Title: Lessons Learned
Author: Erin Giles
Characters/Pairings: Jack/Ianto, Tosh, Owen
Disclaimer: Torchwood is property of the BBC.
Summary: Jack learns the lesson 'look but don't touch' the hard way, with almost deadly consequences.
"Jack?" Ianto reached out a hand to clutch at the nearest filing cabinet as he continued to stumble towards the main part of the Hub. He'd been working down in the archives for most of the afternoon, tidying up the 1960's like he'd been meaning to do for a while. He'd been getting steadily warmer, a headache building behind his eyes before he realised he'd been down there well past the end of the working day, deducing he must have dozed off at some point. The minute he stood up to make his way back to the main part of the Hub dizziness washed over him as he struggled to draw breath.
He wondered why Jack hadn't called him and told him to call it a night. Wondered why Jack hadn't emerged out of his own corner of the archives that he'd been clearing out and suggested they have a lock-in now the rest of the team were gone. Not that Ianto felt much up to a lock-in right now. What was wrong with him?
"Jack?" Ianto called again, his voice barely above a breathy whisper as he realised it was getting harder to draw breath. He stumbled round a corner to find Jack slumped on the concrete floor, what had once been an artefact that looked like a snow globe just out of reach of his hand, cracked and broken.
Emergency lockdown is initiated.
The lights flickered before going out, only the red glow of the emergency lighting leaving Ianto able to discern the shape of Jack lying dead on the floor. Ianto fled. There was nothing he could do for Jack now as he stumbled back through the rows of archaic artefacts and dusty documents that littered the lower levels of the Torchwood Hub. He tripped more than once, skinning his hands and knees on the rough concrete before he stumbled against a computer terminal.
Airborne chemical released into atmosphere. Emergency protocol 3-7-1/2 initiated.
Ianto Jones very rarely swore, but if there was ever a time for swearing it was now. All the air ducts within the place were slowly cutting off one by one, thereby not only sealing himself and Jack into the base, but also cutting off the air supply to it. Which would explain why he felt so lightheaded and was having difficulty catching his breath.
Ianto could feel his eyes drooping as sweat beaded along his brow. He pulled his tie from round his neck and let it slip through his fingers to the floor, pulling open the top two buttons of his shirt to try and get some cool air to the back of his neck. He could feel himself panicking, increasing his oxygen intake – oxygen he didn't have in plentiful supply right now. But there was some in the autopsy bay.
Ianto stumbled past Gwen's desk, almost taking a nosedive down the stairs into the autopsy bay and knocking himself out. He lurched sideways into one of Owen's medical trays, sending scalpels scattering across the tiled floor as he fell to his knees beside the oxygen canisters. He pulled fruitlessly on the cog to turn the air supply on, shaking his head from side to side to try and clear it. The oxygen started its release with a loud pop and Ianto fumbled the mask to his face. He inhaled deeply as he tried to think what to do next. There was no way to override the lockdown, and it wouldn't be advisable if the chemical it had released were deadly. The fact that the gauge on the oxygen canister was already dangerously close to the red zone did not escape his notice either.
Tosh frowned into her pillow before rolling over to slap ineffectually at her alarm clock. The persistent beeping did not desist and it took Tosh a moment to realise this before she sat up within the confines of her duvet. Her brain was trying to wake up even as she stumbled from the bed, wondering if it was her microwave or the battery dying on something.
It wasn't until she was stood in the middle of her living room with the flashing red light on her laptop illuminating the room did she realise what it had been. She frowned before opening up the screen, squinting in the sudden glare from it as it automatically logged onto the Hub computer systems. She stopped squinting, her eyes suddenly widening in fear as she grasped at her phone, already reaching for a coat to put over her pyjamas.
"Owen, you need to meet me at the Hub now," she uttered as she opened her front door and was hit by the frosty cold of the night air. "I don't care, Owen, the Hub's gone into lockdown and Jack and Ianto are trapped inside."
