Author's Note: I write this as a survivor of childhood trauma. Throughout my life, fan fiction has been a means of catharsis—a safe place to re-frame traumas and create healing. I dedicate this story to all my fellow surviors and supporters out there searching for their own story.
Spoilers: Torchwood seasons 1 & 2…maybe more, maybe less…strong possibility of crossing over with Doctor Who in the future.
And by possibly, I mean definitely.
Pairings: Ianto/Jack, Ianto/Lisa
Warning: child abuse (not graphic), violence, language, slash
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
No one at Torchwood One ever seemed to notice the quiet young man. His coworkers knew only his name, his coffee-making abilities, and his preference for fine suits. His supervisors knew only that he was a fine worker who never did anything to stand out. And so he didn't stand out to anyone. Until Lisa.
Lisa Hallett took note of Ianto Jones from the moment he first didn't bump into her. If he had run into her, she might not have noticed him. Instead, it was the rush of air that touched on her skin as he avoided her that caught her attention and made her look up. She had been just about to leave her office to go down the hall for a break when it happened. There was something about the way he moved without a sound, skirting around people effortlessly while handling stacks of files and a box full of unknown alien artifacts. She stood frozen at the entrance to the hallway, captivated by the dance being performed by this tall, thin, beautiful boy. Her eyes skimmed over his face, trying to catch his gaze as he performed yet another turn and narrowly missed an unsuspecting couple, but his head stayed down, eyes firmly planted to the floor. As she stood there watching, she realized he was moving away from her through the crowded hallway. She quickly tried to follow after him, but found her way blocked by all the people he seemed to have fluently avoided. When she asked around, no one could tell her anything about him. It took several rounds through the various break-rooms on her floor to even find a person who recognized who she was describing.
"Do ya mean the new boy?" Bill poured himself a coffee before adding enough cream and sugar to make her cringe.
"I don't know if he's a new boy. That's what I'm trying to find out." Half an hour ago, she'd been working on paperwork concerning the appearance of a weevil outside a small London estate. Now, all paperwork forgotten, Lisa could think of nothing but the graceful young man who hadn't even spoken a word. "Do you know who I'm talking about? He was wearing a blue suit and was carrying folders and a box of artifacts…" She could hear the slight edge of desperation enter into her voice, and instantly she took a deep breath while massaging her temples. This was ridiculous: she was a grown woman acting like a bloody teenager.
"Oh, yeah. I know the one you're talkin' about." His words sent all thoughts of being childish directly into the bin as her head jerked back up. "He started about a month ago. Jones, I think his name is. Works in research or something like that."
"Perfect! Thank you, Bill. You're a life saver, honestly!" Lisa grabbed his face with both hands and kissed the top of his head, much to the older man's delight.
"Aww, away with ya." He laughed and waved her off as she all but ran out of the room.
It took two more days before Lisa was able to actually make it down to the floor the research department was on. She had been stopped from instantly running down to search for him when her boss had spotted her. Working at Torchwood meant that anything could occur at any time, and everyone was expected to be available to deal with it when it happened. It was a lesson learned by all employees early on. So when reports of an explosion at a school came in—along with the possible presence of an alien species known as Krillitanes—everyone jumped into action. Lisa spent the next day and a half talking with school children and trying to piece together all that had happened. Several students mentioned a new teacher by the name of "John Smith" as having some kind of hand in all the events. Running the photo id the school provided and his name through a database only served to bring the entire investigation to a halt as the man was identified as "The Doctor" by the Torchwood computers.
Lisa was relieved when she was taken off the project. The Doctor was high enough up on the Torchwood "Most Wanted" list to qualify for his own elite taskforce. Which let Lisa be free to continue her own personal investigation of the boy she now thought of as "the dancer," even though she knew his name was (probably) Jones. She waited until the next day for things in her department to settle down before making her way down to research.
The Research Department personnel always struck Lisa as being the geeks of Torchwood. Which wasn't too awfully fair, considering they all pretty much registered on the geek-scale somewhere—except for the soldiers and fighters—but there was just something about this section that screamed "pocket protectors and taped glasses" to Lisa. Taking a deep breath, she pushed open the door and quickly looked around for her obsession.
