Chapter 4 ~ Losing Lisa
The day after Susie's suicide was a somber affair. There were strict procedures for when a Torchwood employee dies that even Jack followed. All her effects were instantly seized, boxed, and stored. Her body was to the part of the morgue reserved for fallen agents. Her existence was erased from public record. The team worked for hours as they processed their shock and grief in silence. Susie may have had issues, but she was still a vital member of their tiny team.
Ianto did what he could for them by covering the majority of the paperwork in between rounds of coffee. He avoided Jack as much as possible, limiting their interaction to only the necessary questions. There had been rumors about Torchwood Three's leader, whispers that the flirtatious man in military dress had been around much longer than most. Decades longer, in fact. But Ianto had never given much credit to such gossip. After all, the things Torchwood dealt with were already outside the scope of normal human imagination. It stood to reason that their conspiracy-theories would be above and beyond as well. Now, Ianto was wishing he'd payed more attention to those whispers.
Jack's behavior wasn't anything outside what was expected of a grieving employer. He would alternate between standing vigilant over his team, still and cold as a statue, and being a font of compassion and comfort. Ianto watched as he warmly wrapped Tosh in a tight embrace. She'd been working to clear Susie from databases, unaware of the tears pouring down her cheeks. Jack held her as she tried not to openly weep.
Later, Jack went over to where Owen was staring blankly at his coffee. The doctor had put Susie's body to rest hours ago. Jack patted his back as he whispered something into the younger man's ear. Ianto couldn't hear what was said, but after a minute Owen nodded. Shakily, he stood and gathered his things before slowly making his way out of the hub.
Gwen had stayed home with orders to remain on call and reachable. The last thing the team needed was the new girl to start on the day they metaphorically buried the woman she was replacing. Ianto had struggled through the day as he worked on both finalizing Susie's end and drawing up the paperwork and authorizations for Gwen's beginning. A few times he caught Jack watching him when he wasn't consoling the other members. Off and on he would feel something brush against his mental shields but Ianto had built them so strong they even blocked Myfanwy.
Terror and confusion would fill Ianto whenever he thought back to the previous night's events. He wasn't sure if Jack had known he was there to witness everything, and so far nothing had been said. In the meantime Ianto was suspended in uncertainty and worry. As the day drew to a close, he watched Tosh leave and felt the tendrils of panic flare up when he realized he would be alone with Jack.
Taking a shaky breath, Ianto approached the captain with a stack of papers needing Jack's signature. Half were Gwen's employment contract. The rest were for Susie. Standing at the door to Jack's office, he cleared his throat to get Jack's attention. "Paperwork, sir. I believe everything's in order."
Jack's tired eyes met his for a long moment, intently searching Ianto's face. Mental barriers shuddered again and Ianto had to look away. Something about this man made him want to reveal secrets and long-buried emotions. But after everything that had happened, it was too dangerous. Jack was too much of an unknown. He was kindness and violence wrapped in mystery and innuendo.
Ianto heard the man sigh. "Thank you, Ianto. Just leave it here and go home. It's been a long day." Nodding, he set the papers on the corner of the desk and walked out without looking back up.
Life at Torchwood quickly settled into a new rhythm with the addition of Gwen Cooper. Her first day was significantly more dramatic than Ianto's. His shopping for office supplies was outdone by her accidentally releasing a gaseous sex-alien who would possess people and incinerate them at climax. Apparently, feeding off the orgasmic energy of humans was considered a delicacy by some in the universe.
Ianto kept his interactions with the team to a minimum as so much of his focus was diverted to the approaching arrival of Dr. Tanizaki. Gwen's presence helped keep Jack distracted. She was like the shiny new toy in the office. Beauty, attitude, and insatiable curiosity wrapped up in compassion—and a stable relationship outside of work. Everyone was intrigued by her absolute alien life.
The hurt and slight jealousy Jack and Gwen's developing relationship brought up in Ianto was wearing him down more than he'd anticipated. This is a good thing. It makes my job easier. Lisa is priority. We'd both be killed if Jack found out, Ianto would constantly remind himself. Still, it pained him to see how easy it was for him to fade to the background so completely.
Ianto spent most of his energy keeping his nerves under tight control as he counted down the days to the cybernetic specialist's arrival. He was barely sleeping. Nightmares tore through his mind bringing twisted images of the Battle of Canary Wharf. Sometimes the battle would include the broken bodies of his new teammates. Other nights the bloody fight would take place at the hub instead of the tower. No matter the scenario, the outcome was always the same—everyone Ianto knew ended up dead and mutilated, and he would be left standing alone in the carnage. Always alone.
The week before Dr. Tanizaki was scheduled to fly into Cardiff the team became wrapped up in a new case. This one involved a piece of alien tech that allowed the user to tap into the emotional energy left events from the past. Gwen and Owen were both shaken by what they had experienced. Ianto was growing used to Gwen's predilection for throwing herself into a case with an enthusiasm bordering on obsessive.
However, Owen's similar behavior was disturbing. Ianto had heard the others discussing what the doctor had witnessed—the rape and murder of a young girl from decades ago. He made sure to add extra sugar to Owen's coffee along with a plate of his favorite biscuits. There wasn't much he could do, but this he could handle.
In the end, long-awaited justice left the murderer dead and Ianto locked the "ghost machine" in the secure archives alongside the other tech classified as too dangerous for use. The team went home for the night. Even Jack went out to go stand on a rooftop somewhere for a while. Ianto found himself alone in the hub.
He made his way through the lower archives to Lisa's room. Opening it quietly, he saw she was still sleeping. He checked all her monitors and gave her medication on autopilot. It had been three days since he'd last felt her presence in his mind. Checking the sensors one more time to ensure the hub was still empty, he finally lowered his mental barriers.
She was still there, a faint spark deep in the recesses of her sedated mind. Ianto stroked her face gently and whispered to her, describing what their life would be like when she was better. The spark grew slowly til it glowed warmly. But it remained buried and disconnected from his own mind. A quiet beeping broke his concentration and alerted Ianto to Jack's return to the hub. He slammed up his barriers before kissing Lisa goodnight.
Tomorrow, everything would change.
Dr. Tanizaki's flight was scheduled to arrive at 6am, and Ianto was ready and waiting for him by 5:30. He had been in contact with the specialist over the past month or so, but he'd been unwilling to provide too much information over the phone or through email for fear of being discovered. Torchwood was a paranoid organization and he wouldn't put it past Jack to go snooping though his communications. Although, knowing Jack it would probably be motivated more by boredom than actual suspicion.
Instead, Ianto created a paper file with everything he could to help the doctor understand the situation. He documented her medications and the struggle they'd gone through to find the correct dosages. Schematics for the cyberunit and what he'd done to augment it to fit Lisa's needs were drawn with the precision of an engineer even though Ianto had no understanding of the mechanics behind his actions. He'd been following Lisa's instructions and he hoped he'd remembered enough of his actions in those desperate hours.
The drive from the airport to the hotel was mostly silent. Ianto pushed away exhaustion and the urge to throw up as he concentrated on the road, hyper-aware of each time the doctor turned to a new page in the file. Occasionally, Dr. Tanizaki would mumble to himself in Japanese and Ianto could only make out a few words in his limited understanding of the language.
