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veritas6_5

Underground

Author: veritas6_5
Pairings: OT3
Word count: 4,177
Rating: T
Disclaimer: I just took them out to play with them, and I dropped them. I’ll put them back!
Beta: The lovely Harkpad.

A/N: Still struggling with that old devil POV. Special thanks for the efforts of Karaokegal to help me understand it!


Underground


Gwen nestled deeper into the scarf wrapped loosely in the collar of her coat, her hair sliding along the wool. Her head was cradled in someone’s arms, and she felt the easy rise and fall of breathing under her ear, and the soothing thump-bump of a beating heart. She heard a voice murmuring somewhere nearby, but didn’t want to rouse from her near-sleep. A gentle hand stroked her cheek, and touched her mouth, opening her lips a bit. She sighed deeply, and felt liquid trickle into her mouth. The liquid was cool, and a little bitter, but she swallowed obediently before turning her face away. She tried to move, find a more comfortable position, but discovered that she was restrained, couldn’t move more than an inch in any direction. She opened her eyes reluctantly . . . to the startling blue eyes of Jack Harkness, not six inches from her face. His hand was on her cheek, and she sighed again and closed her eyes.

“Wake up, Gwen,” he said softly. “You have to drink more of this,” and he held a tiny spoon to her lips. She let him pour a bit more of the liquid into her mouth, then swallowed and turned away from him, into his chest. His greatcoat was filthy with dirt and grit that wasn’t at all comforting to her skin. He held her closer, rocking her a little.

“Is she awake?”

Surely that was Ianto’s voice, she thought. What was going on? Where were they, and why was the light so dim? She turned back to Jack, but his chin was lifted, and he was speaking over her head.

“Not quite awake, not quite asleep,” Jack was telling Ianto. “I managed to get another tablespoon of the water into her, but she doesn’t like it.”

Because it tastes like flat beer, she thought, but not as good. She opened her mouth to speak, but only croaking sounds came out. She tried to clear her throat, but started to cough. Jack hitched her up a bit, helping her sit up, bracing her head against his shoulder, and put another spoonful of the liquid to her lips. “Drink this,” he coaxed, “it will help.”

She managed another two spoonfuls, but wrinkled her nose and pressed her lips together, shaking her head. “Tastes bad,” she managed to whisper.

She felt Ianto’s chest pressing against her back, and his arms came around her from behind. “You have to drink it, Gwen. You’re dehydrated, and we may be stuck here for a while,” he coaxed.

Jack moved away, letting Ianto take Gwen’s weight, and Jack lay down next to her. She could feel the weight of his arm across her stomach through the layers of clothing she was wearing. She heard Ianto murmur something to Jack, and his muted reply. She thought it might have been “I’ve got her, you can sleep for a while,” but wasn’t sure what that meant. One of Ianto’s hands left her shoulders, and she thought maybe he was stroking Jack’s head, because she dimly heard Jack’s satisfied humming as he drifted into sleep.

Gwen turned her face to Ianto, and tried again to speak. “Where?”

“Somewhere under Cardiff,” he said, with a hint of humour in his voice. “We’re not exactly sure.” He held the teaspoon of water to her mouth again, and she took it, grimacing at the taste. He loosened his grasp of her, and she made a small movement, and was surprised by a shooting pain in her side and down both her legs.

“Oww!” she said, squeaking a bit as her voice came back. “What was that?”

“You’re injured,” he said. “We lost you in the cave-in, and when we finally were able to get you out of the rubble, you were unconscious. Certainly you have broken ribs, and you’ve been out for more than a day.”

She opened her eyes wider. “I can’t feel my legs,” she said.

“Probably swollen,” he said, “we left your boots on in case your legs were broken. It’s best if you don’t try to move a lot.” He offered another teaspoon of water, not a teaspoon, she realized, just a bit of rock with a hollow in it. She took it obediently.

“Where is that awful stuff coming from?” she asked, her voice getting stronger.

“Jack dug out a catch basin in the rocks over here, the water is coming out of the rock and dripping into the little pool. Lots of iron in these rocks,” Ianto said. “That’s why it tastes so bad, but it’s been keeping us alive.”

Gwen itched to move, but now feared that bolt of pain. Ianto hugged her closer, and she relaxed into his arms. “We don’t have much room,” he said, “and god only knows where the air is coming from. We tried to find the air source, but couldn’t. I guess beggars can’t be choosers, at least we won’t suffocate.”

“What about that light?” The rocky space they were in seemed to glow dimly.

