So this is my first Torchwood fic, and, like many people, I'm a massive Ianto fan, so this, and any potential future Torchwood fics will be mostly Ianto-centric. Hope you enjoy and they aren't too out of character!
The moment that voice comes over the speakers he freezes. He's lost staring at the screen.
Jack apparently feels the same, tugging both him and Gwen in close.
He doesn't say anything.
Jack says it perfectly enough.
Ianto Jones has seen hell more times than he cares to count.
Maybe it's true it has different levels and he's glimpsing some of them every so often.
Those voices are from the worst layer.
The screams of hundreds dying around him. The clank of metal feet. The fire and the groaning metal as it feels as though the world is coming down around him.
He remembers his heartbeat thudding in his ears, blood slick against his skin.
That's the place those voices live.
They star in his nightmares too... well, co-star at least. Often.
The two races of metal, side by side in a horrific recount of a day that, all odds considered, he shouldn't have survived.
It didn't matter that he had fought, had run had hid... had done everything to survive, and tried to help others do the same... it didn't matter.
Because they shouldn't have survived. He hadn't been field trained, hadn't had the knowledge needed to fight of an entire invasion.
That hadn't stopped him from trying. Or at least resisting the best he could.
But he shouldn't have survived.
Which is how he knows he won't this time. Even though he'll put in the same effort, even though he knows he won't take this lying down. He'll fight until his last breath, his last heartbeat.
Because Ianto Jones has seen hell, and his job is to stop the phrase, 'hell on earth' from becoming a reality.
He hates leaving a job unfinished.
But he has the conviction that this time... this time it may not be enough.
He can feel the panic threatening to swallow him, to drag him back into the fire and the screaming and the loss of everyone he talked to every day of his life.
He doesn't let it.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
He keeps calm. Jack... Jack doesn't need to be dealing with his flashback and panic right now. Nor does Gwen.
So he just lets Jack hold him, and memorises the feeling of his lips on his forehead.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Searing flesh, groaning metal... Delete, Exterminate...
Breathe in. Breathe out.
He can do this. Ianto Jones is a fighter.
Heavy metal footsteps, humming of energy... screaming of hundreds, heat of flames.
His face remains mostly blank the entire time.
He briefly wonders what his life would have been like if he'd taken up acting instead. He's rather good.
He has hope. Hope that maybe, just maybe they'll be able to stop it. That their efforts might be enough after all.
He throws everything he has into this, into this crazy,' just so insane it could work', plan.
Because amongst the fire and the screaming, amongst the chaos and the pain of that day... amongst all of that, he remembers the Doctor.
Of course he does. The Doctor made it stop.
Except it didn't stop, not really, he still had to live with his life crumbling around him. Had to attend more funerals than he cares to remember.
The metal, seared onto Lisa's flesh.
And there are nights when it feels like it's happening all over again.
But he made it... pause. He gave him a moment, a single moment, of relief. Of silence. As suddenly the creatures of metal and pain were no longer all around.
He made them leave.
Ianto has never thanked him... probably will never thank him. It's not just that he's unlikely to meet the man... alien?... but because he saw the footage. Saw The Doctor's face as someone that shouldn't have been was sucked into the void as well. Saw his face as he had to leave alone. Climb into that blue box of his alone.
Ianto Jones is not cruel enough to thank a man for the moment his world crumbled too.
He stands beside Gwen and he shoots. He pours himself into it and tries not to think of the look on Jack's face when he promised he'd be back.
Tries not to think of what he might be coming back to.
He forces himself not to place himself in front of Gwen, in a futile effort to protect her.
If, on the slim chance, they do survive he wants to actually survive, and not be killed for his sexist attitude.
He doubts she'd give him the time to explain that it's not because he doesn't think she can protect herself, he knows she can... which is the only thing stopping him.
No. If he makes that pointless effort it's because he doesn't think he can take losing someone else to these things. If they go down, he'd prefer to die first.
They've taken enough from him already.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Oh Toshiko Sato... you genius.
He can't quite believe he lived to even think those words.
Neither can Gwen apparently, and for a moment they're just left staring at each other, before they both get stupid grins on their faces and he pulls her in for a quick but firm hug.
The hub is in chaos around them, and the remains of a Dalek or two are still ominous in their presence... but just like before it's all on pause for a minute.
He may have to thank The Doctor for this one.
Within seconds he pulls back apart, offering Gwen one more smile before he moves to look around their work place.
His eyes steadfastly ignore the... body? Shell?
"Well..." he says, surveying the damage, "It's a good thing I stocked up on bin bags."
He feels Gwen's eyes on him, and turns to see the look of disbelief fade as she snorts once, before dissolving into relieved and slightly hysterical laughter.
He simply raises an eyebrow before looking away and around.
He falters for a moment as his eyes drift across one of them.
