AUTHOR: Erin Giles
DISCLAIMER: Torchwood is the intellectual property of the BBC.
CHARACTERS/PAIRINGS: Gwen, Ianto, Jack (Jack/Ianto, Gwen/Rhys mentioned)
SUMMARY: Set during & post Doctor Who's Journey’s End. Ianto thinks he’s too old to be playing games, but he’ll realise sooner or later that he’s playing the biggest game every day of his life.
‘I spy with my little-‘
‘No.’ Ianto groaned as he toed off his shoes and put his feet up on the coffee table.
‘Cat,’ said Gwen as she came and sat down beside him on the settee.
‘And what’s that when it’s at home?’ Ianto asked. There was an endless list of stupid childhood games they could play between now and whenever they would be released from their captivity inside the timelock, but Ianto had already ruled out most of them. More grown up games had been suggested, but neither he nor Gwen thought it entirely appropriate to play I have never when the world was ending.
‘It’s like the alphabet game. We used to play it in the car on the way to Tenby at Easter when I was a kid. You choose a category like countries, for instance and then you’d start off with one person who’d say “The Minister’s Cat went to America on his holidays” and then the next person would do B and so on.’
‘You come up with something then.’
‘My Da had a game called silence when me and Rhiannon were kids. Whoever was quietest the longest won.’
‘Ianto, we’re going to be stuck here for I don’t know how long, you can’t expect me to just stay quiet all that time. I’ll go mad. Plus, I need something to distract me.’ Gwen’s eyes flicked towards the hulking mass of Dalek just inside the Hub door, frozen in time and Ianto tried not to follow her gaze. He’d already had enough nightmares about Daleks to have a pretty vivid image of them in his mind.
‘What’s that old saying, “you don’t have to be mad to work here, but it helps.”’
Gwen gave him a scathing look before she leaned into the side of him, hampering him in his task of removing his tie. He made do with losing the knot and undoing his top button. If Jack had been the one to get stuck in a timelock with him, well, Ianto could think of plenty of ways to pass the time, but Gwen was married, and Ianto was nothing if not a gentleman. They played silence for a couple of minutes without realising it, but Ianto ultimately won.
‘What was it like?’
‘You’re going to have to be a little more specific.’
‘What about Risk? I think Jack has an old box of it in his-‘ Gwen looped a hand round his arm to stop him getting to his feet.
‘Sorry. Sorry, I was just curious.’
‘Curiosity killed the cat,’ said Ianto as he leaned against the cushions of the sofa again, back a little more rigid and feet still firmly planted on the concrete floor.
‘Sorry,’ Gwen repeated. She lapsed into silence again, but her hand didn’t leave his arm, instead she started curling and uncurling her fingers so that Ianto’s shirtsleeve rubbed against him in a form of apology. His feet moved back to rest on the coffee table after a few more minutes.
‘What’s it like?’
‘Again, Gwen, you need to work on your questioning skills.’
‘Being with Jack, what’s it like?’
‘That still leaves for copious amounts of ambiguity,’ said Ianto. He was expecting her to ask him what sex was like with Jack, and he could already feel the flush creeping up his neck onto his cheeks as he thought about his answer.
‘Is he romantic?’ Gwen’s head was practically on Ianto’s shoulder now as she brought her legs up onto the sofa to curl them beneath her.
‘I-‘ Ianto stuttered, unsure how to answer. Somehow talking about he and Jack seemed far more intimate than talking about the sex exploits of Jack and him. The subject, however, was a vast improvement on the previous one she had tried to broach. He wished now that he’d said yes to at least one of Gwen’s stupid games. Yet, as he opened his mouth to speak he found he wanted to say things he’d never had a chance to.
‘He doesn’t do roses or chocolates, not with me. He won’t insist on paying for all of dinner when we go out, we always go Dutch. We don’t hold hands as we walk down the street and he’s never said the words ‘I love you’ out loud.’ Ianto was glad Gwen wasn’t looking straight at him because Gwen had a habit of reading people like open books, even ones as tightly bound as Ianto was.
