Fandom: Torchwood (Doctor Who)
Pairings: The Master/Ianto [hints at Jack/Ianto, the Master/Lucy Saxon and Ianto/Lucy]
Challenge/Prompt: fanfic100, 020. Colourless
Genre: Slash [het]
Copyright: Title taken from “Caught A Lite Sneeze” by Tori Amos.
Summary: The Master first meets Ianto at Torchwood One.
Author’s Notes: I love the idea that the Master has been manipulating Ianto all along… also: pretty waistcoat love! Spoilers for the last three eps of DW season 3. Consider yourselves warned. Also, I’ve messed a teeny bit with the timeline here, this is drastically AU anyway. This gets pretty mad and dark in quite a few places and has a real downer of an ending. Just so you know.
Building tumbling down; didn’t know our love was so small, couldn’t stand at all.
The Doctor’s little trick with the Tardis controls helps nothing, but the Master can adapt to any given situation and there are worse places to be than twenty-first century Earth. The people are so adorably gullible, so willing to roll over and beg to be crushed. It takes no more than fifteen minutes using an ingenious little program called Google to establish that the Doctor has got careless. Overprotective. All those lives and explosions.
In the time it takes for a smile to spread over cheeks still aching a little from the fresh, raw feeling of regeneration, the Master decides that he could do rather well here.
So magnificently manipulated. It takes a matter of days to bully the initially uncooperative Tardis into creating a program to hypnotise Earth, beating the subliminal message to the rhythm he finds still screaming in his brain and running down his fingertips. There’s something poetic about that, and this new form, born with a predilection for business suits and frenzied-but-charming smiles, likes the poetry. The simple, almost lyrical, way the humans leap on the Archangel Network, loving its convenience and not hearing the whispers in the very pulse of the signal.
Half-blind, half-deaf, unable to smell a star or feel the turning of their useless planet; the Master can’t imagine how humans survive inside those ugly little flesh cocoons. Not that he cares. It is easy to begin the process that he knows will lead him to the ultimate prize.
And then Torchwood One gives him a call.
Lisa is anxious and pacing no matter what Ianto says to her, and besides, she’s too busy trying to fend off his comforting; Torchwood frowns on inter-office relationships. Her role in Personnel means that she is running the meeting with Harold Saxon, the man responsible for the creation of the seemingly faultless Archangel Network. It is no wonder that Lisa is nervous and Ianto feels for her; he only has to supply the drinks for the meeting, and he could do that blind-folded.
The coffee break comes; Ianto takes in the drinks, doing his best to be completely unnoticeable. While the doctors, scientists and technicians are all regarded as important to Torchwood, and respected as such, the administrative staff are ignored, underpaid, and bred with beautiful inferiority complexes. Most of the men in the room don’t break off their conversations long enough even to acknowledge the arrival of their drinks with a nod, but the man Ianto tentatively identifies as Harold Saxon looks up at him.
“I don’t like coffee,” he says simply.
“I know, sir,” Ianto responds blandly, “That is why I made you tea.”
Saxon scrutinises him through narrowed eyes, ignoring the UNIT official attempting to gain his attention.
“Impressive,” he says, apparently noting the fact that while everyone else in the room has been supplied with coffee, he has piping hot Darjeeling. “I’m Harry Saxon,” he adds.
“I know, sir,” Ianto replies, sensing that the other Torchwood employees want him gone, and trying to find a way to leave tactfully.
“Oh, call me Harry,” Saxon tells him, with an affable if faintly unsettling smile, “I notice you haven’t given me yours.”
Ianto is going to be severely reprimanded for this later, but then he is paid to deal with the eccentricities of visitors to Torchwood, so he supplies Saxon with his name, and obediently, if hesitantly, shakes the hand he is offered. Saxon’s skin is warm and he holds on for a moment too long, eyes boring into Ianto’s. It is slightly disconcerting, but Ianto carefully doesn’t blush until he’s out in the relative safety of the corridor.
Quite how the Master makes himself Minister of Defence is swiftly glossed over, but then human politics have never made sense and the important thing is that no one else seems to have noticed the improbability of his rise to power, so it’s fine. All he really has to do is wait. Ok, so part of him is tempted to track down Martha Jones at her inner London medical school and kill her now, get it over with and prevent a whole chain reaction; but even he knows that holes in the fabric of space and time aren’t actually a good idea; and the drums always protect their own.
Torchwood like him, which is mad of them, but then all humans are crazy in their dark, dark behind-the-eyes kind of way. Harold Saxon, Minister of Defence, is always being invited over for coffee and genocide plans. Oh yes, Torchwood One and their laser cannons and weapons of destruction great enough to wipe any alien visitors cleanly away, regardless of their intent (good and evil, all reduced to dust).
In some small, ridiculous ways (but then again, the only ways that truly matter), humans aren’t nearly as childlike and foolish as they first appear. They’ve got some really rather pretty and dangerous toys that the Master wants to requisition and play with – but not yet. Though these weapons don’t bode too well for his little… ahem, “Toclafane”, and if it weren’t for the fact he can see Torchwood heading for a fall, playing with their ghosts and convincing themselves of superiority, he would have to intervene. As it is, the Master decides that he’ll just sit back and watch Torchwood One run itself into dust and rubble.
And take advantage of their hospitality while he’s at it.
It’s a blurry Wednesday afternoon, and Ianto’s entire being smells like Jamaican Blue Mountain. The coffee is splashed on his suit and his shirt and in his hair, and there isn’t time for a shower or a change of clothes. Instead, he’s got to take refreshments down to the scientists on level minus six, all of whom are obnoxious and none of whom will deign to look him in the eye. That’s a large part of working for Torchwood. Remain anonymous and do your job as well as you can, even when it feels like your brain is splitting and trickling out of your ears.
