What Is Real? – Prologue

“I love you.”


It was the same every night. The same dream. Over and over again Jack would dream of Ianto’s last moments, just before the 456 claimed his life. Ianto would tell him he loved him and all Jack would ever say was that one stupid word, “Don’t.” Jack couldn’t decide what was worse: the fact that he could only bring himself to say that one word, or the way Ianto’s body had slumped in his arms afterwards – almost as if Ianto had given up on trying to survive, right there and then.

Jack woke from his dream in tears. He lay in bed clutching a pillow tightly to himself; his breathing shallow and erratic as he tried to overcome the horrors of his nightmare. He wondered briefly what had happened to the so-called mighty Captain Jack Harkness that Gwen still so resolutely believed in, when all he seemed to do each night was cry in despair. Even now, this long after Ianto’s death, it still hurt so much and when he was lying there alone at night all he thought of was how badly he needed Ianto back. Not a minute went by that he didn’t desperately want Ianto there with him.

He shook his head helplessly and buried his face into a pillow to muffle his cries. “Ianto…” he sobbed into the pillow.

Many kilometres above Cardiff and unheralded by any lights or sound, a space pod exploded. This explosion was not detected by any of the Earth’s scanning systems. The pod had travelled billions of light years looking for a planet that matched what its sole occupant required. The gaseous life form that emerged from the explosion took a few minutes to scan the city. It was looking for extreme emotions; good or bad, it didn’t matter. It just needed strong emotions to survive on.

And right at that moment in time it was Jack Harkness’ flat that was providing exactly that.

The form wasted no time in travelling towards the flat and all those glorious emotions it could sense. Once it arrived it entered Jack’s flat through a microscopic gap in the window and surrounded the now-sleeping man. Unconsciously Jack rolled over onto his back, unwittingly allowing himself to be surrounded more thoroughly by the gas-like substance.

The being seemed to breathe a sigh of relief as it fed on all the emotions Jack was emitting. Love, hate, despair, anger and even a strong dose of self-hatred were just some of the emotions it found; it was a smorgasbord of feelings and emotions. In particular the emotions surrounding Jack’s memories of someone called “Ianto” were especially strong, and these emotions proved irresistible to the life form. The being sucked in all these emotions and then seemed to disappear, leaving Jack feeling calm and peaceful, inadvertently giving him one of the best nights sleep he’d had since Ianto’s death.

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