This story takes place after Sleeper.
"Oi, Jones!" Owen stomped up the stairs from the medical bay, ignoring the glare both Tosh and Gwen sent his way. He smirked at them instead; it was sickening how protective they were of Ianto sometimes. Owen had learned on his own not to bellow for coffee or pastries whenever he wanted them, and it hadn't taken the girls to teach him the lesson; Ianto was well able to defend himself. Owen should have realized that the man who had shot him would have no qualms whatsoever about giving him warmed up Weevil piss as a cup of tea and serving it without batting an eye while Owen gagged and spit it out. It had been the single most disgusting thing that had happened to him during Jack's absence, but strangely enough, it had also firmly cemented his respect for the archivist, and their continuing antics had developed into a unique friendship.
Ianto was shutting down his station as Owen made it upstairs, which was surprising. Even though Jack had told them to go home early, Ianto usually didn't leave unless they dragged him out. "You're actually leaving this place when the boss says!" Owen exclaimed, clapping Ianto on the back. "Where are we off to then? Dockside? Celtic Dragon? The Red and Black?" He rattled off the pubs they had frequented the most after Jack had left them, bonding over their mutual sense of guilt, loss, and shame while trying to lose themselves in a cold drink or a warm body.
"Oh," said Ianto, turning toward Owen with a frown. "I'm afraid I can't tonight, Owen."
Now it was Owen's turn to frown. It was the third time Ianto had begged off since Jack had returned a month ago. Although he hated to admit it, Owen missed their boys' nights out. Turned out Ianto was a decent bloke with a dark sense of humor that Owen had come to appreciate, and they had always pulled a fair number of birds, even if Ianto had rarely left with one of them.
"Ianto, that's three times in a row now. Isn't your wrist getting tired?" Ianto rolled his eyes.
"Not all of us need a nameless shag every weekend to function the rest of the week, Owen."
"Then just come out for a pint or two, mate. You're working too hard again."
Which was how it had all started: Jack had swanned off with his Doctor, leaving the rest of them to pick up the pieces. Literally. The Hub had fallen down around them when the Rift had opened, and Ianto had seemed determined to rebuild it by hand, by himself. Although it was fairly obvious he was working out his grief over Jack's runner (because they'd figured that out fast enough, given the CCTV footage of him literally running across the Plass toward a large blue police box), Owen had let the Welshman work it out in his own way, until Ianto had started showing signs of extreme fatigue, depression, and irritability. He'd become a liability in the field and they had needed him too badly. So when Owen had offered Ianto a sleeping aid or a night at the pub, he had been slightly surprised when the man had picked the pub.
They'd walked to the Dockside and were three sheets to the wind before the night had really picked up. They'd laughed, they'd talked, they'd skirted on the edge of tears (drunken tears, of course, which didn't count), and they'd flirted outrageously with anyone and everyone they could. Owen had been shocked to see the teaboy in such a different light, suave and sophisticated even with enough pints in him that he should have been a blathering idiot. Owen couldn't remember if Ianto had scored that first night, but he did remember how much more relaxed Ianto had been after the hangover had cleared.
And so it became a tradition of sorts, especially after a bad week: hit the pub, put down some pints, pull a pretty girl, repeat.
Only now Jack was back, and for some reason they were all working harder than ever, and Owen and Ianto hadn't been out in weeks. What the hell was going on? Owen needed a break, and he wanted to vent with Ianto over the mysterious return of their equally mysterious boss. Certainly Ianto must need to as well, given his reaction to Jack's disappearance so many months ago. Not to mention it had been a long week, capped off by an emotional case involving alien sleeper agents that had required days of cleanup.
"Look," Ianto sighed, running a hand through his hair. "I'd love to go, I really would. But I already have plans."
"With your right hand? Or going with the left tonight?" Owen replied, throwing a wink at Tosh, who looked away in embarrassment.
"I have a date," Ianto replied evenly.
"A date?" Owen repeated, not quite understanding. When did Torchwood do dates?
"You know, that thing where two people go out to dinner, talk, maybe catch a movie before one invites the other up for a drink to see where things go." He stopped as his gaze went distant. "I should pick up something to drink." Shaking himself, Ianto offered Owen a sincerely apologetic look. "Sorry, but maybe another night?"
"Yeah, whatever." Owen waved him off, still slightly surprised that Ianto had a date. "Maybe I'll see if Jack's not busy on a rooftop tonight. Get him to give up something about that damn four month sabbatical of his."
A funny look passed over Ianto's face. "Good luck with that. See you tomorrow. Good night Tosh, Gwen."
"Have a good time, Ianto!" Tosh called. Owen glared at the man's retreating back. Gwen glanced up from her phone, confused.
"Where's he going again?"
"Ianto has a date," Tosh replied, grinning happily. Owen groaned. Gwen frowned.
"Ianto has a date?" she asked. "Like, with a girl?"
"That's usually how it works," Owen replied. "Although you never know around here."
Gwen still looked confused.
"You should be happy for him, Owen," Tosh reprimanded. She took off her glasses and twisted her chair around to face them. "It's going on a year since Canary Wharf and what happened to Lisa. He deserves to move on and find someone special." Gwen nodded in agreement.
Owen rolled his eyes. "He just needs a good shag."
"Probably," Tosh agreed to his surprise. "But there's no reason why it can't include dinner and a movie. Why it can't develop into something more."
Owen stared at her.
"You're just upset because he stood you up for a girl," she mock-whispered, which caused Gwen to giggle.
"Is he seeing someone then?" she asked. "Why didn't he say anything?"
"I can't imagine why," Owen drawled. "What with you two banging on about everyone's personal lives all the time."
"We're just curious," Tosh replied, turning back to her computers.
"You're a bunch of gossips, that's what you are. At least let the bloke enjoy one date before you hound him for all the sordid details."
"We won't hound him," said Gwen. "Right, Tosh?"
"Gently press," Tosh laughed. "Nothing more."
Owen threw up his hands and headed toward Jack's office. "Harkness! You want to hit the Dockside tonight or have you got another roof to—" He stopped as Jack came out of his office, dressed in a pair of khaki trousers and white undershirt and running a towel through his damp hair.
"What're you up to?" Owen asked suspiciously. Jack grinned.
"Ever heard of a shower, Owen? You should try it—hot, wet, and steamy." He waggled his eyebrows, and Owen groaned.
"God, Jack, how can you turn a shower into something so dirty I might never wash again?"
"It's a gift," Jack winked. "What's up? I heard you holler?"
"I'm heading to the Dockside for a pint. Want to shoot a game of pool or something?"
"I thought you only let Ianto clean you out at the tables," Jack teased. Owen pulled on a light jacket and stuffed his hands into the pockets.
"Yeah, well, teaboy has big plans tonight, so are you coming or not?"
"I don't know," Jack mused. "I do love being your second choice, after all."
Tosh and Gwen laughed behind him. "He's just sore Ianto left him for a girl," Gwen called. Jack gave them a lopsided grin.
"He did, did he?" Jack asked. "Is that what he said?"
