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The Art of Tragedy Was Born In Masks

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The hard soles of his shoes clap staccato as Ianto trots down the steps. It takes a few seconds for his eyes to adjust from the Hub's harsh lighting to the spotty illumination that rules the corridors. He's fully in the gloom before he feels the face he sold Harkness start to loosen.

In the months since his arrival he's memorized these passages and marked out their meaning. They're his retreat, the liminal spaces where he doesn't need any of his masks. He rubs his face reflexively, as if to check it's still his own. Still real. Here in the tunnels Ianto is himself, albeit in passing. His skin is warm and dry. Late afternoon stubble scrapes against his palms. It bothers him sometimes that his face feels like this even when the others are near. He'd feel less mad among them if he could touch his cheek and find that it was hard, cool clay instead.

The corridor bends in the near dark and Ianto bends himself with it. He can only just see the shape of Lisa's door from here, and that's his cue to don his brave face, his patient heart, and what's left of hope here in Lisa's secret crypt.

No, not a crypt. She's alive, and they've found a doctor in Japan. They're just waiting now is all, and pretty soon this will all be over and they can run away to wherever they like, Torchwood be damned. They'll have to take new names, he expects. Matching masks, his and hers, like a wedding present.

Ianto pushes the hex key into the lock and gives it a turn. The bolt snaps back and he peers in. It's not until he sees her breathing that he exhales and steps in fully. Lisa is asleep, but her eyelids flutter when he touches her cheek. His expression slips; Ianto grits his teeth. The steel that frames her flesh is obscene. It makes a mollusk of her sex and mask of her real face.

"Ianto?" Lisa says and opens her eyes.

He smiles and leans down. "I'm here."