On his way back upstairs, Ianto walks through one of the storage areas, where the largest pieces of alien tech are housed. A lot of them remain mysteries; just hollowed-out shells with blinky lights that make shrieking siren noises if you get too close. Standing in front of one of these artefacts is a man in a suit, who Ianto is fairly sure should be upstairs somewhere.
“Sir, should you be in here?” he enquires, walking a little closer, “Sir?”
The man spins around and Ianto realises it’s Mr Saxon, who has security clearance for all levels (for reasons Ianto isn’t entirely sure of but which probably don’t matter).
“Sorry, sir,” he murmurs quickly, “I’ll just-”
“Ianto Jones,” Saxon says with a delighted, if edgy, smile. “I haven’t seen you in months!”
Ianto is faintly terrified by the fact that Saxon seems to remember him personally.
“Congratulations on your promotion, sir,” he says quietly, a bit awkwardly, because he can’t dawdle down here but on the other hand he can’t walk out on Saxon.
“You know, you’re the only person here who’s managed to figure out that I don’t like coffee,” Saxon tells him.
“Oh.” There’s nothing Ianto can say to that and he’s so tired that he’s tempted to just curl up in a small ball on the floor and sleep forever. “Good?”
Saxon is about to say something when the klaxons go off and Ianto hastily checks his watch.
“That’s the ghost shift,” he says, silently relieved for an excuse to leave Saxon’s company, because the other man makes him feel crazy for reasons Ianto can’t even being to figure out. “I’d better go.”
“Goodbye, Ianto Jones,” Saxon singsongs, and Ianto carefully doesn’t look back as he hurries for the nearest lift.
When Torchwood One falls, it does so rather spectacularly. The Master is reluctantly impressed by the chaos; the Cybermen on the streets of London, the helplessly upgraded public, the Daleks swooping through the skies. He watches it on TV, with a packet of Hobnobs (one of the few things humans have managed to invent that are actually somewhat useful); listens to the screaming outside the window and then draws the curtains.
Ultimately, the Master doesn’t care about Torchwood One, because it was a useful stepping-stone, but the people were arrogant and ignorant and so very useless. Well, except for Ianto Jones. Stupidly irritating accent, twisting vowels into something painful to listen to, but he was either very competent or low-level telepathic, and that’s always helpful to have around.
A few hours later, the Master goes along to look at the wreckage.
It’s still smoking slightly, but the once-proud building is now little more than rubble and broken glass. The Master is sure that the Doctor was around here somewhere, but it doesn’t matter, because he’s got to follow some kind of chronological order or face the anger of the drums as he tears apart things that were not made to be torn apart. He notes that he’s tapping a rhythm on his thigh as he walks through all that remains of Torchwood One. One-two-three-four. One-two-three-four. Da-da-da-da. Da-da-da-da.
And Ianto Jones is screaming. His face is bloody and tearful and he’s completely repulsive, at his most vulnerably human, no longer bland and competent, just frightened and injured. And he’s clinging onto a twisted mass of flesh and metal that might tentatively have once been a woman, a very long time ago, before the Cyberman got their hands on her.
“Help me,” Ianto sobs, and the woman-thing is sobbing too. The Master considers his options. He doesn’t have many, and it would be quicker to leave them both to die. On the other hand, this opens up the most perfect opportunity. To have a Cyberman, and the possibility of more to come, in his own private army.
And he’s sure that Ianto Jones will turn out to be fairly useful too.
For reasons Ianto isn’t entirely sure of and doesn’t want to question, Harry Saxon starts pulling all sorts of strings. He whisks Ianto and Lisa and the remains of a cyber conversion unit away somewhere quiet and safe for a few days, until Lisa’s vitals are stable and Ianto’s hands are no longer trembling. And then he informs Ianto, calmly, with a bright but disquieting smile, that he has got Ianto a job at Torchwood Three.
“I don’t understand, sir” Ianto says; he’s got several stitches in his chest, rescuing Lisa from the cyber conversion unit cut him open, and right now the wound itches.
“Torchwood has access to all kinds of technology,” Saxon explains, “You must be able to find something to help Lisa there.”
Ianto doesn’t know a lot about Torchwood Three, except that it’s run by a Captain Jack Harkness, who comes up to London twice a year, flirts extravagantly with Kate on the reception desk, and swishes about in an ankle-length military coat. Harkness is usually accompanied by a pretty but unstable-looking woman called Suzie Costello. And, of course, it’s down in Cardiff.
“Torchwood Three won’t help someone who’s part Cyberman, sir,” Ianto tells Saxon carefully. “They’re too afraid. They’ll think Lisa’s a- a- a killer, sir.”
Saxon’s grin broadens, triumphant, glittering.
“Then we won’t tell them,” he replies simply.
And Ianto is sure that there’s something wrong about that, but when Saxon explains that Ianto will be able to hide Lisa down in the basement, and then work on finding a cure for her; it’s important that they find a way to cure people hurt like this, Ianto can’t help but believe him. The words are a little too pretty, a little too certain, and Ianto begins to wonder just what Saxon gets out of this, risking his career to help Lisa live, but Saxon keeps talking, hand tapping thoughtfully on the table, and Ianto can’t think of anything to object.
When he can, the Master takes trips down to Cardiff, ostensibly to check on what Torchwood Three is doing. He has tea with Captain Jack Harkness, the two of them discussing security policies and he can hear the lies pouring from Jack’s voice. He’s too shiny, too glossy, everything about him riles the Master and he cannot wait to punish the Captain for every second he has to spend in his company, listening to Jack rambling on about this and that and Weevils. Weevils, fucking scum of the universe, and the Master would still prefer their company to Captain Jack’s; the man sitting there with his braces and waistcoats and too-many teeth bared in a grin.
