"I always loved that suit," Ianto says. Lisa turns around automatically from the panel she's fiddling with, then wishes she hadn't. Automatic, too, had been her brain's processing of his comment, and her stupid heart jolts when she sees him not watching her preoccupation with a slouched air of amusement, but still strapped into the machine.
It's ridiculous, because how could she even get comfortable enough in the dingy, cavernous room to mistake it for home? Yet the sound of the respirator, working Ianto's steel-crushed lungs for him, has somehow become as familiar a background noise as his breathing once was.
He looks wrong, though, and no degree of familiarity is ever going to make that not turn her stomach. The pallor of his skin is corpse-pale, or worse; the metal around it makes it look like cooked meat, taken out of the fire and carapace broken apart.
She still remembers the smell of being inside the Tower while it burned.
"Just because you chose it," she retorts playfully, turning back to the panel, testing the connectivity of the last of the wires before closing the cover again. She looks back over her shoulder. "It's unbecoming to be vain. Still, I suppose I should know to expect it from you, by now."
He smiles at her, and that alone is enough to make her belly do a quick somersault of victory. "Come here."
She steps closer, heels against the concrete clicking a short countdown to his side. His smile is fainter, this much closer, any spark in it counteracted by the rawness of his eyes, bloodshot and watery. She's not even entirely sure how much muscle control he's got over most of his face, especially when he's not able to move his jaw much. Or perhaps there's just never opportunity for his expression to shift out of the tightness of bearing pain.
He doesn't blink, just watches her blearily. The wet focus of his gaze reminds her bizarrely of a baby's, unselfconscious and intensely fixed. It doesn't make her as uncomfortable as it might once have.
"Will you touch me?" he asks.
There's not that many places she can, and sometimes she doubts if he can feel where she can touch him without pain; still, he knows that her hands are on him, and that seems to be enough. Lisa lays her hand against his cheek. It's dry and smooth; the last time he shaved was the morning of the battle, and nothing has grown since then, not even his fingernails.
She chooses to file that away under her cause for hope column. She's heard that hair and fingernails continue to grow even after death.
The skin she strokes with her fingertips is hot; it radiates warmth like an electronic element, yet Ianto never sweats. His lips are dry as well but not cracked—she supposes that would require the growth of new skin, too—and Lisa finds her hands itching again for the trappings of a more typical sickbed; a glass of water with a straw, a wet cloth to squeeze into his mouth.
The conversion unit takes care of that, though. Ianto says he doesn't even get thirsty or hungry. God, she'd never thought she'd think wistfully of sweat, piss and vomit.
She starts to sweat, as if in sympathy. It's probably going to ruin her shirt for today. But when she goes back up to the main area of the Hub, she's sure the subterranean, watery atmosphere will cool her down again. Just so long as no opportunities arise to remove her jacket, though that's not something she can rule out with certainty, not any more.
"Penny for them," Ianto says, voice rough, half-mumbled with his constricted jaw. She used to feel embarrassed about his accent, sometimes, when they were out at a pub and surrounded by friends and acquaintances, trying to shift from Lisa to Lisa-and-Ianto. The lilting cadence of it would be amplified by a pint or few, and she'd find herself cringing in awareness of it, watching the faces of the the people around them for a hint of scorn, anticipating their sharp tongues and choppy inflection.
Now he's never relaxed enough to flow into any kind of familiar rhythm, his comments and requests a hesitant monotone, more often than not. She misses it with an ache that feels petty in the face of everything else he's lost.
"Wish I could stay longer," she says, stroking the tip of her index finger lightly over one eyebrow, and then the other. He used to do that to her, mostly when his freakish morning-person nature kicked in and he'd lie there looking at her while she futilely willed her brain to just ignore him and sink back into REM.
"Working you hard, is he?" Ianto asks, mouth twitching in what would once have been a wry quirk, though Lisa winces internally at his choice of phrase. "Him upstairs?"