"He said he had a date tonight," replied Tosh. She started to shut down her systems and pack up her stuff. "Dinner, movie, drinks after—that sort of thing. Sounds perfect. He deserves it."
Gwen hitched her arm through Tosh's elbow. "Rhys is out tonight, why don't we do dinner and a movie?" Tosh gave her a surprised look, and Gwen laughed. "All of us. So we don't begrudge Ianto his own date."
"God Gwen, I didn't even do group dates in primary school." Owen made a retching sound to emphasis his point.
"Think of it as team building, then," Gwen replied. "Come on, we can catch the new Incredible Hulk film."
"We could write it off as training for the next time a large, angry green alien attacks," Tosh suggested, and Jack grinned.
"As much as I'd like to join you in admiring Edward Norton without a shirt, I'm afraid I have to pass. You kids have fun, though." He turned back toward his office, whistling to himself.
"Jack?" called Gwen. "What's wrong? Why aren't you joining us?"
Jack turned, hands in his pockets and a grin on his face. "I have plans."
"That's what Ianto said," Owen muttered. "The two least likely suddenly have the busiest social lives of us all."
"You're not really going to go stand on a roof, are you?" asked Gwen, and Jack pretended to narrow his eyes and growl at her.
"No, no roof tonight. I happen to have a date," he said, trying to sound casual, even adding a shrug, but Owen could tell it was fake. Jack was crowing inside, and Tosh called him on it.
"Another date!" she exclaimed, and Jack grinned stupidly as Tosh clapped her hands together like a sixteen-year-old girl. "But that's wonderful, Jack! What are you doing?"
Owen snorted to himself; he would have asked Jack who he was doing.
"Nice dinner, maybe catch a movie before heading back to his place. I'm hoping for an invitation upstairs—you know, have a drink, see where it goes." He smiled to himself as if remembering something, then grinned broadly at the rest of them, obviously excited, and Owen couldn't help but shake his head. It was so unlike Jack, to not only be going on a date, but to actually be talking about it. The man kept his private life locked up tighter than the secure vaults; only Ianto offered less personal information. Gwen interrupted his thoughts, however.
"You're seeing a man?" she asked, and to her credit, she managed to keep her tone fairly steady, but Owen knew she was still surprised. It was no secret that Gwen fancied their captain, in spite of all her talk about Rhys Williams, not to mention the antagonistic confrontations she had with Jack. Owen couldn't blame her, really. He'd almost developed a crush on the man himself when he'd first started at Torchwood. Jack just had that affect on people until you shook it off and moved on with reality. Tosh looked up to Jack, and Ianto…well, who knew what the hell was going on there. Owen hadn't pulled any information from the Welshman about his relationship with Jack, no matter how many times he had brought it up under the influence of several pints of Brains. Gwen, though…Gwen had just had a tiny little bubble in her fantasy world burst apart, and Owen couldn't help but snort.
"You're surprised because?" he asked pointedly. Jack just stood against the doorway, smiling placidly. For some reason, the look on Jack's face reminded Owen of Ianto, and he started thinking about Ianto's plans that night…
"I'm…I'm not," Gwen stuttered, blushing furiously. "It's great. Have a good time, Jack." She turned to Tosh. "Still want to ogle Edward Norton?"
"Why not?" Tosh laughed. "It's as close to a real date as I've come in months."
"Owen, are you coming?" Gwen called as they bounded down toward the cog wheel door.
Owen hesitated, not entirely sure he wanted to put himself through this. He could just go out on his own, maybe head closer to the university for some variety. There was no doubt in his mind the two women would spend most of the night nattering on about Jack's date with a man, and Ianto's date with whomever he was seeing, and Owen was sure it would be as close to torture as humanly possible. He idly wondered where Ianto was going, and if he and Jack might run into one another on their dates. He pictured the awkwardness, Ianto all stuttering nerves as he introduced his date to Jack and Jack introduced his date to Ianto. Or maybe they'd end up at the same movie…
"Come on, Owen!" called Tosh. "We can go back to my place after and paint our nails and talk about boys!"
Owen shot a wide-eyed look at Jack, who simply raised an eyebrow as if he knew exactly what Owen was thinking. But it wasn't possible, was it? Ianto was going on a date. Jack was going on a date. Dinner, a movie, a drink afterwards…
Coincidence? Owen shook his head. It had to be. No way Ianto Jones had snagged an actual date with Jack Harkness. It was as likely as a sudden outbreak of Itraxian flu. Ianto may have snogged the boss before Jack had left them—hell, they had probably shagged, knowing Jack—but that didn't mean they were dating. Ianto had almost destroyed the Hub to save his half-converted girlfriend, and Jack had then shot that girlfriend after holding a gun to Ianto's head. Besides, Jack didn't date, as far as they knew. He was like Owen, heading out for a pull when he needed a warm body for quick release. Jack didn't do hearts and flowers and relationships, and certainly not with a straight man who'd once wished him dead.
"Bloody Torchwood," Owen muttered to himself. Because it was just twisted enough to be possible. The two men certainly flirted enough. Ianto was the only one of them beside Gwen to consistently call Jack out, but Jack actually listened to Ianto, as opposed to butting heads every time Gwen opened her mouth. Then there was the thing with the coat, and Jack's leering comments about Ianto's suits, and the looks they'd exchange over coffee…
Jack was watching Owen closely, as if to see whether he was going to actually say anything. By the door, Gwen and Tosh were calling his name again, entreating him to join them. Owen let his head fall as he took a deep breath. As much as he wanted to make a crack about it, he couldn't. Ianto was his friend, and Jack was his boss. And while that might not have stopped him six months ago, things were different now, for all of them.
If Jack was going out with Ianto, Owen might as well go out with Gwen and Tosh. Keep it all in the team. But first he wanted to make sure of one thing.
He nodded at the girls. "I'll be right there," he said. "I'll meet you upstairs."
They linked arms, giggled, and left. Owen joined Jack by his office, stopping a few feet away and crossing his arms over his chest.
"You sure you know what you're doing?" he asked, direct and without apology.
Jack's eyes widened for just a moment. "I usually do," he replied, the guarded tone to his voice an unspoken warning.
"I not sure you do, this time," said Owen, watching Jack closely and offering his own warning. "You better be careful."
"I—" started Jack, but Owen held up his hand.
"Don't hurt him," he said, making his meaning clear.
Jack nodded seriously. "I'll be careful."
"Tell him that I'm taking him out for a beer next time. He doesn't get to dump his mates just because you flitted back into our lives and swept him off his feet."
"I'll tell him," said Jack. "But I don't know about sweeping off his feet. I'm still trying."
Owen studied him, taking in the earnest expression on Jack's face, the honest look in his eyes. He'd never known Jack to have a serious relationship outside the Hub, but maybe he had changed in more ways than they knew while he had been away with his Doctor. Owen almost bit his tongue, but his curiosity and concern (though he would never, ever admit it) got the better of him.
"Are you trying to bed him or looking for something more?"
He'd crossed the line; Jack folded his arms over his chest, glancing away until he turned back with a defensive look on his face.
"In my experience, one often leads to the other."
