Breathing Space

by badly_knitted [Reviews - 0]

  • Teen
  • None
  • Drama, Fluff, Mixed, Romance, Standalone

Author's Notes:
Written for Challenge 384: Second at fan_flashworks.

Set after CoE but where Ianto survives.

He wouldn’t admit it to anyone, except possibly to Jack, but Ianto was hiding from the team.

Back before the 456 came and made such a mess of things, before the government decided Torchwood had to be silenced and sent a black ops team to kill them, before the Hub was blown up, courtesy of a bomb planted in Jack’s stomach, leaving a gigantic crater in the middle of the Roald Dahl Plas, he would have hidden in the archives, where no one but Jack would venture. Now, though, the archives were inaccessible, the Hub was simply too dangerous, and would remain so until a major repair job could be carried out.

Since Torchwood still had a job to do, the team were having to use an old storage warehouse as their temporary base, but it was less than ideal. There was nowhere in the building Ianto could go for some peace and quiet, nowhere he could escape the constant demands for things he couldn’t provide because he didn’t have the resources. He was doing the best he could with what he could scrounge up from various sources, but even he couldn’t miraculously produce secure cells out of thin air to hold Weevils and Hoix. Neither could he conjure information out of the ether.

Torchwood’s secure servers were still accessible, since they were housed in a secondary location rather than in the Hub, but only part of the database he’d created by digitising everything in the archives, and everything that had been salvaged from Torchwood One, had been uploaded before the explosion. The rest was out of reach because Mainframe had shut herself down, severing her connections to the Hub and going dormant in a deliberate act of self-preservation. In order to reboot her systems, she’d have to be accessed directly, which was out of the question since the only access to her underground cavern was through the Hub.

On top of all that, Ianto was still trying to adjust to being immortal, and processing everything that had happened over the last six weeks, including the not insignificant fact that he’d died on the floor of Thames House. He remembered his own death, and then waking up afterwards in a makeshift morgue; that wasn’t something he could just shrug off.

Unfortunately, he couldn’t even count on getting any privacy at home, since Jack was living with him now, which was great, really, most of the time, and Mickey was sleeping in the spare room until he could find a flat. Considering how little free time the team were getting at present, it could be quite a while before he moved out.

On any other day, Ianto might have escaped to Bute Park and taken refuge in one of the many trees there. Being high in the branches, out of sight of the people below, had always soothed him, but gale force winds and pouring rain weren’t suitable for tree climbing, so, after leaving his Bluetooth earpiece on his desk, and turning off his phone, he’d come here instead.

The second-hand bookstore had been here for as long as he could remember, and it hadn’t changed much over the years. He’d bought battered paperback copies of all the James Bond novels here when he’d been in his early teens. He’d parted with twenty pence from his meagre allowance for each one, and a massive fifty pence for a slim volume containing behind the scenes photographs and stills from the movies depicting each of the Bond girls, some of them not wearing very much at all. He’d hidden that one from his parents, in the gap beneath the bottom drawer of his dresser where he put all the things he wanted to keep secret.

He'd bought other books too, thrillers and action adventures, even the occasional Western or sci-fi novel, losing himself in other worlds and other lives to escape his own humdrum housing estate existence, daydreaming of one day being like the heroes he read about, living a life full of danger and excitement. Now he supposed he’d achieved that goal, but unfortunately for him, it wasn’t proving quite as much fun as he’d thought it would be. Mostly it was stressful and exhausting.

Ianto knew this brief respite from the pressures of work wouldn’t last; Jack would find him eventually, if only by using the GPS tracker Tosh had installed in all of the team’s cars before her luck had run out, but at least for the moment he had some badly needed breathing space. Once he’d had time to think, maybe caught his second wind, he’d return to Torchwood’s temporary base and his never-ending To Do list, but not for a couple of hours. His colleagues could manage without him for that long. Maybe having to fend for themselves for an afternoon would make them more appreciative of his efforts.

The quiet, dusty shop was a balm to his senses, reminding him with a pang of his beloved archives, which he could only hope were still more or less intact. He’d managed to lock down the lower levels in those few frantic seconds before Jack had forced him onto the invisible lift and sent him to safety, but until the main Hub could be made safe, he wouldn’t be able to go down there and check. With an effort he put such thoughts out of his mind and concentrated on the contents of the bookshelves, browsing titles and authors, plucking the occasional volume off the shelf to read the blurb, putting most back but setting a couple aside to buy.

If he was going to live forever, which, judging by the evidence so far, seemed increasingly likely, then he’d have plenty of time for reading over the coming millennia. Eternity was a daunting prospect, but he thought that as long as he had Jack and something to read, it wouldn’t be so bad. They could travel, see the world, and then the universe, explore the unknown, watch the future unfold and history being made. Perhaps someday he’d write books of his own for other people to read, stories of his and Jack’s adventures, fictionalised of course, and without the adult content that punctuated their lives.

There was no need to rush though, or to plan too far ahead. Better to follow Jack’s example and take each day as it came. Learn from the past, live in the present, and try not to worry too much about the future.

Smiling to himself, he reached for another book, this one on World War Two aircraft; Jack might like that, a little peace offering for ducking out and abandoning the team, leaving only a note on Jack’s desk saying he’d be back in a few hours. Frazzled he might be, but he hadn’t wanted anyone worrying about him for no reason. He remembered only too well how he’d felt after Jack went off with the Doctor, nobody knowing when, or even if, he’d return. No, he wouldn’t ever put anyone through that, not if he could help it.

Thinking of that, he pulled out his phone and checked his messages, just to be sure the world wasn’t ending while he was AWOL. There was only one: a text from Jack. Ianto clicked on it, hoping it wasn’t anything urgent, and relaxed when he saw it wasn’t. All it said was, ‘Take as long as u need. Love u. J xx’ followed by a whole row of hearts in every colour available.

Smiling, Ianto replied with ‘Thanx’ and a few hearts of his own. So what if it was sappy?

Slipping his phone back into his pocket, he continued browsing, feeling all the stresses that had been weighing on him slowly melting away.

The world had been turned upside down by the arrival of the 456. Everyone had been affected, some more than others, but life went on, and in time would get back to something resembling normality. Humans could be amazingly resilient. Like him, they just needed a little time to get their second wind.

The End