Title: Acts of Mercy
Rating: Various; R/mature for this chapter.
Spoilers: Direct for S1 and S2, but everything including some book canon.
Summary: AU telling of 'Captain Jack Harkness' - what if Ianto had been taken to 1941 with Tosh, leaving Jack behind to wait and wonder?
Author's Note: Thanks to exfatalist, as usual, for being a wonderful beta reader, unafraid to point out anachronisms or stumbling sentences written while half-asleep, and forgiving me even after I did something in this chapter that made her hate me a little. Oops. Also thanks to all my wonderful and lovely readers for sticking with me and leaving comments even as I take ages to update - I promise I will get more consistent now that the holidays are over with!
Last Part: Chapter 6 - Flying Home
There Will Never Be Another You
Gwen and Owen have both gone home -- ordered away like scolded children -- and Toshiko knows she should go now, too. Even though she has been away for months, she realizes it has been only days for everyone else. Her flat will not have fallen into disrepair, and her plants can stand a little while longer without watering. She has spent more days than this before without popping home for much more than a shower and a change of clothes; such is the life of Torchwood.
Tosh swivels in her chair to look between the door leading out and the door to Jack's office. There is a lamp still burning on the desk, but the captain is nowhere to be found. She considers leaving for a moment longer, without much real intention in the thought, then turns back to her computer screen. Listed on the display are all known instances of temporal displacement that Torchwood have on record. Of course, the most extensive case study is on Tommy Brockless, currently resting in stasis thanks to the alien cryogenics that are keeping him preserved until he can fulfill an unknown purpose.
In another window, Tosh has brought up whatever data she can find on the alien cryogenics themselves. Ianto had been right, of course: there are three known chambers on record. One contains Tommy, another stands empty, and while Ianto had reported a third lost, it seems more complicated than that. All information on the third chamber appears to lead in circles to an ultimately dead end, as if whomever filed it intended for anyone looking to give up in frustration.
Unfortunately for them, they never accounted for Toshiko Sato. And maybe that's the point, she thinks. She imagines if Gerald went and found Ianto as he promised, then he would have left everything so that only she would be able to figure it out. He and Ianto together would have known what to do, both for her and so that Ianto would not corrupt his own timeline.
"I thought you would have gone home," Jack says.
His voice cutting across from the office doorway gives Tosh enough forewarning to minimize the windows on her screen. She can't quite explain why she feels it necessary to do so, only knows that figuring it out would also require analysis of why she feels on edge around Jack since her return.
"I had some things I wanted to catch up on," she hedges. Tosh watches Jack approach, until his blurry reflection hovers against the dark desktop of the idling mainframe on her monitor. She turns in her chair, never good with social graces but well aware it would seem rude to keep her back turned to her boss. Rude, and probably secretive, too.
Jack nudges the stool over from Gwen's station and sits down a few feet away. "Do you want to talk about it?"
Tosh looks at him for a moment that might only feel longer than it is, or that might really be just long enough to be considered staring. Jack's trouser braces and Spitfire cufflinks almost make her feel as if she hasn't left 1941 at all. He has his arms crossed over his chest, and somehow it makes him look authoritative and vulnerable at the same time. His expression is open but his body language is closed. Maybe he's afraid of what he will hear.
"I already gave my report," she says carefully, averting her eyes.
The chair creaks when Jack leans forward. His arms are unfolded now, hands resting on his knees.
"And I heard it," he replies, a frown implied more in the crease of his eyebrows than a downward turn of his mouth. "But I want to know more. What happened, Tosh, when you and Ianto went through the Rift? I don't want to hear what you told everyone else ... I want to know the whole story."
Tosh picks the coffee mug up from her desk to have something to do. Painfully, it makes her think of Ianto -- well, more than this conversation already is -- partly because there's no coffee in it at all, only cooling tea. None of them have tried to work the coffee machine since Ianto left, Gwen had told her earlier. It made Tosh feel angry, though she knew even then it was unwarranted, that apparently Ianto was only being missed because there was no coffee to go around.
She looks back up at Jack, silently evaluating the man who is her boss and friend, and who may be the one person in the Hub actually able to appreciate the gravity of the situation. She has realized, even in the short while since her return, that she and Ianto must have been successful in keeping incognito. Jack seems to know little to nothing of them having been in 1941, and certainly not having seen either of them. Tosh does wonder what it means for Ianto's fate; it can be nothing good. Wasn't he meant to be Jack's contact in France? Unless Jack is putting on a very good show ... and Tosh doesn't believe he is. It could be normal memory loss or it could be retcon, but it seems more likely that Jack is simply ignorant of Ianto's identity to Torchwood in the war.
