Characters: Ianto, Lisa.
Spoilers: Fragments & Doctor Who: Army of Ghosts/Doomsday.
Summary: Ianto digs deep to find the strength he needs to save Lisa.
Word Count: 2303
Written For: Challenge 73: Strength at beattheblackdog.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
You never truly know how strong you are until something happens that tests you to your limits and beyond; that’s the conclusion Ianto has come to following the events of Canary Wharf. He’s not a wimp, he keeps in good shape; he and Lisa use the Torchwood Gym at least three times a week, either before or after work. Or they used to, before all hell broke loose. It’s hard to think about Torchwood and everyone there in the past tense. The events of the last two days are too new, too fresh in his memory, and too painful to his raw and shredded nerves; he’d rather not think about it at all, but there’s no escape. Not with the living, breathing evidence right in front of him. Lisa, half encased in metal but somehow, miraculously, still alive despite everything. That’s something to cling to when the nightmares and memories become too much to bear.
Finding her had taken hours of sneaking around and hiding whenever he heard Daleks, or Cybermen, or anything else. He hadn’t had time to spare for the other poor people he’d heard screaming for help. He felt guilty about that, but Lisa had been the foremost thought in his mind; finding her, saving her, getting her out of the nightmare they’d become trapped in. He was only one man, he couldn’t be expected to save them all, so he’d avoided them, closed his ears to their pleas, and kept searching because Lisa was all that mattered; she had to be, she was his responsibility.
He’d kept thinking she’d do the same if he was the one in danger, and he’d almost laughed at the thought, certain she probably was searching for him too. Maybe they kept just missing each other in all the smoke and madness. That hope, close to belief, had been a big part of what had kept him going hour after hour, sure they’d bump into each other sooner or later. But they hadn’t, and when he’d found her, instead of feeling victorious he’d just been dragged even deeper into the nightmare his life had become.
There she’d been, lying strapped to a conversion unit, smeared with her own blood, and with parts of her body seemingly welded to metal and machinery. He almost hadn’t recognised her at first, but then she’d opened her eyes, seen him, cried out to him, her voice raw from screaming but still as familiar to his ears as his own, and his heart had all but shattered. She’d begged him to kill her, then to save her, back and forth for several minutes as if she was arguing with herself, while he’d just stood there frozen with horror until at last she’d pleaded, “Ianto, help me, please,” her words, the tone of her voice, breaking through his paralysis. Help her. Of course he would, whatever it took; that was why he was there, wasn’t it? Why he’d kept searching, never giving up, no matter how tired he’d felt. She meant everything to him.
Looking back, finding Lisa had turned out to be far easier than anything that had come after. Just unhooking her from the machine had taken every ounce of willpower he could muster, knowing how badly he was hurting her in the process. He’d gritted his teeth, forcing himself to continue, and it had been a relief when she’d finally passed out from the pain. With her unconscious, no longer writhing and screaming in agony, he’d been able to work a lot faster.
Getting her free of the monstrous contraption had only been the first step, and when Ianto had succeeded he’d immediately been faced with an even more insurmountable problem. Lisa was shorter than him, slim but strong, with an athlete’s leanly muscled build. Usually he outweighed her, but not anymore. With all the metal plates welded to her she’d been impossibly heavy, and he’d been sure there was no way he could lift her, not even enough to drag her off the machine. But she’d been so damaged and was in so much pain she couldn’t have done it under her own power, not even if she had been conscious at the time. There’d been no choice but to try, and he’d dug deeper within himself than ever before, finding strength he would never have dreamed he might possess, all for Lisa’s sake. Pulling as hard as he could, he’d collapsed to the floor with her half on top of him, her weight almost crushing his ribs, and had simply stayed there, gasping for breath, until she’d started to come around.
To complicate matters further, Lisa had been unable to walk, her legs in their metal armour hurting so badly she could scarcely bear to put any weight on them. Ianto had never even considered giving up though; half dragging and half carrying her, he’d struggled through corridors littered not only with rubble and debris, but with the bodies of the dead and dying. He’d wished at the time that he could spare Lisa the sight of them, they were victims just like her only less fortunate, but in retrospect he doubted she’d even registered their presence, too consumed by her own pain to have much awareness of anything else.
The stairwell had been a mess too, fallen plaster and cracked concrete stairs he could only pray would hold as they’d inched their way downwards. At least there’d been fewer bodies there; just the occasional one who’d been unfortunate enough to fall and be trampled by terrified people searching desperately for a way out.
Ianto had been more than twenty floors up when he’d found Lisa; hauling her down flight after flight of the steep emergency stairs had left his legs weak and shaking, his arms feeling like they were being torn from their sockets, but stopping hadn’t been an option. He’d pushed onwards, until at last they’d staggered out into the deserted basement garage, where he’d loaded Lisa into the back of the first unmarked van he’d found that wasn’t locked. What had happened to the driver he hadn’t wanted to think about. Using skills learned on the estate, back when he was a teenager running with a bad crowd, he’d disabled the van’s tracking devices, not wanting to risk anyone being able to follow them.
