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Torchwood Fic: "Phobetor Descended"
star trek xi; finally gold
cirrocumulus wrote in cirro_media
Title: Phobetor Descended
Fandom/Pairing: Torchwood, Jack/Ianto (mildly)
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 4,803
Genre: suspense/angst
Summary: Psychosis-monster, in the basement.
Author's Note: Completed for the first challenge at myfanwys_nest.

The furniture in Ianto's living room tried to reflect what it could, but the TV set didn't give it much.

But Ianto wasn't paying particular attention to the television. He had stopped watching approximately two days ago, the first time he'd been here at three in the morning. By now he'd appropriated a good method of meting out the portions of terror that he allowed to slip forward for conscious examination, only a little at a time. Any more than that sent him staggering off the couch and trying to discharge what he could in frantic motions: running his fingers through his hair and wiping his sweaty hands on his trousers. Eventually he always orbited back to the couch with a little more of the room's darkness having slipped into his head.

It was time to go in. Ianto even put a suit on: black jacket and a crisp red tie. Perhaps it would make his shame more dignified.

Ianto's footsteps echoed petulantly in the hallway leading to the Hub and Ianto nearly expected the walls to tell him to shut up, they're trying to sleep.

He was still shaking, still trying to exhaust himself into sleep with shaking, but approaching the Hub allowed the slightest bit of hope to start up in his chest. By now he had forgotten quite what hope felt like and it mixed into the rest of the nausea and twitching in him, but it was still there and bright and the power of it was nearly more than he could take in his state. He leaned against the wall right in front of the cog door, so afraid and not even knowing why, but all he could do was stay where he was. The Hub was safe, but this fact was less meaningful than it had been even five seconds ago, doubt ebbing in as soon as he looked through the small window in the door and saw the darkness on the other side. Perhaps if he was just near the promise of the Hub's protection it would be enough, but even as he weighed the possibility of curling up in the hallway for four hours until morning, the little bulb of hope faded and died and he was abruptly out in the cold, again.

The door rolled back into its slot—he must have moved closer, bless his impulses—and Ianto was absurdly grateful for the familiar chirping alarm and flashing lights it sent up to announce his arrival. The Hub was crushingly dark, and so empty that he couldn't tell where the room ended and his own mind began—but, the light in the boardroom was on.

Ianto peered at it, making a round-about path towards the second level stairs. He stumbled on the first step and gripped onto the railing, pulling himself forward in a trance-like state. As he got to the landing and advanced towards the boardroom he could see through its glass walls that Jack and Gwen were already inside: Jack at the head of the table, as usual, Gwen a frail creature to his right.

Neither of them noticed Ianto until he stepped through the door, but when they did Jack gave him a raised-eyebrows expression, as if he had been expecting Ianto to show up but was still surprised that he had.

"I, ah..." Ianto started to explain, surprised by the roughness of his own voice, but the part of his brain that was supposed to be providing speech wasn't even trying.

"You couldn't sleep," Jack offered, something strange in his voice that made Ianto nervous. Ianto was so grateful for Jack's saving him the embarrassment of having to explain himself that he didn't remember until Jack's gaze grew stale that he was expected to nod in affirmation. Jack traded a look with Gwen and Ianto felt hopelessly anxious all over again. When nobody said anything further Ianto traveled over to the chair on Jack's left and sat down.

Jack got up from his chair almost as soon as Ianto sat down and started pacing in front of the table, a monster under the fluorescent lights, making Ianto distinctly uneasy. Gwen looked unreadable and didn't respond at all to Ianto's gaze.

Jack finally leaned against the edge of the table, startling Ianto out of a daze he hadn't been aware that he had slipped into.

"Well," Jack said in a rough voice, "this doesn't bode well for us."

Ianto might have laughed.

"What doesn't?" Gwen asked, though her voice lacked any suggestion of interest.

"Something's doing this to us," Jack announced, more to the table than anything.

Ianto managed to lift his head for a look at Jack. "How do you mean?"

Jack glanced at Ianto for only a moment, a glance Ianto impulsively wanted to chase and pull back to him.