"You went to Torchwood," Jack presses, when she still doesn't say anything.
"Yes." Tosh sighs, fidgety, and sets the mug down again. "We planted the coordinates in the Ritz and then we had to get out. We trusted you to find them, but --"
"But you didn't plan on them being incomplete."
She frowns. "No. That worries me, actually. I wrote the coordinates down, Ianto took the photo. I know we had all of it. Someone must have tampered with it."
Jack rises and gestures her over to the station where Gwen has been diligently organizing and posting every clue. Tosh stands and looks over it, seeing copies of pictures in the period with herself and Ianto in them, the aged and yellowed photograph they hid in the Ritz, and newspaper clippings from the time.
"Bilis Manger," Jack says after a beat, pointing out the man in the background. "He said he was the caretaker of the dance hall. What he didn't mention is how he managed to be in both 1941 and now, looking in such great shape. Well, relatively speaking."
"I remember him," Tosh confirms. "But only just. He's a time traveller?"
Jack stares at the photograph for a second before he turns to her, expression grim. "I don't know what he is, but he's tied to this somehow, and I intend to find out."
Tosh nods and looks down at the items still littered across the desk, recognizing them as the personal belongings she and Ianto turned over to Greg Bishop. It's been only weeks for her, but decades for her laptop and their clothes. She brushes her hand across Ianto's suit jacket with a sigh. "I didn't mean to come back without him."
Jack places his hand over hers atop the pinstriped fabric. "I think he would understand. Did he --"
Whatever Jack meant to ask, the question is interrupted by a sudden blaring of the alarms. Tosh jumps instinctively, accustomed after so long to listen for air raid sirens, and after an embarrassing second she realizes it's the Rift monitor going off instead. She pulls away from Jack and hurries back to her station.
"What is it?" Jack asks, close on her heels. He places a hand on her shoulder and leans over her to look at the screen.
Tosh checks the map, where a pinpoint flashes on a street grid overlay of Cardiff. "Rift activity ... near the city center."
For a moment, neither of them breathe.
"Do you think it's --" she begins to ask, barely daring to hope.
Jack hardly seems certain; his doubt is easily read in the line of his mouth or the tense set of his jaw. "I don't know. Can we get a broader view?"
Toshiko zooms out from the display, and is alarmed to find similar pinpricks of light appearing across southern Wales, three more of them in total, and all with curved lines leading back to Cardiff, back to the Bay area ... back to the Hub.
"I'll go check it out." Jack pushes up from the chair and hurries to back his office to grab his greatcoat from its hook.
Tosh stands and looks after him. "I'll go with you."
He shakes his head. "No, you go home and get some rest."
"You can't mean to do it alone --"
"You know what a dangerous thing Owen did, opening the Rift without the coordinates."
Jack's posture is resolute as he begins to fasten on his holster and checks to see that the Webley .38 service revolver he always favors is loaded and ready.
"If this is what I think it is," he says after another moment, "then none of us are getting any sleep."
The indulgence of vice holds as steady in war as in peace, or perhaps even steadier, as conflicted times drive people toward distraction. Drink and dancing will never go away; people will never stop laughing or loving or living, even while Ianto feels as if he is simply existing. He is not much of a drinker, not since outgrowing it in his late teens, but he can forgive himself at the moment for being a little too far into his cups. There are empty shot glasses scattered on the bar in front of him, at eye level, where his chin has gradually sunk down to rest on the counter.
A warm hand lands on Ianto's shoulder, and a weight presses at his back as someone leans down to speak low in his ear. "You look like you've lost your last friend in the world."
"Maybe I have."
It's not an inaccurate assessment. Ianto doesn't bother looking up; the presence is a familiar one, even if not the exact one he might crave. He nudges the shot glasses into a neat little line, like soldiers in formation, then changes his mind and reforms them into an arrow, like planes soaring to attack and defend. Ianto has just reconsidered this and begun to scatter them again when the opposite hand to the one on his shoulder closes around his wrist and stills the movement.
Gray-blue shifts into Ianto's vision: the wool sleeve of a coat with brass buttons on the cuff. It hurts to look at, the memory of it painful even as the strong arm circles his shoulders instead. He leans reluctantly into it, less from desire for the touch and more because the room begins to spin around him when he tries to sit up.
