Characters: Ianto, Jack.
Word Count: 1980
Spoilers: Set after Children of Earth, but Ianto is still alive.
Summary: Excavating the Hub is underway, but this part of the job is something only Jack and Ianto are equipped for
Written For: Challenge 253: Throw at fan_flashworks. Also for the ‘Hit The Wall’ square on my bingo card.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
The explosion was so sudden and unexpected for a moment Ianto didn’t know what was happening. It felt as if he’d been plucked up by a gigantic invisible hand and flung against the wall. As he slowly slid down it to crumple at its base, his lungs struggling to draw breath that had been knocked out of him by the impact, and his vision greying out, a single thought flitted through his dazed mind: “I knew I should’ve stayed in bed this morning.”
He’d always known that being immortal was no picnic; he’d watched Jack die so many times, and whether what killed him did so quickly or with agonising slowness, coming back to life afterwards never failed to be as agonising as dying had been. Since becoming immortal himself he’d already had the opportunity to experience the process firsthand on several occasions, and while he thought in time he’d probably become more or less resigned to it, he didn’t enjoy it any more than Jack did.
Dying was an occupational hazard for a Torchood agent though, especially an immortal one, and as such it was something he would just have to deal with whenever it happened. Thankfully, it didn’t look like he was going to die this time; he was sore and battered, pretty sure he’d cracked several ribs when he’d been slammed into the wall, and his lungs didn’t want to work, but that would most likely pass in a few moments, just a temporary aberration as a result of their having had all the air forcibly removed from them.
While he considered all the dying and reviving to be the least enjoyable aspects of his and Jack’s kind of immortality, the rapid healing was a definite advantage. According to Jack nothing short of being blasted into pieces would put him down for long. That was one kind of death Ianto would just as soon never have to experience, although for a minute there when whatever it was had exploded, he’d had visions of being scattered across half of Cardiff. At times like this he really wished he didn’t have such a vivid imagination; the last thing he needed was something else to have nightmares about.
As soon as he was able to breathe and move at the same time he dragged himself painfully back to his feet, feeling the singularly unpleasant crawling sensation of his ribs knitting themselves seamlessly back together inside him. Limping away from the wall on legs that still felt a bit shaky, he scanned the area, looking for Jack; they needed to regroup and figure out what had caused the explosion. Then he spotted his lover, sprawled on the concrete floor a few metres away, unmoving.
Jack hadn’t fared as well as Ianto; a sharp piece of metal had torn through his chest, killing him almost instantaneously. He lay on his back, eyes open and staring sightlessly at what was left of the ceiling. With a resigned sigh, Ianto dropped to his knees beside his lover and pulled the metal shard out of him, tossing it aside without giving it a second glance. After that all he could do was wait for Jack to revive, which he did a few minutes later, drawing in a huge gulp of air and flailing blindly for something to hold on to.
Ianto grabbed Jack’s hand, providing him with an anchor, a sense of security and safety. “It’s okay, Jack; I’m here.”
“Ianto?” Jack blinked dazedly up at him. “Is that you?”
“Of course it’s me. Were you expecting somebody else?”
Jack ignored the question, peering worriedly up at the man he loved. “Are you okay?”
“Better than you. Just cracked a few ribs when I was bounced off the wall, but they’re already mostly healed.” He glanced back at where he’d been. “I’m lucky the whole wall didn’t come down on top of me; doubt I would’ve survived that.” Returning his attention to Jack, Ianto helped him to sit up.
Jack looked around himself in bewilderment, taking in piles of rubble he was almost positive hadn’t been there before. “What just happened?”
“Something went boom. Not sure what yet, but I’ll hazard a guess that it was most likely one of the things we were looking for.”
“Oh. You’re probably right.”
Torchwood had made a temporary base of operations in an old abandoned warehouse while the wreckage of the Hub was being excavated, but the work was necessarily slow on account of there being so many dangerous things buried beneath the rubble.
Although locking down the lower levels had protected the main archives and their contents, as well as the cells, which were thankfully still accessible through a secret entrance in the sewers, the armoury and the secure archives had both been situated in or near the main Hub, and their contents needed to be located and secured. Obviously, that was a job Jack and Ianto had to carry out by themselves, for everyone’s safety. Something had obviously been rendered unstable, presumably by the original blast that had all but destroyed the Hub, and there might very well be other things in a similarly unstable state, just waiting to explode. Since they couldn’t be permanently killed, Jack and Ianto were ideally suited to any hazardous salvage work, and aside from that consideration, it was vital that UNIT and the civilian contractors employed to do the majority of the repair work didn’t get their hands on any dangerous weapons or devices.
