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Countrycide - Broken Tide

By Risa Zugva

Adventure / Romance

All consuming

His arms were twitching from exhaustion. He wasn't himself. But then again, this wasn't too bad in itself. Being him was painful.

He wasn't raised to be relaxed, or happy. He was brought up to be up straight, uptight, and always polite. He tried to fight his background during his time with Lisa, but when she died, all of that was erased; he was once again closed, and buckled up. Maybe that's why he held on to her as desperately as he did.

Now when he thinks about it, he knows she died that horrible day in London when the Cybermen came out and attacked them. But he didn't know that at that time. He realized it just before the end. He didn't get it when she tried to kill him, or when she attacked his teammates, or even when she took the body of that poor pizza girl; it was when she told him "We can be upgraded together." After that the the team had shot her as one, four shots in the chest. The pain was too much to bear, and he couldn't think at all.

Later, much later, he heard those words once again. It seemed to him he was hearing those words over, and over again, but couldn't really hear them. "We can be upgraded together." His Lisa would never want to be upgraded into a senseless, emotionless machine, and she especially wouldn't want him to become one too. She'd been obsessed with making him more expressive, more verbal, more emotional. Less controlled. She used to say he was one step away from becoming a robot, but she saved him.

She saved him, and he ruined it all. He plugged himself into another Torchwood structure and became invisible, uninterested in at work, and the people around him. He didn't notice that they cared, that they bled and suffered, just like him. He let the cyber part take over his life; he let himself believe that Lisa was still in there somewhere. Now, he likes to think that she wasn't. It was a scary thought, picturing her in there, in the dark, out of control. That thought led to another, that he was tormenting her while attempting to save her. But that kind of thinking only leads down into darkness, and he doesn't think Lisa would want him to go there. She loved him too much for that. So he carries on for her, not really believing that he would find life where he would be more than a mere automaton.

Actions were easy for him, his hands and legs knew their routine. Conversation was the hardest thing. He came back to the Hub, to the people that killed the Cyberwoman that had possessed Lisa. Or maybe stole would be a better word. Those were the kinds of little puzzles that helped him think as he moved around people who wouldn't even look at him.

Jack did, though, he stared right at him. His eyes were like drilling holes, searching for something. Ianto wondered what that was. Maybe a threat, a knife stabbed straight in his back. He would think something like that, only to shrug it off his back. Ianto wasn't a violent man, he cleaned too many messes for that. Too much blood, scattered bodies left behind. It seemed to him that he couldn't even bear one drop more. The guilt and the horror of dragging Dr Tanizaki through the corridors was enough for him.

They thought that he resented them because of the death of Lisa, and he did in some way. But in another way he knew that he owed them. They did what he couldn't; they put her out of her misery. But he wouldn't confess that to them, because they did it only to protect themselves, not to help her.

Jack didn't kill him, didn't even banish him. That he took as a surprise. But then again, he thought, maybe this was his way of punishing him, to get him to walk through all this pain. That wouldn't be surprising. All the same, he owed Jack something even more, so he kept up cleaning, and bringing him coffee. All the same, Ianto was surprised at how calmly the drinks were taken from his hands. Wasn't Jack a bit worried? After all, he had punched him, called him a monster, and disobeyed his orders. His puzzlement got him distracted from the pain and emptiness, so he followed it through, and began watching his boss more closely.

As he watched, little glitches began to appear; frowns in his flawless face, regrets, sadness, and a kind of absence, as if he wasn't completely there. His flirtatious attitude began to vaporize in front of Ianto's eyes. As much as the man was infatuatingly charming, after their first encounter, he didn't really follow through. What it looked like, from Ianto's point of view, was that he was tired. Ianto could understand tiredness, so he left it at that.

After that, he could manage working alongside the man who'd pulled a gun on him with a steady and angry wish to finish him off. He wondered why he didn't. Maybe it was that look he had when he'd asked if he had ever loved anyone. Their eyes had made contact and he could see something moving behind burning gaze full of rage, something that looked like fear. He knew fear well, it went along with love, with the certainty of loss. When you don't want to lose somebody fear comes creeping in.

This day was all about fear. He felt a depth of fear that he had never felt before. Even when Cybermen tore bodies and Daleks flew from the sky. That threat was alien, the fight was neatly divided between us and them. But this was different. These people looked so ordinary.

He heard Gwen asking Jack to take her in. She wanted to talk to the man that held the butcher axe under his throat. He would laugh, if he could, that she believed she could understand. He understood far too well. Those people just drew the line around their village. Anyone outside was merely meat. No one you could sympathize with. He saw it in their eyes when they "tenderized" him with a bat. They didn't need his reaction, they didn't do it to hurt him, they simply did what was needed to be done so they could eat. His fear came from the fact that he couldn't do anything to persuade them to stop, they weren't interested in his pain. When he was too loud, they simply gagged his mouth so they could talk to each other.

He wasn't sorry he helped Toshiko escape. The little woman couldn't stand that kind of pain. Or could she? What did he even know about her? She talked like she had been trapped many times before. The uninterested computer woman held her gun with steady hands, but even she got trapped, and tied down. They all did, only Jack remained on his feet. He seemed to know how to do that.

His arms were aching now but he supported them on his knees to keep his tired body from tumbling down. He watched the man that saved them from the cannibals helping the desperate Gwen from the house. She looked defeated. Of course, the man with the axe took another bite out of her, if not from her flesh then from her soul. Her belief in human goodness was eaten away slowly by all the monsters that they encountered. The man who saved them from cannibals released Gwen's arm without hesitation when Owen cut in.

The man who saved them from the cannibals stood there alone in the middle of rotating lights, handcuffed villagers, eager policemen, and his broken team, and Ianto knew that he would never again think of him as the man who killed Lisa. He understood now, for the first time, he saw the monster hidden within. The all consuming apathy and lack of compassion of that monster led to a world of terror and pain, where screams are merely distraction from the task of collecting food. His Lisa was consumed by one of those creatures. She became food, and she would feed on him if they didn't stop her. Jack saw that happen, he knew what he was up against. Ianto had needed a serious beating before he understood what that means. Maybe Jack had taken some kind of beating of his own. He sure looked that way when he caught his eyes. He stared back at him with understanding. They just stood there, looking at each other.

That reminded Ianto of the day before when he was still petty and angry. He took an opportunity, and mentioned Lisa. Gwen tried to apologize for her silly game, but he'd snapped her on her fingers with his retort. Tosh and Owen had looked away in discomfort, but Jack just stared at him with disapproval in his eyes. He hadn't let that get to him. But now he thought that he'd been acting childishly. Jack protected him by mentioning that shapeless creature from months ago, and he could say he kissed him that horrible day in the water when he died.

That kiss brought him back to life, and that is why he owes Jack a little bit more. Maybe that was why he resented him little bit more than the rest of the team. He resented that he brought him back. He didn't care how it was done; he felt it while Jacks lips dragged him back from the darkness. There wasn't the time to kiss Lisa one more time, she was gone. So he just pretended that the kiss didn't happen, but now the saliva and the taste came back in his mouth, the colliding of his chin on his, the heat. For a brief moment he forgot his pain. But it all came crumbling down on him when Jack broke contact to talk to the policeman.

"It doesn't matter anyway," Ianto thought to himself. "The pain is all consuming and it won't stop."

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1. All consuming
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