He dropped the doctor off at the hotel with instructions on when and how to get into the hub. The drive back to the Plass was a blur. Excitement and fear competed for control of his mind and Ianto felt himself nearing an emotional shutdown. Walking down the hall to the main cog door of the hub, he paused to compose himself.
Laughter and shouts of excitement echoed off the stone walls and he found himself walking in on the tail end of a pick-up match in the center of the hub. A basketball was being thrown madly about and the team was yelling out playful taunts and cheers. It always happened after particularly stressful cases—they would always end up blowing off steam in predictably juvenile ways in an effort to balance out the negative. Sometimes it would manifest in a prank war or a pub brawl. There were usually injuries that were cherished as signs they were all still human.
Ianto entered unnoticed by the others and he had to push down the hurt that conflicted with relief. He needed to be invisible. Lisa was priority, even over his desire to connect to the others. He barely had time to react to Jack tossing the ball at him as the team filed out to continue their merriment elsewhere. As soon as the door closed behind them, he threw the ball down and got to work.
A couple hours later, Ianto was just finishing placing the team's dinner order at the local pizzeria when he heard the doors open. Glancing up, his heart jumped to see Dr. Tanizaki standing there staring up in awe at the hub's expansive ceiling. This was the day he'd been preparing for since the Battle. As he hung up the phone, he walked over to the stunned doctor.
"Good to see you again, sir. Are they looking after you at the hotel?" he asked nervously, then realized he was forgetting important cultural rituals. Coming to a stop in front of Dr. Tanizaki, he bowed at the waist. "Konnichiwa, Tanizaki-san."
The doctor responded in kind, and Ianto took his briefcase and led him down through the archives to Lisa's room. The nervousness was still there, but for the first time in months it was now accompanied by hope. As he opened the lock on the door, he turned to the doctor. This was it—he was no longer alone in his struggle to keep her alive. He desperately wanted this man to understand how much that meant to him. "I did all I could. I really did." He wanted to say more, but no words followed. Instead, he opened the door.
Ianto walked straight up to Lisa and stepped up onto the unit's frame to be as close to her as possible. He felt suddenly very protective.
"My God! It's not possible. One of them survived!" The doctor's shock was barely readable through his excitement.
Ianto kissed Lisa gently on the lips before looking back at Tanizaki. "This is Lisa."
Lisa moved slightly but her eyes remained closed.
"Is she awake?"
Shaking his head sadly, Ianto replied, "It's just a reaction to the medication."
Dr. Tanizaki's excitement finally spurred him into action. He put on his glasses and came closer to get a better look. "She's the only one left. Across the whole world." Suddenly, he turned and shook Ianto's hand. "Thank you, thank you so much! Bringing me here, I never thought..." He trailed off as he started his close examination. He checked her pupil dilation while he continued talking in amazement. "to get my chance to study, to work with anything like this..."
Ianto's felt his stomach drop at the doctor's choice of words. "Anyone."he corrected.
"Tell me what happened?" Dr. Tanizaki asked as he continued examining Lisa's legs.
Ianto took a breath. He'd never told anyone what he'd gone through in London. "She worked for Torchwood London. It was the end of the Canary Wharf battle. The Cybermen needed soldiers fast. They started upgrading whole bodies instead of transplanting brains using Earth technology. Lisa was halfway through the process when the machinery shut down." He grabbed hold of Lisa's cold hand to ground himself. Images and sounds were starting to flash in his mind—screams, the shoe in the rubble, fire.
"You found her?" Tanizaki's voice sounded so far away. Ianto found himself back in that hallway, dragging her body through the burning, screaming for help before he knew the people coming to rescue survivors would be executing the partially converted.
"I pulled her out."
"Do you know the percentages?"
The question snapped Ianto back to the present. "The what?" he asked, confused.
Dr. Tanizaki continued, oblivious to the younger man's grief and internal struggle. "Some elements have been augmented. Some are still human. Sensory capacity, for instance. Her breathing and hearing appears completely cybernetic. And yet, there's also bare flesh."
Protective instincts pushed his own misery to the background as Ianto watched the doctor start moving his hands over Lisa's stomach. He choked when he watched those hands callously use her metal-covered breasts to push himself back down off the unit. Tanizaki continued talking as he stared at her in fascination, "Perhaps 55% augmentation with 45% awaiting completion. Do you think? Or perhaps, maybe 60/40. It's fascinating." His hands returned to Lisa's hips.
"Can you make her human again?" Ianto was desperate to focus the doctor back on the true reason they had contacted him.
"You took parts from a Cyber-conversion unit and modified them into a life support for her? How did you know what to do?"
Before Ianto could respond, a third voice spoke. "I told him."
Both men snapped their heads in Lisa's direction. Ianto rushed to be closer again, near to tears of delight when he felt her presence slowly awaken in his mind for the first time in days. "I thought you were resting. You should be resting. How's the pain? Are the new doses working?"
He was rewarded when she opened her eyes and looked at him.
"A little." her voice trailed off in a groan of pain. Her eyes swept through the room before settling on the newcomer. "Is this him?"
Ianto smiled and nodded. "I promised, didn't I?"
"And you always keep your promises." It was reassuring to hear her say the correct response to words they had said so many times in happier days. He could only nod and fight the tears the words now brought.
"I would like to ask her some questions." Ianto felt a brief moment of frustration before he reminded himself that they were limited on time. The team could return at any moment. He nodded. Tanizaki continued, this time addressing Lisa directly, "My name is Dr. Tanizaki. I specialize in cybernetics. Your friend, Mr. Jones, asked me..."
Lisa interrupted him. "My boyfriend." Ianto's heart jumped hearing the old Lisa.
"Yes. He asked me to come."
Lisa looked up at Ianto. "We agreed, together."
"A few simple questions. What is your name."
The doctor started taking notes. "How old are you?"
"What is the last thing you remember before coming here?"
Ianto could feel Lisa's mind shift, saw the images the question dragged to the front of her memory. His own pain mixed with hers as they both remembered the pain and terror.
"Pain. I remember my body burning with pain." Tears started making their way down her face. She looked to Ianto for comfort.
Tanizaki turned to address Ianto again. "You said there was somewhere I could work upstairs?"
It took some time, but finally they were able to get Lisa extracted from the unit's table and move her to the autopsy lab. Ianto checked the monitors constantly to make sure they weren't about to be interrupted by the teams unexpected return while the doctor worked on Lisa. True to his reputation, the man was a genius when it came to cybernetics and had results within an hour.
"This first stage should enable her to breathe without the respirator," he explained while injecting and checking his computer, "Once her body functions without support, I can judge what work is needed."
Ianto was alarmed at the speed he was working and doubts resurfaced. "What if she's not ready to breathe on her own?"
Tanizaki looked at him seriously, "You must be prepared for her not to survive. Sometimes, in order to save what we love, we have to risk losing it."
"She's not strong enough!" I'm not strong enough to lose her!
"Let me do my work!" Tanizaki said firmly.
The next few moments were longer than anything Ianto had ever experienced. Lisa was struggling, physically and emotionally. Ianto shot a look at the doctor. "If she dies because of you..." he was cut off by the most beautiful sound—Lisa took her first breath.
"Ianto?" her voice was full of amazement.
He rushed to her side. "Yes, I'm here!" Doubt was destroyed by overwhelming hope. "She's breathing! It worked!"
"Why aren't I connected?" She seemed confused at the change.
"You're alive!" Ianto exclaimed, kissing her. "He kept you alive!"