Owen raised an eyebrow at that. "So do you want to shag him on the off chance it grows into more? Because I don't know if he works like that." In fact, he had no idea, but he could make an educated guess after working and drinking with the Welshman for almost a year.
"I was hoping for the other way around," said Jack, his voice quiet. "I want to do this right, Owen."
"So miracles do happen," Owen replied sarcastically. Now Jack was defensive and annoyed.
"Look, I don't need your approval, your consent, or your judgment. Frankly, it's none of your business."
That was when Owen knew Jack was serious. He grew defensive when he felt honestly wronged, and right now Jack was offended that Owen thought so shallowly of him, which meant that Jack was probably telling the truth about his intentions. Yet again Owen wasn't sure what to think about that, but Jack was right: it was not his place to judge.
"You're right, it's not. But I've grown fond of our teaboy, Jack, so do right by him or you'll have me to answer to." He paused and offered a wolfish grin. "And Tosh and Gwen, because if you really mess up, I'm telling them."
Jack stared at him for a long moment before throwing his head back and laughing. "I take back what I said about needing bigger balls, Owen. You've got quite a pair, don't you?"
"Damn right I do," Owen retorted. "Not that you'll ever see them. Go on, get dressed. Before this evolves into something even more awkward and embarrassing."
"Like a back-slapping, manly hug?" suggested Jack, raising his eyebrows.
"Forget it." Owen turned and stalked off, even though he didn't feel nearly as irritated and annoyed as he was pretending to play. "Save it for your date. Maybe if you do it right, he'll invite you up for a drink." A thought occurred to him, one he knew he should keep to himself, but couldn't. "Are you meeting him somewhere?"
"Picking him up, the proper way," said Jack. "Why?"
"Take a bottle of gin. Bloom's London Dry; it's his favorite. He tried to get me to drink a bottle with him, but I'm a vodka martini kind of bloke." Jack's eyebrows about crawled off his forehead, and Owen rolled his eyes. "Nothing happened, at least not the kind of things your dirty mind is probably thinking."
"You have no idea," Jack murmured.
"I don't want to know. And Jack?" Owen called him back as Jack turned toward his office. "He's a good man. Treat him like it."
"I know he is," said Jack, his voice soft with fondness and affection. "And I will. Thank you."
Owen snorted to break the far too serious mood. "For what? I'm taking the piss first thing tomorrow. I can give Ianto a hard time about his new girlfriend and watch him try talk his way out it with you standing right next to him."
"Thank you for caring," said Jack, ignoring Owen's attempt at a joke. "You go have fun with the girls. I'll send Ianto out for boys' night next time."
"You should join us." The words slipped out before Owen could stop them. "But no snogging."
"Just beer and pool," said Jack, laughing. "Thanks for the invitation."
"See you tomorrow, Jack." Owen hurried out before he said anything else he might regret. The conversation had already veered into extremely questionable territory, after all. Maybe a stupid movie with Tosh and Gwen would be just the thing to take his mind off it all, although he would have to be careful not to let anything slip. He would sit back, relax, and think of a dozen ways to give Jack and Ianto a hard time.
Oddly enough, he wondered if he could, because deep down he suspected Jack and Ianto were probably going to be pretty good together. He hoped so, because they both deserved it.
Even if he never admitted any of it.
I started this short story and came back to it weeks later when inspiration struck. It was not, however, the sort of inspiration I had anticipated. I love it when characters take over and run roughshod over authors. Go Owen! I had no idea he could be so protective. I see this story as connected to Quixotic, a follow-up of sorts. I had anticipated just one scene, but then Tosh and Gwen insisted on their own. Many thanks to Tamaar for looking it over for the stamp of approval! Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoy this first part!
This story takes place after To The Last Man.
Tosh sat at the small table in Ianto's kitchen, a glass of wine in front of her and the scent of a traditional apple pudding wafting through the room. She took a sip and watched as Ianto continued to wash the dishes, then set her glass down and stood up with determination.
"I don't care what you said, I want to help."
Ianto turned and gave her a crooked smile. "All right, then, if you insist. Grab a towel so you can dry."
It was quick work to clean up the remains of the meal they'd cooked for themselves, a simple chicken curry with basmati rice, naan, and a bottle of crisp white wine. They chatted while they worked, arguing over what to do with the rest of their evening. The Rift was supposed to be quiet for the next thirty-six hours, and though Jack had been called to London to speak with UNIT, he had insisted that the others use their well-earned vacation time and take the night, and hopefully the following day, to enjoy themselves and relax.
It had been a week since they had sent Tommy back in time, and though it had only been one night, Tosh had still cared about him and missed him. He didn't deserve what had happened to him, and she hated that she had been a part of it. After the team had cleaned up to head home for a Rift-free thirty-six hours, Ianto had asked Tosh if she would like to have dinner with him. She had been looking forward to some time to herself, but decided she would enjoy sharing a quiet night in with a friend. Ianto had then suggested cooking something at his flat, and she had readily agreed.
They had cooked side by side and enjoyed the delicious results of their hard work. Ianto had gently asked how she was doing, and she was touched by his concern, opening up about her short time with Tommy and yet another loss she had suffered with Torchwood. When she said something about falling for the right man stuck in the wrong time, he glanced away with an odd smile on his face, then squeezed her hand before starting to clear the table.
Once everything was cleaned up, Ianto wanted to play chess, good-naturedly complaining that no one else at the Hub had the patience for it but her. Tosh wanted to put on a film, because it was always more fun to watch with a friend than watch alone, and sometimes chess felt more like work than relaxing.
But Ianto wasn't in the mood for a romantic comedy, and Tosh knew she couldn't master the concentration needed for one of their chess matches. So they settled on a game of Scrabble while the pudding cooked and cooled, followed by the latest episode of Top Gear with dessert and drinks.
Tosh enjoyed spending time with Ianto. She had sensed a kindred spirit in him when he had joined the team, but he had held himself so aloof that no one had really got to know him during his first few months in the Hub. And then they had discovered his cyberized girlfriend, and it seemed as if no one would ever know the real Ianto Jones.
To everyone's surprise, Ianto had returned to the Hub after his month long suspension. Tosh had tried to reach out to Ianto, feeling even more of a connection to this broken young man. He reminded Tosh of herself, of the time she'd spent in a UNIT prison for committing treason when she had only been trying to save her mother. Ianto had almost started another Cyber invasion, but he had done it for love, and even if Gwen had been confused and Owen pissed off, Tosh could understand.
They had taken their first steps toward a real friendship then, becoming even closer during Jack's absence. Jack had been there for Ianto, had brought the Welshman back from the edge just as he had done for Tosh, but then he had left without a word. Although they had both suspected things about Jack and knew he'd had his reasons for leaving, they'd still felt abandoned and alone, and their friendship was a balm for that loss. They had all grown closer, in some ways. Owen and Ianto had put aside their differences and gone out for a pint several times, and she and Gwen had shared a few girls' nights both at work and on the town while the boys had held down the Hub.