He fells bile rise in him at the thought of having to clean that up. Looking at it is causing a problem.
He doesn't think he'll ever be able to bring himself to touch it.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
He's in Cardiff. Not London.
Cardiff, not London.
He twists to look behind him. Gwen is no longer laughing, rather staring at him with wide eyes. It takes a moment for what she's said to register.
His stomach clenches.
He remembers the screams of agony. He wouldn't wish that on anyone.
The thought of his sister rushes through his mind. His nephew and his niece.
He fishes his phone out of his pocket frantically, even as Gwen does the same.
Their calls are answered at almost the exact same moment.
They offer each other twin smiles as they work on reassuring their loved ones that they are just fine.
He watches as Gwen hangs up her phone, looking torn between the door and the hub. Knowing her dilemma he catches her attention and jerks a head at the door,
"Go on, go see him."
She looks at him gratefully, but still hesitates. He rolls his eyes.
"The mess can wait."
She looks at him for a moment as he continues, a smile slowly growing on her face as he gestures to a corner of his suit, where there's a slowly drying stain of... something.
"This, can't... another perfectly good suit. Ruined."
"Hazard of the job?" She offers. He nods.
"True. Go home, see Rhys. I'll shower and get changed and maybe see you back here later?"
She nods, seeming less conflicted now that she knows she's not leaving him to clean up the 'almost end of the world' mess alone.
Within seconds she's out of the door, calling out reassurances that she will be back later.
He wonders when Jack's going to fulfil the same promise.
He turns and starts to make his way towards the showers. He steadfastly ignores the thing still in the room with him.
Cardiff, not London.
In and out.
One step at a time.
Walking away from hell once more.
He's dragged back in a while later.
He's not sure how long.
He avoided it for as long as possible.
He showered and changed... and then didn't go back upstairs. He checked on the archives, telling himself it needed to be done, to check that nothing potentially world ending had fallen off of a shelf.
It was true... but the other reason still played a major part.
He told himself he was being stupid. It was years ago, and he's seen so much pain and suffering and faced the world ending so many times since then that it shouldn't bother him.
But it does.
He feels a cold pit of dread coiled in the bottom of his stomach when he even thinks the world Dalek.
Hears those synthetic voices over and over in his mind.
...And fear fills him.
Because it's different. Somehow.
He supposes they all probably have one 'world will end any second' experience that haunts them more than most. Maybe this is just his.
He forces himself to face it.
He knows the odds are low, knows (hopes) that he can't possibly be unlucky enough to face a Dalek invasion again.
At least not for another few years.
But if he does... he can't be affected like this every time. There are people out there that depend on their team. And a team is only as strong as its weakest link.
He's pretty sure that right now that's him.
So he prepares to willingly walk into hell once more. To face the remains of his literal walking... hovering nightmare.
Or at least he thinks he's prepared.
It catches him by surprise when he opens the door. He hadn't known there was another one here and he literally comes face to... eyestalk with what he, logically, knows is an empty shell.
But his heart still stops and his breath still catches... and his mind throws him back.
He's in London again, running through the corridors as the sound of screaming and whirring machinery fills the air around him.
He's walking sideways so he's not facing it dead on anymore. He still keeps it in his line of sight. His back hits a wall and he vaguely feels himself sliding down, coming to rest on the floor.
He's opening a door preparing to sprint out... only to come face to... something with a copper looking machine. His heart stops as... It swings round, ignores him, and seems more focused on what looks like a metal robot man. He's never been so grateful to be seen as non-threatening as when he slams the door closed and tears back the way he came.
The wall is solid behind him, but it's not enough to keep him grounded. The Dalek remains still, but he keeps imagining it moving. Swinging round to face him. Because these things are busy killing them all.
He's darting out from under the hand of a metal man, barely avoiding its touch and sprinting as fast as he can, trying not to imagine what 'converting' entails. There's noise everywhere.
The noise echoes around him alarms blaring... they sound different. But then there are voices shouting...
"...I'm back, Rhys is fine, and look who I found!"
He's facing another one before running again... wondering if his heart beating this fast for however long it's been now has made him damaged goods in some way, because the threat the metal man gives has changed... and he doesn't think 'deleting' is as much of a mystery.
"Oh my... Jack! Over here! Ianto?"
He doesn't know that voice... but he does... doesn't he?
"Ianto!" He's caught by the arm as a researcher drags him into a room and slams the door. They're both breathing deeply, and he nods to the other man in thanks.
They both look at each other as the metallic clanking gets closer, before moving deeper into the secure archives.
He has a job to do. There are things in here that could make what's going on out there even worse.
It's hard to imagine, but he starts sealing them up anyway.
"Ianto? What's wrong?..." Then not to him, to the someone else crouched near him, quick and sharp, "Was he hurt?"