Ianto brings them tea and biscuits of various kinds at appropriate intervals, and the Master cannot fail to notice the way Jack’s eyes linger on inappropriate parts of Ianto as he leans over to pick up empty coffee mugs. But then he also cannot fail to notice the fact that Ianto always gives him tentative smiles, and so Harry Saxon always reserves a manic grin and a wink for the teaboy. It’s only polite.
Eventually, months later, Lisa dies. Slaughtered at the hands of her colleagues, when her mind finally snaps. The Master pretends that he didn’t know that this was going to happen, when Ianto calls him on the private line at three a.m, sobbing and half-insane, and he makes sympathetic noises and rolls his eyes at the ceiling. On the other hand, he can hear the anger trembling in Ianto’s voice, the anger that can be shaped and moulded and perhaps turned into something far more useful. Leverage, that’s always important; take what you can take but when you can’t take it it’s so much easier to be able to work it out of someone. Know all the cracks and just where to hit.
The next time he comes down to Cardiff, Ianto is paler, and thinner, and miserable-looking, but the Master notes the way he keeps shooting looks at Jack, and he wonders if the miserable and broken tea boy has Stockholm Syndromed his way into falling for the dashing, if heartless and ultimately irritating, captain. It wouldn’t be surprising.
Jack and Mr Saxon have been in the office for the last million hours, dissecting every possible little thing and drinking about seven litres of tea each. Ianto is exhausted, ribs still bruised from the cannibals that used him as their plaything, violated him, and even though Jack has the power to make him breathless and confused and torn, Saxon makes him even more crazy and having the two of them in close proximity is making Ianto’s brain ache.
“Harry needs a ride back to the station,” Jack says, poking his head around the door, “He told his driver to meet him there. You can take the SUV.” He throws Ianto the keys and then disappears back into his office, leaving Ianto wondering if he’s in any fit state to drive.
The car ride is silent, but not in an awkward way, and Ianto carefully tells himself he’s not giving sideways anxious glances at Saxon, because that’s where madness lies and although he’s certainly been through enough shit these last few months to justify going completely insane (no one would blame him), he’s determined to cling onto the last pieces of reason that he has.
“This is the station, sir,” he says, as though it isn’t obvious, and tries to avoid looking Saxon in the eye, because that can’t end well. But the SUV windows are blacked out and Saxon is leaning closer, an unreadable and slightly twitchy smile on his lips.
“If you need anything at all, Ianto, you just let me know, ok?” Saxon pats his hand, the contact of skin sends something rushing down Ianto’s spine, he’s close enough that Ianto can feel the other man’s breath on his face and for a terrifying moment he thinks that he will-
“Your driver’s waiting, sir,” he says breathlessly, and Saxon pulls back as though nothing out of the ordinary has happened, giving Ianto a broad smile with a few too many teeth in it (like Jack’s but with a little less charisma), and getting out of the car. Ianto has to sit still for five minutes with his hands clenched on the steering wheel before he stops shaking enough to drive.
Lucy is insane when he meets her, so it doesn’t take long to push her over the edge. After all, however much the Master likes to believe that he’s superior to all the other Time Lords that ever were, he still needs company. But he doesn’t want the insipid females that the Doctor always seems to pick up. He needs one shakier and a lot more willing to blur all sorts of lines.
He meets Lucy somewhere – where isn’t important, it’s a place and that’s all that matters – and when he’s decided that she’s the one, he sits her down in a corner and whispers in her ear everything that he’s ever done. Tells her about the beat of the universe and the dead that he brought back to life just to kill again and the future of the human race twirling about in orbs just waiting to destroy. And Lucy sits and her eyes widen and he can see horror and fear falling into her head and she’ll be his forever.
They get married somewhere quiet, they skip the vows and he kisses her for longer than is decent and neither of them care. She trembles beneath his hands and he tells her the long, long backstory that they are supposed to share, and then he announces that he’s running for Prime Minister. She smiles, a manic, pretty little smile and he thinks that although he’ll never love her he couldn’t have made a better choice.
The last time he returns to Torchwood Three before Captain Jack wakes up Abbadon and then up and disappears (and ooh, where can he have gone? It doesn’t take three guesses, does it), things are strained. Their doctor, Owen Harper, more human than the others in the ugliest way possible, has stitches and bruises and the tight expression on Ianto’s face tells the Master that he and Jack have started fucking.
Which is just perfect.
In the weeks after Jack’s “mysterious disappearance” (in other words, when he fucked off with the Doctor without looking back), the Hub becomes an increasingly nasty environment. Owen has to take over, in his role as second in command, but he’s bad at it and no one will listen to him. Gwen takes her relationship problems and the way she’s pining over Jack out on anyone who comes within three feet of her. Tosh won’t look anyone in the eye and says nothing except to snap at people for moving her alien artefacts around. Ianto just makes coffee and files the paperwork and avoids confrontations as much as he can.
The day after Saxon wins the election by a landslide, he walks into the reception area of the Hub and informs Ianto he’s coming to work for him now.
“I’ve got an obligation here, sir,” Ianto says blandly, even though he’d do anything right now to get out of listening to Gwen and Owen arguing and watching Tosh pretend that nothing matters to her any more.
“Sod the obligation,” Saxon says, with a manic but beautiful smile, “Come with me.”
“I need to talk this through with Owen,” Ianto tells him, and Saxon makes an annoyed face but obediently follows Ianto down into the Hub.
“You can’t go,” Gwen practically shrieks, “We need you here!”
“There are other people in Cardiff who can make coffee,” Ianto points out, “And I’m not asking, I’m handing in my notice.”
He doesn’t know where the words are coming from, but he can hear his heart beating in his ears, a mad sort of rhythm (boom-boom-boom-boom, four beats, over and over).
“You’re staying right here,” Owen orders, face twisted up with anger.