Gwen and Owen, however, had constantly fought for control of the team during Jack's absence, bickering and battling even when more important matters loomed before them. Ianto kept everything running smoothly, exchanging increasingly frequent looks of exasperation with Tosh behind their backs as the weeks wore on, and their friendship grew from mutual loss and understanding to support with a bit of gossip and grumbling thrown in.
Jack had been back for almost two months, and it had taken some getting used to. Tosh wasn't sure why she thought it would be otherwise, but she was thankful that she and Ianto remained close, helping one another through the readjustment, particularly at work. Whenever Gwen questioned Jack with her doubts and objections, they exchanged a familiar eye roll; when Owen tossed pointed barbs around like confetti, they snorted and went about their work.
They hadn't seen one another outside of work as much as usual, but Ianto hadn't been going out for drinks with Owen as much either. He'd had a date a few weeks ago, and as this was the first chance she'd had to spend some quality alone time with her friend, Tosh was hoping to find out a bit more. Was he seeing someone? Was it serious? What about Jack?
Ianto had been very tight-lipped about his relationship with Jack before the Captain's disappearance and equally as reticent while Jack had been gone with his Doctor. Tosh knew that they had slept together, but she she'd never felt comfortable asking him for more details, even when it seemed as if Jack might never return. Ianto was a very private man who kept his thoughts and feelings to himself, and she hadn't been able to justify prying into his past when she knew so much of it was painful.
Now she was desperately curious, though. Ianto had recently recommended a new restaurant, and it sounded like he had gone with someone special. Yet he'd never talked about seeing anyone, at least not until a few weeks ago when he had begged off hitting the pubs with Owen because of a date. Jack had gone on a date that same night, and Tosh couldn't help but wonder about it now. Had Jack and Ianto resumed their former activities, perhaps started a real relationship? Or had Ianto found someone outside of Torchwood? How could she bring it up?
They were halfway through their game, waiting for the pudding to finish and about to open a second bottle of wine, when Tosh heard a sound at the door. It wasn't a knock, but someone actually coming into the flat, and very loudly at that. She was almost positive that Ianto had locked the door, and equally certain he wasn't sharing his flat with a roommate, so after glancing behind her, she turned toward Ianto with a questioning look, miming a gun with her fingers in case it was an intruder.
He frowned, looking a bit like a deer stopped in headlights, and shook his head, but before he could say anything, there was a familiar bellow from the living room.
"Ianto! I'm back early and I'm—"
Jack stopped in the doorway to the kitchen, his mouth hanging open.
"And I'm interrupting, apparently." He didn't look upset, but Tosh was surprised to see confusion and even disappointment on his face.
"No, you're just in time to join us for dessert," said Ianto, standing quickly and moving toward the doorway. He hesitated in front of Jack, one hand coming up as if he wanted to greet Jack with an embrace—or something more. Instead, Ianto turned away with a barely noticeable shake of the head and took down another wine glass for Jack, then opened the second bottle of wine.
Jack stared at Tosh as if he were terrified at being caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar. Tosh was equally as surprised, but smiled as brightly as she could. "Hi, Jack. You could join our game too, if you like."
"No alien sex terms, though," said Ianto, returning to the table and hovering over his place. Tosh had the distinct impression he was taking deep breaths to stay calm. "That's cheating."
"I didn't make up a single one!" Jack exclaimed, earning a snort from Ianto as he quickly laid out a word, then moved toward the oven to check their pudding. It was not a particularly strong word, scoring half what he normally did, and if Tosh didn't know better, she would swear Ianto was distracted, possibly even nervous.
"It's still cheating when I have no idea whether it's possible or not," said Ianto.
"Oh, it's all possible, trust me." Jack grinned, stuck his hands in his pockets, and clearly watched as Ianto bent over to take out the warm desert. When there was no reply and Ianto didn't even turn around to acknowledge him, he seemed to almost fall into himself and deflate a bit.
"Really, if I'm interrupting, I can head back to the Hub…" He trailed off, but Tosh could hear the uncertainty in his voice as she studied her letters.
"Of course not," said Ianto, setting the pudding on a rack to cool and turning toward Jack. He rubbed a hand through his hair, leaving it a bit on end. "I'm sorry, I'm just surprised. You weren't supposed to be back until tomorrow."
Tosh snuck a glance at the doorway, where Jack had reached for Ianto's other hand and pulled him close. She held back a surprised gasp and stared resolutely at the game board, trying not to think of inappropriate words to spell out.
"We were done early and I wanted to be back here with you instead of by myself in a hotel room." She heard rather than saw a kiss, with a few happy sounds peppered throughout. She was certain she was blushing furiously, and fairly sure Jack and Ianto had forgotten she was there. Uncertain whether to cough for their attention or hide under the table and give them some privacy, Tosh was even more unsure what to do when she heard whispered murmurs about heating up some curry and taking a quick shower. When she chanced a look up, Jack was gone and Ianto was pulling the leftovers from the refrigerator.
"You're still here," she said, the words falling from her lips before she could stop them. Ianto glanced over his shoulder with a curious look.
"Where else would I be?" he asked as he spooned some chicken and rice into a casserole dish and slipped it into the oven.
"Oh…uh…Jack said he was going to clean up…" She trailed off, slightly mortified at the implication. Ianto, however, snorted lightly as he joined her.
"Jack is perfectly capable of taking a shower on his…oh." And suddenly he blushed and ducked his head. "Right."
"Sorry," murmured Tosh. "I thought you'd…" She'd stuck her foot in her mouth once again and contemplated running out before she swallowed both of them.
Ianto laughed nervously. "And in other circumstances you might be right," he said. Tosh knew she was gaping but couldn't help it. Ianto glanced away, eyes closed in embarrassment. "I can't believe I said that."
"No, it's all right," said Tosh
Ianto gave her a skeptical look and finished his glass of wine in several large gulps, Tosh watching wide-eyed.
"Are you all right?" she whispered, glancing back over her shoulder to make sure no one else had snuck into Ianto's flat to listen in.
Ianto set down his glass with what could only be a slightly rueful smile. "I'm fine. I'm good, really. I'm surprised, that's all. And a little embarrassed, I suppose, although I don't know why."
"Jack came back early to see you," Tosh said. She had pretty much given up on trying to make a word and pushed her letters aside, leaning closer. "He has a key to your flat."
Ianto was starting to blush again, something Tosh could hardly recall seeing before, and now she'd seen it twice in one night. He cleared his throat, sounding nervous. "Yes, well…emergencies and all that."
"There's no emergency," Tosh said. "He was in London, and he came back early and let himself into your apartment because he wanted to see you. And now he's taking a shower in your bathroom."
Ianto simply nodded, wide-eyed and speechless, as if dreading what she would point out next.
"Ianto Jones!" Tosh exclaimed, slapping him lightly on his hand. "You tell me what's going on right now!"
Ianto jumped up. "More wine?" he asked.
"Go ahead, if you need it," she replied, crossing her hands over her chest. Apparently he did, because he poured himself a large glass and cradled it in his hands protectively, as if it were giving him strength.
"What do you want me to say, Tosh?" he said softly. "You've seen for yourself now."