Lisa looked over at Dr. Tanizaki. "Thank you."
The doctor smiled. "This is only the start."
Suddenly, a beeping noise broke through the moment and Ianto felt cold dread in his stomach. It was the hub monitor. He ran to the computer to see the entire team entering through the tourist office. They had limited time before everything they'd accomplished would be destroyed.
"We've got to move. Quickly!" He frantically began detaching Lisa from monitors and Tanizaki grabbed his equipment. When Ianto tried to carry Lisa, she stopped him.
"You've only just woken up. You can't..."
"I want to walk. Please." She gave him the look he could never refuse. Relenting, he helped her stand instead, before turning to Tanizaki who was supporting her other side.
"Help her downstairs. I'll clear up here." The team would be through the door in less than five minutes. He focused on clearing autopsy of any evidence they had been there.
"I'm alive." Lisa's voice made him pause and look at her. He reveled for a moment at the sight and feel of her in his mind. Then, they were gone and Ianto quickly got back to work. He'd barely finished when the team burst through the hub door in a flourish of activity.
They were clearly in work-mode. Jack was shouting out orders and the others were rushing to respond. No one saw him standing there. He was surprised they couldn't hear his heartbeat.
"Ianto!" Jack's voice cut through him like a knife. He knows. He knows. Oh gods, he knows... Ianto closed his eyes and kept his back to the man who would surely kill him where he stood. "Would you work some coffee magic?"
He composed his face to his normal stoic mask before turning to face his fate, certain that it was a ploy. But instead of the barrel of a gun, he saw Jack silently beg with his hands together as though in prayer. He gave a nod and moved off before Jack could get a good look at him.
He went through the motions of making coffee while his mind raced. Suddenly, the connection to Lisa was gone. Seconds later, the lights began flickering.
"What's happening?" Gwen voiced everyone's question.
Tosh hit a few keys at her computer. "Internal power drain."
"What's causing it?" Gwen asked.
NO! Ianto watched Jack walk out of his office and for a moment he feared the man had heard his thoughts.
"Something big to drain that amount of power." Jack answered before Tosh had the chance. "Tosh, run a system diagnostic."
NO! NO! NO!
"Actually," Ianto started, thinking fast and trying not to faint when four sets of eyes turned to him. "We've been having generator problems all evening. I was down there checking earlier. Couple of bits of cabling have come loose. I thought I'd fixed it." Everyone kept staring. "Let me have another look." For a moment, he thought they could see right through him—like he had a sign above his head revealing his secret. Then, Jack nodded.
"Fine. Go check."
Ianto immediately moved into action, trying to remain calm.
"Want some help?" Gwen asked, always eager to help.
Ianto didn't even pause his steps or turn around. "It's fine."
The second his foot hit the archives he took off at a sprint. Lights were flickering and making it hard to see, but he could find his way to that room blindfolded and drunk. He tried reaching out with his mind to find his Lisa, but there was nothing. Not a spark. Not a glow. Not even the empty space he had grown accustomed to feeling when she would fade. He was floundering in the psychic void and it only fueled his panic.
He exploded into Lisa's room only to find it in complete chaos. Smoke and steam was lit by flickering red and white lights, and Ianto fought to keep his mind in the present and away from the tower. "You've got to shut down the power!" He couldn't see the doctor or Lisa through the smoke, so he ran to the cyberunit and turned it off. As he turned around, he was confronted by the mutilated body of Dr. Tanizaki.
Ianto had seen bodies like this before. In the tower, in the cyberunits, in his dreams every night for months. "Oh, God! Oh my God! What happened?" In the smoke, he could barely make out the shape of Lisa standing by the door. He'd run right past her. Looking back at the doctor's body, he couldn't comprehend what it was seeing. Had the unit malfunctioned? Some fail-safe get triggered and try to convert him? His face was in shreds, bits of metal replacing his eyes and what looked like a pipe was sticking out the side of his skull.
"His upgrade failed." Lisa's mechanical voice didn't initially penetrate through his panic.
"Was it an accident?" Suddenly, her words registered and he stopped in horror. "Tell me you didn't do this."
"I wanted to repay him for helping me. By removing the weaknesses of his humanity." Her voice held no emotion but the familiar distortion of the tone made him shake.
Despair filled him as he slowly began to truly understand. "What have you done? You've killed an innocent man!"
"It's all right."
"It's not all right!" Ianto started shouting, "They're going to come looking for me in a minute! If they see the body, if they find out what we've been doing..."
Lisa finished his sentence, "I can deal with them."
Emotions were slamming through him so quickly, Ianto felt like he was standing on top of a racing train. He had never considered this as an outcome. Worst case scenario had always been Jack finding out and killing them both. Contrary to Tanizaki's earlier statements, Ianto had been aware of the possibility that Lisa would not survive. But in his mind she was would always die with dignity, as herself and not as the monster he saw standing before him now.
"Don't you go near them!" he screamed. Fear of his coworkers was quickly replaced with fear for them. He grabbed fistfuls of his hair, "You didn't mean to do this. Something's happened to your mind. Just, um, some kind of side effect from this whole process. It's post-traumatic. You didn't mean to..." He stopped, unable to convince himself. Even if by some miracle he was able to escape with her and get her better, it would never bring Tanizaki back to life. "You've ruined everything now!" He lashed out, shoving her backwards. She barely moved a step—just continued to stare blankly at him. Cupping her cheek in his hand, he tried one last time to reach down into her mind and find his Lisa. Nothing. "How hard have we had to work to keep you alive? And now you do this." He leaned in, pressing their foreheads together. Nothing. "I need you to stay in here. Rest. Don't come out unless I tell you."
Tanizaki's mangled body became priority. Sightless metal eyes disturbed him more than the blood. He glanced back at Lisa where she stood unmoving. "This can't happen again, Lisa. If you harm anyone else, I'll..."
"Yes? What will you do?" Her mechanized voice challenged him, and he realized for the first time that he was in much more danger than just Jack and the team killing him. He stared at her, trying to see the woman who would bring him lunch, who patiently held his hand until he would stop shaking at the contact, who wouldn't take no for an answer. The woman who taught him to love, who was so bright she shone through his hopelessness and gave him a reason to live.
He looked back at the body, on autopilot. He knew how to clean up messes, "Okay, the body. Got to deal with the body. I can do this." He knelt by the dead man, guilt bringing him to tears, "This is my fault. I'm responsible for this." He grabbed Tanizaki and started making his way to the hallway. "I'll hide the body. Everything's gonna be okay." He directed his words to Lisa, but he knew he was trying to convince himself more than her. He closed the door behind him as he wrestled with Tanizaki's body.
He dragged the body through the hall, trying to figure out his next move. But he couldn't focus on anything past the fact that this body seemed heavier than Lisa's was encased in metal. Finally, he came upon an unused room. Laying the body on the floor, he covered it with a piece of tarp. "I'm sorry," he cried. He wasn't sure how much time had passed, but he knew with the lights flickering again that Jack and the others were probably on their way if they weren't already in the archives.
The sound of Gwen screaming broke through his thoughts and had him running back to the room in time to see Jack raise his gun to fire at Lisa. Without thinking, Ianto slammed his body into Jack, causing the shot to go wild and hit a water pipe instead.
"She doesn't know what she's doing!" Ianto tried desperately to protect her. She was all he had left.
Jack shoved Ianto back and growled, "You are fighting the wrong guy!"
