Characters: Ianto, Lisa, Jack.
Word Count: 1563
Spoilers: Fragments, Cyberwoman.
Summary: Ianto wishes he could turn back time and do things differently.
Written For: Challenge 273: Amnesty at fan_flashworks, using Challenge 7: Do-Over.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
Ianto sat at the rickety table in his rundown furnished excuse for a flat, a barely touched bowl of cereal and a cooling cup of coffee in front of him, elbows on the stained surface and his head in his hands. Lisa was dead, and he was halfway through four weeks’ suspension from work; he supposed he should be grateful he’d been allowed to keep his memories, but as much as he didn’t want to forget the woman he’d loved so deeply that he’d been willing to sacrifice everything for her, he wished he could erase the last few months from his mind. His failures and bad decisions haunted him; he’d done everything wrong.
This wasn’t the way it had been supposed to work out; he’d been going to find someone to fix Lisa, remove the implants and all the metal amour so the two of them could start over, somewhere else, where nobody had ever heard of Canary Wharf, Torchwood, Cybermen, or Daleks… He’d been so sure he could save her, convinced himself that everything was going to be fine. They were young and still had their whole lives ahead of them; all he had to do was stay strong and everything would work out…
His confidence seemed ridiculous now; he’d been painfully deluded.
Looking back, he could see that he should have known better; he’d been working for Torchwood One long enough to know how dangerous alien technology could be, had been in one of the research labs when a friend of his, newly promoted to research assistant, had accidentally chopped his own hand off while researching an unknown piece of tech. He’d survived, the wound instantly cauterised, but it just went to show how little any of them really knew about the things Torchwood was so cavalierly fooling around with.
Why had it never occurred to him that it might not be possible to reverse what had been done to Lisa, that the cyber implants might have welded themselves so deeply into her brain and nervous system that not even the most gifted surgeon would be able to remove them without killing her? Why had he never realised that what he was caring for with such devotion was no longer his girlfriend, just the monster that had taken her place?
‘Because I didn’t want to know,’ he realised. ‘I loved her so much that I couldn’t bear the thought of losing her so I blocked out every other possible outcome but the one I wanted. Trying to help her was the only thing keeping me going after the massacre. I needed Lisa, she was my reason for living, and the cyber-consciousness that took her place needed me just as badly.’ It couldn’t have survived without his help because the conversion was incomplete, so it had used his love for Lisa, and her memories of him, to keep him believing.
Duped, manipulated, a pawn in someone else’s game, and what had it got him? He’d lied, cheated, and betrayed good people, hidden himself from them, manipulated them in turn, yet after all those months of caring for ‘Lisa’ he’d still lost her. It was a miracle Jack hadn’t gunned him down like the traitor he was after the secret he’d been keeping from them all was discovered. He didn’t deserve the Captain’s compassion; his anger had been easier to take, sparking anger and resentment of his own, but Jack’s kindness over the past two weeks only made Ianto feel worse. He hadn’t only failed Lisa he’d failed everyone, and almost brought destruction down on the whole planet. One act of naive stupidity could have resulted in the extinction of the entire human race. He’d accused Jack of being a monster, when perhaps he should have been applying that label both to himself and to what he’d been protecting.
Shuddering at the thought of what might have happened if Jack and the team hadn’t managed to stop the Cyberman, Ianto found himself wishing he could have a do-over, turn back time and do things right. Ideally he’d go back to the morning of the massacre and make sure Lisa stayed home with him, except he knew he wouldn’t be able to do that because if time was rewound then he wouldn’t know what was to come; no one could remember events that had yet to happen. There’d be no way of going back and preventing the tragedy, no way to save the hundreds of people who’d lost their lives that day, no way of changing anything except perhaps for his own actions.
What should he have done differently? Would it have been better for him to die alongside Lisa, or to escape without trying to find her? He almost laughed at that but the sound turned into a choked sob. No, he would never have saved himself without even trying to rescue Lisa. It wasn’t in him to walk away not knowing her fate; he would have been forever left wondering, guilty and ashamed for leaving her to die abandoned and alone. You don’t do that to someone you love, no matter how scared you might be.
Closing his eyes, Ianto forced his mind back to the moment he’d found Lisa, a memory he’d relived over and over in nightmares since that day. He knew what he should have done, even though he instinctively flinched away from accepting it. Terrified and in agony, she’d begged and pleaded for his help; how much of Lisa had still existed then? It was unlikely the implants had completely taken her over at that point. They hadn’t had enough time; the conversion had stalled when all the machinery had shut down. He’d disconnected her, helped her off the table, half carried her down the stairs, wanting only to get her away from there. They’d passed one of Torchwood One’s medical treatment suites on the way to the stairwell; he’d taken her inside, gathered up all the drugs and other supplies he thought might help her, had injected her with a dose of morphine to ease her pain…
He shouldn’t have stopped at one.
How easy might it have been to fill a syringe to the brim and inject it all? How much of the opiate would it have taken to do what any vet would have done for a suffering creature and put her out of her agony for good? It would have been a quicker and more merciful end for her than she must have endured, feeling the implants steadily eroding her sense of self, taking her over, body and mind, erasing her emotions along with her individuality.
Had she been aware of what was happening? God, he hoped not, but the screams of agony, the whimpers of pain, fear, distress… Could a Cyberman, with no emotions of its own, have replicated those so convincingly? Or was Lisa still clinging on to her existence despite everything?
He’d tortured her by keeping her body alive, telling himself he was doing it for her, for both of them, for their future, when in reality he’d been doing it for himself, to keep Lisa with him no matter what she had to go through. It sickened him to think of what she must have endured before the last traces of her consciousness were obliterated.
‘I’m so sorry, Lisa. If I could do it all over again, I’d do it differently. I’d do what I should have done back then, take your pain away for good. It would be like falling asleep. No pain, no fear, just peace. And then I’d wait with you until the UNIT soldiers arrived, I’d tell them what I’d done, and I’d accept the consequences. Would they consider it murder? Or would they call it the elimination of a threat?’
All that would really matter would be that Lisa’s suffering was over. With nothing to keep him going, no purpose to his existence, what happened to Ianto after that would be immaterial.
But he couldn’t turn back time; there’d be no do-overs, no fixing his mistakes. All he could do now was live with what he’d done; all the decisions he’d made were unchangeable, set in stone, a monument to his naivety. He’d grown up a lot over the last few months, and he’d learned that seemingly altruistic motives often hid selfishness, and good intentions were rarely enough to make up for their unintended results.
Wearily he got to his feet, threw the remains of his breakfast away, poured the cold coffee down the sink and made a fresh cup. He couldn’t correct his mistakes, but he could try to make up for them. If Jack allowed him to return to Torchwood at the end of his suspension, he’d do all he could to protect Cardiff, and the team, or die trying. He didn’t expect to live much beyond thirty, if he even made it that far; the lifespan of Torchwood Three field agents tended to be short, it wasn’t exactly the safest job in the world. That was okay though; hopefully it would be long enough for him make amends. He had so many regrets weighing him down, but if he tried hard enough and for long enough maybe he might eventually do enough good to atone for his sins and earn redemption, or at least some inner peace. He’d settle for that.