"I have no idea what I saw," she said. "Are you sleeping together? Dating? Is he living here? Is it—"
"Yes, yes, and not really, he just spends the night now and then," said Ianto, joining her at the table. He took another sip and set the glass down. "I'm sorry I didn't say anything, Tosh. It's just that…it's different this time. I don't know what it is or why it's different, but it is, and having to explain it is…" He shrugged helplessly.
This time she took his hand and grasped his fingers tightly. "It's fine, I understand. You don't have to tell me everything, after all. But now that he's here I get to ask a few questions. Are you sleeping together again?" A nod. "But you're dating this time?" She knew from what little Ianto had shared that it had been casual sex before Jack left, but dating implied something more serious in her mind. Jack and Ianto, dating? She couldn't wrap her brain around them actually going out together, in the romantic sense of the word, and doing something besides Weevil hunting or shagging.
He nodded again. "How long?" She took a sip of wine, waiting for his answer.
"He asked the night he came back," Ianto said. He was gazing down at the table, tracing a whorl in the wood with his fingers, a small smile on his face. "It took a while to get there, to a place where we could move past the anger and the hurt, but yeah." He met her eyes. "We had a nice dinner, then went to a movie, but it was crap. Had a drink after, talked through some things, and decided to try it again."
"So that date you had a few weeks ago, when Owen was giving you a hard time—that was with Jack?" Tosh was slightly stunned. How had she missed it? How was it possible that two of her coworkers, two people she cared about, could be dating and they had all missed it? Especially when Jack had told them he'd had a date that night as well?
A long sip of wine accompanied a simple "Yep." Tosh shook her head as she sat back and finished her glass. Ianto motioned to the bottle and she nodded. Yes, she wanted more. More wine, more information. He grabbed it and poured for her, leaving the bottle between them.
"I don't know what to say," she finally offered. "I'm…I'm really happy for you both, but I can't believe none of us saw it." She pierced him with a stern look. "How did you manage to keep it secret for so long? And why?"
"Why?" he asked, raising an eyebrow. "Besides the fact that it's our own business? That's it's the boss dating his personal assistant? That it's a dozen other things impossible to define?" He sighed. "Besides, can you imagine what Owen would say? He's got enough to say as it is, I can't imagine giving him even more to work with."
"He knows," said a voice in the doorway, and even though she knew Jack was in the flat, Tosh jumped in her seat. He was standing there drying his hair with a small towel, dressed in flannel pants and a baggy long sleeve shirt. Tosh stared, because it all the years she had known him, it might have been the first time she had seen Jack Harkness out of his regular blue shirt, trousers, and braces.
Ianto raised an eyebrow, apparently quite at ease with this more casual Jack as he didn't bat an eyelash at Jack's appearance. "What do you mean, he knows?"
"He knows we're…you know," Jack said with a shrug. Tosh gathered he was uncomfortable with defining it, as Ianto had been a few minutes earlier. "He called me out on it last month, when we went to Enterra for dinner."
Tosh glanced back and forth between Jack and Ianto, one looking a bit stunned, one a bit sheepish.
"Sorry?" offered Jack.
Ianto shook his head. "No, no it's not your fault. I can't believe he hasn't said anything." He sighed as he took a sip of wine. "Owen's usually not one to pass up an opportunity to take the piss, after all."
"He was remarkably mature about it," said Jack. He tossed the towel over the back of a chair. "He even threatened me a bit."
"What?" blurted Tosh, then clamped her hand over her mouth. "Sorry. But did you just say Owen threatened you?"
Jack picked up the extra glass Ianto had set out and gave him a questioning look. Ianto nodded with a smile, Jack poured himself a glass, then turned and leaned against the counter as he sipped. "He told me in no uncertain terms I'd answer to him if I hurt a certain Welsh teaboy."
Tosh gasped but Ianto snorted. "That's Owen, all right. Insulting even as he rears a protective streak."
"I can't believe he'd say that," Tosh murmured. Jack grinned.
"He also invited me along for a threesome."
"No!" she exclaimed, and Ianto looked both horrified and confused.
"Wait, what did he actually say, Jack?" he asked after a moment.
"That I could join you for one of your pub crawls as long as we didn't snog." Jack shrugged. "Not sure what the point is, then."
Ianto stood with a smile, shaking his head as he crossed over to the oven and took out the warm food. "Come on, sit down and have some dinner. I need to use to loo, and then I'll serve up the pudding."
Jack placed a hand on Ianto's shoulder and kissed him on the cheek, offering him a warm smile as he took a plate from the cabinet and helped himself to a generous serving. He sat down across from Tosh as Ianto left the kitchen, watching her a bit nervously.
"I really am sorry I interrupted," he said softly, picking at his food. "I know you guys are close, and if I had known you were having dinner tonight, I —"
Tosh reached over and patted his hand. "It's absolutely fine, Jack. I'm glad you're here. Ianto's glad you're here."
"Do you think so?" Jack asked, his voice even lower as he leaned forward. "I really wanted to get out of there and get back before was too late. I was hoping to surprise him."
"I think you did," said Tosh with a laugh. "The look on his face was priceless!"
"I hope it wasn't for the wrong reasons," Jack replied. He tried the curry, humming his appreciation before he set down his fork and pierced Tosh with a look. "He wasn't the only one surprised, though. He really didn't say anything to you about us?"
Tosh glanced down and shook her head. "He didn't. He's a private man, Jack. So are you. And apparently the rest of us are all blind as bats."
"Nah, we're just that sneaky." Jack laughed, and Tosh was relieved to hear it. It was uncharacteristic for Jack to be nervous about anything.
"That you are. It's been almost two months!" Tosh was further rewarded when Jack gave her a blinding smile, so warm and happy that Tosh's heart skipped a beat for her friends.
"So it has. And a good two months, too." He paused, a slight frown marring his face. "Wait, am I supposed to do something special for that? Like, an anniversary present or something?"
"No," said Ianto, walking in then and shaking his head fondly. "Absolutely not."
"Why not? It's two months," said Jack.
"Exactly," said Ianto. He went over to the pudding and began plating it with some custard. "Goldfish live longer."
"Ianto!" Tosh exclaimed. He turned around with an innocent look, knife in hand, but Jack was laughing.
"It's all right," he said, returning to his belated dinner. "We're not sentimental like that." He winked at Tosh. "At least, not yet."
Tosh glanced over at Ianto's reaction. He had stopped serving the pudding and seemed to be simply staring at the wall.
"Is he rolling his eyes?" asked Jack, grinning as he finished his late dinner. The Welshman glanced over his shoulder and gave Tosh a small nod with a smile that revealed far more than he probably wanted it to. Jack's words meant something to him.
"Yes, he is," she said, laughing. Ianto brought over two servings of pudding and custard.
"Yours is waiting," he said, sitting down next to Jack. Tosh was across from them and could immediately see it, amazed that she hadn't noticed before. They sat close; their legs were probably touching under the table, and when Jack's hand disappeared she was pretty sure it was on Ianto's knee. They both looked relaxed and content, Ianto especially. It was quite amazing to see, being so different to how they behaved at the Hub. She was tempted to ask them how they managed it, but instead grinned happily and tucked into her dessert, enjoying the view.