"Get me out of here! Someone, please!" Gwen's screams stopped any further fighting. Ianto saw that she was strapped down into the unit, and that the conversion blades were spinning as they moved closer to her face. Both men moved to her side as she kept screaming for them to switch off the machine.
Ianto tried pressing the controls, but it did nothing. "I'm trying! She's changed all the circuits." Slamming his fist into the console, he turned to Jack, "Shut off the power everywhere!"
He was surprised when Jack immediately reacted by speaking into his wrist comm, "Toshiko, cut all power in the base."
Everyone heard her respond, "I do that, the base goes into lockdown! We'll be trapped..."
Jack cut her off, "Just do it!" Seconds later, the blades stopped moving, the lights stopped flickering, and it was silent.
Ianto watched Jack turn to kneel on the floor and he realized that Owen was laying there unmoving. Panic and guilt roared through him at the thought that yet another doctor was lying dead because of him. Jack quickly got back up and moved to check Gwen, and Ianto still wasn't sure if the man was alive or not. He could hear Gwen and Jack speaking to each other, but he couldn't make out the words. Everything sounded like was underwater until Jack was suddenly speaking directly to him. "Stand guard by the door."
Ianto bent to pick a flashlight up off the floor and when he looked back up he saw Gwen's terror-filled face. "I'm sorry. I'm really sorry." There was nothing else he could say to fix what had happened—what was still happening. So he stood by the door and stared out into the hall.
"What for?" He heard Gwen ask, her voice laced with confusion.
"Let's just get out of here." Jack's voice was sharp as steel, and Ianto knew that he had figured it out. Probably had since before Ianto had stopped his bullet from hitting its target.
Once Gwen was released from the table and Jack had Owen up over his shoulders, the four of them made their way through the hallway with Ianto in the lead.
They were slowly moving through the archives when Lisa suddenly appeared, blocking their way.
"Oh, God, there she is! What is she?" Gwen gasped in terror.
Jack responded before Ianto's brain could process the question. "Some form of Cyberman. They're us, upgraded. Humans with emotions removed, created on a parallel world and supposedly destroyed in this one."
"What are we gonna do?" Gwen whispered.
"I don't know."
Ianto was completely focused on Lisa. He tried again to reach out his mind to hers, and again found nothing. Then, just as quickly as appeared, she stepped back into the darkness and out of sight.
"She's gone." The words left Ianto's lips with the breath he'd been holding. He stared where she'd been standing, forgetting that Jack and Gwen were still there until he felt the muzzle of a gun against the side of his head.
"Get us back to the Hub." Anger poured off Jack and moved Ianto forward.
Gwen looked horrified and confused, "Jack, what are you doing?"
"Resisting the urge to shoot."
After that, the group made their way back up to the hub in silence. Owen awoke with a groan and Jack set him down on the steps without ever taking his gun or gaze off Ianto. As soon as Owen was sitting and stable, Jack grabbed Ianto by the shoulders in a tight grip and led the unresistant man further into the main area. He began barking out orders. "Tosh, get everything from the weapons room. Fast as you can."
"It's locked down. There's no manual override." Tosh protested.
"Just open the store!" he shouted back, causing Tosh to jump up and run to the weapons locker without further questioning.
Jack spun Ianto around. "On your knees. Hands above your head."
Ianto complied immediately. He was barely even there anymore.
He heard Tosh gasp in the background, "Jack, for God's sake, what are you doing?"
Jack's cold voice never wavered. "Tosh, I gave you an order!" He quickly added, "Gwen, help her!" before the Welsh woman could join the protest. Gwen ran to help. Jack lowered his voice as he addressed Ianto. "Did you know that thing was down there?"
"I put her there." Ianto answered, his voice empty and hollow.
Anger turned to incredulous rage as he grabbed Ianto's hair. "You hid a Cyberman within Torchwood? And you didn't tell us? What else are you keeping from us?"
Ianto finally looked straight at Jack. Hurt and anger rose as he felt something break inside him. "Like you care," he sneered into Jack's shocked face, "I clean up your shit. No questions asked and that's the way you like it. When did you last ask me anything about my life?" He saw the question cut into Jack, saw the man mentally go through the last several weeks as Ianto had slowly faded and become invisible.
Jack released him, lowered his gun, and looked at Ianto like he was seeing him for the first time.
Ianto felt his battered shields shake as Jack continued to stare at him. He'd lowered them so many times through the evening to try and reach Lisa that now he struggled to keep them in place. He shook his head and stared forward, trying to pull them back up. "Her name's Lisa. She's my girlfriend."
"Why didn't you tell us? We could have helped you." Gwen's voice broke his concentration. He'd forgotten about the others.
"Torchwood exists to destroy alien threats. Why would I tell you about her?" Images of armed soldiers shooting survivors still strapped into the cyberunits flickered through his mind.
"A little loyalty, perhaps?"
Ianto scoffed at Owen's words. "My loyalty's to her!" He tried to explain, to make them see, "She worked for Torchwood. She was caught up in battle. I owe it to Lisa—we owe it to her—to find a cure."
"Ianto, you have to believe me. There is no cure. There never will be." Jack anger seemed to deflate, "Those
who are converted stay that way. Your girlfriend will not be the exception.
"You can't know that for sure..."
"Look, you need to know what's happening here." Jack's voice hardened again, "Because this is where these things start. Small decisions that become mass slaughter. These creatures regain a foothold by exploiting human weakness. Then they take a base. Rebuild their forces. And before you know it, the Cyber race is spreading out across the universe, erasing worlds, assimilating populations. All because of the tiny beginnings here. We need to stop her," he paused, "together!"
Ianto stood shakily, but determined to make them understand. "You're not listening to me. The conversion was never completed!"
"She already tried to kill Gwen! You think she's gonna stop there? There is no turning back for her now!"
But how can I turn back now? After everything I've done, it can't all be for nothing! "I'm not giving up on her. I love her. Can you understand that, Jack? Haven't you ever loved anyone?"
Jack gave him a hard look. "You need to figure out whose side you're on here. Because if you don't know, you're not going to make it out of this alive."
What life can I have without Lisa? Ianto thought. She had been his reason for waking up every morning since that first day she'd barged into his life and demanded a lunch date.
Owen interrupted his thoughts. "There's no way this weapons store's gonna open."
Tosh nodded, "It's going to take six hours for the power to come back online."
"Let me talk to her. I can still save her. Save all of us. She's not a monster." Ianto pleaded with his coworkers. He'd already done so much damage—it couldn't end without some chance of redemption.
The sound of heavy metal footsteps stopped everyone as they turned to see Lisa standing in the hub. Ianto immediately moved toward her. Gwen ran to stop him, "Ianto!" but he only had eyes for her.
"Lisa..." Ianto whispered, getting her attention, "It's me."
Gwen pleaded with Jack, "You can't just let him go!"
"Ssh!" Jack silenced her, attention completely on Ianto and Lisa.
Lisa glanced around at the hub, taking in everything. Her voice was mechanical and empty. "The army will be rebuilt from here. This building is suitable."
Jack spoke before Ianto could respond. "Who are you?"
"Human point two."
"No! Lisa..." Ianto sobbed.
Jack ignored him. "So how come you look like human point one?"
"I do not understand."
"Look at yourself. Go ahead." Jack nodded toward a reflective piece of metal next to her.