The room was filled with rows of tables covered in alien artifacts. Men and women in lab coats stood by the objects, testing them and making note of any characteristics and purpose they observed. Lisa's eyes scanned the room, but didn't see anyone who remotely resembled the man from the hallway, and she doubted his body-type could be hidden behind a lab coat. Suddenly, a door from the back opened, and he was there.
He still danced. Carrying a tray full of mugs, she silently watched as he went up and down the rows, handing out coffees and teas to oblivious researchers. She frowned; not one person had looked up, or said "thank-you," or even acknowledged his presence with a nod. When he ran out of mugs, he quickly made his way back to the door and disappeared before she could even contemplate what she was going to say to him. And then he was back, carrying another tray full of steaming liquids, before she even had a chance to panic. As he neared her, she was able to get a closer look at the body and face of the person who had set up camp in her mind—and she was not disappointed.
His face was just as she remembered it, although she could now make out a slight frown which crinkled his eyebrow in a way she suspected had become permanent. It made her want to run her fingers over his temple and forehead and gently ease the tension away. Her gaze traveled down from his frown, noted the set in his jaw—he must grind his teeth—and the way his shoulders and back looked to be fused to a pole. Up close, she was bewildered at the prospect that someone so tense could be so graceful.
She watched as he set down his final cup. He was standing less than five feet from her, and she wondered if it was a requirement for all researchers to have an intense level of concentration: not a single person had looked up since she had entered the room. He turned to leave again but froze, and she realized he must have noticed her. Lisa watched in amazement as his tense muscles seemed to become tighter and she wondered if it hurt. He slowly turned toward her, and after a few seconds his gaze slowly made its way to somewhere just over her left shoulder.
"May I help you, miss?" His quiet tone did nothing to contain the thick Welsh accent, and Lisa thought she felt a flutter of delight in her chest. For a moment, she couldn't answer, but continued to stare at him, breathless. "Miss?"
"What? Oh, um…" Lisa shook herself, and then proceeded to violently mentally kick herself as she realized that she had brought no excuse with her. "Sorry, no, yeah, I wanted to know if you…" Her voice trailed off when she couldn't quite remember what it is she really wanted to know.
"Yes, miss?" The slight increase to his frown and the overwhelming urge to soothe it away was what settled it all for her. He still wasn't quite looking her in the eye, but she figured he was probably tired; it had been an incredibly stressful couple of days for all departments.
"I wanted to know if you were doing anything for lunch?" Her boldness made him jerk slightly, and then he seemed to relax and take a step toward her.
"Miss, are you delivering a message for someone?" He was smiling slightly, in a way that made Lisa feel like he was humoring her. His response to her request was confusing, and not exactly the reply she had expected.
"No." She answered, bluntly. He stopped moving forward, frowning again.
"Oh. And…who exactly were you looking to ask to lunch?"
Lisa simply raised her eyebrows and looked pointedly at him. His frown deepened and his gaze went to the floor before coming back to her shoulder. She nodded once in his direction again, a smile turning up the corners of her mouth and invading her eyes. His face scrunched up almost comically and he couldn't resist looking quickly over his shoulder to see if someone was standing behind him, waiting for him to realize that there was no possible way this gorgeous dark girl was speaking to a lowly junior researcher such as himself. Seeing no one there, he looked back toward Lisa, and opened his mouth as though to say something, but nothing came out. Lisa sighed, and coughed slightly to cover the giggle which was threatening to escape.
"You, ya silly bean. I am looking to ask YOU to lunch. Are you going to come, or no?"
"I…you…I mean," he was quickly becoming flustered and flushed, "You want me to go to lunch with you?" It was as though she had just informed him that she was having his baby—a clear impossibility seeing as they had never spoken to each other before this moment.
"Yeah, I do." Lisa gave him a gentle smile which she hoped would ease any doubts he had as to the seriousness of her offer.
"Oh. Um, no. No, I can't." Lisa's smile started to slide from her face. "We've got a lot of work backed up from the last few days. Everyone's been digging through old files about the Doctor, and what can be used against him. There's no way they'll let me go to lunch…they haven't even let me leave to go home at night. Sorry." He shrugged, looking lost with his hands in his pockets. His eyes had made their way back to the floor during the explanation (which Lisa suspected contained more words than he was used to saying in one sitting).