"Tosh thinks we're cute," Jack said in a mock-whisper. Tosh glanced up in surprise, catching Ianto's eyes. He had a crooked grin on his face again.
"I think you're much more than cute," she replied, hoping to hold her own against Jack.
"Hot? Sexy? Steamy?" suggested Jack.
"Titillating?" offered Ianto, earning a sideways glance from Jack that he missed but Tosh saw and loved for the affection she clearly saw.
"How about…happy," Tosh replied. "Handsome. Warm. And right."
Ianto was pointedly looking away, but Jack grabbed her hand and pressed a kiss to it. "I like your reaction much better than Owen's."
"Oh, if you hurt him, I'll hurt you even more than Owen," she said, and Jack dropped her hand with a good-natured grumble.
"Why am I always the one being warned off?" he asked through a mouthful of curry.
"Older, more experienced," Ianto replied. "And apparently I can't hold my own."
"Oh yes you can," said Tosh, pointing her fork at Ianto and earning a look of surprise from them both. "So as far as I'm concerned, it goes both ways. You may be my friend, Ianto Jones, but you do not get to mess with my other friend."
"I'll consider myself told then," Ianto murmured, and Jack nodded in agreement.
"Damn right." He threw another sideways glance at Ianto before sipping some wine. "I don't think you'll have anything to worry about, Tosh."
Ianto smiled as he finished his pie. Tosh raised an eyebrow.
"Because you're both so normal and mature?"
They shared a smile as if remembering a private joke, then Ianto jumped in his chair with a rather undignified squeak. Jack stood up and helped himself to some pudding.
"Point made," Ianto laughed, but this time he was not blushing. "We'll be fine, Tosh. You won't have to go defending either one of us."
"And if you didn't say anything…"
There was a snort from the icebox, where Jack had pulled out some ice cream to go with his pudding instead. "They know now, Ianto. We don't have to tip toe around."
Tosh and Ianto shared a meaningful look. "Gwen?" she mouthed, and Ianto nodded.
"You don't need to give Owen reason to take the piss, though," Tosh said, immediately understanding his reluctance. "I don't mind, but it's probably better to keep it professional around the others."
Ianto mouthed, "Thank you," and she nodded. Jack joined them at the table with an enormous plate of pudding and at least two servings of ice cream. Ianto goggled at it, but his face relaxed into fond amusement as Jack attacked his plate with happy gusto.
"We're professional," he said, then wagged his eyebrows. "In more ways than one. Besides, it would be nice to not sneak around, right? If we're going somewhere, we can actually say we're goingtogether."
This time Ianto's hand disappeared under the table, followed by Jack's, and Tosh suspected they were holding hands, or patting one another's legs in reassurance, or…
No. She couldn't go there already. She'd just found out, after all. Which reminded her to check the CCTV footage of the Hub, to see what she had missed all this time.
"I'd say give it a few more weeks, wait until everyone is comfortable with it," said Tosh. "You've done such a good job of keeping it under wraps, after all."
"See how long we can manage to keep our hands off one another at work?" Jack suggested.
"Oh, I doubt you do," said Tosh, eyes twinkling. "You make sure we're not around. I wonder what your favorite hiding place is."
"Tosh!" exclaimed Ianto.
"Yeah, Tosh, when did you develop such a naughty mind?" grinned Jack. "Because I like it."
"Jack, don't encourage her." Ianto raised an eyebrow at her. "And you're supposed to be my friend."
"I can't help it if the two of you together is every girl's fantasy," Tosh laughed.
"I knew it!" crowed Jack, and Ianto hung his head, although he was clearly pretending to be exasperated, since he was grinning.
They finished their wine and dessert with more good-natured teasing, then Ianto shooed her and Jack into the living room while he cleaned up again. Jack settled on the sofa while Tosh took the armchair, thinking Ianto would probably want to sit with Jack. But when Ianto came out, he sort of froze with a frown on his face, as if not sure where to sit. Jack noticed immediately and rolled his eyes as he patted the sofa next to him.
"You can sit with me in your own flat, you know," said Jack. "I won't bite." There was pause. "Unless you want me to."
To her everlasting surprise, Ianto smirked as he ran a finger over his neck, right behind his ear. "Maybe later," he replied. Tosh wasn't sure whether Ianto's reply or Jack's reaction was better. Jack's eyes went a little bit wide and his mouth went slack, tongue moistening his bottom lip as if in anticipation. Ianto had always had a clever wit and bantered with everyone at the Hub, but watching him and Jack alone was even better.
Ianto sat next to Jack, who quickly pulled him into his side as Ianto let out a sort of 'oomf" and Tosh laughed again. They watched Top Gear, Jack commenting on almost everything, Ianto occasionally throwing his own snarky comments back, and Tosh simply enjoying the show. Every so often Ianto would run his hand along Jack's knee, or Jack would run his fingers down Ianto's side, and it was heartwarming to see such clear affection between the two men. It struck her that it made sense, in a warped Torchwood sort of way, and that they would probably be good for one another. Ianto already seemed more happy and confident, and Jack seemed grounded and more content than she had seen him in years.
Jack was starting to nuzzle Ianto's neck when Tosh decided to make her exit. It was clear they had missed one another, and she did not feel like intruding on that any longer. She had enjoyed her time with Ianto, but now it was Jack's turn.
Begging off in spite of their protests, she gathered her purse and accepted the leftover pudding pressed into her hands, then made her way to the front hall, where Ianto took her coat from the closet and held it out for her, exactly as he did for Jack at the Hub. She smiled happily as he turned her around for a warm embrace. Jack was there as well, and pressed a kiss against her temple.
"Thank you," he murmured as he stepped back.
"For what?" she asked, and he grinned.
"For being you—wonderful, amazing you."
It made her heart soar, especially when she looked back at Ianto and saw him nodding in agreement. These two men were her good friends, and she was thrilled they had found some small bit of happiness together. What could be better than seeing two people she loved so happy? She may have lost Tommy only a week earlier, but seeing Jack and Ianto together, far from reminding her of her own loss, helped her remember that there was still love in the world, that it still worked out for some people. One day it would work out for her.
"Good night," she said, giving Ianto a second hug. "Don't stay up too late," she whispered, and he laughed.
"Why stay up late doing what could be done in the morning instead?" he returned with a wink, obviously more comfortable joking about the situation in front of her.
"How about both?" asked Jack, and they all laughed.
"That's definitely my cue to leave," said Tosh, and with another murmured round of farewells, she headed downstairs. Ianto had called her a cab as he'd wrapped up her pudding, and she climbed in, feeling a warm glow from both the friendship and the wine as she headed home.
She hoped that Jack and Ianto felt the same, and tried not to imagine what they were up to now that she had left. Failing miserably, she closed her eyes with a smile, and let her imagination wander, suspecting the reality was even better.
I hope you enjoyed Tosh's discovery! Thank you to Taamar for looking this over. Gwen's discovery will be next and last. Anticipate away.