"You've still got me." The reassurance falls short, but proves to be at least somewhat true as helping hands keep Ianto steady on his feet. "Come on, I'll help you to bed."
They make it as far as the hallway outside the room before Ianto's equilibrium fails him and he stumbles into his good Samaritan's embrace, leaning against a broad chest with less shame than he would like. The other man doesn't seem to mind much, huffing out a laugh against Ianto's hair. He keeps Ianto afloat and even finds his keys and helps him inside.
Ianto crashes gratefully onto the bed, his face against the soft duvet; then his shoes and socks are slipping off his feet and there are hands reaching around for the buttons on his jacket. He rolls onto his back and the bed dips under the weight of the other man who is kneeling over Ianto and undressing him with such care. Ianto would usually be more concerned with his own dignity than all this, but instead all he can think about is how lonely he is and how they're close enough to kiss, if he just tilted his head up a little; so he does.
There's a fraction of a second's hesitation from the lips against Ianto's own, sending Ianto into a brief spiral of doubt. His drink-addled mind reaches immediately for an excuse, but the words get kissed away as soon as he fathoms to speak them. The hands inside his jacket are now focused on something other than chaste intentions, curbed toward urgency as Ianto grasps for purchase at the coat that hangs around him. It envelops them both like a curtain, the smell of wool and leather and aftershave making Ianto acutely aware of so much he wants right now, and even though practicality dictates it, he can't bring himself to push the great heavy thing away.
"I really like the coat," Ianto says nonsensically, months after he has last said it and years before he will say it the first time.
Laughter from above mingles their breath in prelude to another kiss that tastes of nothing so much as alcohol and good intentions. Ianto squirms, in search of friction for his hardening cock and makes a plaintive sound when he finds it, wanting to ask but unwilling to say the words. He's too clumsy for buttons, so he gives up and hooks his fingers in the other man's belt loops and pulls their hips together instead.
"Slow down" gets murmured against his mouth, and then there are surer hands than Ianto's working at buckles and fastenings. Nimble fingers move aside the barriers until the hard press through cloth turns into a gratifying slide of skin against skin. Ianto raises his hips into it with a moan, and reaches a fumbling hand down to circle both their cocks. The other man groans and pushes closer, lowering his head to pant short, hot breaths into the crook of Ianto's neck, lain bare by an open collar.
They're both still painfully half-dressed, and Ianto finally gives in to better judgment despite his fondness for the coat and pushes the stifling thing awkwardly away with one hand, finding assistance halfway through in its removal. There are lips on his jaw, teeth nipping at his ear, and a hand over his, joining in the frantic climb toward release.
Ianto throws his head back, gasping for air, feeling more sensitive than he thinks he should; if he hadn't been so long without the contact of anyone, he might be embarrassed at his reaction. Either way, it won't last -- it can't -- and despite the fact that he feels as if he'll die from the combined heat of arousal and heavy uniform layers, his mind can't quite work through the pleasure of the body enough to mind.
"Please," he gasps out, squeezing his eyes shut to bank the prickling of frustrated tears. "Jack."
Ianto tenses, back arching off the bed, and cries out as he comes. Silence fills the air, a certain sense of stillness that he hasn't felt in months. He holds on, clinging desperately to the moment for as long as he can; he's only vaguely aware of his partner's panting moans, the choked-off sound the other man makes when he finds release. Ianto slowly sinks back down onto the bed, and loses himself and all his problems, for a little while, to a sated and heavy oblivion.
Henry Lewis disentangles himself from the man he's known, for a handful of months, as Dafydd Jones. He doesn't know who this mysterious 'Jack' is, but he can't find it in his heart to be stung by it, either. They're comrades in arms, friends, and Henry can't hold it against Jones for thinking about someone else; maybe it's the friend who's evidently died. Though the quiet Jones rarely elaborates on anything, Henry has been in this war long enough to be familiar with the signs.
Henry finishes undressing both himself and Jones down to undershirts and pants, and sees the other man neatly tucked into bed before he slides in behind him. As an afterthought, he tugs up the heavy greatcoat and drapes it over Jones, watching as his friend snuggles into the wool, only adding to the mystery surrounding him. Tomorrow, Henry thinks, he'll try to learn more; for now, sleep folds around him, and he drifts off to dream of someone else, too.