"Right. No problem." She said cheerily. He nodded, pressing his lips together in a resigned way. "I'll just come back tomorrow, then," her eyes glanced at his name tag, "Ianto…Jones, isn't it? Ianto Jones?" Confusion rolled off her dancer in waves even as he jerked his head in an affirmative. "Well then, Ianto Jones, I'll come back same time tomorrow and see if they haven't released that chain they have tied to your ankle." She turned to walk out the door, not waiting for a response. "And if you're not free tomorrow, don't worry," she shot him a look over her shoulder as she opened the door, "I'll keep coming back 'till you're available." And with that, she walked out into the hallway.
Practically skipping down the hall, Lisa felt like she was shaking with energy. Gods, she had never done that before! Her stomach twisted in excitement at the prospect of seeing his face again tomorrow…and the next day, and the next day…
"Miss?" She stopped short at the sound of his voice ringing through the empty hall and turned to face him. She could only see his head as he leaned out the door. He still looked confused, but not quite as panicked as before. She raised an brow and crossed her arms, smiling at him. He cleared his throat and asked hesitantly, "Who are you?"
She dropped her arms and stunned him with a smile that lit up everything around them. "Lisa. Lisa Hallett."
"Lisa. Right." He disappeared behind the door as quickly and as silently as he had opened it. And as Lisa walked back to her department, she whistled the entire way because just before Ianto Jones's face had left her sight, she had caught a glimpse of the tiniest smile.
True to her word, Lisa did indeed stop by Ianto's department the next day. And when he softly apologized for still being busy, she came back the next day…and the next. She started bringing him food, knowing instinctively that while he cared for his entire department's needs, it was clear that no one cared for him. Besides, he was skinny enough in her eyes; he couldn't stand to lose any more weight. This continued for nine days. On the tenth, Lisa sensed the change the moment she opened the door. Everyone was relaxed. Instead of objects being spread out everywhere with people frantically gathered around them taking notes, the tables were clear. People were milling around in groups, talking and laughing while shuffling boxes back into storage containers built into the wall.
She looked out over the room, not seeing Ianto until he came from the back room with the ever-present tray of mugs. He spotted her immediately and his lips curled into the almost-smile she seemed to draw from him more and more. She waited patiently for him to finish passing out beverages and then watched him as he slowly and nervously made his way to her.
"So, Mr. Ianto Jones," she began as she had for the past eight days, "would you like to come to lunch with me?" And for the first time, he said yes.
Lunch time quickly became Lisa's favorite time of day. Her and Ianto had fallen into a routine: she would come and get him just before noon, they would go to this little coffee shop across the street from the Torchwood tower, they would eat lunch (correction: Lisa would eat lunch while Ianto would pick at his until Lisa made him eat at least some of it), talk about meaningless things, and then she would walk him back to his department before heading back to her own office.
This kept up for two months before frustration started settling over Lisa. At no time in those eight-odd weeks did Ianto once take the lead in anything. They never went out after work or on weekends. They never talked on the phone or online in the evenings. They had never so much as held hands, let alone kissed. And Lisa was getting frustrated.
Ianto had been sensing the building storm in Lisa for well over a week now. As stoic as he appeared to others, he had scored extremely high on the empathy tests Torchwood required of its employees. Besides that, his entire life had been centered on what other people were feeling and he had learned early on how to de-escalate negative emotions. This was usually done by simply making himself invisible, or catering to a need. But Lisa was different. She wouldn't let him be invisible. He'd tried, and she had tracked him down. She cared about him, and he couldn't quite adjust to the feelings of concern that constantly came from her. And as far as her needs went, he wasn't sure if he was capable of catering to them.
Her feelings continued to brew until one day at lunch, neither spoke for twenty minutes. Lisa sat in silence, consumed by her own doubts and frustrations, not tasting her food. She had grown to care deeply for Ianto, but she wasn't sure why. She knew almost nothing about him. Yet there was something about him, something that cried out for attention no matter how hard he tried to bury it, that she couldn't ignore. She was drawn to him even as he reciprocated next to nothing.
Ianto sat there, not even picking at his food, staring at Lisa's hands as she ate. Her hands were so small and delicate, so gentle when they lifted her take away cup or dabbed at her mouth with a napkin. Whenever she told an outrageous story, instead of flinging her arms about like most other people, she would keep them calmly folded in front of her and let her facial expressions and voice portray the craziness of a situation. She enthralled Ianto. He craved her presence and attention even through his instincts shouted at him to shy away. Something was turned on inside of him—something that had been switched off since before he could remember—and he was desperate to keep it.
