tacit: (ianto sulky)
[personal profile] tacit

Title: By Chance
Fandom: Torchwood
Author: [livejournal.com profile] tacittype
Pairing: Jack/Ianto
Spoilers: Children of Earth, up to Day Four
Length: 1100 words
Warnings (Highlight to view): Themes of character death, suffocation.
Beta by [livejournal.com profile] deltacephei, who saved me from my run on sentences and made up grammar. And then I futzed some more, so all errors are mine. Thanks, hon!

Ianto stumbled at the force of Jack's hand slapping over his mouth and nose. His own hand flew up to catch Jack's wrist, intending to pull free. They would be no use standing about smothering themselves. Then Jack met his displeased look and Ianto saw fear. Desperation.

"Don't breathe," Jack told him roughly. His other hand cradled the back of Ianto's head, and Jack shook him to emphasise his point, as if Ianto wasn't already listening. "Don't breathe it in!"

And then his hands were gone and so was Jack, coat flying wildly behind him. Ianto took one mindless step after him, wanting to call out, to ask him what he was going to do - and then stilled. Maybe there was a way. Jack always had a plan, even if half the time it was outlandish and half-cocked, and stitched together with bravado and intent. Any plans Ianto might have dredged up now would stay locked behind his lips, unless they were to involve death by toxin. He mutely watched the door squeak on his hinges, willing his heart to slow its wasteful pounding.

He folded himself neatly to the floor, pulling at the knot of his tie. He faced towards the door Jack had run through, not towards the 456. It was a petty defiance and perhaps meaningless to them, but it gave him a small satisfaction to disregard them now, in this. There was an air vent above him, and Ianto's awareness of the slight breeze on his hands and neck made him shiver. Was he even now absorbing poison through his skin? Death by osmosis?

He balled one end of his tie into a gag and wound the rest around his mouth and nose. At some point his instincts would take over and he would try to breathe. Perhaps he should bind his hands as well. Once he passed out, Jack should still have a few minutes to get him air before the oxygen deprivation damaged him. Assuming Jack didn't die first.

His intercostal muscles were already starting to spasm with the need to contract. It had only been seconds, but he hadn't taken this breath expecting to hold it, and he was afraid he wouldn't be able to last for much longer.

The rush of blood in his ears obscured Jack's yells from outside the room. He was shouting for something, giving orders to people who were probably already dying. Ianto closed his eyes and tried to recall: had he taken a breath since the toxin was released? How long had it been infiltrating the room before Jack muffled him? He couldn't tell if his hands shook from the toxin or the adrenaline. His eyes stung.

It was too much: the pulsing red darkness, his thundering heart, the claustrophobia of having his mouth and nose obstructed, and the clenching ache in his lungs. His eyes sprung open, gaze already fixed on the door. Jack would be back. He had to trust that Jack would be back.

And then he was, careening through the door. Ianto rose to a knee, but before he could stand, Jack's hands were on his shoulder, on his cheek. "Save your oxygen," Jack panted. "There's clean air, it's not far." Jack dipped, moving to put a shoulder under his middle and lift him. Ianto caught at Jack's shoulders and squeezed, hard. Jack met his eyes; fearful still, but the determination of a plan in motion. Ianto would have breathed relief if he hadn't been brimming over with questions, with censure at Jack's lack of self-preservation, with terror. He tried to glare his queries into speech. Jack brushed an imprecise kiss to his forehead. The moist warmth on his skin felt nothing like the stirring air on his hands. "Later," he said, and it was an order, a wish, a benediction. Jack shifted again, and this time Ianto allowed the indignity of being hoisted over his shoulder. He grabbed at Jack's waist to give his hands something to do other than tear off the bindings around his face. The tie was too tight, too confining.

Ianto felt his gorge rising as Jack lurched to the door, his shoulder hard in Ianto's middle. Jack wobbled for a few steps until he had some momentum going, but surely the heaviness Ianto felt in his limbs wasn't conferable. The movement and the intrusion of Jack's shoulder cost Ianto the last of his air. He could feel blood suffuse his face, saw spots crowd his vision.

They were in the corridor. Ianto's lungs burned. It would surely only be seconds before they started to pump with or without his consent. He wondered if the tie would do its job. Nothing to be done about it, now. His vision was dark and he closed his eyes, jostling painfully on Jack's shoulder, trusting blindly to Jack's strength. Jack shifted Ianto's weight and staggered; one vital step wasted to re-balance. Ianto's limbs felt light now, as if he was floating. It seemed unjust that this, Jack didn't seem to notice; his steps were getting shorter, his movements less sure.

The need to scrabble at the tie overwhelmed him. He couldn't think. All that was left was a primal panic. One treacherous hand blundered up to claw the tie away. Jack shouldered clumsily through a door, knocking Ianto hard against the frame and falling, coming down hard on his knees. Jack rolled Ianto gracelessly to the ground. He fetched up against a hard, industrial mass, head roaring dully. Death by asphyxiation.

He raked his nose free enough to suck in a desperate, noisy breath.

"Ianto!" Jack gasped, and all at once his hands seemed to be obstructing Ianto's breath, twisting at the tie, grabbing Ianto's wrists. Time seemed to come in spurts; a second here, a second there. His vision cleared enough to see Jack's blotchy face and bulging eyes. His lungs seemed not to burn any less for the stolen breath, if anything the clenching burn turned sharper. Jack coughed, fumbling one-handed at something Ianto couldn't see. He heard the hiss of pressurised gas, but he didn't have the strength to turn his head. He wanted to fight Jack's grip; to beg for air; to scrabble and claw and scream. And, he wished he had the energy and coherency to express his gratitude for Jack's presence; wished he could smooth Jack's skin; seize a kiss. He wanted to say something. He hated to think that his last words were wasted on his murderers.

The mask descended, huge and heavy. Jack pressed it to Ianto's face too hard, hard enough to bruise. Fumbling fingers caught at the twists of his tie. It was impossible to cling to consciousness for another second, not even for the promise of clean air.

He felt Jack falling across his own legs.

And then he felt nothing.

Author's note: I quite like this as an ambiguous stand-alone, but if you're interested in one of the multiverse's next scenes, there is now a sequel.

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