Lisa turned and stared at her reflection, emotion flickering across her face. Ianto was encouraged and tried again to reach her with his words and mind. "Remember, Lisa. Remember who you are." he begged, pouring his love through the connection that used to be there. But there was still nothing.
"The upgrade is incomplete." The metal voice echoed through the hub.
"You're still human." Ianto kept trying as he stepped closer to her.
"I am...disgusting. I have—I am—wrong."
"We can help you." He hoped that her revulsion was a sign that Lisa was still somewhere buried beneath the metal.
"I must start again. Upgrade properly."
His heart sank even as he moved closer. There was no turning back. He knew this was his last chance. "For God's sake, have you heard yourself? Lisa, please. I brought you here to heal you. So we could be together."
The cyberwoman turned to look at him. "Together. Yes. Transplant my brain into your body." The words broke Ianto's heart. It continued over his cries. "The two of us—together. Fused. We'll be one complete person. Isn't that what love is?"
"No." Ianto sobbed, defeated.
"Then we are not compatible." Without any warning, the silver hand grabbed Ianto by the throat and effortlessly tossed him across the room. He landed hard on the cement floor, and then there was nothing.
Ianto knew he was dead. There was no other explanation. He was floating, body-less, in a void. No light, no sound, no feeling or smell or passage of time. Eternities passed as he simply existed, suspended without thought or memory beyond the knowledge that he was no longer attached to any physical vessel.
As eons turned into seconds, and seconds turned into centuries, and centuries turned into hours, he became aware of a sensation. There were no words to assign the feeling because there was no language in the void, but as it grew, he realized he was moving.
Moving. What is 'moving?'
Then, moving grew into pulling.
Pulling became falling...
Ianto opened his eyes and gasped what felt like his first breath. He was startled by cold air invading his lungs, the roaring sound caused by blood rushing through veins and arteries, and the shock of seeing so much color and light.
"Ssh!" The sound came from a blur above him. It was a man. Jack. His name is Jack. Ianto remembered, confused at the emotions that name evoked. He realized the man—Jack–was holding him, and that they were practically lying in something freezing and wet. He could feel so much, both inside and out. Emotions were pouring off of Jack. They filled his mind and mixed with his own until he couldn't feel where he ended and Jack began.
A distorted scream pierced through Ianto's thoughts, and he was suddenly overwhelmed by memories and understanding. Lisa! He leaped to his feet, determined to get to her. He followed the sound to a room—autopsy bay, where the dead are studied—and found a man and woman—Owen and Gwen—standing back and staring at the unmoving body covered in metal. He ran and knelt down by it.
"It was kill or be killed." Owen's words were accompanied by a sliver of sympathy that was almost drowned out by the compassion and fear radiating off of Gwen.
"Owen's right. There was no choice."
Ianto said nothing as he stared at Lisa's face. He felt nothing from her except the now-familiar void, and a part of him longed to return to that existence. When her eyes opened, Ianto jumped back. There had been no warning, no spark of consciousness to alert him to her waking. He stood frozen in horror.
"Ianto, move! Get out!" Gwen shouted. When he didn't respond, she pushed him up the stairs, "Get out I said! Move! Move!"
The three of them ran back to where Jack now stood, gathering supplies.
"You should be dead." Owen said, stunned.
Jack smiled grimly, "I'm the stubborn type." He picked up the blowtorch and sauce bottle from the table and turned to face the approaching cyberwoman. "Get behind me!" he yelled over his shoulder, never taking his eyes off the metal mockery of a woman, "That's right. Stay back. This will at least give you heartburn."
"The power will run out. I can wait."
"Jack, help her. Give her a chance to surrender," Ianto finally spoke. He felt his voice send vibrations through his throat and chest, but he pushed it aside to focus on the immediate situation. He tried to step forward, but he felt Owen and Gwen grab hold of him. He struggled in their grip as memories began to creep back into his mind and he remembered that he hated being restrained and touched.
"Have you not seen what she's done?" Owen tried reasoning with him.
Ianto continued to fight their hold, "Let her stay in the cells! We have to reverse the process!" They were just words to him—words that floated into his mind but had no real meaning.
"I've told you! We're past that! Hold him back!" Jack ordered.
"What are you gonna do?" Gwen hesitantly asked.
"Don't ask questions, just get him on there and hold him!" Jack turned away from them and Ianto felt himself being pushed up onto a step—the lift platform. He watched as Jack sprayed what used to be Lisa with sauce, and he couldn't identify why if filled him with such horror.
"What is that stuff?" Gwen shouted from the lift.
"Kind of a barbecue sauce. It helps it identify its food."
"Help what identify its food?" she asked as Jack threw down the blowtorch and ran to join them on the lift.
Ianto felt a sudden spike of sorrow and realized it was coming from Jack. He turned and saw Jack looking at him.
"I'm sorry." It was all the warning they had before Jack pressed buttons on his wristband. The screech from high above them was deafening and they all looked up in time to see Myfanwy soar from her perch to seek out her food. Ianto realized what the sauce was for—he had been the one to develop it after weeks of research. "Come on, Tosh. Hurry up!" Jack muttered impatiently as they waited for the power to return.
"You'll kill her!" Ianto cried out. They watched as the ancient creature swooped down and started attacking her meal of metal and flesh. Mechanized human shrieks blended with the animal's screams. A blast of confusion and pain ripped through Ianto's head as the two viciously began fighting—Myfanwy was picking up on everyone's distress and was broadcasting her own heightened emotions back to them. Ianto fought the hands holding him, "Let me go! Let me help her!" He wasn't even sure he could identify which 'her' he was referring to—so many emotions were coming at him from all directions. He could feel his coworkers' fear and desperation, Jack's anger mixed with regret, Myfanwy's pain with each blow and satisfaction for every successful strike back. He sought blindly for Lisa, his anchor and rock, but he couldn't even find the void. Ianto stared through the tears, trying to make out the silver shape between the flapping of leathery wings.
Lights flickered. Jack yelled, "Hold him still!" right before the power kicked back in and the lift began to slowly rise to the Plass. They all watched in horror as the cyberwoman landed a blow to Myfanwy that knocked the creature across the hub, but she quickly flew back in for an attack that had the abomination on the ground and unable to fight back.
"NO! Call it off her! You can do that!" Jack ignored his pleas. The cyberwoman's screams were all that could be heard now as Myfanwy became the clear winner. "Have some fucking mercy!" He couldn't think as panic overran his senses. "No!"
Finally, the lift rose above the gruesome sight. The fresh night air was a shock to everyone as they came out of hell and into a cold Cardiff night. As the lift came to a stop, Ianto found himself suddenly free to move and he quickly put some distance between himself and the others. Grief was eating its way through his body. His mind felt like one giant raw nerve and each person's emotions were spikes grating across an open wound. He felt Toshiko's excitement and joy before he heard her call out to them as she ran toward the team.
"It worked!" She yelled, sprinting toward them with open arms. Her intense joy turned to concern as she looked around at everyone's faces. "What happened to...?"
Jack stopped her with a shake of his head. "No," he added as he tried to catch his breath.
At the sound of his voice, Ianto turned. Rage filled him, and before anyone could stop him he rushed forward and punched Jack in the face, screaming, "You could have saved her!"