Ianto Jones does not want to think about Greg Bishop any longer. More than that, he does not want to think about the similarities between himself and the other man. The list could go on for hours: young, Welsh, archivist, blue-eyed, suit-wearer, maker-of-coffee ... from behind, they could pass for the same person. At least, for Jack they apparently could. The wool collar of Greg's suit chafes at Ianto's neck, or maybe it's just the memory of Jack's lips there in kisses that were not meant for Ianto at all.
He knows it's silly, of course. Were he still in his own timeline, Ianto would accept the very logical truth of the matter: that Jack's relationship with Greg began and likely ended decades before Ianto was even born. A man like Jack Harkness would have had countless lovers over the years; Ianto isn't the first workplace romance and, being honest with himself, he knows he probably won't be the last. Maybe that's what really bothers him, knowing that some new, young bit of all right will be bringing the captain his coffee once Jack has had time to move on. What should make Ianto so different?
Ianto jars himself out of his thoughts as Greg, walking ahead of him, stops at the door to what must serve as the conference room in this era of Torchwood.
"It's just through here," Greg says softly. He steps aside from the door and gestures Ianto to go on. "I'm not permitted, I'm afraid."
Tosh had not been asked to this particular meeting either, leaving Ianto to wonder what, exactly, will happen to him now. He nods to Greg and pushes the door open to step inside the room.
An older man rises from his seat at the long table and turns to face Ianto. He's not particularly remarkable in a neutral suit and bold-colored tie, with his heavy greatcoat and plaid scarf draped over the chair behind him. His hair has gone completely silver, but there is no frailty in the hand he offers to shake, and even at his age -- how old must he be now, in his sixties? -- he has a particularly commanding air.
"Gerald Carter," Ianto preempts the man's introduction. He catches himself in embarrassment at the lift of Gerald's eyebrows, and hurries to explain himself. "Ianto Jones. I've read all your notes on the case of Tommy Brockless --"
Gerald raises his other hand to silence the words. "Please, I'd rather not know about Private Brockless. Timelines, you understand."
Ianto thinks that surely if his cheeks were not flushed already, they must be now. "Yes, of course. My apologies."
"Please, have a seat." Gerald waits until Ianto has sat down to sink back into his own chair, which he pulls back up to the conference table. There is a tea service sitting between them; Gerald already has a cup, and he reaches to pour one for Ianto. Then he slides the cup and saucer across, before leaning back with his own. "Would you mind telling me more about how you came to be here?"
Ianto gazes at the cuppa, wishes briefly that it were coffee, and takes his time in adding cream and sugar before he answers.
"We'd received reports of ghosts at the Ritz dance hall on Sage Street," he says, looking back up at the older man. "Toshiko and I were sent to investigate. We made a sweep, but we didn't find anything worth noting. Then, as we were going down the staircase to leave, we heard music coming from the ballroom. We went back up ..."
It takes Ianto just under fifteen minutes to finish recounting his tale. Still, by the time he concludes with the information about the coordinates and their decision to seek Torchwood's help, his tea has already cooled to a lukewarm temperature. He drinks it anyway.
Gerald doesn't respond for a moment. He sits up in his chair and reaches for a folder, which he spreads open in front of Ianto. There are photographs there, black and white (of course, Ianto thinks) shots of things that look undoubtedly like alien technology, and a map with dots marked on it.
"During the Great War," Gerald states, "we thought we finally saw our own necessity. The real reason why Her Majesty Queen Victoria chartered Torchwood ... not just to defend the kingdom against extraterrestrial incursion, but also to put what knowledge we gained to use in our defense against other enemies, as well."
He flips a page, to a pen-and-ink sketch of something gun-shaped and undoubtedly alien in origin; pinned to it, there's a grainy photograph of a decimated battlefield.
"Just as things wash through the Rift and end up in shops or on people's mantels, they also migrate into other countries," he continues. "We weren't the only ones conducting experiments. It will be little known by your time, of course, but not all the advances in warfare were made in a strictly traditional way."
Ianto looks over the various images in the file, stomach turning. "You mean to say that ..."
"We got involved where we shouldn't have been," Gerald confirms gravely. "We did our best to keep that disaster under wraps, but there are rumors, there are always rumors. To a certain degree, we've attempted to take some responsibility since the Great War, keeping contacts in other countries on the continent and accepting the extraordinary and the unusual from them. Torchwood is in a much better position to do this, of course."