Owen mumbled something about them both loving some quiet time to themselves as Tosh wrenched open her car door, suddenly angry with Owen and how blasé he was being about everything. "Owen, the air supply into the Hub has been cut off because something dangerous has been released into it. I know Jack can come back from a lack of oxygen, but I'm pretty sure Ianto can't," Tosh said with such calm anger that it spurred Owen into moving. Tosh heard him swearing as there was the rustle of bed sheets on the line, a quick promise of 'be there soon' before he hung up on her.
Ianto was hauling the oxygen canister up the steps of autopsy. With every step the canister seemed to double in weight, making him grateful when it clanged onto its side on the top step, allowing him to roll it across the floor to Tosh's workstation, crawling behind it with the oxygen mask still pressed firmly to his face. He felt extremely lightheaded, like he'd just smoked his first cigarette after years of giving up. Tosh's screens were moving in and out of focus as his phone vibrated in his pocket. He fumbled it to his ear, wondering why he hadn't thought to call someone sooner.
"Ianto, are you alright, what's happening?" Tosh said in a rush of words that Ianto couldn't really make sense of as he pulled the keyboard down from Tosh's desk onto his lap.
"Jack broke something," he said, taking a gulping breath before he could continue. "No more air," he managed before he realised the hissing of the oxygen canister had stopped. He looked down at the gauge to note that the black needle was firmly resting in the red area. The dial tone was in his ear too so he let his phone clatter to the floor, wrenching the oxygen mask from his face as he pulled himself and the keyboard up to desk level so he could see the screen more clearly.
He tried to tap commands in, hitting several wrong keys in his attempts to herd the last remaining air supply into the main part of the Hub so he could breath long enough to decontaminate it.
The biohazard symbol was flashing resolutely at him from the lower half of the screen, distracting him enough that he started giggling, hysteria through lack of oxygen setting in as he shook his head to try and clear it. The computer was asking him for codes. Codes that only Jack was supposed to know, but Ianto knew. He just couldn't remember them. They were written in Jack's diary, stowed in the top left hand draw of his office.
Ianto lurched to his feet with a distinct lack of co-ordination.
Oxygen supplies low.
He let out a giggle at the brutally calm voice that came with that statement as he staggered into Jack's doorframe. He made it to Jack's desk, one hand on the drawer handle before the black that had been encroaching on his vision for a while now swamped him.
"Ianto!" Owen called, already slipping through the roller door as it continued to open. There was still a lack of air in the Hub that went straight to Owen's head, making him falter for a moment, but Tosh was already following close behind him to open up the air ducts again.
"Jack?" Owen yelled, hoping to hear some answering cry as he made his way over to autopsy, noting the used oxygen canister on its side by Tosh's workstation and the general disarray of the place.
"I'll search for life signs," Tosh muttered, hands already flying over the keyboard to undo everything that had been done and find Ianto and Jack. Owen was looking down at the mess of equipment in autopsy, no sign of Ianto or Jack as he retrieved a medical bag before he was moving towards Jack's office in search of them.
"No need," Owen called back to Tosh as he moved round Jack's desk to the prone form of Ianto. His fingers reached out to feel for a pulse at Ianto's neck as Tosh came into the office, looking down at Ianto and taking in the blue pallor of his complexion coupled with the gouge out of his forehead. Owen rolled him over to check if he was breathing.
Jack's voice came from somewhere further down in the Hub sounding panicked and breathless. He was crashing into the wall as he staggered out from the lower levels of the Hub looking dazed and confused.
"Jack?" Tosh called as she moved out into the main area of the Hub again, watching Jack trying to get his bearings as he leant against the armoury door.
"Tosh, what are you doing here? Nice pyjamas, by the way. Where's Ianto?" Jack asked, each word punctuated with an inhalation of stale air.
"Owen's looking after him. I think you should sit down," Tosh encouraged, small hands on his forearms as he leant against her heavily, a hand pushing off her shoulder as he moved towards his office on unsteady legs. Owen was administering mouth to mouth and if it was possible Jack felt more light headed than he already did.