Gwen and Owen quickly separated the two. The worry and compassion radiating off of the Welsh woman was enough to keep Ianto back. Instead, he focused a hateful glare at Jack. "You're worse than anything locked up down there. One day, I'll have the chance to save you—and I'll watch you suffer and die."
Hurt and anger invaded Ianto's mind as Jack pushed against Owen. "It was the only thing that would stop her!"
"Listen," Tosh started, hoping to focus them back on the situation with some amount of good news, "when I was at reception, I managed to trip the lockdown timer. The power should be coming back on any second. We can get back in!"
Ianto didn't even wait for her to finish—he took off at a sprint back to the tourist office entrance before anyone could stop him.
"Ianto!" Jack yelled after him, but he didn't stop. Ianto had no idea what he was going to do, but he refused to let her die alone. Possibilities raced through his mind. Overdose on whatever drugs are in autopsy. Reinstate lockdown and burn it all out of existence. Return to the void. He felt the others close behind, but desperation fueled his every step. He heard them yelling, but words were meaningless.
As soon as he reached the tourist office, he grabbed the gun from behind the desk and turned just in time to confront the rest of the team as they burst through the door. Gwen saw the gun first and came to a dead stop, hands raised in an effort to calm him. "Ianto, don't be stupid."
"I've got nothing left to lose." As soon as he said the words, he knew they were true. He really did have nothing to lose. His entire existence was being ripped to shreds by the only other being he considered a friend. What could be left?
"there's always something left to lose." Jack said with absolute certainty.
Ianto swung the gun around to face the man he wanted to blame everything on. "I'm going back in to save her," he said. But all he could see was fire and the void, "Anybody tries to stop me, I'll shoot them." Please stay here, please don't interfere, please don't make me responsible for more death...
"Ianto, put the gun down." Gwen's words distracted him for just a split second. Suddenly, Jack had him by the wrist, twisting his arm behind his back and slammed him face first into the wall. The gun fell to the floor, Jack's body pressed against him, and there was no escape. His mind drifted to other places, but came back to present when he felt the muzzle of the gun cold on his cheek.
"You make a threat like that, you better be prepared to follow it through," Jack snarled, "See, you disobey me now, I really will shoot you."
"Get off me!" He couldn't think straight in such close proximity to Jack and the team.
"You wanna go back in there? You go in to finish the job. If she's still alive, you execute her." Jack spun Ianto around to face him.
Ianto shook his head in disbelief, "No way."
Jack persisted, fueled by righteous anger, "You brought this down on us. You hid her. You hid yourself from us. Now it's
time for you to stand as part of the team."
His words shocked everyone in the room. Gwen stepped forward to touch Jack's shoulder, "Jack..." but he shrugged her off and remained focused on broken man gasping in front of him.
"The girl you loved has gone. Your loyalty is to us now," he said in a softer voice.
"You can't order me to do that."
"You execute her or I'll execute you both!" Rage ran through him again.
Ianto stared at Jack like he'd never seen him before, "I won't do it. You can't make me. You like to think you're a hero. But
you're the biggest monster of all." His tone was calm but he was sure Jack knew they were sincere.
"I'm giving you ten minutes. Then we're coming in."
There was really no turning back now. The ultimatum was set. Ianto looked at the team—they stared back, frozen by the intensity of the moment.
"Pick it up," Jack ordered.
Looking down, Ianto saw the gun he'd dropped. It didn't look real. It didn't even feel real when he reached down and held it in his hand. He looked one last time at the others, then turned to face what awaited him below.
The journey back into the hub was short, and when he opened the cog door, Ianto didn't recognize the place. Blood and debris was everywhere, illuminated by the flashing alarm lights. The sight of pizza boxes caused him to pause and he knew they were significant. Myfanwy shrieked from her perch. She was clearly upset by the days events and the violence she'd had to endure and witness.
A computer monitor caught his eye with the words ALERT POWER LOSS 19% filling the screen. Looking around, Ianto realized that Lisa was nowhere to be seen. A sickening hope turned his stomach when he realized that she might have survived. That she was recharging, regrouping. That this couldn't just be over. He ran the familiar path through the archives to her room and burst into the room. And suddenly, he couldn't breathe.
Lisa's metal-covered body is lying on the floor, covered in blood and not moving. Her eyes are open, staring unseen, empty of even artificial life. Ianto fell to his knees next to her shattered body and slowly tried to gather her in his arms. Metal parts fell away from her skull and he began to sob in grief and relief. My sweet, sweet girl. I'm so sorry it ended like this. We should have died in the tower...
"Ianto," a soft female voice came from across the room.
Instincts kicked in as he grabbed the gun to face the intruder and protect what was left of his and Lisa's dignity. There was a girl wearing the uniform of the local pizzeria. Her clothes and face were covered in blood and a deep cut went all the way across her forehead like she'd been scalped.
"Ianto, it's me," she continued in a gentle voice, "It's Lisa." She walked toward him. "I'm human again. You fought so hard for me, I had to hold on for you, so I took this body and transplanted the brain."
There was a shadow of Lisa twisted through the emotions scalding Ianto's mind, but it was only a mockery of the girl he loved. He looked back at Lisa's body lying in pool of blood before looking back at the girl. "You're not Lisa."
"You always said you didn't love me for what I looked like," she gave a little laugh and Ianto felt betrayed by the memories being accessed in Lisa's brain. "Last time you said that, it was a Saturday. We were hungover. You made cheese toasties, and moaned I hadn't de-scaled my kettle." The memory of that morning came bright and clear to Ianto's mind and he wept knowing he could never have that back. "That night, we camped on a beach in Brittany. It got so freezing we wore our coats and shared one sleeping bag. When we woke up the next morning, a dog was pissing on our tent."
He remembered their first night sleeping side-by-side, his fear and desire for closeness swimming together in a sea of whiskey and love.
"Hold me, Ianto. I need you to hold me. I need you to tell me it's all right." Tears fell, mixing with blood down the girl's face.
Sobbing, Ianto stepped forward and wrapped his arms around her. But while she spoke Lisa's memories, she felt nothing like her. The foreign mind caused Ianto's gut to twist and he felt sick. Stepping back, he cocked the gun and pointed it directly at her.
"What are you doing? Ianto, it's me! You wouldn't shoot me. I did this for you!"
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry," Ianto cried, but after a moment he knew he couldn't shoot her. She may be an abomination now, but this young girl in the pizza uniform was just another victim to add to Ianto's guilt. She came her because of him, and now she was just a vessel carrying a damaged mind. Shaking, Ianto lowered his gun as grief and guilt consumed him. So many lives had been ruined in just a few short hours. The damage was too much to mend. This ending was beyond his worst nightmares. He started to turn away from the girl to return to Lisa's body when he heard her speak again.
"We can be upgraded ... together."
Gunfire sounded from behind him and he watched the girl's stomach take the impact. Turning around, Ianto saw the Torchwood team standing in the doorway with their guns drawn. He had forgotten about them. He stared, frozen, as they continued firing into the girl's body until she fell back against the cyber unit, dead. Only then did they lower their guns and look at Ianto.
The girl's presence disappeared and left his mind hollowed out. Ianto fell to his knees between the two bodies. Shock settled over him like a cold blanket and suddenly everything felt very distant and surreal. Closing his eyes, he waited for Jack to return him to the void. Blood and water seeped up his pant legs and clung to his skin but he could barely feel it. He longed for the nothingness Jack had pulled him out of a lifetime ago.