“I’m not,” Ianto replies, standing up for himself for once in his life, and he can still hear that rhythm in his head, as though his heart is screaming out some kind of Morse Code that he doesn’t understand.
“You can’t have him,” Owen says, turning to Saxon, grabbing Ianto’s arm, fingers digging in hard enough to hurt. “Get someone else.”
“I’m your Prime Minister,” Saxon reminds him, looking calm and cheerful and the complete opposite to Owen’s furious instability.
“I didn’t vote for you,” Owen practically spits, still gripping onto Ianto’s arm.
“Isn’t that a pity.” Saxon continues to grin, though there’s something edgy about the whole thing.
There’s a battle of wills going on here, and Ianto notes vaguely that Owen is being slaughtered, but he doesn’t care about that any more. He finds himself tapping on his thigh, urgently, one-two-three-four, one-two-three-four.
“I’m leaving now,” he says steadily, wrenching his arm from Owen’s grasp, and turning.
“Ianto, please-” Tosh sounds desperate but Ianto can’t hear properly, so he simply says:
“There’s nothing worth staying for here.”
And he leaves.
The Master watches Ianto Jones for a long time during the car ride back to London. It’s as though the drums have got into his shallow, human head, the way he’s shaking and his fingers tapping anxiously on his thigh. He had to push Lucy over the edge but it’s as though Ianto is already there. He probably won’t stay that way. Ianto Jones has a moral inner compass of some kind, some form of strength of character, but with a little breakage and possibly a little hypnotism he’ll be perfect.
Captain Jack Harkness did an amazing job. The Master couldn’t have destroyed a man as perfectly as Jack has Ianto – and in such a short space of time too. Taking him for granted, killing the woman he loved in front of him, getting him attacked by crazy humans, dragging Ianto into a dangerous cycle of loveless fucking, and then disappearing without a backwards glance. And all it took was Harry Saxon smiling in the right places, and Ianto Jones fell. Fell hard. He’s probably half-insane on grief and loneliness by now.
Human bodies are only good for a few things, like dying and being obediently subservient, and also for… well, the Master can think of a couple of interesting uses for Ianto Jones. Lucy won’t mind. She’s more a doll than a woman now, playing her part when wound up sufficiently. From time to time she cries, or shakes, or clings onto his sleeve and begs him to tell her how it’s all going to end, but mostly, now, she sits and stares into space when he has no other use for her.
“Ianto,” he says, and Ianto turns to look at him. His face is pale, his expression listless, lost. Beautifully so. “I’m glad you’re here.”
Ianto’s eyes get wide and the Master knew he was right; no one’s bothered to tell Ianto that he matters in so long that he’s like a kicked puppy, leaping on the first sign of affection. So it’s Ianto who leans in first, cupping the Master’s chin in a cold, cold hand, and pressing forward for a kiss that tastes of nothing but tells them both that the game is almost over and that the Master won months ago.
Ianto moves into a hotel room, sleeps for hours and hours and hours to make up for the lack of sleep he’s been suffering over the last few weeks. His head feels heavy, like he’s slipping into a sort of stupor; he can’t even bring himself to remove his shoes or take off his jacket. He just falls straight into a warm, soft bed, and dreamlessly sleeps away the next day or so.
When he next wakes, his head isn’t much clearer, but he feels less heavy, weariness dissipated. He feels like he’s been asleep for the better part of the last hundred years, sleeping beauty except for the obvious, but he realises that Saxon is waiting for him. Little smile on his face. Patient. And Ianto blushes because he can’t help it.
He doesn’t say anything, because he knows that this is what Harry Saxon wants him for. To make him tea and to follow his every little whim. And he’d enquire about what makes Saxon any different to Jack, except that he finds out when Saxon kisses him. Deep, warm, all-consuming. Ianto can count the number of times that Jack kissed him on the fingers of one slightly trembling hand. He’s missed contact, and no one’s kissed him like this since before Lisa became metal and madness and all the things in between. So he gives up. Pure and simple. Gives up and moves one hand to run through the back of Saxon’s hair.
“Sir-” he whispers, mouth bruised and damp, “Sir-”
“I think it’s time you stopped calling me sir,” Saxon replies, and this close, that smile is nothing short of terrifying.
“But then what do I call you?” Ianto asks, frowning, confused and dizzy and unable to breathe. Saxon laughs, and he whispers into Ianto’s ear:
“Call me Master.”
Even Jack wouldn’t have had the audacity to ask for this, but there’s something in Saxon’s tone that Ianto can’t argue with, as though he is supposed to have been calling Saxon Master all along. He’s not even surprised.
An indefinable amount of time later, Ianto is left alone to the bedsheets and the silence. He puts on the television, looking for a distraction, and, really, anything to keep him awake. The news. Everyone is supposed to be on the lookout for some fugitives. Two people Ianto doesn’t know and one he does. God, does he know him.
Jack Harkness, on the run from the law.
But Ianto sighs, and changes the channel.
The Master has all sorts of things that he shouldn’t. All sorts of ways to manipulate and control people. And Ianto Jones is far too sharp-minded for his own good. At the moment, he’s miserable and confused, but he can’t be expected to stay that way. Not without help, anyway.
Centuries ago, the Master dabbled in chemistry, taking over laboratories and mixing up chemicals and in the end he created the loveliest drug. All it takes is Ianto’s DNA mixed in, and the poor little Welshman will be his forever. The airborne chemicals will target Ianto alone, take his emotions, heighten and freeze them. He’ll spend the next however long trapped into his own cycle of betrayal and misery, emotionally wounded by his Torchwood colleagues, only trusting the Master. Unable to escape the twisted depression in his own head. And the longer he is exposed, the more his mind will break down. Until he’s nothing more than a beautiful little puppet.