"There are monsters, aliens, that do this," Jack explained, his gaze unfocused as if he were viewing something only in his mind. "They're scavengers. They don't make their own shelters. Instead they settle in other creatures' homes and flush them out."

"What— how?" Ianto asked. His imagination immediately set to work creating visions of all sorts of grotesque monsters, shining teeth and oozing, some under the table by his feet.

"Like this," Jack said, nodding in what absurdly seemed like wry admiration. "Fear, insomnia... until whoever's living there just leaves for somewhere that doesn't make them feel psychotic."

Ianto weighed this information.

"But we can't," Jack said with a sigh. "Obviously."

"So what do we do?" Gwen's voice made Ianto feel like he might have to run around the table to catch her.

"We have to find it." Jack said. "And kill it. And then it'll stop."

Jack straightened and stepped away from the table just slightly, just so that the light on his face shifted, the shadows retreating to other planes and depressions. Ianto was mesmerized by Jack's image in that moment: absolutely terrifying to behold, but the frailty accenting the edges of his shoulders only emphasized their strength and Ianto had never admired him more. His eyes were inscrutable and dark and if he got any paler he would turn transparent, and he looked, truly, beautiful.

Ianto turned the gun over in his hands, made sure it was functional. A special gun to take on nearly any form of alien life— equipped with bullets, lasers, flamethrower, mechanisms Ianto infuriatingly didn't understand. The glint of the metal hurt his eyes.

"I don't understand," Gwen said from somewhere, her voice so frail Ianto had to strain to hear it. "How could it have gotten in?"

"I don't know," Jack said gruffly. He was loading bullets into his gun.

Ianto didn't say anything. The very thought of speaking made him slightly nauseous. At some point Ianto had to reach past Jack to get a fuel cell from the armory's table and Jack briefly caught his eye, but it was a look that didn't mean anything no matter how much Ianto thought about it.

When everything was loaded and Ianto had had ample time to imagine exactly how painful the next few hours might be, the three of them convened on the landing of the stairs leading to the basement levels.

"Ideally, we should all split up and tackle a set of floors by ourselves," Jack said, staring at his gun as if he were talking to it particularly. "We can cover more in a shorter time that way, and obviously if anyone needs help we can come up from our levels to help out."

"I'll take the bottom three levels," Ianto offered. Jack glanced at him and Ianto added quietly, parceling out just enough shame to complete the comment, "I know them pretty well."

Jack's gaze moved away as carelessly as it had fallen on him. "Fine. Gwen, you take the top three. I'll get the middle three. We good?"

"Sure," Ianto said.

Gwen didn't. Her mouth was pressed and pale, and when Jack gazed at her inquisitively all she offered was a worried glance from under dark eyelashes. Her stare whipped about from her shoes to Jack to spaces in between, and she stayed obstinately close to him.

"Right, uh, you good for the last three levels, Ianto?" Jack asked, looking back at Ianto expectantly. Ianto glanced between Jack and Gwen, waiting for someone to state the obvious, but when nothing happened he just nodded.

"Good," Jack said, but Ianto was already walking off without his approval. The stairwell below was dark and seemed to have its own gravitational field that was definitely going to eat his head, but Ianto had a mission now and kept on walking. When he slowed just for a moment to glance behind him he saw Gwen gazing at Jack with appreciation and Jack laying a comforting hand on her shoulder, leading them off together into the other stairwell, and Ianto walked a bit faster.

The darkness made his mind shiver. The anxiety in his chest filled his pericardium and put pressure on his heart, making it beat harder, and Ianto wondered if anyone was truly meant to go after this monster. But thinking about his heartbeat only worried him more and he periodically had to pause against a wall for a moment and try to absorb some peace from the cold stones.

He was so tired, too, like a black hole in his head and he had to grit his teeth against it. How he would ever make it through all his designated levels would be a miracle. As it was, standing up was enough of a problem to overcome.

"How you doing down there?" Jack's voice crackled in his ear and Ianto jolted.

"I'm fine," Ianto replied. "Haven't found anything yet."

"Nothing here either."

"Great," Ianto said abruptly and let the comm link disconnect. He didn't need voices in his head, now.