Lisa's sigh broke him out of his thoughts, and he chanced a look at her face. She was frowning at her sandwich. He looked down at his own untouched plate. "I'm sorry." His voice was so quiet, she almost missed it. When she looked at him, however, there was no mistaking his despair at their situation. And then he looked at her—really looked her in the eye for the first time—and she found herself as breathless as that day in the hallway. "I'm sorry I'm rubbish at this. I've never been with any…I don't know what to do. But I know that I'm ruining any chance I might have by doing whatever it is I'm doing right now." He seemed to run out of steam quickly, and his eyes fell back to the table as he finished, whispering one last, "I'm sorry."
Lisa sighed again, only this time it wasn't out of frustration but relief. Very slowly, keeping her eyes on him the entire time, she cautiously slid her hand across the table to cover his. His entire body tensed before gradually relaxing piece by piece. Touching, any form of physical contact really, had been virtually non-existent between them. He never initiated it, and she sensed his hesitance. But now, she needed him to feel what she was going to say, or else they would never work.
"Ianto," she whispered, slightly squeezing his hand, "do you want to be with me?" Her voice contained no accusation, only open curiosity. He nodded, not taking his eyes off their joined hands. "Good. I've…I needed to know that. Because I love having you as a friend, Ianto. But we should be more than that. Can't you feel it?"
Ianto took a deep breath and let his gaze meet hers once again. Unable to say anything, he simply nodded again and let his eyes speak for him. She smiled brightly at him, trying to ease the tension from the moment. Giving his hand one last squeeze, she slowly drew her hand back to her coffee. "Then how about you come round my flat after work and maybe we'll catch a film? There's this old movie cinema near my place that shows all the classics: black and white, silent, you name it. How's that sound, yeah?"
For a moment, he said nothing. She patiently waited for him to process the suggestion. If there was one thing she knew about her dancer, it was that he never made any decision without some amount of thought. Finally, he nodded. Taking a gulp of his tea as though it was whisky, he said, "That…that sounds…good. Is seven alright? I usually fancy a shower after work. Artifact dust and all." His slight smile made her heart melt, and she knew he was trying for her.
"Of course. Seven it is. Don't you be late." She giggled at the look of utter disbelief he gave her. Ianto had what could be considered an obsession with time: he was never late.
After lunch, they walked back to the tower. She tentatively slipped her hand into his which almost made him walk into a lamp post. Her thumb slowly drew circles on the back of his hand and she could feel his muscles slowly relax into her hold. Both of them were smiling by the time they returned to work.
After their first official 'date,' Lisa and Ianto developed a new routine. Everyday they would go to lunch, but instead of discussing meaningless drivel, they would debate the aspects of the latest film they had seen the night before, or who would be cooking who dinner that night, or what exactly they would be doing together for the upcoming weekend. Ianto's plans usually consisted of going to a film or event in town (book reading, coffee shop open-mic); anything that would keep them out in public and away from a bedroom. Lisa's plans always seemed to include pushing some kind of boundary.
"How about camping? Have you ever gone camping, Ianto?" Her smile was devious, and her eyes flirtatious.
"Um, no and yes. Didn't like it. Next idea?"
Lisa threw her head back and laughed. "Yes and yes! Come on, camping this time of year would be gorgeous! There's barely anyone at the sites, and the air has cooled down enough to make the bugs stay away. Please?" She drew out the vowels of her last word, begging him with her voice and eyes.
He could never resist her when she looked at him that way. Or when she begged in that voice. Or basically when she asked anything of him at all. "Fine," he sighed. He tried not to think about what all "camping" implied: like sharing a tent and sleeping in an enclosed space…together…for the first time, and what had happened the last time he had been forced into a situation like that. Of course, Lisa was different. She was safe, and soft, and so utterly female. All the things his prior tent-mate had not been.
A squeal startled him out of his thoughts, and he almost fell over when she threw her arms around his neck.