Though Ianto has little idea what this really has to do with him, or any suspicion as to where the conversation is leading, he can't help but have his interest piqued by the information. He has spent more than a little time taking advantage of the archives at Torchwood Cardiff, studying the history of the organization.
Gerald calmly sips his tea, sets the cup down on the saucer with a quiet clink of china, and sits back in his chair again. "There are certain items that were located on the continent, but they were unable to be transported back in time. Our people there have hidden them and smuggled the coordinates to us. Given the circumstances, ordinarily we would wait until the conflict is past, but Adolf Hitler is only one of many with a known interest in the phantasmagorical. Even if the items are innocuous things, we still do not want them falling into the wrong hands. One touch of a button could change the tide of this war, and if there is one thing we have learned, it's that a conflict between men should be resolved by them."
"What do you want me to do?" Ianto asks, looking up again.
"We've dispatched Captain Harkness to act as our agent in retrieval of the items. I'm certain you understand that the captain has certain unique ... traits ... that make him more adept to do this than others." Gerald pauses. "After some discussion, Dr. Brennan and I have decided to utilize your assistance."
That makes Ianto sit up straight, the implication of not just interacting with, but working with Jack. "With all due respect, sir, Jack is the leader of Torchwood in my time. Won't it pose a danger to the timelines for him to even see me?"
With a heavy sigh, Gerald sweeps all the photos and papers back into the folder and closes it. He folds his hands on top, and leans on his elbows across the table toward Ianto. "I will exercise a bit of candor with you, Mr. Jones. You are not the first temporally displaced individual I have had the dubious pleasure of finding a place for, though I pray to God that you will be the last. That being said, you seem to be a decent young man in an unfortunate situation, and I am sorry to say that I am not here to make it any easier for you."
Ianto frowns. "I don't like this. I could be compromising Jack's timeline and my own. Do I get any choice in the matter?"
"There isn't much choice I can give you." Gerald pauses, drawing a breath. "This would not be my first choice of options for you, either, but it is what it is. Tilda wants to use you, and she will get what she wants, one way or another. I have negotiated with her and we've agreed that this assignment will last no more than a month. At the end of that period, I will do whatever else I can to help you."
Though the information has hardly sunk in enough for Ianto to properly react to it, he is the perfect example of Torchwood training: he knows how to take things in stride, even this, but he has more interests than simply his own. "And what about Toshiko?"
Gerald smiles, perhaps a bit ruefully. "Your on-the-spot cover story for her was a good idea, and her fluency in Japanese can be useful to the war effort."
Ianto nods. It makes sense in a way that their own means of getting him out of the way does not, but he's also learned not to question orders, even if they're from a superior many years dead in his timeline. "All right. What should I do now?"
It's Toshiko's voice chiming across the comm as Jack descends the steps outside the Cardiff Police Department. Thinking no one would be in the Hub, he almost hadn't bothered wearing the earpiece when he went out. He reaches up and taps it, tiredly. "Tosh. What are you doing still at work?"
"With all this going on, I wasn't exactly going to go home and leave you to it," she states shortly, sounding just as exasperated as Jack feels.
More grateful for the assistance and the company than he would like to admit, Jack climbs into the SUV and spends an addled moment just staring at the steering wheel. How long has it been since he slept? he wonders suddenly. He doesn't require much of it, but it must have been almost a week ago, now, when he'd last curled up with Ianto in the bunk beneath his office.
Jack shakes his head to clear it, realizing Tosh just said something that has gone unanswered. "Sorry. What was that?"
"I asked what you found," Toshiko replies patiently. "And while you're at it, I was wondering what you're doing at the Cardiff PD."
"I got there too late," Jack answers. He starts the SUV and the engine turns over smoothly, but he lingers for a moment before putting it into gear. "Tour guide and a couple of witnesses reported seeing someone in Victorian clothes coming out of a bedroom in Cardiff Castle. I managed to convince them it was just some kind of reenactment, but I didn't find where the guy went."
"I'll check CCTV footage in the area."
"It's probably too crowded, but it's worth a shot." Jack pauses, pulling away from the curb. "I just stopped by to let our police friends know to be on the lookout for the strange and unusual." He heaves a regretful sigh. "I hate to do it, but could you call Gwen and let her know I'll need her for police liaison? If I have to deal with another PC Andy wisecrack before this is all over with, I'll snap."