After more uncountable minutes of walking—Ianto was sure he hadn't progressed very far— he heard a noise behind him and turned around, leveling his gun in front of him. It was Jack.

"Oh," Ianto said, quickly dropping the gun. "Hello."

"Just wanted to see how you were doing," Jack said, stepping forward and giving Ianto a sympathetic look that, though Ianto searched it, seemed earnest.

"I'm alright. Where's Gwen?"

"Up a few levels. She felt better about being down here after a little bit."

Ianto nodded contentedly; he searched for some kind of emotion to present but his eye was only focused perpetually inward. It was difficult to see Jack through the noise.

"If you want me to stay here for a bit I could," Jack said. Ianto squinted through the darkness to try and catch the details of Jack's features, but the ceiling lights didn't quite reach his eyes and Ianto had to depend on what he could see of Jack's tentatively set mouth.

"No," Ianto said, somehow surprised at how the sound of his own voice slipped down the hallway. "I'm alright here."

Unexpectedly, Jack smiled at that, and Ianto could hear the slightest exhalation of amusement.

"I know," Jack said. "You always are."

The absence of visible face was starting to bother Ianto—it reminded him of gap-eyed nightmares and he tried to sift through his memories to come up with an excuse to get Jack to step forward, but his scattered mind had gone into self-preservation and refused to let anything travel away from home. Ianto grew increasingly nervous as Jack stared at him and he tried to think of something to say.

"You don't need to worry about anything," Jack said suddenly, and Ianto's heart felt more or less like it was trying to shield itself behind his stomach.

"What do you mean?"

"You don't value yourself like you should," Jack said, started to step forward. Ianto reflexively stepped backward and then shouted internally when Jack stopped advancing.

"But I always will," Jack continued. Ianto's heart, now, nuzzling his pancreas.

"Value yourself?" Ianto joked. Jack smiled and Ianto could see the glint of his teeth clearly enough.

"You know what I mean," Jack said quietly, walking forward—the light finally found a way to sift into his eyes and at the pale glint Ianto's internal organs uniformly diffused into a bubbling ether that left his body feeling strangely light.

"Dunno, feeling a bit thick today," Ianto said. He couldn't help smiling. "You might have to spell it out for me a little more clearly."

Jack smirked and stepped forward—Ianto was surprised, as he always was, by the fact that Jack was just as tall as him. Somehow Jack seemed like he should be taller, the way Ianto always thought of Jack in his head, and Ianto was usually surprised whenever Jack would stand close to him with eyes almost level.

"I like you," Jack finally said. Ianto tried to hold onto Jack's intent gaze, but it was exhausting.

"Really?" Ianto asked with poorly aimed incredulity.

"Yes. I like who you are. And I think you need to protect that a little better."

Ianto, for his part, was too busy trying to remember who he was to respond.


When Ianto looked Jack's face seemed perfectly honest, angles of worry placed around cautious eyes.

"I can try," Ianto replied. Jack instantly retreated back behind his eyes, transparency gone and once again assuming the steady role of commander. At the same time exhaustion slipped back into Ianto's body as if a transferal had taken place.

"I'm proud of you, you know," Jack said, appraising Ianto thoughtfully as if Ianto were his favorite soldier. Ianto absorbed it like a warm core that his body had lost.

"Thank you, sir," Ianto said. It felt immediately alien and strange—he didn't even know when the last time was that he'd called Jack 'sir,' but it seemed like the appropriate answer to the way Jack was looking at him.

"Do you want me to stay with you?" Jack whispered intently, gently searching Ianto's eyes without waiting for a verbal answer. Small shivers tried their luck down Ianto's arms and he couldn't help leaning a little forward, just for the warmth.

"Maybe for a little bit," Ianto said with a smile. Jack grinned too and Ianto turned, pressing on through to the rest of the corridor.

Suddenly there was space all around him.

"Jack?" Ianto called, looking behind him. Nobody was there. Panic crackled along his forehead and cheekbones. It took a few seconds before Ianto gained enough control over his fingers to activate his earpiece.


"Ianto? Is everything alright down there?"

Ianto's heart apparently wanted no part of the proceedings and was trying to shake itself free of its binding vessels. I need you, you fucker.