"No!" The words left his mouth before he could stop them and his eyes clamped shut in an effort to brace himself against whatever was coming at him. He felt the arms stiffen before slowly being drawn away. Hands came to rest on the back of his head and neck, and he could feel the brush of thumbs at the top of his jaw line where the tension from clenching his teeth was causing a stabbing pain to form. Vaguely, he could hear words but couldn't make out what they were saying the first few times they spoke until…
"Ianto. Look at me, Ianto." His eyes relaxed, but didn't open. "That's it, Ianto. It's just me, Lisa. Open your eyes and look at me, sweetheart. Come on." One hand left the back of his head only to return at his temple. Fingers stroked his brow, easing the anxiety from the muscles. His eyes fluttered open of their own accord, and her face filled his view, calming him instantly. "There you are. Hello." She gave him a reassuring smile before releasing his face and leaning back in her chair.
Ianto realized just then that they were still at the coffee shop. Luckily, they were seated at one of the secluded outdoor tables, and no one was looking their way. Giving her a dramatic sigh because he knew it would make her smile even more and set her at ease, Ianto performed his exaggerated eye roll and looked at her with a mock-stern expression. "Next time, give a man some warning before squealing and jumping on him." He sat back, fixing his tie. "Thought we were under attack or something. Nearly gave me heart attack."
She giggled a little, and snorted into her coffee. Then, she went quiet. Ianto could feel her concern rise to an almost overwhelming pitch, and saw her eyes become serious. This wasn't the first time she had startled him, and this wasn't the worst of his reactions. She had quickly learned how to move and act around him so as not to upset him. And she had also learned how to bring him out of the state of panic he would recede into when he was set off.
"One of these days, we're going to have to talk about this." Her voice was hushed and soothing.
"Why?" Ianto felt his voice start to crack, and pushed the panic back down. He had never talked about it. He didn't even know how.
"Because, it can get better."
"What can?" His words came out in a whisper as the feelings of fear warred with unexpected hope.
They didn't talk about it, but they did go camping. Instead of the woods, Ianto found himself on a beautiful and serene beach. The twisting in his gut loosened only slightly at the calming sight. Lisa's playful flirting and crackling humor helped to settle him a great deal more as they set up camp. He was surprised to find she had brought an extremely large tent—big enough to fit at least five adults. When he looked questioningly at her, she shrugged. "I know you don't like tight spaces, and, well, we've got a lot of stuff, so I borrowed my parent's tent. They go camping a lot, and they like the extra space."
Her explanation moved him. She had gone out of her way to make sure he was comfortable. She was always doing that, always thinking of him. With a determined look on his face he moved to her, so quickly and quietly that for once he startled her. Cradling her face between his hands, he pressed his lips to hers softly before hastily retreating. "Thank you." It was all he could say.
She stared after him as he moved away to go gather more supplies from the back of her car. For Ianto to initiate physical contact of any sort was rare, although he had been improving. Brief touches to her shoulder or her back or her hand when they were out were becoming more frequent. But they had never kissed. Until now. She licked her lips, trying to see if she could taste him there, but the contact had been too brief and soft. All she could taste was the salt from the ocean air. Smiling, she resumed pitching the tent, resolved to find out what exactly Ianto Jones tasted like before the weekend was over.
Over the next several hours, the couple finished setting up camp and cooked dinner. Ianto's eating habits had started becoming healthier over the weeks he had known Lisa, although a great deal of that was due to her constant support and gentle pushing. She often wondered how long ago he had developed such unhealthy food issues, and why no one had bothered to notice before her. Of course, such topics were still filed under the "not yet discussed" category of their conversations, much like Ianto's panic attacks and his obsession of time and order.
As the evening wore on, the air went from being cool and crisp to downright bitter. Ianto built a fire, coaxing it into near-bonfire status, while Lisa broke out the whisky. She took a swig from the bottle before passing it to Ianto. He took a swig without looking at the bottle and pulled an awful face which sent Lisa into hysterics.
"Whisky, eh? I always pictured you as a girly drink…drinker." He took another swig, careful this time of his reaction. "You know, something with vanilla or coconut, with swirly straws and umbrellas."
Lisa giggled and shook her head. "Nope. I like whisky. It warms you up faster, and is much more convenient and appropriate for camping. It's not like you can bring a blender and make a pina colada or a daiquiri while on the beach, now is it?" She reached for the bottle and took a long draw. "Mmm, that warms me up almost as much as this fire you so skillfully created."
He grabbed the liquor from her with one hand while pounding his fist on his chest with the other. "Ugh, me man. Me make fire." His face turned bright red at his own actions, but Lisa was proud when he didn't retreat back into himself.