‘So, he isn’t romantic, then?’
‘Peoples’ ideals of romance vary,’ said Ianto. Gwen sighed slightly so what felt like the wind whistled past Ianto’s ear, followed by the sharp smell of coffee. He wished the coffee maker had been trapped inside the timelock.
‘Rhys cooks, although anything without copious amounts of starch and carbohydrates isn’t a meal in Rhys’ eyes. He cleans the oven and tries to do the laundry and nearly always puts the powder in the wrong tray, but his heart’s in the right place,’ Gwen said, making Ianto glad somewhat that Gwen wasn’t still hanging onto the childish ideals of romance. Or maybe that just made him a cynic.
‘It’s funny,’ Ianto started, offering up more of himself than he thought he’d ever be willing to share, ‘I don’t sleep as well without-‘ He let the sentence hang there out in the open like it was laundry day. Gwen hummed in agreement before they lapsed into another unplanned game of silence.
‘It’s still nice to be told once in a while,’ Gwen said, her head turning slightly so her hair brushed against the stubble on his cheek and he got the faintest whiff of coconut.
‘I think he’s scared to,’ Ianto told her quietly, because of all the people Jack’s loved and lost it would scare Ianto too. He’s only ever loved and lost once but it scares him to say it again, just in case. As daft as it may seem when he shares his bed with an immortal man, it terrifies him, because there are other ways of losing.
‘Don’t you want to know?’
Ianto thought for a moment, wondering if he really did know, wondering if it was a figment of his imagination, doubt surfacing where it had never really been hidden. The answer was yes, always unequivocally yes, but at the same time a resounding no. Knowing would only change things, would inflict pressure upon a relationship that already had too many other walls closing in around it. There was no room for those three words in a place where romantic ideals did not exist, in a relationship where things were never comfy between them, and Ianto could quite happily live with that for however short a time it may be.
Ianto didn’t kid himself, this was not a to have and to hold relationship, blessed before the eyes of God, and there would be no until death do us part. It would either be his death, or if he were lucky Jack would go again, like some twitchy backpacker with a heart set on adventure.
‘Really?’ Gwen was looking at him now, her head pulled away from his shoulder, searching out the lie behind his eyes. He nodded and after a brief lapse of time Gwen frowned. Unable to find the lie she placed her head back on his shoulder, staring out across the expanse of the Hub that filled itself up with emptiness.
Ianto had a deck of cards in his left hand when Jack came back to the freshly tidied Hub in the late evening. He took a moment to look round for damage, but could find nothing other than the large pile of rubbish waiting to be taken out.
‘Still in one piece, then?’
‘Just about,’ Ianto answered, eyes only flicking up briefly to take in the sight of Jack before his focus was back on the game before him. ‘Few less coffee mugs and plant pots, a new addition to our archives in the shape of a Dalek husk, oh, and we need a new door for the Tourist Office.’
Jack nodded as he removed his coat, putting two and two together now which only made him feel all the more guilty about leaving. ‘What are you playing?’
‘Patience,’ said Ianto as he covered a seven of hearts and a five of clubs. He had less than half the deck left, but there were no more pairs adding to twelve that he could see and none of the face cards matched in suit. He sighed before he started gathering them up again, finally looking up at Jack.
‘I expected you to have gone home,’ said Jack.
Ianto shuffled the pack of cards, shrugging instead of really answering Jack. He proffered the pack to Jack.
‘Okay, name your game,’ Jack said as he seated himself next to Ianto on the settee.
‘Hearts?’ Ianto asked, already dealing the cards.
‘We need an extra player for that,’ Jack pointed out, unlacing his boots.
‘I’m clean out.’
Jack laughed. ‘How about we stick to Rummy?’
Ianto nodded, smirking to himself as he continued to deal.
‘Where did you find the cards?’
‘In your office.’
‘Really?’ Jack asked, frowning slightly as he picked up his hand and started to sort them out into some semblance of order. He couldn’t recall owning a pack of playing cards, nor could he recall ever seeing them in his office.
Ianto threw a jack of hearts away. ‘Really, Jack.’