There’s always a morning after, always a new day dawning, the promise of life continuing more or less as usual, even after a night like the one the Torchwood Three team has just endured. They’re dishevelled, filthy, and bordering on total exhaustion, most of them sporting minor injuries of one kind or another, but they’re still all there, alive and kicking. Well, limping rather than kicking, but it’s still one for the win column.
Ianto stops so suddenly that several of his teammates pile into him; it’s a miracle none of them falls over. Under normal circumstances there’d be loud complaints and insults flying around, especially from Owen, but this morning everyone’s too tired to protest. They need all their energy just to stay on their feet and make it back to the SUV; there’s none to spare for yelling. Besides, Ianto doesn’t seem to have noticed anyway; his attention’s directed elsewhere.
“Look at that! Sun’s coming up.”
Tosh shuffles up alongside him to look. “Wow,” she breathes, sounding awed. “It’s morning!”
“World’s still here,” Owen points out, somewhat unnecessarily.
“Yep, looks like we saved it again.” Ianto smiles in satisfaction.
“Not that anyone else will ever know.” Owen sounds resigned rather than annoyed. “Everything we put ourselves through, and we don’t even get bragging rights. Sucks to be us.”
“But… World!” Tosh waves one hand wearily.
Gwen nods. “Still here. Almost wasn’t.”
“What’s the plural of apocalypse?” Andy asks, frowning. “Apocali?”
“Dunno.” Owen shrugs. “Does it matter? I mean, it didn’t happen. We sent those sodding aliens and their planet buster back where they came from. Sayonara and good riddance.”
“D’you reckon they blew themselves up?” Mickey kicks idly at a tuft of grass and squints towards the rising sun.
“Jack rigged the device to explode as soon as it entered the void, and we know it did,” Tosh points out. “Otherwise we wouldn’t be…” She wipes ineffectually at the mud spattered all over her. “Like this.” A fraction of a second before the Rift portal had closed, they’d been caught by the edge of the blast, thrown to the ground, and pelted with muck. There’s a small crater at the top of the hill now, but maybe no one will notice.
“Mm.” Ianto looks down at himself. “My dry cleaner will go mental when she sees this. I should’ve changed into jeans first.”
“Wasn’t time,” Tosh reminds him.
“Right. Knew there had to be a reason why I didn’t.”
“Speaking of Jack,” Gwen pipes up, having got a bit left behind in the conversation. “Where is he?”
“Good question.” Ianto looks around in the first rays of sunlight, finally spotting Torchwood’s leader almost at the bottom of the hill they’re standing on, and points. “There.” Apparently Jack still hasn’t noticed the rest of the team aren’t following him. Probably striding along talking to himself.
“We should catch up, otherwise he might leave without us.” Andy starts forward.
Mickey isn’t worried. “If he does, we’ll just follow in my van. Even Captain Cheesecake can’t drive two things at once.”
“Andy’s right though, we should still get moving,” Ianto says. “No point standing around here all day.”
“You’re the one who stopped.” Owen manoeuvres around his friend, fumbling for Tosh’s hand as he passes and snagging her by the sleeve instead, almost pulling her off her feet. She stumbles for several steps before regaining her balance. Mickey shambles after them, and Gwen follows, like a little sheep, going wherever the rest of the herd goes.
Ianto finds himself suddenly alone and frowns. Everyone’s deserting him, which hardly seems fair. He glares after them for a moment, then huffs a sigh and starts walking again. His feet ache and his legs feel heavy as lead. If the slope weren’t so rocky and scattered with thorny bushes he might be tempted to try rolling to the bottom, it isn’t as if his suit can get any filthier, but walking remains the most sensible option, and even worn out he still tries to be sensible.
He has to stop a bit further down and help Gwen untangle herself from a creeping bramble that’s hooked on her jeans. It won’t let go so he breaks it off and winds up with a painfully punctured thumb, which he refrains from sucking because of the mud. Gwen carries on, trying to catch up with the others, trailing the bramble behind her, and once again Ianto somehow finds himself alone until Jack comes puffing back up the hill to find him.
“There you are.”
“I got a thorn in my thumb.” Ianto holds the wounded thumb up to show Jack and can’t quite seem to take his own eyes off it; the blood is such a bright red in the morning sunlight it’s almost hypnotic.
“I can see that.” Taking Ianto by the elbow, Jack gets them both moving downhill again. “I was almost to the road, turned around and you’d all vanished.”
“The sun came up,” Ianto explains. “It’s morning; we survived the night. For a while there I wasn’t sure we would.”
“We’re Torchwood, we never give up. Someone has to keep saving the world.”
Ianto nods. “We’re very good at it,” he agrees.
“Had a lot of practice.”
The long, exhausting battles of the night are behind them, and the world, as well as the valiant members of Team Torchwood, are still more or less in one piece, but there won’t be any celebrations or dancing in the streets because the rest of the world has no idea how close they came to being wiped out. As for Torchwood, they’re all too tired to do anything but go home and hopefully get a few hours’ sleep before they have to get back to work. They’ll probably be saving the world again before long anyway.