Ianto's humor had only started emerging a month or so ago, slowly at first and then gradually with growing confidence. In those early days, when he felt himself becoming embarrassed, he would almost panic or simply shut down. She had spent countless hours in those first few weeks having to coax him back out of his shell and reassure him that she did indeed still want to talk to him. As time went on, he relaxed and she found his humor to be dark and witty and utterly delicious. With a single clever phrase, often said when she least expected it, he could leave her gasping and crying with laughter. He always looked surprised by her reactions, as though he was simply saying out loud for the first time what he was usually thinking, and he never believed that another person would find it so amusing.
They sat around the campfire as the last of the sun's light bled from the sky, and they watched as the stars gradually came out one by one. They made s'mores while Lisa entertained them both by telling stories of her time at Torchwood, her exploits at uni, and growing up with her family. Ianto sat quietly and listened, occasionally sipping from the shared bottle. He loved her stories and the way her eyes would light up as she told them and the way she would laugh at his occasional witty comments. He loved everything about her.
The realization crept up on him as he sat there until it slammed into him full-force: He loved Lisa. For the first time in his life, he loved someone.
She must have noticed the change in him, because she suddenly went silent and was staring at him worriedly. "Ianto? Are you okay? What's wrong, sweetheart? Was it something I said?"
"I love you." He was still staring into the fire.
He turned and looked at her. "I love you, Lisa." She became unfocused, and he couldn't figure out why until he realized he was crying.
"Oh," her voice came out as a gasp. Her hand reached up and brushed a dark curl from his forehead before settling on his cheek. She leaned in close until their noses were touching. "I love you too, Ianto." Then, she was kissing him.
Her lips met his gently, questioning. She changed the angle, slightly turning her head to the side to capture his mouth more fully. After a moment, she felt him respond, and she was delighted by his tentative answering kisses. She leaned back just enough to look at him, to make sure he was okay with what they were doing. His face was flushed and his eyes were glazed with the whisky and the moment, but the tears were gone.
She grinned and leaned back in for a more impassioned kiss. Again, he responded and brought his hands up to hold onto her arms. She deepened the kiss, dipping her tongue into his mouth to finally, finally, taste him. She sighed as she found the sharp tang of whisky mixed with the sweetness of sugar and chocolate. She tasted further to find pure Ianto: a combination of bitter and sweet with a hint of coffee. Smiling, she pulled back all the way to back against the log they were leaning on and looked at Ianto.
His breath was heavy and his eyes were still half-closed, but he was still relaxed. They didn't speak for the longest time, content to simply soak up the heat from the fire and each other. When the flames started to die down, Lisa stood up and stretched before holding her hand out to Ianto. He took it and she pulled him to his feet.
"Bedtime, I should think." She said, but Ianto was already yawning. "Yup, definitely past someone's bedtime, in fact. Come on, you. Into the tent." She led him over to the tent and unzipped it. The sound seemed to pull Ianto's mind out of its sleepy haze and back into reality. He stopped moving at the entrance, staring at the sleeping bags. Instead of being two separate sleep spaces, Lisa had opened them both and laid them on top of each other to form one large bed. His mind raced at the implications, and he felt his body try to move back. It was only the feel of Lisa's hand on his back, gentle but persistent, which propelled his feet forward into the enclosure.
He stood, hunched over and not sure what to do or where to go. Lisa followed behind him and he heard her zip the tent back up, sealing them in. He wondered if she could hear his heart in the deafening silence that followed.
Looking at him from head to foot, Lisa sighed. Something was starting to spook him, and at the moment she was too drunk to try and figure it out. "Okay, boots off and into bed." She toed her own boots off and climbed under sleeping bag fully clothed. Ianto took a deep breath and followed, climbing into the other side and staying huddled as far as physically possible from Lisa while still staying under the covers.
He laid there, stiff and barely breathing, counting the minutes as they passed. It took less than ten for Lisa's breath to even out as she fell asleep. It was only then that he allowed himself to relax just enough to nod off.
The following morning was calm and peasant. Ianto was surprised to find he had slept through the night without having the nightmares he constantly experienced. Maybe chocolate, whisky, and Lisa were the cure to bad dreams. If that were the case, then he was going to recommend camping again sometime soon. He could stand to have more fright-free nights in his life.