"Ah, where..." Ianto stuttered, his fingers rushing with cold; he felt like he must be bleeding internally. "Where are you?"

"Gwen and I are on level four right now." God dropped an ice cube down the back of Ianto's shirt.

Jack paused on the other end; digital suspicion arrived on Ianto's end of the line. "Why?"

"Wh—I was just wondering—"

"No. Tell me what happened."

Ianto clenched his teeth and held back a swear.

"I... I just thought you were here."

"What does that mean?"

"I think I hallucinated that you were here," Ianto ground out.

He could hear Gwen's wide-eyed look and the glance she and Jack shared.

"You should come up." Jack's voice was rough, and for most people would allow no room for argument.

"I'm fine, Jack."


"I'm not going to just give up on looking for this thing!" Ianto shouted. The walls of the corridor threw back his voice.

"Ianto, you're clearly not in a fit state—"

"J—" Ianto sputtered and tore out his earpiece, throwing it on the floor—he nearly stepped on it before controlling himself and stalking a few feet off, covering his face with his hands.

Annoyed, tinny noises issued from the dejected comm. Ianto had his fingers pressed into the corners of his eyes and stood still, trying to enforce serenity. The ceiling lights glared at him, made more contrast of his body than he believed in himself.

After a few seconds of slow breathing Ianto managed to look ahead and continue walking.

Ianto kept thinking of the earpiece lying on the dusty floor of the level above like it was his oven that he suspected he'd forgotten to shut off. Several times he nearly fled back to retrieve it out of a fit of compulsiveness, but every time only gripped the gun tighter and kept walking. He knew how irresponsible he was being. Jack and Gwen could need help and he'd never know.

Descending the last flight of stairs onto the floor of then ninth level felt portentous; somehow the air down there was different. A little heavier, and Ianto suddenly felt like he couldn't breathe as well, as if the air didn't make it all the way into his lungs but got discouraged along the way and fled back out. The thought made Ianto feel a little lonely.

Ianto peered down the hall. All of the storage rooms needed to be searched and he went through them one by one, using a little light on the bottom of the gun for illumination. Boxes and equipment lying about cast jumping shadows on the walls that often looked like anthropomorphic shapes, living creatures that gave Ianto several pocket-sized heart attacks. Maybe it was just his eyes— not that that made it better.

Ianto's heart, for its part, was petulantly sending out Morse code warnings.

I do not wish to be here anymore, it said.

Tough, Ianto replied. We have a job to do.

Fine. But if anything bad happens I'm taking refuge in your larynx.

And why would you need to do that?

Because all the lights are out.

Ianto froze. Looked up, around the room.


Just look.

When Ianto turned around there was only blackness behind the door leading out into the corridor. His heart made good on its promise.

Ianto crept forward slightly, aiming the light out into the corridor. He couldn't see the opposite wall.

When he tried, he couldn't see his feet either.

And he realized the light wasn't actually working at all when he tipped it up towards its face and saw nothing.

Instinctively Ianto slid down the doorframe to curl up on the floor, knees tucked close to him and cradling his weapon for life. All around was simple blackness, and if it weren't for the floor underneath him he might have thought himself transported into empty space. Anything could be right in front of him and he wouldn't know; he was trembling all over, localized seizures, feeling like he was a child in a nightmare again, too afraid even to move. His tired eyes threw shifting, amorphous shapes into the dark.

You came in from the right, Ianto suddenly remembered. He had to feel in front of him to make sure there was a floor. Dust collected on his hands and he recoiled but slowly started to creep out from behind the doorframe—if he looked ahead he could just barely make out faint light from the end of the hallway where the lights were apparently still working.

Something made a noise behind him.

Ianto immediately threw himself against the wall, aiming his gun in front of him more like a shield than a weapon. Shaking, shaking. He tried to still his chattering long enough to listen.

Droning. A globular, staccato sound, like something that was too sick to breathe properly.