The Master makes sure that he takes Ianto with him when they go up to UNIT’s skybase, gets him installed in a room somewhere, and adds the relevant chemicals into the air conditioning. With Ianto docile and taken care of, he can turn his attention to more important things.
Like taking the miserable little planet for his own.
Like capturing that irritating Captain Jack Harkness and thinking of a suitable punishment for every minute he spent in that stupid bastard’s company.
Like ruining the Doctor, watching the pain in every line of the other Time Lord’s face, and revelling in it.
Lucy is watching the Earth beneath them, laughing, her fingers tight on his arm. The Master has got fond of her, over the last few months, and he wonders if she really knows what’s happening. If she still cares. But the drums are loud in his head and he thinks that they’re loud in hers too, and his pretty pretty pretty (mad mad mad) wife is so far over the edge now that he suspects it no longer matters.
Beneath him, the Earth is burning. Ianto lays his forehead against the smooth Perspex of the window, watching the dark shapes of the Toclafane as they swoop a victory dance over the broken planet.
“What have you done?” he asks quietly, without any hint of accusation, as the Master walks in behind him. He doesn’t receive an answer until the Master is pressed up close behind him, breath tickling his hear, one hand folding neatly over Ianto’s hip.
“Nothing that didn’t need doing,” he murmurs, and though Ianto can’t see him, he can hear the unhinged grin on the Master’s face.
“You’ve killed them,” Ianto whispers, his voice hollow. They’re words, but they don’t mean anything; he can taste them but they’re ashes in his mouth. He’s saying them because he has to, but they don’t make sense. Not really.
“No one you’ll miss,” the Master shrugs. “I need to prove a point.” His hand tightens, he pins Ianto a little harder against the Perspex. “Can you feel them?” His voice is soft, sweet and seductive in Ianto’s ear. “Can you feel them down there, dying?”
Everything in Ianto’s head is grey; he can’t think straight. He swallows, and his throat hurts, like a thousand knives are lining it. He can feel the Master and he can see the Earth and he thinks he can hear the screams of terror, but they don’t mean anything to him. He knows that they should, but in spite of this he watches his planet be destroyed, and he feels nothing at all.
“What about Torchwood?” he asks, because he feels he ought to, his lips are numb and speaking is hard.
“Gwen Cooper is dead,” the Master responds calmly. Ianto takes this news impassively. Something in him wrenches for a split second, raw and terrified, and then it fades, smoothes out. “You never liked her, did you?” the Master continues, “She took you for granted, didn’t she? Was so busy making eyes at Jack that she couldn’t see how much he meant to you…”
The pain begins in Ianto’s stomach, something that should be a stab of anger, and nothing more; but it spreads, uncontrollably through his body, and he whimpers, sliding against the window as his legs lose the ability to stay upright. The fury in him is shockingly white, and it burns so bad that it hurts through every inch of him. Ianto sinks to the floor, crumpled and so furious that it aches, and he can barely breathe.
“Please,” he mumbles, not really sure what he’s asking for.
Being supreme ruler of the Earth is somehow even more satisfying than the Master expected it to be. Having all the humans under his command; either through fear, or because the pulse of the Archangel network is still whispering all sorts of broken, pretty words into their brains, blinding them, making them quiet. Either way, it’s unbelievably fun, ruling the planet from his comfortable spot in the sky, and preparing the means to take over the rest of the surrounding universe.
The drums chose him. He looked into the vortex and they reached out and wrapped around his child’s mind, murmuring and singing all sorts of things. All sorts of promises. And since that moment he’s grown and changed body so many times, but they haven’t stopped. They haven’t shut up. They’ve just kept on, his constant companions, underpinning every movement, every word, every decision with their unwavering pulse. In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that he’s so unwaveringly strong, the Master would suspect that he should have gone insane by now, listening to that constant rhythm.
He has Captain Harkness chained up in the dark and he kills him when he sees fit. Slow, lingering deaths by poison, swift deaths delivered by bullets, personal deaths up close with the aid of a sharp, shiny knife. In a few weeks, that matinee idol smile dies out and leaves completely. Harkness has animalistic anger in his blue eyes now, anger that shakes the chains but leaves him impotent because there is nowhere that he can run. He bruises and bleeds and screams and none of it matters because a few hours later he’s back to the way he always was. Always will be.
Lucy loves being Queen of the World. She dresses up in elegant dresses and twirls around the base laughing, every day losing another piece of herself. She doesn’t seem to mind; she’s only ever interested in the immediate pleasure. The Master finds himself liking her more and more every time she loses herself, when he finds her laughing at light fittings and tearing her dresses to pieces in order to find out how the pattern fits. But there are still hours when she lies, perfectly still, perfectly expressionless, on her bed, eyes wide, hands shaking on the covers. A doll wound down, waiting for him to pick up her strings and play with her again.
And even that seems perfectly normal compared to what’s happened to Ianto Jones.
There are days and nights and weeks when Ianto can’t remember who he is. He thinks that it doesn’t matter, because the pieces that he can recall all seem to involve him being ignored and taken for granted (always in the shadow of his older brother; expected to make coffee and keep his mouth shut shut shut). He has a name – Ianto Jones – and it is a handle, a bundle of strings, so that people can cling onto him and drag him where they want him.
Beneath his window, Earth fades to a sort of pale brown. Seas dried up, land covered in factories. Everyone watched every second of every day. Archangel holding them still and obedient.
The Master – his master – laughs a lot, laughs all the time now. He’s happy. Ianto is glad that someone is, because the anger constantly screaming to the drumbeat in his ears is physically painful, has him curled up and clawing at his bedsheets at night, so furious he can feel his blood burning. And yet there are other days when all is grey and he is so lost and lonely and cold that he can’t bring himself to move, just curls up beneath the covers and stares at nothing.
