The first time it’s a shock, suddenly gasping for air after certain death, confusing Satellite 5 for some strange joke of an afterlife for one or two seconds.
Then pain comes flooding back and he is assuming he is alive. Again. Still. He’s not too sure. The pain seeps deeper when he discovers the TARDIS fading, leaving him behind. Afterwards he sits and listens to the dying station, the deafening silence of thousands of corpses.
He wonders if Death forgot him like a Time Lord obviously did.
He sits, waiting to find out who will come back for him first.
In the end, it’s Death who finds him first, the annoying beep of the environmental alert telling him it’s not long now.
The last of the stale air escapes into space with a soft, constant hiss, leaving him searching frantically for some last minute rescue, but the hypoxia sneaks closer. He welcomes her darkness, glad it came before the vomiting.
He is woken by a splitting headache, realizing soon he’s cargo on a Coroner’s freighter.
After the moment he needs to swallow that fact he is sure that something has gone very, very wrong since that Dalek ray hit him.
The trip back to Earth, 2006, is bumpier than he thought and he falls. Fast.
Just one wrong number in an equation longer than his arm and his Extrapolator materializes several thousand feet above ground.
And he falls.
He thinks of the old joke about Time Agents falling from the sky, deciding he never liked it much.
His last thought is that this will hurt even more than a Dalek ray.
He wakes up on a rooftop, his bones popping back into place. He corrects his assumption about pain, brushes some pebbles off his vest and searches for the stairs.
He doesn’t even see it coming, doesn’t feel the claws enter his body from behind. A professional, he thinks when he wakes in a puddle of his own blood, his Extrapolator stolen.
His shirt is ruined, obviously by a female Raxacoricofallapatorian.
He doesn’t find that out by looking at his chest, but through the crumbled newspaper announcing the new mayor Margaret Blaine as ‘What Cardiff Needs’. He decides it’s best not to try to get his Extrapolator back.
And to be sure he’ll stay away from the Millennium Centre for the next few weeks.
Predestination paradoxes always give him headaches.
He sees it coming, just a split second before it happens. Later he’ll blame it on his lazy survival instinct that he doesn’t even flinch.
As Suzie pulls the trigger all he can think is Oh no, not again, knowing this head wound will surely make his migraine even worse than it is already.
He blinks, finding himself flat on the pavement. Just in time to resolve this peacefully, he hopes. Before doing so he takes 'Headshot' off his growing mental list of Things That Might Make Him Stay Down.
But not today.
Today he still has a job to do.
On his new job (he still can’t believe how he got it) he learns more dangers lurk in Cardiff than he thought possible. He avoids fatal injuries, mostly because of the pain and because it takes the fun out of his missions.
That way danger doesn’t get too boring.
He finds it hard to kill things, even the spiders in his bathroom lead a safe life. He has no idea why, maybe he’s not taking death for granted anymore.
He climbs rooftops late at night, standing on the edge, searching for that adrenaline rush of danger, never finding it again.
He dozes off, dreams of Rose, the universe in her hands like a fragile bird and she’s smiling at him. There’s golden light floating around her, guiding him, saving him, healing.
"Always" she says, and he always wakes with a start.
He hates waking up like this, not sure if someone got him killed while he didn’t notice. Dying in his sleep would be the last straw.
A cup of coffee’s steaming on his desk, obviously a gift from a very silent Ianto.
He rubs his eyes, sips his coffee and gets back to work.
Sleep is for the dead.