"You're lucky to be alive," someone said softly from somewhere in front of Ianto. It took a moment for Ianto's brain to catch up with his current predicament as he moved slightly, feeling a pliable surface beneath him and the whisper of air over his mouth and nose. He blinked himself back to consciousness, bringing a hand to his face to try and shield the suddenly bright light from his eyes and hissing in pain as he realised there was a wade of gauze taped to his temple.
"What happened?" Ianto garbled through what he now realised was an oxygen mask that covered his mouth and nose.
"You don't remember?" Owen asked, concern colouring his voice as he sat down on the coffee table, allowing Ianto to deduce that he was lain out on the settee underneath the Torchwood sign.
"I remember death being imminent, but I'm obviously not in heaven because you're here," Ianto retorted, watching as Owen tried to hide a smirk, covering it by clucking his tongue and pulling out a pocket light to shine harshly in Ianto's eyes. As Ianto blinked spots away he noticed Tosh stood behind Owen's shoulder dressed in her pyjamas and a coat, arms folded across her chest in self-conscious concern. She blushed under his scrutiny.
"Tosh got an alert on her computer, called me, thankfully you'd already done most of the work for us or I'd be putting you in a body bag about now," Owen told him rather bluntly. "As it is you've got a nasty concussion and a bump on head from where you collided with Jack's desk and office floor."
"What about the artefact?" Ianto enquired as he pulled himself into a sitting position, wavering slightly so that Owen had to steady him.
"Completely harmless. Well, after it had killed its initial victim, namely Jack," Owen brushed off.
"It had traces of chlorine gas in it. It killed Jack and then dissipated into the air supply. Of course the computer system thought that there was some form of bioterrorism going on and completely shut down the Hub, assuming that everything inside was already dead and thus keeping the outside world safe. It didn't just have traces of bioterrorism in the capsule, but it also had traces of cyber terrorism, which is why it did what it did. I'm clearing out the system now, so history doesn't repeat itself," Tosh explained.
"What about Jack?" Ianto asked, sitting back on the sofa, suddenly feeling exhausted.
"Jack's Jack," Owen replied, pulling himself to his feet and moving away. Ianto's eyes flitted round the Hub searching him out, but he couldn't see Jack anywhere.
"Just stay put for a while, Ianto. I ain't carrying you back to the sofa again, you're heavy," Owen said, pre-empting him. Ianto sagged back against the sofa cushions again as Tosh returned to her workstation.
Ianto jerked slightly, feeling for a moment like he was about to fall off the settee. The oxygen mask was gone now, and either Owen or Tosh had laid him back down and covered him with a blanket. Now, though, there was a hand holding his as a body perched on the coffee table in front of him. Ianto vowed that the next time he woke up he would try to look less disorientated than he felt.
Jack was leaning over him, a worried frown marring his features.
"What for?" Ianto asked, extracting himself from Jack's hand and the clutches of the blankets with great care. He noted that the lights in the Hub were back to their eerie night time glow and deduced that Tosh and Owen had been sent back to their beds now that the danger was over.
"For almost getting you killed."
"If I recall that's happened before, but this is the first time you've apologised," Ianto replied as he put his socked feet down on the cold Hub floor, immediately regretting it as he let out a little hiss of displeasure. Jack just continued to look at him with a sorrowful expression on his features.
"Jack, I know this might be hard to conceive, but I am actually capable of saving myself. I'm not some damsel in distress that you can sweep in and save at the end of the day and carry me off to your boudoir."
Jack's eyebrows shot up into his hairline. "Boudoir?"
Ianto resisted the urge to roll his eyes, primarily because he didn't think he could maintain his equilibrium if he did so. He went for a sigh instead.
"Can we just blame my headache on your idiocy and move on please? I'm not in the mood to deal with your guilt and hero complex at the moment," Ianto mumbled, settling further back into the sofa cushions and closing his eyes.
"Noted," Jack said softly as the settee dipped to accommodate him. Ianto felt an arm go round him, a hand tugging at his shoulder and Ianto quite happily slid sideways until his head was resting in the curve of Jack's neck.
"As long as you've learned you can look but not touch then I'm happy."
Jack laughed, jolting Ianto into cringing. "I have definitely learned my lesson."
"Good," Ianto mumbled.