“Phosphorescence. All the rocks. No heat, though. We figure we’re pretty deep, because it’s not too cold.” He ran a hand through her hair. “You need to conserve your energy, rest, but try to stay awake if you can.”

“Is Jack okay?” she asked. “Are you?”

“We’re both okay, just a bit bruised. He’s been holding you since we pulled you out of the rock fall, trying to wake you. We were concerned that you were out for so long.” He slid down a bit behind her, leaning against the rocks at his back. “I’d like to let him rest for a while.”

Gwen rested her head on Ianto’s shoulder, his arms loose around her, and despite herself, she slipped into uneasy sleep.

When she awoke some time later, she was nestled in Jack’s arms again, and Ianto was stretched out at her side. “How long?” she managed to say. But she didn’t really care. As long as she was with them, able to touch both of them, held securely in Jack’s arms, she was safe. She would do anything to keep that feeling of safety.

Jack roused himself from a half-sleep when she spoke. “Want some water?”

“No,” she said, swallowing the trickle from the spoon he held to her lips. “How long have we been here?”

He closed his eyes and calculated, “About two and a half days.”

“Anyone know . . . ?” she asked.

He shook his head. “We don’t think so. It was just a routine check on a little rift spike, we all came out because it was such a nice day, and we had a picnic before we ventured into the sub-basement of that building. The tremor felt like an earthquake when it hit. A fissure opened under us and we got pretty banged up on the way down. Lost our comms. I guess Ianto told you that you were trapped?”

She nodded.

“Pretty soon someone’s going to notice that the SUV hasn’t moved, and call the police, and Kathy Swanson, or your friend Andy, will have the Heddlu out looking for us. It’s just a matter of time.”

Gwen closed her eyes and tried to suppress her trembling. Jack rocked her a bit, murmuring softly, “Soon, Gwen. They’ll get us out soon.” He mistook her trembling for fear, but it wasn’t fear. She knew she was safe, but she something else was going terribly wrong.

“Jack,” she whispered. “I don’t feel very good.”

“None of us do,” he smiled.

“No,” she said. “I mean I’m really feeling sick.” He felt her body contract, and quickly used his hand to turn her face away from Ianto’s sleeping form. She retched, moaning with pain, and sicked up toward the other side of the cave. The sudden nausea passed, and she fell back into Jack’s arms, shivering. He felt her forehead, and discovered that she was warmer than before, and sweating.

“Okay, Gwen, it’s over. You’re okay.” He prodded Ianto with his foot, waking him.

Ianto grimaced at the smell in the small space. “She’s sick?”

Gwen couldn’t speak, the acid taste in her mouth was making her afraid to take more than shallow breaths. Her hearing seemed to be going, too. She could only discern sharp sounds, and couldn’t understand the words that Jack and Ianto were speaking over her head.

She felt a shifting under her body, and felt Ianto climb over her. She watched as he threw a pile of dust and pebbles over the small pool of sick, trying to smother the smell. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, tears mixing with the sweat beading on her forehead.

Jack turned her face back away from the sight, and held his hand against her cheek. He pressed his lips to her forehead, and she could hear his comment to Ianto quite clearly this time. “She’s got a fever.”

Ianto’s back was to them, but she could also hear him, between the sounds of rocks being pushed away. “Yeah, I know. We’ve got to get her out of here, Jack.”

Jack spoke between gritted teeth. “Ianto, we tried digging out before.”

“But we can’t wait any longer for someone to look for us,” Ianto glanced back over his shoulder, continuing to dig with his hands. Too soon, his fingers were bloodied, and he fell back, groaning with frustration.

Gwen gasped, “Air?” Jack checked to see if she was having difficulty breathing, she wasn’t, but her trembling had increased again. He didn’t know if she was going to throw up again. He held her tighter.

“We can’t find the source,” Ianto said, coming back to sit by Gwen’s side. Jack put his other arm around Ianto, and they huddled together.

After a few minutes, Jack let go of them, and crawled to the rock wall where the trickle of water was filling the hollow he had dug out. He leaned down and slurped up some of the water, grimacing like Gwen as he swallowed. She managed a smile, and he grinned back at her. “Okay, kids. Here’s what we’re going to do. Ianto, keep pushing water into Gwen. With her fever, she’s going to need it. Gwen, I know it’s disgusting, but you really do have to drink it. I’ll buy you a hundred pints for every spoonful you can get down, to make up for it. I’m going to explore every crevice of this little space until I find out either where the air is coming from, or a weak spot in the rock walls. We’re going to get out.”