"Not that I saw. I wouldn't have left if..."
There's a Dalek right there. Right there in front of him and he doesn't know these... yes he does.
Cardiff. Not London.
"Cardiff. Not London." saying it out loud helps, even if it's just a whisper. He ignores the sharp intakes of air from next to him and the cursing under someone's breath.
There's an arm around him, pulling him in close, and he takes a deep breath, breathing in the familiar scent.
One he didn't know until after the flames and the fire and the pain.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Cardiff. Not London. It's 2008. Not then. 2008. Cardiff, not London.
He must have started it out loud again because Jack is murmuring reassuringly in his ear.
"That's right Yan. You're in Cardiff. You're safe. It's over... again."
He nodded in agreement, his eyes sliding away from the Dalek for the first time since he'd walked out of the door, and landing on Jack's worried face.
"So how was your day?"
Jack looked at him with the same disbelief Gwen had earlier before letting out a relieved laugh... even as his eyes bored into Ianto's own seeking out the remains of the fear and the pain.
"Same old... met some people, saved the world, returned to my secret lair."
Ianto nodded, eyes shifting to see the Dalek again out of the corner of his eyes. He was prepared for it this time, and it only prompted a slight shudder. Something warm was being pressed into his hands, and he offered Gwen a smile and a nod as he accepted the mug.
"It's just tea." She told him as she stepped back,
Jack's arms were still round him and he leaned in. He took a sip from the mug and sighed with relief at the warmth seeping through him.
He looked up at Gwen and shrugged, not meeting her eyes and glancing away.
"I had a shower... I didn't realise that was there..." he vaguely waved a hand at the shell Gwen was stood in front of, and was grateful that she'd thought to block it from his view. "I wasn't expecting it when I walked in... just opened the door and it was... there. Same thing happened in London... except that one wasn't still and..."
He trailed off, knowing he'd said enough for them to figure it out, and took another sip of his tea. Setting the mug down, he inhaled Jack's scent once more before moving out of his embrace and standing up.
He forced himself to remain calm as he surveyed the situation once more.
"Definitely going to need the bin bags." He murmured.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
There's a hand on his shoulder and he turns to face Jack again.
"I'm fine." He reassures. "It just... took me by surprise."
Jack looks at him a moment longer before nodding in understanding.
He looks as if he understands too much. As if he knows that the flashback was sitting in Ianto's head all day just waiting to come out.
He briefly wonders if the words 'I love you' will ever do that. Burst out from where they sit in his head.
"Go home." Jack announces. "We can deal with damage control and clean up tomorrow."
"The world moved Jack. Damage control?"
Jack leers at him,
"We tell them we kissed and bam! Explained."
Ianto rolls his eyes as Gwen snorts a laugh as well. He makes a mental note to work on any needed cover story himself, not trusting Jack not to resort to that one.
"I'll see you tomorrow." Gwen leaves them alone, after pulling him in for another quick hug.
He turns to Jack and raises an eyebrow,
"My place?" He makes a show of looking around, "Yours is in a bit of a mess."
Jack laughs and throws an arm over his shoulder leading him towards the door.
When he falls into bed exhausted, Jack falls down beside him. Neither of them saying a word as Jack pulls him in closer, so they're flush together.
"So... you walked in on a Dalek?"
There's a slight attempt to fill that statement with innuendo, but it's half-hearted at best. Ianto nods against Jack's chest, knowing he's not talking about today.
"I was trying to get to the secure archives, seal everything off from whatever had breached security... I opened a door and... "
He takes a deep breath closing his eyes, and Jack inches him closer slightly.
"I froze... and then a cyber man walked round the corner further along the corridor, and suddenly it was ignoring me and focusing on that. I slammed the door and ran."
There's silence for a few beats before Jack speaks.
"My first death was a Dalek."
He doesn't elaborate, and Ianto doesn't ask him to, just curls in closer against the comforting warmth, as Jack's arms tighten around him.
He tries not to remember the screams of agony as the Daleks continued their constant litany of 'Exterminate'. Tries not to imagine Jack feeling that level of pain.
He doesn't succeed, and ends up pressed to him as closely as possible the entire night.
Jack isn't there when he wakes in the morning, evidently having left sometime earlier.
He finds him when he walks into the hub. He and Gwen are both working on the clean up, offering him a greeting as though nothing had happened. Glancing at the spot that held the Dalek remains only makes him pause for a moment.
He glances at Jack who, for once, isn't grinning cockily back at him. Jack is diligently cleaning and almost certainly deliberately avoiding looking in Ianto's direction.
Ianto isn't being vain, but Jack is almost always looking in his direction, but he takes advantage and allows a small fond smile to slip onto his face, giving Gwen a nod of acknowledgement and thanks when she glances his way.
None of them mention it directly, but they both receive extra coffees that day.