They returned to work as normal, but their relationship had changed. They were closer, both physically and emotionally. Ianto had taken to holding her hand and giving her soft kisses whenever they saw each other, which left Lisa bursting with happiness.
Others began to notice the change in Ianto, too. His coworkers were stunned speechless one day when Ianto accidentally let loose one of his witty comments in reply to something someone had said. For a second, everyone stopped talking as they stared at the furiously red-faced young man. Ianto thought he was going to have a full-out panic attack, but then everyone broke out laughing. Someone clapped him on the back, which sent the panic spiraling again. But the moment passed. Since then, people in the research department played a secret game which consisted of seeing who would be the one to get Ianto to talk each day. Gradually, the shy boy opened up and began to form budding friendships with those around him.
Months passed, and Ianto experienced yet another first in his life: he felt contentment on almost a constant basis. The panic and sadness never went away, but they faded and became less invasive. He and Lisa had still never talked about "it" in depth, but he had hesitantly told her a little about his life before Torchwood.
She knew that he had been adopted at a young age, only to be returned to the orphanage when something happened. Later, he was adopted again when he was twelve by the Joneses. They both died when he was sixteen in a car accident, and he had been on his own since then. Most of the details of his life were skimmed over or flat-out ignored. When pressed, Ianto would change the subject or clam up and refuse to speak.
One time Lisa was desperate for him to open up and kept insisting he tell her more. The more she pushed, the more she expected him to give in and talk or yell at her or get upset…something, anything. Instead, he shut down; his mouth shut and his face went blank. When she went to touch his arm, he stood up and walked out of the room, not seeing her. Walking with his usual graceful and silent steps, he moved to his bedroom where he shut and locked the door. He stayed there for the entire weekend; a day and a half. Lisa never pushed again.
Ianto never knew that bliss was possible. Here he was, almost 24 years old: he worked with an organization that dealt with aliens, with friends who liked him, and he was engaged to the most wonderful woman on the planet.
He had asked her one day during their lunch break. They had gone to the same coffee shop they had frequented since they had met, sat at what had been deemed "their" table (by both themselves and the staff), and ordered their usual food. Ianto loved it—the routine, the comfort of knowing he would meet her here everyday for as long as he was alive—and he never wanted it to end.
So, when they finished eating, he nervously wiped his mouth and put his hand in his jacket pocket, palming the small box hidden there.
"Hmm?" She wasn't paying too close attention to him. He knew her mind was running over the millions of things going on at work. With the formation of the "ghost shift," there had suddenly seemed much less time for everyone to spend on life outside of Torchwood. She shook her head and looked at him sheepishly. "Sorry, sweat, what were you saying? My mind's a million miles off, which is exactly where I wish we were…a million miles from here. Where would that put us exactly do you think?" Her eyes were playful and loving; a look Ianto had grown to crave having directed at him.
"Will you marry me?" He felt nervous and clumsy as he realized he still had the ring in his pocket and he was doing it all wrong. "Shit, wait, wait, wait, sorry."
He jumped up quickly, not giving her time to respond, knocking over his chair in the process. He moved to right it, but then changed his mind in mid-action. Instead, he waved it off, turned to face her, and fell to one knee with enough force to cause pain.
Pulling the tiny velvet black box out of his pocket, he opened it with shaking hands. He took a deep breath, then: "Lisa Hallett; will you marry me?"
She was staring at him with enormously expressive eyes. Seconds passed and Ianto thought he might faint from lack of air before she spoke. Then, her face split into a stunning smile and there were tears pouring down her face. She laughed and cried, unable to speak for a moment. Ianto still held his breath, not quite sure of her reaction.
Lisa looked at him and saw his fear and unease. Still smiling, she leaned forward and plucked the ring from the box without even looking at it and slipped it onto her finger. "Of course I will, silly bean. Come here!" And with that, she kissed him. Her heart fluttered and she found that she couldn't stop crying when she felt him kiss her back with equal passion.
Returning to work, word spread quickly and soon everyone was congratulating them on their engagement. Even Yvonne Hartman came down from on high to offer her best wishes. Torchwood was, after all (as Yvonne was frequently heard saying), a modern day operation…full of people-skills and first-name-basis bosses.
Then, the Cybermen and Daleks came. And it all went to hell.