He unsnapped the cover on his wrist comp (if it couldn’t teleport, he didn’t think he could call it a vortex manipulator any more), and scanned the little cave.

“We already did that, Jack,” Ianto parroted back to him, with some exasperation. Gwen could feel the tension in his body resonating through hers. She gripped his arm and pushed over him to throw up again, on the other side of the cave. She felt his hand on his forehead, supporting her head, and when she stopped retching, he pulled her hair back from her face. He unfolded a handkerchief (how did Ianto always have a clean handkerchief on him? Gwen wondered, as she tried to wipe her mouth).

“Yeah, well, doing it again isn’t going to hurt, though, is it?” Jack hesitated at the short end of the cave, reading on the wrist comp. “There’s a cavity on the other side of this wall that wasn’t there before.”

“How big does it look?”

”Big enough.” Jack began to dig uphill, using a flat rock to push the dirt out of the way, and when that wasn’t enough, he pulled the larger rocks out and threw them behind him. “It’s pretty stable, Ianto, it doesn’t feel like it did before, I think I can break through,”

Gwen started to cough, but the pain in her ribs brought tears to her eyes. “Gently,” Ianto admonished Jack, “you’re putting a lot of dust into the air, and she’s having a hard enough time breathing.” Dabbing the tears from her eyes with the sleeve of his jacket, he put his hand loosely over her nose and mouth, and encouraged her to try to breathe slowly to keep out the worst of the grit. She struggled, though, and he had to lift his hand to allow her a breath. Suddenly her eyes rolled back and she became a dead weight in his arms. Her body twitched, and then stiffened. He had to struggle to hold her. “Jack!” he called in alarm, “she’s convulsing.”

Ianto was only trying to keep her from falling downhill in the cave, but the convulsion threatened to break her free. He clung to her, trying to prevent her from hurting herself. “No, no, no,” he muttered, not knowing if she could hear him or not. “You’re okay, you’re okay, we’ll take care of you.” Jack heard Ianto’s chant as a sort of prayer. “Not losing you, we’re not losing you.”

Jack turned back to see what was happening, “Turn her onto her side in case she vomits again. Wet that handkerchief and try to use it to cool her off, the convulsions should stop in a minute.” He dug maniacally, and was able to break through into the next cave, which let a gust of fresher air into their little space.

Jack turned in the cramped space, and seized Gwen’s still body from Ianto, and pulled her roughly into the larger cave, carefully dragging her over the pile of rubble he had created. He stripped off his greatcoat and wrapped it around her, holding her close to his body and rocking her, trying to shake her awake again. “Gwen, sweetie, you have to wake up now. We’re getting closer to the surface, we have better air, wake up.”

Ianto crawled into the new cave, squeezed past Jack and Gwen, and examined the farther uphill side of the space. “I can feel the airflow more strongly here,” he said. “I’m going to dig some more.” He stripped off his waistcoat, replaced his jacket, and wrapped the other garment over his bloodied right hand, still raw from his earlier digging. He continued to pull rocks loose. “It feels stable,” he observed, “but should we really abandon our source of water?”

Jack stopped trying to wake Gwen and pulled her farther uphill into the new cave, “I think you’ll find that we have discovered the source of our water,” he said with a grin, noting that he had inadvertently sat himself pants down in the flow of water. As he crawled over toward Ianto, Ianto reached to cup Jack’s arse, now soaking wet.

“Just trying to give you a hand, sir,” he said with a small smile, “to get Gwen to a drier place.”

Gwen slowly regained consciousness and struggled to speak. “Oi! Right here!” she managed.

“There’s my girl,” Jack said, holding her closer and kissing her cheek. “We’re approximately five feet closer to freedom.”

“Thanks to Jack,” Ianto observed from where he was still digging, “Scan this space again, sir, if you would?”

Jack held out his arm, pressed more buttons, and read the results. “Two feet farther to the left, Ianto. Another mysterious cavity, bigger than this one.” He brought his arm back to Gwen along with his full attention. “Are you feeling better?”

She nodded, “A bit.” She raised a hand to her head, brushing her hair back, “I’m sorry to be such a bother,” she began.

Jack gave her a severe look, then grinned widely. “Lose the self-pity, sweetie, we’re just glad to still have you here. Even if we don’t quite know where ‘here’ is.”

