Pain was Ianto Jones's oldest and most constant friend. It was there to send him off to nightmare-haunted sleep every night, and there to wake him it in the morning. Whether it was physical – skin deep – or something deeper, it was always there, weighing on him, pulling him down until his world seemed to drag by in shades of dull grey agony.

This morning was no exception. Ianto was stirred from another restless night's slumber – he'd only just gotten to sleep an hour ago – by a sharp burning in his side. Or maybe that wasn't it. Maybe it was the throbbing in his head, or the blaring, beating agon y in his left leg. Either way, it got worse as he pushed himself up, swinging his legs over the side of his bed. For a moment, the room seemed to spin around him, but he shut his eyes tight and forced himself to breathe. In through the nose, out through the mouth. In through the nose, out through the mouth.

And finally, when the world didn't seem about ready to leap out from under him, he pushed himself up. The pain in his leg intensified as he shifted his weight to it, and judging from the way he felt it shaking, he worried it might've given out on him. He was prepared, though – good old Ianto, always prepared – and the black neoprene brace wrapped around it kept it steady.

"You see, the meat has to be tenderized first…." And he was the meat. Fists rained down, and hammers and blocks. They fell everywhere, pounding his flesh, cracking his ribs, until a sudden, excruciating snap shot up and down his leg.

Then the world went black.

A weak, strained noise broke from Ianto's throat, and he rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands. These thoughts, these memories, just wouldn't stop. After Lisa, after the Brecon Beacons, they just wouldn't stop. They kept coming until he felt physically ill. He barely made it to the bathroom this time, before the sick forced its way up and he found himself kneeling in front of the toilet, once again paying homage to the porcelain gods.

For a moment, he wondered…what if he didn't go into work today? But he trounced the thought quickly. If he didn't show up, he would have to call in sick or else someone was bound to come knocking. If he called in sick, then someone would definitely come knocking, if for no other reason than to make sure he hadn't come down with some sort of alien illness.

Besides, after the mess with Mary the day before, things in the Hub would be chaotic. Tosh either wouldn't show up, or she at least wouldn't be one-hundred percent. He couldn't afford to put them another man down, and Tosh….Well, even if the team didn't need him, he would be there for Tosh. Because he understood what she was going through – better than anyone, he understood, and he would be there for her as no one was for him.

But then, it was that way by his design, so he wasn't apt to compare. It wasn't something he wanted to linger on, either, so he pushed himself up, and started to get ready. The warmth of the shower helped a little, both with the churning in his stomach and the general ache, and when he finally had to leave it, he felt himself missing the comfort.

Getting dressed provided its own sort of relief, though. After tending to the wounds that needed tending, he pulled on his well pressed suit, fixing each piece just so from the trousers to the tie. And if he had to cinch in his belt a little tighter than normal, to account for the weight he'd lost – he hadn't felt much like eating of late, and he wasn't inclined to force himself – then he'd write it off as the remedy to those pesky freshmen fifteen he'd never quite shrugged off after university.

Pain was a constant companion, but denial was a close friend.

Shrugging on his jacket and checking one last time to be sure the bandage on his neck – timetobebledtimetobebled – didn't show above his collar, he headed for the Hub.

It was time to begin another day at Torchwood.