The excavation had already taken two months just to clear away enough of the rubble so that Jack and Ianto could commence their search. They’d joined the work crews a week earlier, in a supervisory capacity, so they’d be right on site and ready to call a halt to proceedings the moment they needed to take over. They’d spent the last couple of days sifting through the rubble by themselves, ferrying undamaged weapons and equipment from the armoury up top to where Mickey Smith, who had recently joined the team, was taking charge of them and transporting them to the secure weapons locker at Torchwood’s temporary HQ. The rest of the current team, Gwen, Rhys, Martha Jones, and Andy Davidson, were handling all the routine retrievals and Weevil alerts in their absence.
“What are the chances of something else blowing up like that?” Jack asked, probing the bloody tear in his shirt and squinting through the hole at the now flawlessly healed skin beneath.
“Probably fairly high,” Ianto said. “You did warn me that the power packs on some on the laser weapons could be a bit unstable if they got dropped. I’m assuming the same is true if something heavy gets dropped on them?”
“That would do it.” Jack followed his lover’s gaze to what remained of Torchwood Three’s old armoury; a large part of it had been pretty much flattened in the original explosion and the latest blast hadn’t exactly improved matters.
“Doesn’t look encouraging, does it?” Ianto mused, glancing at his lover with a wry smile.
“No it doesn’t. Maybe we should just go up top and throw a few sticks of dynamite at what’s left from a safe distance, blow it all up and be done with it.” Jack eyed the listing remains of the armoury’s reinforced metal and ceramic walls apprehensively.
“Tempting as that idea might seem, I’m not so sure it would be wise. We wouldn’t want the rest of the Plas to cave in, and if the sea wall cracks the archives could wind up flooded, assuming they didn’t get obliterated by this explosion.”
Jack gave that some consideration and finally nodded. “You’re right, that might make the situation worse instead of better. Guess we’ll just have to be more careful, try not to blow anything else up.”
“Looks like,” Ianto agreed, getting to his feet and offering Jack a hand up, glad both of them were wearing old clothes for this, things that could be thrown out afterwards, rather than risking anything that might prove harder to replace. “Back to work then?”
Jack nodded. “Back to work. You know what they say; no rest for the wicked.”
“I’d like to think I’m not excessively wicked,” Ianto protested mildly.
“Just wicked enough.” Jack waggled his eyebrows. “No rest for immortals either.”
“Sad but true,” Ianto agreed as he got back to dealing with the mess.
It was a tedious task, loading rubble into a bag that would be lifted to the surface by crane and emptied into a truck for disposal, all the while making safe and setting aside any weapons or other equipment they found. The recent explosion had brought down part of one of the metal catwalks, which now dangled precariously, creaking and groaning as it swayed slightly in random gusts of air. Both men did their best to keep well clear of it; having it fall on them would not be a pleasant experience.
Jack set about clearing a nearby pile of fresh rubble, chunks of concrete that had been dislodged from the ceiling by the blast. A short while later he straightened up, studying something he’d just found. “Looks like it wasn’t a power pack that exploded,” he called across to Ianto.
“No? What was it then?” Ianto paused in trying to shift part of one of the armoury’s reinforced wall panels, squinting through the dust that floated on the air, trying to see what Jack had found. He was holding up the bloodstained piece of metal Ianto had pulled out of his chest.
“Yep, that’s what just killed you.”
“Huh. Well, it also looks very much like a piece of the Artissian concussion grenade that used to sit on the floor just inside the armoury.”
“What?” Ianto let go of the panel he’d been trying to move and put his hands on his hips, frowning at his lover. “Didn’t you tell me it was a dud? That you only left it there to use as a doorstop?”
“Hey, don’t blame me! That thing’s been knocking around the Hub since before I got here; I’m not the one who declared it harmless!”
“You never thought to check it?”
“I didn’t think I needed to.”
“Wonderful.” From the disgusted expression on Ianto’s face it was obvious he meant the exact opposite.
“Look on the bright side; it was the only one we had, so chances are everything else will be okay.”
“You’d think that would be comforting to know, wouldn’t you?” Ianto said, tone dry as dust, as he returned to his task. Try as he might, he soon realised he couldn’t shift the panel on his own. “I could use another pair of hands here, if you can spare a minute.”
“Anything for you.” Tossing the chunk of metal onto a pile of other alien bits and pieces that couldn’t be thrown away with the rest of the rubble, Jack picked his way across the cracked concrete, got a firm grip on the hunk of reinforced ceramic shielding, and helped Ianto heave it up, out, and away.
“Oh shit,” he heard Ianto mutter.
“That.” Ianto pointed, taking several hasty steps backwards.
There was a tinny whine as something the panel had been resting on started to glow brighter and brighter, telltales just visible through a thick layer of dust signalling it was approaching critical overload.
“Duck and cover!” Jack yelled, trying to manoeuvre the panel he was still holding into position to provide them both with at least a bit of protection from the imminent explosion, but…
Rubble showered down from overhead, the hanging catwalk wavered and slowly started to topple, and as Ianto found himself flying through the air to collide with the nearest wall for the second time in the space of an hour, all he could think was, “Here we go again.”
This just wasn’t their day.