Ianto cried out a warning as a large irregular rock rolled back over his leg, unleashing a torrent of water that gushed into the cave and continued to flow down into their previous refuge. Jack hurriedly pulled Gwen out of the way of the stream’s flow, and Ianto had to wade through the torrent to join them. He was now soaking wet too, and as they huddled together, the flow of water from above seemed to increase.

Jack transferred Gwen to Ianto’s arms again, and crawled over to examine the hole Ianto had made. The water had widened the space, and he could actually see more light coming into the newly revealed chamber. “I think I can see daylight,” he called back.

Gwen was facing back the way they had come, “I hope you can see a way out of this cave pretty soon,” she gasped, and she pointed downhill. Ianto glanced down.

“Sir,” he said, “I suggest that we both try to widen that space enough to get through, as the lower chamber seems to be filling very quickly with water.” Jack swore and redoubled his efforts to open a passage to the upper chamber. Ianto left Gwen tucked up in the highest part of the alcove, and moved to back up Jack’s efforts, glancing occasionally at her, watching her condition. The water continued to rise, and Gwen whimpered as it lapped at the lower hems of the greatcoat.

Jack pushed through the puddles on his knees, and scooped her up, moving her closer to the cavity. As soon as they had made a space large enough for shoulders to get through, he pushed Ianto head-first through the hole, helping him to move with firm hands on his arse that lingered just a bit longer than necessary. He could hear Ianto’s chant echoing in his own mind—not losing you, not losing you, not losing you.

When Ianto had managed to pull his legs through, he scrambled to turn around in the slimy mud and reached for Gwen. Jack turned his attention to her, kissed her fiercely, and apologized. “I’m sorry, love, this is going to hurt you, but we have to get up out of here.” He lifted her bodily, and pushed her into Ianto’s waiting hands.

Ianto grabbed her shoulders, and she sobbed once, and then screamed as her ribs grated against the rocks. Her shriek echoed off the rocky walls. When Ianto had pulled her completely through into the upper cave, whimpering with pain, he tried to settle her as securely as he could out of the flow of water, and turned back for Jack.

Jack was broader in the shoulders than either Ianto or Gwen, and he had a difficult time getting through the space while the water was splashing down against his face. Ianto gave a heroically strong tug on Jack’s arms, and he burst through the rocky hole, propelled into the upper cave by the pressure of the water below him.

Laughing despite themselves, they huddled together again, soaked to the skin, shivering in the freezing water. The water tasted much cleaner, although it was much colder. “At least,” Ianto choked out, “we won’t have to worry about dehydration any more.”

Jack’s eyes were searching the roof of the cave. “It’s too dark to see what’s up there, and I don’t think I can climb up, the walls look too smooth.” He felt up as far as he could reach. “It feels like brick,” he said.

“Like a well!” Ianto and Jack said together. Jack tried to stand up on the slimy, uneven floor of the well, but slipped and fell flat into the water now rising in this part of the connected system.

Ianto pulled him up out of the water and closer to where Gwen was. If the water kept rising at this rate, they would be swamped in a matter of ten to fifteen minutes.

“We float,” Jack said, “as long as we can. If this is a well, and if we get close to the top, maybe it’s just a lid, and we can kick it off.”

The water continued to rise, and they felt themselves grow lighter, except Gwen, who was managing not to float. The water rose to the waists of both men, and the water was up to Gwen’s neck. “The coat,” Jack said. “It’s waterlogged, and it’s holding her down. We have to get it off.”

She whimpered as they moved her bodily to remove the coat from her. The coat sank into the depths. The cold water soaked her, and she screamed helplessly, until the water started to numb her. They tried to minimize their movements, but the pain was excruciating, and she fainted into their arms again. Within minutes, they were all floating, with Jack holding Gwen in a graceless lifeguard’s carry over his shoulders, with Ianto facing him, trying to keep her face out of the water.

Exhaustion, hunger, and cold were taking a toll on all of them, and the water had stopped rising so quickly, but they were floating heavily, and although Ianto was trying his best to help Jack remain buoyant, they were both losing the battle. Jack didn’t have a hand free to hold onto Ianto, so Ianto hooked an arm under Jack’s, and held lightly to his torso. Holding Gwen’s chin up brought his face closer to Jack’s and they shared a gentle kiss as the water lapped at their chins. “Not losing either of you,” Ianto whispered against Jack’s lips.

“Not losing any of us,” Jack said, and kissed Ianto back.

Gwen stirred groggily, and murmured something into Jack’s ear that made him laugh out loud. “I think she just suggested that we get a room,” he said.