Even after all that, his work had been far from done. All the way down the endless stairs Lisa had been struggling for every breath. He’d soon realised her conversion had progressed to the point where she wouldn’t be able to survive for very much longer without some kind of life support, and where was he supposed to come up with something like that? The answer had been chillingly obvious; when he’d found her, the conversion unit had been breathing for her and probably sustaining her in a dozen other ways he couldn’t begin to guess at. He’d essentially taken her off the only thing that had been keeping her alive, so now he’d need to get his hands on one of those machines, or at least enough of one to provide whatever support Lisa needed.
He’d known there were machines up where he’d found Lisa, but surely there must be others more accessible than those. Setting out on his search, he’d located several damaged units just a couple of floors up, but then he’d realised he had no idea what to do with them; if he did something wrong he could damage some essential component, or even get himself killed. Demoralised, he’d stumbled back down to the van and explained the situation to Lisa. He breathing was getting worse, but she’d opened her eyes and to his surprise and relief, between gasping breaths she’d told him she’d be able to instruct him on dismantling the machines, and on which parts they’d need. That had meant dragging her back up a few flights, which had proved even harder than going down, but as he hadn’t been able to come up with a better solution to the problem, he’d gathered the last dregs of his strength and somehow managed.
He didn’t know how much time had passed as he’d followed Lisa’s instructions, taking the machine apart piece by piece, having already rigged what she needed to help her breathe, a bulky contraption that was in no way easily portable. Once the conversion unit was dismantled he’d taken Lisa back downstairs, and then made several more trips, carting first her ventilator and then all the other parts they’d needed to the garage. Loading them into the van had been heavy work that had used up just about every scrap of his remaining strength, and he’d been trembling with exhaustion as he’d followed Lisa’s instructions once more, putting it all back together again and hooking her up to it with a bewildering array of needles and tubes.
Drained mentally, physically, and emotionally, he’d wanted so badly to rest after that, but sticking around in the basement garage of Torchwood Tower hadn’t seemed sensible under the circumstances, so he’d wearily climbed behind the wheel and driven across London, looking for a safe place where they could hide out for a bit, just while he figured out their next step. Everywhere had been in complete chaos, emergency services stretched way too thin to cope. The death toll had been staggering and was still rising, from what he’d heard on the intermittent radio news reports. In a way that had made things easier for him; nobody had bothered to stop him, or even paid him any attention. Most of the people he’d passed, including police and firemen, had looked as dazed and horrified as he’d felt.
So now here he was, in one of Torchwood One’s seldom-used auxiliary bases, disguised as an old warehouse. Lisa was drugged and sleeping, wired up to her life support machine in the back of the van. Ianto himself had grabbed a couple of hours sleep, just enough to take the edge off his exhaustion, then freshened up in the locker room, changed into borrowed overalls, and had a bite to eat from the emergency supplies stored in a basic but functional kitchen, knowing he needed to keep his strength up even though he hadn’t felt at all hungry. There’d been coffee too, instant of course, but he’d steeled himself against the taste and downed two cups, knowing he’d need the caffeine in order to stay awake; there were still things to be done.
Ianto couldn’t stop seeing the bodies, the blood, and the flames. They haunted him every time he closed his eyes, even for an instant. Those memories wouldn’t be going away anytime soon, that was about the only thing he was sure of right now, aside from the fact that he’d do whatever it took to protect Lisa.
He had the beginnings of a plan now; as soon as it got dark again he intended to drive to Cardiff. It was home territory for him, and Torchwood had a branch there, which made it the only place he might stand a chance of getting access to everything he was going to need to help Lisa. Somehow, he’d convince the leader of Torchwood Three to give him a job, and then he’d stash Lisa somewhere in their base. He could work out the rest later, when he wasn’t so tired.
His and Lisa’s belongings, their clothes and valuables, were now packed in the van around the life-support machine, ready for the coming journey. He’d walked a half-mile or so from the warehouse before helping himself to an abandoned SUV, then driven first to Lisa’s place, which was the furthest away, then back to his own, grabbing the essentials and leaving everything else. Maybe once they were set up in Cardiff he could come back for the rest, but if not, it didn’t matter; they’d be starting over somewhere else anyway, once Lisa was well again.
On the way back to the warehouse, he’d stopped at every ATM he’d passed and drawn out as much money as he could from each machine, draining both his and Lisa’s accounts dry. He was going to need every penny he could get; the drugs he’d taken from Torchwood One would last for a while, but there would come a time when he’d need to get more, and he couldn’t just walk into a chemist’s and ask for morphine, which meant he’d have to find a drug dealer who could supply what he needed. It would cost, probably a lot, but that was okay; once he had a job he’d be getting paid again, so their savings just had to tide them over until then. No problem.
He searched the warehouse, loading anything that might come in useful into the van, including all the packets and tins of food, first aid supplies, a camp bed and sleeping bag, and small pieces of Torchwood-issue equipment: scanners, communication devices, a portable Rift monitor… If rumours were true, Cardiff was located on a time/space Rift; knowing when and where it opened might help him contrive some way of running into Captain Harkness or his team. He found a gun and ammunition too, a bonus since he’d left his locked in his desk drawer back at the tower.
He checked on Lisa, gave her another dose of morphine, and stretched out in the sleeping bag beside her machine, so he’d hear her if she woke. It would be dark in a few hours; he should get some sleep now while he had the chance. There would most likely be precious little time to rest in the days and weeks to come. As he closed his eyes and willed sleep to come, he prayed that he would have the strength to see this through to the end.