Ianto's whole body was frozen in place no matter how loudly he yelled at it internally, as if he were experiencing sleep paralysis. After a few moments he finally managed to jog a foot back, then another one, and before he quite knew it he was in a flat-out run towards the safety of the end of the corridor. The complete exhaustion combined with his terror made him stumble and he clawed at the dusty floor until he was up again, running so hard that air burned the back of his throat and he kept running until he reached the patch of light and the flight of stairs. At the first step he tripped and collapsed, taking the break to catch his breath. Cautiously he looked behind him; the first few rows of ceiling lights were in order but darkness engulfed the end of the hallway, a dark so complete that it hurt to look at it. As Ianto sat there one of the functioning lights closest to the boundary of darkness slowly dimmed and went out.

It was advancing.

Ianto's legs felt weak, and he struggled to pull himself up, clinging to the railing of the stairs with hands getting progressively number and more slippery. His survival instinct was so useless now; it scattered all the thinking processes of his brain to opposite corners and he was running only on madness, clambering up the stairs blindly though it felt like the long, craggy path up the slope of Everest.

He couldn't breathe; air made no sense anymore but he kept going, pulling himself up hand over hand and stumbling around the curve in the stairs up towards the landing, pulled down on the left side of his body by the weapon's weight. Ianto felt absurdly like he was about to cry from sheer frustration and desperation, so frightened and so tired that he was sure there was nothing left for him but to be eaten alive by whatever was making its way toward him—he couldn't see it anymore, but he could feel it—from the level below.

Please, please, please was all he thought as he made it towards the landing of the eighth level, praying to find Jack and Gwen there, but the corridor was vacated. Not much time had passed since Jack had told him they were on the fourth floor; by now they were on the sixth at best. Ianto panted and kindly asked his heart how many more beats he could rely on.

"I don't know how much longer I can do this for," Gwen said. Jack had just pronounced the storage room they were sweeping clear of all alien life.

"How do you mean?" Jack's voice was gruff, and distant. Gwen peddled around to plant herself in front of his eyes.

"It's just that every time we search one of these things—I mean we have no idea what we could find in here. And what about Ianto, Jack? We don't know where he is, anything could have happened to him!"

"He has a weapon that can take out basically anything that he would come across," Jack replied steadily, as if he were tired of Gwen's questioning.

"That doesn't mean anything! You have no idea what's going on—how could you not even be frightened for him?"

Gwen's gaze was angry and imploring, and as she stared Jack's look became more and more obscure and impossible to read. Patches of an answer appeared in fragments of expressions but never a whole at once.

"It's his duty as a Torchwood employee to put himself in danger for the safety of Torchwood and the world," Jack explained. "It's not a pretty fact but it's what we all have to live with."

Gwen looked as affronted as he'd expected but she kept her lips pressed together and didn't say anything. Jack adopted a sympathetic expression and led her out of the storage room into the corridor.

"Besides," Jack continued quietly, "he's the one who abandoned us."

Gwen stopped walking. Jack braced for impact.

"What do you mean?" Gwen looked horrified.

"When he dropped his comm link he placed all of us—"

At that moment Ianto appeared and collapsed onto the landing in front of them. Gwen gasped; for a moment all Jack could do was stare.

"Are you alright?" Gwen half-whispered, creeping over to Ianto and kneeling beside him. At her approach he turned his face into the floor.

"Ianto?" Jack asked, hovering over Gwen's shoulder.

"He's shaking," Gwen said, looking worriedly at Jack.

"Ianto, tell me what happened," Jack said smoothly, kneeling beside Gwen.

"What do you think?" Ianto mumbled harshly. His eyes rolled over towards Jack's direction, bloodshot and glossy. "I found it."


"I'm so tired," Ianto whispered, digging his fingers into the floor—Jack grabbed his arm and helped him up. Ianto swayed a bit but managed to stay upright, though who knew where his attention was.

"Ianto," Jack said, trying to coax Ianto's gaze toward him. "Did you kill it?"

Ianto was looking at him now, but his look made Jack wish he wasn't.

Jack sighed. "It's okay," he said hurriedly, placing a comforting hand on Ianto's shoulder. "We'll think of something. Gwen, take his gun off him—we have to get him out of here."

Gwen did as she was told and Jack steered Ianto toward the stairs. Ianto shrugged Jack's hand off of his shoulder but after only a few moments grabbed hold of Jack's wrist tightly. He held on for the rest of the walk and hated it the whole time.

