Back at Torchwood One, Ianto had been a junior researcher, little more than an office worker, spending most of his day at his desk. It had been work he’d enjoyed, but it hadn’t exactly been overwhelmingly exciting. Not that he’d cared; Lisa had provided all the excitement he’d needed or wanted in his life, and when everything went to Hell at Torchwood Tower, he’d soon realised he wasn’t cut out for being an action hero anyway. He’d been terrified, barely able to function, and it had only been his desperate need to find Lisa that had kept him from curling up in a corner, sobbing and shaking, and waiting to die.
In the aftermath, it had again been Lisa who’d kept him going, knowing he had to do anything in his power to protect her and get her to safety. That need had overridden his terror, and when the task of transporting her from London to the relative safety of Cardiff had been accomplished, caring for her and trying to find a way to heal her had taken over. She was his life, and he would have done anything for her.
Finding a way into the Cardiff branch of the Torchwood Institute had proved a case in point; he’d flirted with the almost legendary leader, Captain Jack Harkness, poked a savage Weevil with a stick, helped capture a Pterodactyl… It had been the last of those that had done the trick, and much as Ianto hated to admit it, the whole escapade had proved quite exhilarating, the thrill of trying to outwit the creature setting his blood pumping, heart hammering with what could have either been fear or excitement, perhaps even a mixture of the two. The adrenaline rush had made him giddy and reckless, a disturbing feeling for Ianto, who prided himself on his self-control.
For a time he’d almost forgotten why he was helping an undeniably attractive man capture a dinosaur. Lying on top of him on the warehouse floor, he’d been inches away from kissing the captain, overwhelmed by the scent he claimed was 51st century pheromones, when he’d remembered why he was doing all this in the first place. Lisa. The thought of her had brought him down to earth with a far more painful bump than having Jack fall out of the air on top of him a few minutes earlier had.
Still, the Pterodactyl had done the trick, and Ianto had been told to report for work the following morning. It wasn’t the way he would have preferred to get the job he needed, but he’d told himself that the ends justified the means. It was all for Lisa’s sake, after all, even though the deception left a bad taste in his mouth.
Right from the start, working for Torchwood Three had been completely different to his previous experiences with the Institute. To his new colleagues, he’d primarily been the general dogsbody, cleaning up after them, providing food and drink, caring for the alien residents, sorting out the mess they laughably called the archives… That had been fine by him; it had given him the freedom to care for Lisa, especially as the others often left him alone in the Hub for hours at a time while they were out on retrievals, or Weevil hunts, or celebrating with a nice meal and a few drinks.
Then, one day when the others were out having fun, Ianto had brought in Tanizaki, sure that with his help Lisa would soon be her old self again. Instead, everything had gone to Hell once more. First she’d killed Tanizaki, and then she’d rampaged through the Hub, intent on converting everybody, finally taking the life and body of Annie, the sweet-natured Jubilee Pizza delivery girl. Thinking back on that day never failed to make Ianto’s blood run cold. Jack had not taken it at all well.
As far as Ianto was concerned, the only surprise about being suspended from work for a month after that debacle was that Jack hadn’t simply executed him on the spot instead. It would have been no less than he deserved. His stupidity had put the lives of the team in danger, and not only them but everybody else into the bargain. One Cyberman was all it would have taken to convert the whole of the planet into a shining metal army. It was a chilling thought, and for the whole of his suspension it warred for top place in his nightmares with his grief over Lisa’s fate and the guilt he felt over the murders committed by the Cyberman in Lisa’s body. Everything that had happened had been his fault, and yet it could have been so much worse.
Unsurprisingly, when Ianto was finally allowed to return to work, Jack kept a much closer eye on him, watching him on the CCTV when he was working in the archives, or anywhere else beyond the main Hub, and never leaving him alone in Torchwood’s base, even just for a few minutes. He wasn’t exactly a prisoner, but neither was he a trusted member of the team. He’d knowingly and intentionally betrayed them, and they all knew it; trust was something he would have to earn back, if he could.
Anyway, it meant that when the rest of the team went on a jaunt to the Brecon Beacons, looking into a spate of people mysteriously going missing, Ianto was dragged along. Spending a couple of days with the whole team in the middle of nowhere didn’t appeal to him in the slightest, especially since they would be camping. Lisa had loved going camping and just the thought of her made him ache inside. It was torture, like having fingers poked into an open wound. He missed her so much, and yet everybody else seemed to have already forgotten about her.
Afterwards, Jack admitted that he really hadn’t expected to find anything strange going on; the trip had been a misguided attempt at team bonding, not the best idea he’d ever had. Still, Ianto couldn’t entirely blame Jack for the events that followed, even though part of him wanted to; running into bloodthirsty cannibals in the Welsh countryside wasn’t something anyone could have anticipated. It was insane, utterly surreal, and he wouldn’t have believed it possible if he hadn’t been there. He hadn’t needed more fuel for his ever-present nightmares, but he’d got it anyway.