Hushed voices drifted in and out of his consciousness, but they held no meaning. Something shook his shoulder and he opened his eyes to see Owen crouched down in front of him. The thin, wide lips were moving without making a sound. Owen frowned and shook him again. Ianto didn't understand what he wanted.
Hands grasped him from behind, sliding under his arms and pulling him up to his feet. Ianto's legs wouldn't cooperate—they had no strength and he quickly fell back to the ground. His knees slammed into the concrete and he suddenly felt pain radiate through his legs. He gasped and caught himself with his hands before he could fall face first into the pool of blood. Blood that now covered his hands.
Gagging, Ianto scrambled backwards trying to escape the smell of metal. Hands grabbed him again, restraining his movements. A sense of calm flowed into him and soothed his panic. Slowly, he found his senses returning enough to make out the words being said around him.
"...in psychic shock."
"Well, I don't know anything about psychic shock, but if it's anything like normal physical shock then we need to get him out of here and warmed up. He's fucking freezing."
More hands settled on him and he was again lifted to his feet and held up by Jack and Owen. He struggled halfheartedly but there was no fighting the calm that intensified. "Ssh, stop. Just walk, that's right, just keep walking." And so they walked slowly all the way back to the hub with Jack whispering to him gentle orders.
Gwen and Tosh were cleaning up the hub when the three men emerged from the depths. The lights were back on, bathing everything in a harsh white glow. He felt nothing at the sight of the blood and destruction—nothing but the forced calm emanating from Jack.
The girls gasped when they caught sight of the trio and when their emotions hit Ianto he barely had the energy to whimper.
"Owen, we need to get him cleaned up and calmed down." Jack said in a strained voice.
Ianto looked over at the captain's face. It took several seconds for his eyes to focus but when they did he saw the sweat beaded on his brow. The anger seemed to be gone. Instinctively, Ianto found his mind trying to reach out and gauge those around him.
"No!" Jack hissed, and then Ianto felt a burning in his head like never before. He gasped and tried to curl in on himself but he was being held too tightly.
"Bloody hell! Now what?"
Jack didn't answer. Instead he shifted which arm he was using to hold Ianto up and moved his freed hand to cup the base of the young man's neck. Immediately, some of the pain lessened. Leaning in, Jack spoke in a low voice, "Ianto, listen to me. Your shields are down and you are in psychic shock. Do you know what that is?" Ianto shook his head and whimpered again. "That's okay. You've overloaded your brain and took in too much. That's why it hurts. Right now, I'm trying to buffer what the others are projecting, but I'm a little out of practice. So I need you to just..." he struggled to find the right words, "just stay in your own head, okay? No sending out feelers anymore. I can keep them out, but I can't keep you in. Understand?"
Ianto didn't quite get everything Jack said, but he understood the basics. Jack was in his head, his shields were down, and no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't figure out how to bring them back up.
"No, no, no, Ianto. Don't try right now. It won't work until you're rested and able to focus again. One thing at a time." Sweat was rolling down Jack's face. "First things first, let's get you to the showers."
Ianto let them walk him to the team's shower facilities, confused as to how he was still alive. Why Jack didn't kill him like he'd promised he would. Why he hadn't just locked the room, set it ablaze, and sent Ianto to join the two Lisas in death. Why everyone was being so nice when they should hate him.
The Torchwood showers weren't anything special—just your typical locker room setup with an underground bunker flair. They got Ianto over to a bench and eased him down. But when hands started to remove his jacket and button shirt, even the forced calm couldn't suppress the instinct to panic and escape.
No no no no... He wrenched himself out of their grasp and scrambled on the floor to find safety. Blindly he crawled into the corner of one of the shower stalls and huddled there with his knees drawn up to his chest, pulling his jacket tight around his shaking frame. Now that Jack was no longer in contact with him, his mind was once again open to those in the room.
"Ianto," glazed eyes looked up to meet the dark gaze of Owen, "That's it, mate, look at me. You need to calm down and get cleaned up. Do you think you can manage that without our help?" The question was sincere—Ianto felt no deception. But a glance past Owen showed Jack still standing there observing them closely.
Ianto shook his head emphatically. Can't let Jack see, can't let anyone see, don't make me undress!
Owen mistook the negative gesture as the answer to his question. "Okay, then you've gotta let us get these clothes off you, yeah?" Slowly, Owen reached out his hands to untangle Ianto's arms to remove the jacket, but Ianto only tensed further and shook his head again. Owen sighed and looked back at Jack. "Any suggestions? You're the master of getting people to take their clothes off. Because I'm thinking a quick jab with a tranquilizer and just hosing him down may be our best bet at this point."
Ianto's head shot up at the doctor's words. No no no no!
"Actually, Owen, I don't think that's such a good idea." Jack had a funny look on his face, like he was listening to Ianto's thoughts. "Why don't you let me try."
Owen sighed again and moved out of the stall so Jack could take his place.
Ianto watched Jack, his unblinking gaze taking in every movement as the older man slowly knelt down next to him and set his hand on Ianto's knee. Instantly, the calm returned leaving Ianto feeling more vulnerable and open to Jack. He squirmed slightly, but offered no other resistance. "There you go," Jack said quietly, "just relax for a moment. Good," he offered a smile when he felt muscles slightly lose their tension, "Now, can you unfold your arms a bit? It'll help you breathe easier if you aren't crushing your own ribcage." Shaky limbs slowly let go of their death grip around his chest, and Ianto was surprised to find that Jack was right-it was easier to breathe. Jack gave him a brilliant smile that seemed to infuse warmth into their connection. "Very good, Ianto, much better. Just take a few deep breathes before we try anything else, okay?"
Breathing was supposed to be easy, but Ianto found he could barely do more than a shallow intake before having to let it back out. More calm and warmth flowed into him and finally he took a full breath. After several more, the tension in his head dissipate some and made thinking easier.
"Alright, now I'm going to help you take your jacket off," panic bubbled back up, almost undoing all the progress of the past several minutes. No no no no no! "Just the jacket, Ianto. One step at a time. Can you do that for me? Just the jacket."
Images of the past flickered in Ianto's mind—violent hands doling out punishments too harsh for anyone to endure, but especially a child.
"Oh, Ianto," Jack whispered, pulling the lost man out of his own personal hell, "look at me, come on, please look at me." Ianto dared a look, but instead of rage he saw only sadness. "I know I was very angry before, and we will talk about all of that later. But I promise you that right now, all I want to do is get you clean and warm. You have no reason to trust us, and I understand that, but you know I'm not lying." Jack stared into Ianto's confused eyes and gave him a steady, sincere look.
Finally, after an eternity of searching for some sign of deceit, Ianto gave a tiny nod. Jack rewarded him with another smile. "Okay, you may feel more comfortable standing. So let's try that, alright?" Keeping a hand on his knee, he offered the other one in assistance. Again, Ianto scrutinized the offer and Jack's intentions before accepting the helping hand.
Standing was difficult. His legs were numb and cramped and Jack had to steady him for a minute before he was steady enough to not collapse. Jack kept hold of his hand, using it as a conduit for grounding and calming Ianto. "May I help you with the jacket or can you get it?" Ianto shrugged, uncertain about both options. "How about I hold onto this sleeve and you just pull your arm out, okay?" Jack grasped the the cuff of the hand he wasn't holding. Ianto slowly removed his arm and shrugged it off his shoulder so it hung half in the floor. Jack then pulled the other sleeve off until the jacket was completely off. He let it drop to the ground, then kicked it in Owen's direction. "Very good, now do you want to work on the shirt or pants next?" Ianto already had his arms wrapped back around his middle in an effort to protect and comfort himself as he became more vulnerable. "Actually, why don't you come sit down next to Owen and we'll get these shoes off."