He is sure that he hasn’t always been like this, but he can’t remember how to be anything but angry and sad, lonely and lusting. Ianto knows that he belongs to the Master, the Time Lord who saved him from a useless existence of coffee grounds and serial numbered incident forms. Who brought him up into the sky and allowed him to live when so many others died (and Owen disobeyed the Toclafane and they cut him to pieces and Ianto watched it on a video screen and he couldn’t feel anything but darkly, bitterly glad, five words echoing in his head: that’s for calling me ‘teaboy’). Ianto repays his debt with his skin, because the Master is a glutton for pleasure. He eats nothing but sugar, listens to Earth music so loud it rings in the corridors, watches bad, vintage science fiction shows and mocks them until his laughter fills the base, fucks Ianto and Lucy into exhausted unconsciousness. He never stops. He never sleeps.
Change Of Plans
At what might approximately be four o’clock in the afternoon (although in truth time has no meaning here, and it doesn’t matter), Tish Jones walks into the overheated and badly lit room that constitutes Jack Harkness’ home. He gives her a winning smile, although he aches all over. The cuffs holding his wrists tight are chafing his skin into bloody grazes.
“Hey darlin’,” he drawls, more out of force of habit than any kind of desire, and Tish rolls her eyes affectionately, walking over with a bottle of water. “Make yourself at home. Excuse me for not cleaning up in here, but-” he waves one cuffed wrist “-I’ve been a little tied up.”
Tish shakes her head at his awful attempt at a joke.
“Shut up and drink,” she orders softly, holding the bottle to his lips. Jack gratefully swallows the water, feeling its coolness run through every inch of his body.
“Shouldn’t you be serving the Master afternoon tea around now?” Jack asks, knowing that the Time Lord is fond of ritual and drinking tea and eating cake at around four has become one of the Master’s little daily quirks.
“He’s decided to get his little pet to do it for him,” Tish replies, tone unreadable but derogatory nonetheless.
No one ever tells Jack anything down here, and it’s the first he’s heard of the Master having a “little pet”.
“Who?” he asks, shifting his weight from one leg to the other, trying to ease the cramping in his spine that comes from being hung from his wrists all the time.
“The Master’s little slave-boy,” Tish tells him, using some of the water to wipe dirt and blood from Jack’s face. “Not bad looking actually; except for the craziness. He’s out of his head – God knows what the Master did to him. Worse than whatever he’s done to Lucy.”
Cold dread is beginning to spread through Jack’s stomach; the intuitive sixth sense that has saved his life on countless occasions (not that it really needs saving, as such, but still). Even though common sense is telling him that his suspicions cannot possibly be right, Jack can feel anxiety and horror thick in his gut.
“Why would this guy be making the Master tea, though?” he enquires, trying to keep his tone light. He’s wrong. He has to be.
“Apparently, he’s really good at it.” Tish shrugs. “The Master’s teaboy and part-time shag.”
The words hit Jack too hard with their familiarity. No. No. No. It can’t be.
“Do you know his name?” Jack asks in a voice that sounds nothing like his own.
“Ianto Jones,” Tish tells him, as Jack knew that she would, and yet it’s still a disgusting shock, one that runs through Jack like the electric shocks the Master is so fond of administering.
No. No. God. Not Ianto. No. No. No. Please.
Jack is ready the next time the Master deigns to come down and visit him.
“How are you this fine morning, Captain?” he asks, with a toothy grin that’s nothing short of demented. Jack steels himself and manages to catch those mad eyes, look right into the hazel irises, and glare into them with all the hatred and desperation he harbours inside.
“I want to see Ianto,” he replies, slowly and clearly. “I want to see him now.”
The Master considers this for a moment, clearly thinking hard, although that unnerving grin doesn’t shift an inch.
“Ok,” he says eventually. “Why not?”
Jack stumbles after the Master, surrounded by armed guards, his legs feel like they don’t work and his hands are cuffed in front of him, chained to his waist.
“I’ve made a few improvements since you saw Ianto last,” the Master tosses casually over his shoulder, “I’d love to hear what you think.”
“If you’ve hurt one hair on his head, I’ll-” Jack begins, growling through his teeth. The Master stops dead, and turns around.
“You’ll what, Captain?” he asks, mockingly.
Jack grinds his teeth together because he’s helpless and they both know it.
…And Ianto is in a state far worse than anything Jack had been preparing himself for.
Jack is forced to kneel, keeping his head down, before a chair, while the Master goes to fetch Ianto. He keeps himself breathing, telling himself that he’ll be able to explain, that they can talk through whatever it is that’s happened, that Ianto is still in there somewhere, that he’s survived.
But when he is finally allowed to raise his head and look at his former colleague and lover, Jack realises that if there’s anything left of Ianto, it’s so broken and crushed that it’s unrecognisable and beyond salvaging.
The cut of his suit is sharper than it used to be, jet black and tailored to fit Ianto like a glove. He has a blood-red waistcoat, a dazzlingly white shirt. His shoes are shined. His black tie has tiny red stars on it and is tied dead centre and straight. His hair is a little longer, though clean and neat. At first glance, Ianto Jones looks more handsome and smarter than he ever has.
But oh God, his eyes… The hazel has faded clean out, and instead all Jack can see are gaping overblown pupils, fuck knows what Ianto’s on to keep him docile but he looks like the worst kind of addict, his hands are white and shaking like the nerves are damaged, tapping insistently on the arm of the chair a rhythm that Jack knows only too well. One-two-three-four. One-two-three-four. Da-da-da-da. He’s gaunt too, lost weight; his eyes are sunken in bruised hollows, lost in a face devoid of any expression. It’s not even as though Ianto is deliberately keeping his face impassive. It’s as though he’s forgotten what facial expressions even are.
Jack feels sickness rising in him, looking at the shell that is all that remains of Ianto Jones. He’s slack in the seat, a puppet with its strings cut, as though movement of his own accord is too much. And he simply stares at Jack with those empty eyes, black voids that don’t seem to take anything in at all.