Being captured by the cannibals was a terrifying experience, less because they were going to kill him than because they fully intended to cook and eat him afterwards. It was impossible for him to wrap his head around that, even though he’d seen the body parts in the refrigerator, down in that cellar he and Tosh had been locked in. He couldn’t understand how Tosh could be so calm about it either; she actually seemed to relish the adrenaline rush her fear gave her, while all it did to Ianto himself was make him feel shaky and sweaty and light-headed, although that last was probably because he was hyperventilating. It was a far more natural response to his life being in danger than Tosh’s methodical evaluation of their situation and analysis of possible courses if action. Clearly the people he worked with weren’t normal.
Ianto’s reaction to being held prisoner just proved to him, if proof was still needed, that he wasn’t the field agent type. Yes, Jack had insisted he keep up with his firearms training when he’d joined Torchwood Three, and yes, he’d received training in unarmed combat, just in case he ever needed to defend himself, but he’d grown up on a rough estate where fistfights between enemies, and even between friends, hadn’t been uncommon, so he’d already been pretty sure he could take care of himself under most circumstances. Well, he had until that moment. Coming face-to-face with a bunch of cannibalistic villagers was something so far outside his experience that he didn’t ever want to get so used to such situations that they didn’t bother him. He was positive he could never be like Tosh and the others, and yet…
Standing there listening to the leader of the cannibals talking about bleeding and tenderising them, with Tosh seeming so tiny and fragile by his side, and with nothing left to lose, a weird sort of calm came over him and he gathered the last dregs of courage he could muster, head-butting the bastard in the face to give Tosh some slim chance of escaping and finding help. His bravado hadn’t lasted though; as soon as she was out of sight it had drained away, and he didn’t remember much after that. He wasn’t even sure how he’d come to be sitting on the SUV’s tailgate, somehow alive in the early morning sunshine, when he’d been convinced last night that death was imminent.
Ianto found it disconcerting to realise that after the last few weeks of almost wishing Jack would just kill him and get it over with so he could join Lisa, he’d completely lost his desire to die. Being alive hurt, both mentally and emotionally, and right at that moment, physically as well, but it was still better than the alternative. Just as long as he didn’t have to go through anything resembling the last twenty-four hours ever again; he’d been to Hell and back more times than anyone should have to. All he wanted now was to live a quiet life, making coffee and sorting artefacts in his nice, cosy, safe underground archives.
Unfortunately, it seemed Jack had other ideas.
As soon as Ianto’s cannibal-inflicted injuries healed, his training began in earnest. Jack was apparently impressed with the way the youngest member of his team had kept his head and helped Tosh to escape. Ianto tried to tell him it had been a fluke, an act of desperation on realising that he didn’t want to die, but Jack shook his head.
“If that had been the case, you would’ve run and left Tosh to fend for herself; she’s the experienced field agents, after all. But you didn’t, you let her go and stayed behind to take one hell of a beating.”
“You don’t have to remind me; I relive it practically every night,” Ianto replied.
“Yeah, that’s not surprising, I’d be worried if you’d just shrugged it off, but nevertheless I think you have what it takes to be a field agent. I know you don’t agree, but suppose you got captured again; wouldn’t you rather know what to do, have the tools and ability to protect yourself, and others, no matter what situation you might find yourself in?”
Put that way, Ianto had to admit Jack made a valid point. If, God forbid, anything even remotely like that ever happened to him again, it would be better for him if instead of panicking and freaking out, he could actually remain in control and do something about it without having to rely on somebody else to save him.
“Well, okay, I suppose it wouldn’t be a bad idea to learn a few things.”
“That’s the spirit!”
So Jack had started dragging him along on easy Rift retrievals and the occasional Weevil hunt, while at the same time focusing more on teaching him hand-to-hand combat, and how to use anything that came to hand as a weapon.
Ianto was surprised to discover he had an aptitude for improvisation, and as the weeks passed, he found his speed and strength improving to the point where he and Jack were pretty evenly matched. He enjoyed the sheer physicality of his training, the blood rushing though him laden with adrenaline, the ache in his muscles afterwards that spoke of hard work. He even found himself sleeping better because of it.
Gradually, Weevil hunts became less of a chore and more of a game, he and Jack vying against both the Weevil and each other. He picked up the occasional minor injury, Weevils had sharp claws, but that was all part of the job and he mourned his damaged clothes more than his damaged skin. Above all, he found himself relishing the adrenaline rush that came from chasing and capturing the savage aliens, especially since in the aftermath of a hunt, still pumped up and raring to go, Jack knew all the best ways of burning it off. They trod a risky path; hand jobs, blowjobs, frantic couplings in the back of the SUV, or behind a dumpster in a dark alley, or against a tree in the park, the chance of being caught only serving to excite them both further. It was bloody fantastic!
Ianto had come to Torchwood Three believing he wasn’t cut out for fieldwork, but barely eighteen months after joining, he knew he was becoming just like the rest of them; an adrenaline junkie, hooked on the rush that came from being in dangerous situations, pitting himself against the worst the Rift could throw at them. He knew better than most just how short a Torchwood Agent’s life could be, but most of the time he could set that knowledge aside and ignore it, living for the moment and enjoying the ride. Nobody could know how long it would last, but as long as it did, he was going to live each day for all he was worth. He could no longer deny it; he was a full-fledged field agent now, just like the rest of the team he lived for the adrenaline rush, and he was loving every minute.