Owen scooted down the bench to give Ianto plenty of room. Once they were settled and Jack began to make quick work of the shoes, Owen shifted a little closer. "Alright, mate, let me see your wrist." Ianto didn't respond immediately, and Owen was worried he hadn't heard him so he tried again, "Ianto, I'm not a doctor for show, you know. I just want to check your pulse." Ever so slowly, Ianto finally extracted one arm from around his middle and placed it in Owen's outstretched hand. After a couple minutes, Owen released his arm and gave a pleased nod. "Better than before, but not quite back to where you need to be."
By then, Jack had removed both sets of socks and shoes from Ianto's feet. He tossed them into a pile with the blood-soaked jacket. They would burn them later. Looking back up into Ianto's face, Jack kept a hand on Ianto's knee to keep the young man calm through the next part. "Okay, we're halfway there. What's next? Pants or shirt?"
Ianto sucked in a breath—pants meant vulnerability for his nether regions, but shirt meant exposure of his scars. It was a toss up as to which scared him more.
Jack could sense the conflict even if he didn't know all the specifics. "How about this—to ensure your modesty, you can keep your underpants on, but that shirt needs to go." He didn't want to point out that Ianto's entire upper torso was covered in blood from carrying the body and holding Lisa's corpse. The pants weren't in much better shape but at least the majority of the damage was from the knees down.
After a long internal debate, Ianto silently started to unbutton his shirt and sleeve cuffs revealing a sleeveless undershirt. He tenderly pulled each arm out then handed the wadded up fabric to Jack who tossed it with the rest.
"Almost there," Jack said encouragingly, "want to stand and work on these pants? Then you can have a nice hot shower."
Ianto's fists clenched the fabric of his pants as he tried to sum up the courage and strength to stand and do as he was asked. He couldn't imagine what this was all about. Was Jack wanting him cleaned up so he could make his death look like an accident later? Maybe a staged suicide in his home? Or would he retcon all his memories away and dump him in some facility? How could the man go from threats of execution to this? He just wished things made sense.
"No, Ianto," Jack said firmly, startling him, "I told you—we will talk about all this later. But I have no plans to kill you, or hurt you in any way. I know things are confusing and I promise to explain, but there will be time for that later." Ianto stared, wondering how he was reading his thoughts. Picking up on other people's emotions were one thing, but telepathy? Jack chuckled. "Again, that falls into the category of later. Right now, the focus is showering. So, come on, up you go." With that, Jack tugged Ianto to his feet. "Unbutton these for me and I'll help you step out of them."
Ianto did as asked, and Jack made quick work of extracting his legs and tossing the ruined material. He stood to eye level with Ianto. "I'm going to get the water started so it can heat up. Go ahead and toss that undershirt. Owen will grab your spare outfit from your locker so you have something clean to change into afterward."
Jack walked away, and listened for sounds of compliance. He heard nothing. Sighing to himself, he got the water started then turned around ready to cajole the final piece of clothing from the stubborn man, but stopped. Owen had taken his place in front of Ianto and was talking in such a low tone he couldn't hear him over the sound of the water. Ianto kept nodding, then shaking his head in response to the doctor's words. Finally, Jack watched as Ianto huffed slightly before pulling the undershirt over his head. Owen took the shirt and threw it.
Jack walked over to them, "All set? I think the water is hot enough. You can adjust it however you like it. There's soap and shampoo and stuff already in there." Ianto nodded, refusing to look anywhere but the ground, and got in the shower.
Jack had to fight the urge to gasp when he saw Ianto's back. Now he understood why there had been such a fight over disrobing. The scars stood out in sharp contrast under the bright lights. Jack looked at Owen. The doctor was clearly not surprised by the sight, but instead offered a knowing nod to his boss. Without saying a word, Jack quickly gathered the pile of soiled clothes and bundled them into a bag for later incineration. Owen looked through Ianto's locker, but all he could find were suites—not what the doctor wanted his patient to change into. Instead, he grabbed only fresh underpants and socks, then went to his own locker and pulled out a pair of sweatpants and a long-sleeved t-shirt. As soon as Ianto was clean and dressed, Owen planned to dose him with sedatives and have him sleep for at least a good 12 hours.
Ianto stayed in the shower for a long time. At first, the hot water was soothing and he simply stood under it and let the heat run over him. Then he saw the blood swirling at his feet and he thought he'd be sick. Staring at his hands, he realized why this had been Jack and Owen's first priority—he was covered. The blood had soaked through all his clothing and left streaks all across his skin. He grabbed for the soap and washcloth and began scrubbing every surface until it was red and raw. He washed his hair three times before it ran clear, then did another scrubbing from head to toe. The soap was almost gone and the water was cooling off before he slowed down his frantic washing. He opened the hot water tap all the way for one last blast of scalding water and rinsed until that too started turning cold. He doubted just one shower would be able to wash away the last several months, but it would have to do for now.
Pulling aside the curtain, he saw a chair had been placed within arm's reach. It held a towel and soft clothing that definitely didn't come from his locker. He dried and redressed quickly. It felt good to be covered again. He hated feeling naked—even if he was alone. He'd never even been undressed around Lisa... Lisa! The thought of her brought a wave of pain.
Seconds later, Jack was standing outside the shower curtain, "Alright there Ianto?"
Ianto opened his mouth to reply, but couldn't find the words. Instead, he simply pulled back the curtain and stepped out, not looking at Jack. He sat down at the bench to put the socks on, then allowed the two men to escort him back up to the hub.
By now, the majority of the mess was gone. Ianto suspected alien tech had probably been used, although he had no sense of time—for all he knew, they'd been down in those showers for several hours. The girls were still there and it was only Jack's calming influence and makeshift barrier that kept him on his feet when they walked over.
"How are you, love? You look much better." Gwen was all sympathy. Even after being nearly converted she still had the capacity for compassion. Ianto simply nodded, but wouldn't look at anyone.
"I think we're done here for tonight, Jack. Unless you need us to do anything else?" Tosh said in her soft voice.
Jack shook his head. "Go home, both of you. You've done great. I'll see you in the morning."
The girls said a quick goodbye, and then they were gone.
Jack and Owen led Ianto over to the couch. Jack sat next to the silent man while Owen made a quick trip to autopsy for the sedative. When he returned, sat on Ianto's other side and explained, "Okay, mate, I'm going to give you a light sedative. You need rest, and I'm pretty sure that won't come naturally to you right now. This is just going to make you sleepy, no funny business, I promise. Here we go." Without giving Ianto time to protest, he quickly sank the needle into his upper arm through the cloth of the shirt. Almost immediately, Ianto's eyes began to droop and his body relaxed even as his mind fought back.
"Ssh, Ianto, just rest. It's going to be okay, I promise, " Jack assured him as he and Owen moved to lay Ianto out on the couch.
Nothing can be okay. I've done too much to be forgiven so easily. She's gone, and I'm alone.
And with that, Ianto finally faded into the darkness he'd longed for all evening.
I'm not too good for begging for reviews ;) *begs*
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.