This story takes place after Meat.
Gwen sat at on the sofa, absently poking at the remains of the lunch she had made for herself and Rhys. Something was bothering her, but aside from the obvious, she couldn't put her finger on it. Yesterday had been a trying day for everyone, most of all Rhys, and yet she suspected he was handling it much better than she was, and not just because Owen had given him all sorts of drugs for his injury. Rhys had finally found out her secret; he had been to her underground base, met her coworkers, and even seen an alien. Gwen should be glad, should be rejoicing that her two separate lives were finally meeting in the middle and freeing her from keeping secrets, but instead she felt off kilter, uncertain, like something was wrong.
Maybe it was because she was usually at the Hub, chasing Weevils, sipping coffee, and flirting with Jack. Maybe she should be there…
No, Rhys needed her. He could have died. He had got himself mixed up in all this—and it was her fault, since he had seen her at the original crime scene with the lorry—and had then got himself injured. Having been shot herself, she knew he would recover, but that didn't stop the feeling of panic from almost overwhelming her when she thought back to the moment in the warehouse when Rhys had been captured… when he had walked toward her, free….only to jump in front of her and crumple to the ground, shot in the shoulder.
Panic, and then anger. Yes, deep down she was still angry. She was angry at Rhys for getting involved, and she was angry at Jack for letting him get involved. And if she admitted it to herself, she was angry at herself for allowing it as well, and for allowing him to get hurt when she should have done something, and for—
A knock at the door interrupted her contemplation, and she set her half-eaten lunch down on the table. Patting Rhys on the leg as he struggled to sit up from where he'd started to doze, she hurried to the door. Maybe it was Owen, checking on Rhys, or Jack, checking on her. Maybe Tosh needed her for a Rift alert. Glancing around for her mobile phone, Gwen wondered why they hadn't called if they needed her.
When she opened the door, she was surprised to find Ianto standing there, alone with a large thermos of coffee in one hand and an envelope in the other. After staring at him for a moment, Gwen shook herself and motioned him inside.
"Ianto!" she exclaimed. "I'm sorry, come in. Is everything all right?"
He raised an eyebrow. "I was going to ask you the same thing. Coffee?"
"Brilliant," she said, taking the thermos and heading toward the small kitchen to pour them three mugs. "You're a lifesaver, you are. I knew something was off this morning."
Ianto smiled, but Gwen thought it seemed somewhat forced. She wondered why Ianto had come to the flat instead of one of the others. He looked a bit stiff, and one of his hands was wrapped up. Had he been injured while she'd been gone?
"So is everything all right at the Hub? Are you really just here to check up on us?"
"Actually, I'm here to check up on Rhys," Ianto said, following her into the living room. "He was the one who was shot, after all."
"Damn right," said Rhys, taking a mug from Gwen and inhaling deeply. He grinned. "I finally understand what Gwen's been raving about for so long. You sure you're not a professional or something?"
Ianto's lips quirked. "Depends on the profession."
Rhys laughed, but Gwen still felt a strange tension from Ianto, as if he was reluctant to be there. She also wondered about the envelope he had set on the table.
"What's that then?" she asked, and Ianto set down his coffee, nodding briefly.
"Right to the chase then," he murmured.
"I can tell something's going on. You're not just here to see how Rhys is doing. Someone could have called for that."
"Oi!" said Rhys. "If he wants to fawn a bit, let him fawn. Go ahead, mate. She's just upset she's not the center of attention."
Ianto looked like he was holding back a smirk at that, though Gwen frowned, feeling unusually sensitive to the light teasing. "How are you feeling?" Ianto asked Rhys.
"I'm fine, thank you very much," said Rhys. "Bit sore, but Owen's got that covered and says I should be up and about in no time."
"Good to hear," Ianto murmured.
"There," said Rhys, returning to his coffee and sitting back. "Now you can talk about aliens all you like."
Gwen rolled her eyes and turned back to Ianto. "So what is it, then? Because if it's anything to do with yesterday, I made myself quite clear that I won't do it."
She noticed Ianto's face tighten, his lips purse, and his eyes narrow. Rhys must have sensed the change as well, for he sat forward and frowned at them both. "Won't do what, love?"
Gwen stared at Ianto, feeling the slow burn of anger return. If Ianto was there to Retcon Rhys, she would fight him. He could throw as many government regulations as he wanted at her, she didn't care. He could have an order from the Queen herself in that damn envelope but she wouldn't do it. Not after all she'd been through, all Rhys had been through. He deserved to know the truth, and she had every right to talk to him about her work now that he did. She needed to talk about it. Keeping it secret for so long had almost destroyed her countless times—in fact had almost destroyed them as a couple.
Rhys touched her knee, and she was so tense that she jumped. Springing away from the sofa, she began to pace in the small living room, all the agitation from the previous day returning in full force. She stopped and stared when Ianto began to pull something from the envelope.
"If you've got Retcon in there," she started, and then stopped mid-sentence, her eyes going wide as a sudden, horrifying thought occurred to her. "No! Rhys! Stop!" She grabbed the coffee from his hand and threw it behind her, uncaring of the shattered mug and dark stain it would leave on the carpet.
"What the hell, Gwen!" said Rhys, staring at his empty hands and then at Ianto. "That was a bloody fantastic cuppa, that was."
"It was drugged," she hissed, whirling on Ianto. "How dare you! How dare you come into my home and take away his memory, when all he was trying to do was protect me!" She was furious, waving her arms and raving at her coworker, while both Rhys and Ianto sat there and stared at her, one with a look of confusion, the other with a look of growing frustration. It was Rhys who spoke first.
"Gwen, love, how could he have drugged the coffee? We all drank it, even Ianto." He looked to Ianto for confirmation; the Welshman nodded, and Gwen shook her head.
"I won't let them do it, Rhys. I won't let them take your memory. You have every right to know what happened yesterday!"
Rhys looked at Ianto. "Can you do that?" he asked. "Take away people's memories like that?"
Ianto nodded, taking another sip of his coffee as if to prove it was clean. "It's standard operating procedure when civilians are involved. It's safe and effective. We simply suggest a more rational explanation in place of the fantastical."
"Rhys is not a civilian!" Gwen exclaimed.
"Of course I am," said Rhys, and she turned toward him, taken aback to hear the faint hint of amusement in his voice. "I'm not one of you lot, that's for sure. I may have this," he waved the sling he was wearing, "but I have no interest in going through all that again."
"But you deserve to remember!" Gwen said. "Ianto, this was settled yesterday. I'm not doing it. If you Retcon Rhys, you'll have to Retcon me as well."
Rhys gasped behind her, but she ignored him, determined to stand her ground once more. She had faced Jack and won, and she would face Ianto as well.
Ianto rose slowly, and she was suddenly aware that in spite of how much he did in the background, or perhaps because of it, Ianto Jones was a dangerous man. He had been practically invisible when she had first started at the Hub, but had revealed himself to be more capable than any of them had imagined. He had done things she could never do, usually without breaking that mask of calm indifference. And over the past year, he had grown into those capabilities with a calculated efficiency that Gwen realized was now focused on her.
