Characters: Ianto, Lisa, Tosh, Owen, Jack.
Spoilers: Cyberwoman, Greeks Bearing Gifts.
Summary: Ianto hides the misery he feels behind a polite and efficient mask, where nobody else can see it.
Word Count: 778
Written For: samuraiter’s prompt ‘Author's Choice, Any, invisible misery,’ at fic_promptly.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
Ianto creeps around the Hub, carrying out his duties, weighed down by a burden of misery that nobody but him can see. He hides it behind his blandly professional expression, unwilling to burden the rest of the team with his grief and guilt. They may not know it’s there but to him it’s like a cold, damp fog clinging around him, sucking all the warmth and hope and happiness from his existence, and it never goes away. Depression is only part of it.
He’s sure the rest of the team believe he’s fine. It’s been months since they executed what was left of Lisa, freeing her soul the way he should have had the courage and insight to do long before. He suspects most of them have all but forgotten the incident, putting it firmly out of their minds, unwilling to dwell on that night, more because of the terror they were put through as the Cyberman rampaged through the Hub than because they feel any kind of guilt over their actions. Not that they should feel guilty, Ianto knows now that he jeopardised the whole world by hiding what used to be Lisa, so he’s the only one who has any reason to feel guilt, but… It was their lack of empathy that night that hurt him the most.
Yes, he was misguided, and yes, he did wrong, but he loved her so much and he’d been convinced he could save her. In his place, would any of them have done differently? If it were someone they loved half encased in metal and suffering unimaginable agony, could they have hardened their hearts and walked away? Perhaps Jack could have, but the others?
Ianto knows what happened to Owen’s fiancée, about the alien that incubated in her brain before killing her, and he knows how Tosh’s mother was abducted and used to blackmail her into committing treason; filing is his responsibility and he’s seen both their files. They’d both done whatever they could to save people who meant everything to them, so how could they not understand that what he’d done was no different? He hadn’t been aware of how irreversible a partial conversion was; he’d genuinely believed it was Lisa he was helping, and not some emotionless machine intelligence that had stolen her memories and taken incomplete control of her body. If he’d known… Maybe he would have acted differently, but he’ll never know for sure.
He can’t undo what he did, or the mistakes he made. As much as he wishes he could, he can’t bring back the two people Lisa killed. All he can do is try to live with the guilt. That’s hard enough, but piling the grief of losing the woman he loved on top of it makes him feel like he’s being crushed beneath an unbearable weight and it’s all he can do to keep a polite smile on his face and not break down in tears.
He misses Lisa. It’s like there’s a hole in his chest where his heart used to beat, like the best part of him died when Lisa did; the rest of his body simply hasn’t caught up yet, plodding along on autopilot, functioning out of habit while his misery drowns him from the inside out and nobody pays any attention. He wonders if one day soon he’ll dissolve away into nothing, and if anyone will even notice when he’s gone. Probably not; he’s not that important.
He makes his way slowly through the Hub. The only thing keeping him going these days is Torchwood. It gives him some small purpose in life, a reason to drag himself out of bed after another night of too little sleep and too many nightmares. He’s beyond exhausted. Jack wants coffee though, and what the boss wants, the boss gets.
‘Can't imagine a time when this isn't everything. Pain so constant, like my stomach's full of rats. Feels like this is all I am now. There isn't an inch of me that doesn't hurt.’
He pauses by Tosh’s workstation, where she’s busy trying to fix the translation programme Owen and Gwen messed up. “I'm about to brew some of Jack's industrial strength coffee. Would you like a cup?”
Tosh looks up at him with a slightly strained smile, still obviously upset at so much of her hard work being lost through the carelessness or her colleagues, and stammers, “I'm… I'm fine. Thanks, Ianto.”
He nods and leaves her to get on with her task, trailing his misery behind him like an unseen but ever present ghost, and wondering if there’ll ever come a day when it no longer haunts him.