A sudden pounding and rattling of chains startled all of them, and suddenly light poured down onto them from above. “Damned lid was chained down,” said a frustrated voice high above them. A Welsh policeman’s cap flew down from above, landing in the water next to Ianto with a splash. “They’re in here,” the voice shouted. “Get search and rescue as fast as you can, they’re drowning!”

Ianto could see bits and pieces of hands and arms reaching over the sides of the well. Jack was trying his best to tread water, and couldn’t spare the energy to look up. A rope was thrown down to them and Ianto tangled its end around his wrist, which helped their buoyancy immensely. He shouted up, “We can’t put a rope around Gwen, she’s injured,” he told their rescuers. “Have you a sling?”

It took a few more minutes until their rescuers were able to drop down a litter and Ianto pulled Gwen from Jack’s shoulders. Together, they managed to strap her into it, tenderly touching what parts of her face and hands that they could reach, and she was swiftly drawn up out of the well.



Jack and Ianto, in scrubs with heavy robes on top peered cautiously into the hospital room where Gwen lay, blankets heaped on her. She appeared to be sleeping, curled on her right side, one hand curled under her chin.

They settled down next to her bed to watch her sleep, but she opened her eyes. “Hello, kids,” she said slowly. “What happened after I left?”

“After we were sure that you were safe,” Ianto told her, “we held to each other and continued to tread water, both of us numb. Ropes were lowered to us, and Jack made sure I was secured before he slipped the loop under his own arms. They pulled me out first, then Jack, and by the time they got us to the ambulances, yours was already speeding to A and R.”

Ianto reached out a hand to touch hers, and Jack leaned over to kiss her hair. “Happy to have you here and safe, Gwen,” he said, his voice rough, catching, “so happy.”

“I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you two,” she said drowsily. “My legs aren’t broken, but bruised and contused, and my ribs are cracked. I would have drowned . . . Stupid way to die.”

Ianto’s hand moved to her lips, “Never would have happened,” he said dryly.

“Never,” Jack agreed. “Couldn’t do without you.”

When Gwen started to cry, Ianto and Jack climbed onto her hospital bed, one on each side of her, mindful of her injuries, and held her close until she could stop crying.



Gwen felt relaxed at last, secure in their arms. There was so much she wanted to say to Jack and Ianto, and so much that would always have to remain unsaid. The warmth of their bodies and the comfort of their embraces meant more to her than anything else could have. No aliens, no space ghosts, no Cybermen, no terrifying Daleks; what bound them together was simply the purest kind of love among three people who had seen too much, been through too much, and lost too much. Losing each other now was not a bearable possibility.

Gwen thought that it was reasonable to assume that there was no mishap that could separate them now. She opened her eyes to see their fingers intertwined where they touched across her body. They were still together. The Torchwood Survivors Club.

Tangled together, they slept.
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I haven't even read yet. I just saw the title and the characters and made such a delighted noise that I woke up my cat. Be back after I read.

I'm so happy to hear that from you!

I'm also very excited to hear that you and Harkpad may actually meet for coffee (or?).

Can't wait to hear what you think!

Oh my goodness I loved it. It was great to see Jack and Ianto getting to be Gwen's big heroes for once. And everyone was so affectionate to each other -- you know how much I love that. I'm serious, you rarely get to see Gwen in a vulnerable place like this in fanfic and it was so refreshing. It's great to emphasize that it never mattered which of them was in need -- they pulled together and took care of each other. Oh, those three.

It was a sweet little adventure with a good mix of funny and cute moments. Completely worth waking the cat (he's already sleeping again). Also, I've had writer's block since I got the flu a few weeks back and this was just what I needed to read right now. I'll stop fawning.

And yeah, we were talking of getting coffee! Haven't set a date yet, but hopefully soon!

Thank you so very much for the fawning. I've really enjoyed it!

My cat also expressed his surprise to find that I finished something in a short time, but it was just one of those things that had to get out there. Thanks for your comments!

Oh, this is great! I agree with firesnap; it's rare to see stories where Gwen is vulnerable instead of worried about somebody else.

Nicely realistic scene-setting too, down to the rank taste of the water and the cold. Poor things. <3

Thank you. I appreciate your opinion!

Very good. LIked that Gwen was not the harpy and was hte one hurt.
Great stuff

Nicely done - I really like all the details - the iron taste of the water, the scrape of Gwen's body as they life her to the higher part of the cave - it makes the story much more compelling.

Thank you for your comment. And thanks for reading!

locals looking to meet Go Here dld.bz/chwZN

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