“Ianto…” Jack whispers helplessly, moving his hands in a futile attempt to connect, but they’re still tied together and attached to his waist, and part of him is afraid to touch Ianto; wondering if there’s life left within that sagging, shattered man. “Ianto, what has he done to you?”
“Nothing you didn’t start,” the Master cuts in cheerfully. “I’m impressed, Harkness. What you reduced poor Ianto to. I just… exaggerated it a little.” He bends down to whisper into Ianto’s ear. “This is Captain Jack Harkness. Do you remember him?”
Ianto twitches; or maybe flinches. His broken eyes slowly focus on Jack’s trembling, kneeling figure.
“I remember,” he says, in a flat, strange voice that sounds almost mechanical, and nothing like his own. His eyes narrow a little, fixated on Jack. “I remember everything that you did to me,” he continues, in a faintly ominous tone, “Everything.”
Jack swallows hard, pinned by the wounded and yet furious look that Ianto is giving him, and realises that, without thinking, without even knowing it, he did start this. Oh, the Master took advantage and shattered and sewed a few new thoughts into Ianto’s vulnerable and impressionable mind, but Jack began this, and he’s going to have to live with that.
“Gorgeous, isn’t he?” The Master is laughing, teeth glinting, it’s horrifying to look at. “I made my own pretty hate machine. But I couldn’t have done it without you, Jack.”
Ianto’s eyes are slipping out of focus again, as though it takes too much energy to think for himself. The Master straightens up, moves so that Ianto can lean against him. He taps two fingers against Ianto’s temple, as though drumming the doctrine straight into Ianto’s brain. One-two-three-four. One-two-three-four.
“Please…” Jack begins, though he knows that Ianto is beyond help now. Beyond saving.
“So,” the Master smirks, fixing Jack with a sharp stare, “What will you give me for a night with him?”
Jack thinks that he moves to attack the deranged Time Lord, but he’s not sure, because when he wakes up there’s blood on his shirt and his head is aching and he’s tied back up in his cell again.
Harkness remains obedient and quiet for several weeks, as though the sight of how perfect and docile Ianto has become as traumatised him into silence. This is a good thing, so the Master doesn’t fight it. And Ianto doesn’t even mention his former leader, former lover, as though he doesn’t remember and didn’t even register the presence of the other man. He remains as he always has, a mechanical doll waiting for instructions, remaining still and silent in his room unless the Master demands otherwise.
Ianto Jones is irreversibly lost in his own head, and it’s beautiful. His overblown emotions have driven him over the brink of sanity and into something else entirely. The Master loves it, having Ianto and Lucy equally his, eternally his, the two of them broken down and built up into something new and beautiful. He knows enough of the foolish Earth culture to know that it is not common practise to have a wife and then to have a distracted young man and to tear them both apart for his own amusement, but then it no longer matters. He rules the world. He can do as he likes.
So he merely smirks when Lucy cries for three days straight, banging a small, helpless fist against the window of her room, staining her blue silk dress from her tears, pale face pink and swollen and blonde hair hiding her from view. And he takes it as par for the course when Ianto curls up under his bed and won’t come out, won’t speak, won’t move, just lies there for almost a week until the Master has him forcibly removed, washed, and drip fed.
These little acts of rebellion and helplessness become fewer and farther between, however, and he knows that sooner or later Ianto and Lucy will both succumb and none of this will matter any longer.
“He loves me,” Lucy says in the tone of a pouting, spiteful little girl. She is seated on Ianto’s bed, big eyes seeming bigger in the dim lighting, blonde hair curled immaculately around her shoulders. In the days when he still thought things, Ianto used to think that it was ironic, the way he and Lucy were always dressed up impeccably, beautifully, while the Master just wore what he liked; spending weeks in different coloured dressing gowns, wandering around naked, wearing smart suits and opera shirts and top hats. Now he does not question it, just fumbles over the buttons of his crisp shirts and new waistcoats.
“What does it matter?” Ianto asks eventually, managing to form the words after a solid moment of concentration, pulling them out of the dark grey vortex of his mind.
“He loves me,” Lucy repeats, twisting the skirt of her shimmering sea green dress in her fist. “He married me. He doesn’t love you.”
“Fine.” Ianto does not look at her, just watches her playing with her dress.
“He’s got you trapped, like every other little bastard that he comes across,” Lucy continues, glaring openly at Ianto, “But not me. He chose me. He doesn’t have to control me.”
Ianto can’t speak. He isn’t sure how to. So he just looks at Lucy, her lower lip trembling like she’s going to cry any second. And then he crosses and sits beside her on the bed. He can’t remember them ever having a conversation before, assuming that they were rivals. They are not.
“Can you hear it?” she whispers, leaning forward and he can see right down the front of her dress where it gaps and she doesn’t care and neither does he, “He’s keeping you quiet with that sound.”
She raises her left hand and taps on the palm of it with the fingers of her right. One-two-three-four. One-two-three-four. The soft sound echoes with the rhythm of Ianto’s heart and mind. He knows it. He can hear it.
“What does it matter?” he asks again. Lucy’s smile twists, becomes cruel.
“And it’s in the air,” she whispers, leaning forward further, her mouth close to his ear, “He’s controlling everything you feel. All that anger, all that misery. It’s his, not yours. You’re his puppet.” She sits back. “Not me, though. Not me. He loves me, Ianto. Not you. Not you at all.”
She’s still tapping on her hand and the sound is making it difficult for Ianto to think properly. He grabs her wrist, moving faster than he has in months, pulling her hand away. Lucy glares at him, she’s trembling all over, her eyes narrowed in hate or fear or something else entirely.