"I'll let her know. But that's not what I called you for." Tosh is full of her typical patient anxiety. "I was thinking about what you said, about Bilis Manger. So I did some looking around for him. I don't know why no one thought of it before now --"
Jack laughs, a bit ruefully. "Call it time for my 'why didn't we think of that?' moment. I'll blame it on preoccupation with other things."
"Well, regardless," she answers, sounding inordinately pleased with herself for having been the first one to do it, "I found records of him owning a shop."
"What kind of shop and where?"
"It's called A Stitch in Time and it seems to be, surprisingly enough, a clock shop. I'm patching coordinates through to the satnav."
Jack swings the SUV around in an illegal U-turn once the map populates, and prompts the honks and rude gestures of several angry drivers, which he ignores. Not one for much subtlety when he goes into what the others like to dub 'hero mode,' Jack flips on the blue lightbars and puts on a stunning display of wantonly ignoring traffic laws. When he gets there, it's in eighty percent less time than an almost harassed-sounding (to his imagination) satnav voice predicted the trip to take.
"You have reached your destination," the computerized voice states crisply.
Jack finds himself in front of a row of narrow shopfronts. The street is quiet, but not suspiciously so; this just seems to be a less-trafficked part of town. The place he's looking for is dark and inconspicuous, and a bell dings cheerfully above the door. Inside, it's the same as any antiques shop, only filled with clocks. Some of them, Jack thinks, look older than he is. He steps further into the place, compelled to tread lightly, but sees no sign of Bilis Manger -- until he turns around.
"May I help you, Captain?" the old man asks, too polite with his hands clasped behind his back.
Refusing to be startled, Jack replies, "We have a conversation to finish."
"Ah." Bilis walks past him to the clock-covered wall, tilting his head back to study the ticking hands and swinging pendulums. "I believe that conversation was finished. Let us begin a new one."
An angry muscle jumps as Jack clenches his jaw. "Tell me what you know."
Bilis sighs in a way that could only be described as regretful. He turns to face Jack again. "My dear Captain, the problem is that I know too much."
He pauses, perhaps for dramatics, and Jack considers the temporary satisfaction of punching the other man versus the long term goal of learning what Bilis knows.
"You understand, there are forces here at work beyond even your -- and Torchwood's -- imagining." Bilis steps toward Jack, slowly, like a keeper approaching a dangerous animal. "I have been alive such a long time, Captain, and I have seen so much. Surely, you can sympathize with that."
Jack takes a breath and exhales slowly. "What do you know?" he grits out, less forcefully than he means to.
"Time is splintering, Captain," Bilis replies, an almost sad lilt to his tone.
"Because the Rift was opened --"
"No." The other man shakes his head. "Not simply because the Rift was opened, but because only one of your time-displaced colleagues were returned. If Mr. Jones remains in the past, then his presence there will irreparably alter our future. Now, it is contained to Cardiff. Soon, these events will begin to occur all across the world. Torchwood won't be able to stop it or even slow it down."
Bilis Manger's blue eyes seem longer than even the ones of his own Jack sees in a mirror. He reaches out to take Jack's hands, and too compelled by the action, Jack can't even bring himself to pull away. The old man's hands are cool and their grasp surprisingly hard.
"I can show you," Bilis whispers hoarsely.
Jack's protest dies half-formed on his lips as he's assaulted by images.
Cardiff, 1941. War so familiar that he can almost smell the gunpowder and smoke and taste the too-familiar copper tang of blood.
A dance hall, filled with beautiful and young people. Their carefree attitude is only a veneer. There's a man in uniform, handsome and confident and a little sad, somehow. A Japanese woman -- Toshiko -- dancing with an RAF pilot. The back of a suit, it seems oddly out of place. The man turns. Ianto. A flash bulb goes off.
The scene fades away. The war comes to life. Men falling and fallen to bullets and bombs, the senseless hatred of their fellow man. There's a young man in uniform. His face is dirty but Jack recognizes the eyes. They seem to look at him and through him for a split second, before the explosion turns everything into fire.
The gasp Jack gives is like the first breath of life when he wrenches himself away from Bilis's grasp. His vision is blurry and as Jack reaches up, he realizes his face is wet. That infinitely sad look is still in Bilis Manger's eyes.
"I'm sorry," Bilis says quietly. "I'm so sorry."
Jack turns away, scrubbing his sleeve across his face. When he looks back, a demand for answers ready on his tongue, Bilis Manger is gone again.
Next Part: Chapter 8 - Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree (with Anyone Else but Me)