The three of them emerged onto the surface of Roald Dahl Plass just as dawn was emerging over the crest of the bay. Pink light scattered across the Plass like a jar of powder sent spilling across the floor. Ianto shivered a little as the cold air of the morning ebbed into his head and lungs and cooled off the feverish panic that was still holding onto his nerves with hot hands.

Ianto had let go of Jack's wrist but Jack immediately steered Ianto over to the steps of the Plass with a hand on his shoulder, and Ianto didn't take the effort to shrug it off this time. He dimly remembered that they were in a relationship.

Ianto sat on the steps in pensive silence, folded over his knees, as Jack and Gwen took a more open approach to forgetting the past three hours. They faced the gold coin of the sun peaking over the horizon and Ianto examined the fabric of his trousers: all dusty.

"We have to come up with some sort of plan," Jack mused, mostly to himself, but Ianto listened because he basically belonged in Jack's head anyway.

"There's nothing we can do," Ianto mumbled. He didn't believe it, but it felt like a good idea to test the prospect and weigh it in his mouth.

"This is hardly the worst thing we've ever dealt with," Jack said sternly.

"And yet we've never been more scared," Ianto said, raising his head a little. Without combativeness for combativeness' sake there was nothing for Ianto's neurons to do but scream sharply in his face—he covered his eyes with his hands.

Ianto peeked through his fingers at Jack's profile; he was staring off into the distance, resting his chin thoughtfully on his fingers, but Ianto could see that his mind was only circling (perhaps around a drain).

"Obviously one of us at least is going to go back in," Ianto said through his teeth pressed tightly together, to keep the words back, for his teeth had better sense than him.

"If anyone goes back in we all are," Jack said with new solidity. "I'm not putting you in that much danger again."

Ianto suddenly felt very deflated, as if someone had innocently poked a hole in his chest with a sewing needle. He rested his head on his knees and wished for oblivion but oblivion hurt his spine.

"We just have to stay here for a while," Jack said. There was something so surreal in his voice that Ianto felt as if it was narrating the world for him, pulling the seas and the sky in closer and crafting for each of them their own assurance. "Just a little while out here and we'll be alright. We'll be better than we were before."

Ianto stared at the sunrise and found himself mouthing the last words Jack had spoken, were before we were before, but stopped when he felt the warmth of Jack's hand on his. Maybe Jack was right to look there, in his fingers, for Ianto's strength. Maybe that's where it was. Jack's hand was overlapping Ianto's a little and he would be touching the concrete of the stair also.

Ianto reflexively wondered what it would be like to have sex with Jack like this: the both of them paranoid and mind-shot, shaky and beyond the point of exhaustion where being awake was a sharp and painful trial, all of their sickliness pooled in their stomachs and making their fingers ache and feel around for anything at all to hold on to. Or maybe that, too, was a memory.

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o lol this was the one i voted for

This is amazing, obvs, and I am *mem*ing it forever.


Sweetness. And thank you!

(Also, damn, your icon. How can such a simple thing as a bound Ianto!wrist be so sexy?)

That was pretty brilliant. I could feel the tiredness and exhaustion seeping into my brain.
There were some great lines but I particularly liked the conversation with Ianto's heart taking refuge in his throat - because the lights had gone out. That was funny and it gave me chills.

Thank you! And yeah, while I was writing this it occurred to me that what this fic was missing was CLEARLY a literal dialogue with Ianto's internal organs, so I'm glad you liked it. :]

I liked this. It had a grim 'there are monsters under my bed and I'm too scared to move' feel to it.

Good grief this is vivid. And terrifying.

paranoid and mind-shot, shaky and beyond the point of exhaustion where being awake was a sharp and painful trial, all of their sickliness pooled in their stomachs and making their fingers ache and feel around for anything at all to hold on to.

Yikes, that is so exactly what sleep deprivation feels like. You had a bunch of other descriptions too where I was like, "yes, that." Awesome.

Tense, creepily atmospheric and wonderfully written, especially Ianto's internal dialogues with his body.

I'd really love to know how they eventually defeated the monster in the basement though!

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