Lucy looks as though she has been torn apart and stuck back together entirely wrong, falling down and down and down and down. Her eyes are mad. Her mouth is shaking. In a rare, unusual moment of clarity, Ianto thinks: you are completely and utterly insane. Then he looks into her hollow, tear-filled eyes, and wonders in what way he doesn’t resemble her.
When she kisses him, her mouth is cold, cold, cold, and Ianto wants to push her away but he doesn’t know how to and he doesn’t.
“You bastard,” Ianto shouts, and his voice breaks in the middle of the word, because the Master likes him quiet and so he is unused to speaking. “You bastard.”
He is not beautiful right now. The Master looks at Ianto, white face with the cheeks flushed dark with anger, eyes bloodshot and streaming tears, still looking achingly stoned. He is fighting the drugs in his system as hard as he can, and for the moment, he is winning. He won’t win for much longer, but it’s admirable how well he’s doing.
“What have you done to me?” Ianto demands wildly. “Stop it now!” he adds, begging, as though he thinks the brain damage is temporary, that the Master can snap his fingers and make this all stop. He can’t. No one can save Ianto Jones now.
“I fixed you,” the Master responds, tone tender, gentle (if a little unbalanced) smile gracing his mouth.
“I didn’t want to be fixed,” Ianto sobs, legs giving out beneath him, sinking to the ground and just crying like a child.
“Yes, you did,” the Master reminds him quietly, “You chose this, Ianto Jones.”
Ianto just cries, helpless and sad, and revulsion rises in the Master. He likes his humans quiet, obedient, and as separate from those ugly, uncontrollable emotions that they so often indulge in.
“What did Lucy tell you?” he asks, kneeling down beside Ianto. “You know she lies, she’s jealous of how much I love you, Ianto.”
Ianto turns reddened eyes to look at him. The pupils are still blown, the irises invisible, and the Master scrapes up a smile.
“You’re lying,” Ianto whispers.
“And you will never say that to me again,” the Master replies, jabbing a needle into Ianto’s arm. A little memory suppressant, something to fix and reshape Ianto’s recollection. Lucy will need to be punished, of course, but after Ianto has been carried, limp and quiet, back to his room, the Master wonders if perhaps he has pushed them both so hard that they have shattered.
Lucy has the mind of a child, with all the jealousy and sulking and selfish need that that implies. And Ianto has been wrecked so badly that he can no longer think or feel right, overtaken by all-consuming anger and depression in equal measure.
But the Master doesn’t care. Soon, soon, he will find and kill Martha Jones, and send his new battleships into the stars, hundreds of new worlds with new, pretty people to distract himself with, ones who won’t break so easily.
Lying on the floor of his room, Ianto knows somewhere inside his scrambled head that he will never laugh again. He doesn’t even remember how to go about laughter; it sounds an almost painful process. So he doesn’t move. He just lies still and keeps his eyes closed and trembles, trembles, trembles, and listens to the drums as they scream through what’s left of his brain.
He hears footsteps, shouting, things are getting out of hand outside. When he opens his eyes and looks out of the window, Ianto can see the Toclafane fading from view, and the whole base shakes. He feels sick, his eyes are running with what might be tears or maybe it’s blood and Ianto can’t think, doesn’t remember how to put together a logical argument. He thinks about tea, about coffee, remembers steam and china mugs and doesn’t know how they all fit together.
Ianto can hear the sobs rolling out of his mouth, he’s helplessly afraid although he doesn’t know what of, the fear is being multiplied a million times, out of all proportion, and it clenches his stomach like a vicious fist squeezing too hard.
I made my own pretty hate machine. Ianto recalls the words and the tone, and knows that is all he is now. The Master’s plaything, chipped apart and put back together differently. The drums get louder and louder, and then fade a little and his mouth begins forming a word, he can feel Lucy saying it, feel everyone on the trembling Earth beneath him saying the same word: Doctor. Ianto just associates that word with pain and anger and Jack disappearing, but, nonetheless, he can’t stop saying it. Doctor Doctor Doctor Doctor Doctor Doctor Doctor Doctor Doctor Doctor.
Outside, the world begins spinning backwards, the clouds whip the wrong way through the sky, some kind of forcefield wind screeches through the base. Ianto curls himself up tighter, shutting his eyes, feeling nausea right the way down to his stomach. The drums echo loud, loud, edged with pain, and then, suddenly, they stop. And he knows then that the Master is dead. Gone. He knows, but he doesn’t understand. He can’t picture a world without the Master in it. He doesn’t know what to do, so he lies still and shakes and tries to remember what that rhythm was and why it was so important. He’s forgetting too much, sanity slipping between his hands.
An indeterminate amount of time later, a man comes running in.
“Ianto,” he gasps, and he has a strange accent. “Ianto, thank God, you’re still alive.”
He breaks Ianto out of his safe foetal position, cradles him in strong arms. The man has blue eyes and a lot of teeth and Ianto thinks that he ought to know who he is but he doesn’t because he can’t remember anything and his mind is in shards and shot to pieces.
“Ianto.” The man shakes him, he’s dirty and there’s blood on his arms and it’s getting all over Ianto’s shirt. “Please, Ianto.”
Ianto is trembling, trembling uncontrollably and he doesn’t know how to break through the haze of grey in his mind and in front of him. The blue-eyed man with the strange not-English-or-Welsh accent is still insistently saying “Ianto”, over and over and over.
“You’re too late,” Ianto manages to say, pulling the words from somewhere that can still form something other than vowel sounds, “Ianto Jones doesn’t live here any more.”
He’s not sure what that means because it doesn’t matter, and he thinks the other man is crying, but he can’t think why he would be sobbing like that over nothing, so he just lies very very still and decides to wait for the world to make sense again.
[The music video of the song that inspired this fic is here, if you want to listen to it. I’ve certainly listened to it far too many times…]