"No," she says, "It's not— He's not." She licks her lips to stall while she tries to figure out how to best communicate what she wants to say, though she really, really doesn't want to have this conversation right now, would rather get through it at that magical point in the future when she actually has emotional fortitude. "I just… Like to be available." Not the best choice of phrase for her, either. She covers it, though—"I don't want him getting suspicious."—Ineptly.
Ianto's still watching her, intently, she feels his brows tense under her fingers. "You don't have to prostitute yourself, you know," he says, subdued. He's always been frank, but these days it's not as often couched in wit.
Her first urge is to to scoff it off, but the earnestness in Ianto's muted tone deserves more than that. Especially as they've talked about this already, perhaps not through this lens, but he's certainly not speaking metaphorically. And he deserves her honesty. Fuck, there's not much else she can give him.
"It's not like that," she says, and then, almost as an amendment, "I don't." But it's too late; if anything, Ianto looks more devastated at her reassurance. It twists her insides; she knows she'd go mad if having sex with Jack was just something that had to be borne, but she burns with empathy for Ianto lying trapped here, thinking she's enjoying it.
He used to be an absolute drama queen when it came to emotional situations, it was one of the things she absolutely loved about him. His tolerance level for emotional stimulation was high; he could be wry and collected and reserved the vast majority of the time, but give him enough intensity—and that's something she knew just how to tip over the edge—and the histrionics would come out.
Not now, though. His eyes close, and his mouth, as if pressing lips and lids shut can shut everything else out. Lisa looks away automatically, empathising with a jolt of pity his thwarted desire for privacy. Her gaze falls down across his body instead, but it just tightens her throat with frustration and anger on his behalf; he may be able to seal eyes and mouth but the metal is permanently holding him open, piercing flesh and bone.
"Tell me about him," Ianto says, and she turns back. His eyes are still closed, like he's waiting for her to tell him a bedtime story to send him off to blissful slumber.
Her fingers brush the wings of his brows again, then down the line of his nose. She strokes the back of her knuckles over his cheek. The respirator creaks and hisses without pause.
"He's a good man," she says at last. The statement resonates with regret, but she's convinced it's the right thing to say; Ianto feels keenly, as she does, that Torchwood Three is not deserving of their deception. But better Ianto think she's not being fucked by a monster than feel their betrayal is justified. "Though," she amends. "He's a terrible leader."
Ianto's lips twitch and she moves her hand without even thinking about it, fingers resting lightly over his mouth. She can feel his smile better than she can see it; she closes her eyes as well.
"I bet you've whipped him into shape, then," Ianto murmurs, the shapes of the words brushing against her fingers.
Lisa smirks. "Hardly," she says. "He's an alpha male. You know the type."
"Ah," Ianto says knowingly. "So you taunt him into shape."
She laughs. Her body wants to shove him lightly, maybe bump into his shoulder; she pats his cheek lightly instead. "You'd like him."
"Tall, dark stranger?"
"The strong, terribly verbose type."
Lisa's fingertip slips into the hint of a dimple that's appeared, and she grins. She wants to kiss him. But she doesn't want to break this moment. The thwarted urge opens up a gap that leaves her feeling breathless and aching and she wants Jack in this moment; stimulus and response, she's Pavlov's heartsick dog.
"It isn't like that," she says again, unable to not go back there; she speaks with more conviction this time. Ianto doesn't question the leap back in conversation.
His mouth purses against her fingers; a kiss, not a pout. "What is it like, then?"
She hesitates, on the cusp of something else, not confident that she's going not to crush him by offering every detail. It's not that Jack's a better lover than Ianto, or rather that he can play her body better, it is just… worlds of difference. Entire galaxies, even. And not in a god, what have I been missing out on? way but more, god, how can I get Ianto into bed with us? She thinks about Ianto constantly when she's fucking Jack; if his presence were actualised, she might spontaneously combust.
God, she misses him.
"He takes care of me," she says at length, soft and honest, and when she opens her eyes again, Ianto's looking up at her.
"Well," he says, and she moves her hand back to his cheek, to see the movement of his lips instead. "Make sure to thank him properly."
She huffs in amusement. "I'll arrange a gift basket."
"Use my credit card," he instructs, then, "Kiss me."
So she does.