Ianto rarely showed true anger toward anyone, let alone someone on the team, but she saw it in his eyes, in the set of his jaw, and in the clench of his hands. And she realized that while she could bully her way with Jack because of his feelings for her, she could never, ever hope to do the same with Ianto. Her bluff with Jack would be called without hesitation by Ianto.
"Yes, Gwen," said Ianto, his voice low and intimidating. She swallowed her anxiety as best as she could, determined to go down fighting. "We are all well aware of your poor choice of words yesterday, some of us more than others."
"What does that mean?" asked Gwen, thrown off by the sudden difference in his mood and the uncomfortable feeling in the pit of her stomach. Ianto's eyes flickered toward Rhys, as if indicating his reluctance to speak openly in front of him.
"What did you say?" Rhys asked quietly. And from the tone of his voice, Gwen could tell that he was already disappointed in her; he knew she'd had a confrontation with Jack, but she had not told him the details. She had to make him—both men—understand.
"I said I wouldn't do it, that I wouldn't give you the pill," she said, turning toward him with pleading eyes. "They don't understand, Rhys. They don't understand what it's like, not being able to tell you the truth. Watching you go in there, put yourself in danger like that. They don't know!"
But Rhys wasn't watching her anymore, he was watching Ianto, and when Gwen turned back, she actually stepped away from the fury writ upon the Welshman's face.
"One day, you're going to actually hear yourself and understand just how wrong you are, Gwen," he said softly, and the abrupt change in Ianto's demeanor scared her more than his words. "You think you know us, and you dare to judge us, but the world is not cold and lonely for all of us."
Gwen stared at him, breathing heavily. She could feel Rhys's confusion radiating from the sofa and hugged herself in a vain effort to stay focused. She would not let them talk her into the Retcon. Never.
"Did you say that, Gwen?" Rhys asked softly from the sofa. "Did you really say that to them, to your friends?"
"I was thinking of you!" she cried. "I was thinking of us."
He shook his head and frowned. "God knows I've no love for Jack and the hours he makes you keep, but Gwen—you don't know what it's like for them. You can't put us above them, not like that."
"Yes, I can!" Gwen turned away and began pacing. "You don't know everything, Rhys. Jack wanted me to take your memories of the whole incident—everything you did, everything you risked and sacrificed. But I'd still remember, and I'd have to keep hiding it from you, just like the last year!"
"So let me guess—you bullied him into doing what you wanted and insulted everyone else along the way?" Rhys asked, but he was again looking at Ianto. The Welshman was still standing, still watching Gwen, but the earlier look of fury was replaced by a cold lack of sympathy.
"I didn't mean to offend anyone," she started, but Ianto cut her off.
"Yet you did. I'm sorry, Gwen, this is not really why I came, but now that I'm here, I think I need to make a few things clear." He let out a breath, glancing down as if gathering his thoughts, before piercing her with stormy blue eyes. "You used Jack's feelings for you against him. You accused us all of not understanding anything because we have no one outside. But you are wrong, Gwen—about everything." He stepped closer and tilted his head to stare down at her. "You've been with Torchwood for a year. You've not yet seen what it can really do to a person. You've not suffered and lost everything and even died for it. The rest of us have."
Rhys cut her off. "Gwen, just listen." He was watching them both closely.
"Think of what Tosh has gone through in the last year. Imagine what it was like before that, languishing in a UNIT prison with no future. Did you even know that Owen lost his fiancé to an alien parasite? That's how he was recruited." Ianto paused, took a breath, and continued. "And I don't think I need to remind you what happened at Canary Wharf, or what I lost there. Believe me when I tell you that I know exactly what it's like to be absolutely terrified of losing someone I love. Because I did." His voice broke at the end, and he stopped to look away.
Rhys was hanging his head, his face grim. Gwen felt tears prick her eyes.
"And Jack…Jack has been with Torchwood for over a hundred years." Rhys glanced up, shocked by both the revelation, no doubt, as well as the heated emotion that colored Ianto's voice now. "He has loved and lost more than you'll ever know. He knows exactly what it's like to watch the people he cares about walk into danger because he does it every day, year after year." He took another step toward her, his presence electrifying as he defended their Captain and leader with more passion than Gwen had ever seen. She could only stare, open mouthed. "He feels everything, Gwen, and not only did you tell him that he doesn't—that none of us do—but you threatened to leave after insulting his humanity, the very core of who he is at heart."
"I didn't think—" Gwen started. There was the lightest of snorts from the sofa, but Ianto shook his head with a frustrated roll of his eyes, so much more cutting than his more playful banter.
"You often don't," he replied, and she hated the bitter tone to his normally pleasing baritone. "Of course Jack doesn't want you to leave. He doesn't want to lose you, no matter how many times you question, doubt, belittle, and bully him. He doesn't want to lose any of us, Gwen, because he cares, sometimes too much. Which is why I'm here." He backed away and the strange electricity dissipated slightly. He leaned down to pick up the forgotten envelope. "I have a copy of the Official Secrets Act. If Rhys does not agree to sign it, then I have been authorized by Jack to Retcon you both."
Rhys glanced up in alarm. "Why Gwen?" he demanded. "I'm the one who stumbled into it. What's she done wrong?"
Ianto raised an eyebrow. "Obstructing operations, disobeying lawful commands, contravening standing orders, and misconduct toward a superior officer to start."
"It's not the military!" Gwen exclaimed.
"Torchwood is subject to military law in most instances," said Ianto. "Though ultimate authority rests with the Queen. As you signed a contract with Torchwood, you are therefore subject as well."
"Oh my god," said Gwen. She felt her legs go weak beneath her and reached out for support. Ianto took her hand and sat her down next to Rhys. He was serious. Somehow she knew, deep down, that while Jack wouldn't have done it, Ianto would. But he would do it with Jack's support, and that hurt even more. She blinked away tears.
She had thought she meant more to Jack. She had thought Ianto was her friend, as well as Tosh and Owen. They were all good people, willing to give their lives for one another. They'd been through so much together, she almost considered them family. How could this be happening? How could she have been so wrong about them?
Yet even as she questioned her teammates, she realized she was not questioning herself. What if Ianto was right—about her, about Jack, about Torchwood? Had she really been so ignorant, so cruel? With a gasp that left her sobbing even harder, she realized that everything Ianto had said was true, she had just refused to see it. She had taken advantage of Jack's affections in particular and underestimated both him and Ianto. She had treated all her teammates callously when they had done nothing to deserve such treatment. They had every right to be angry with her after her harsh words the day before.
Ianto was watching her closely. He leaned forward and laid a hand on her knee. "We don't want to lose you," he said, and Gwen was struck with such a formidable impression of the royal 'we' that she giggled and hiccupped nervously. "Torchwood…Jack's Torchwood," he amended, "is built on a foundation of forgiveness. We've all experienced it, some of us more than others." He glanced down, gripping her knee a bit harder. "There is plenty left for you, Gwen, if you know where to look and can accept it."
"I've been an idiot," she whispered, shaking her head. "A complete and utter fool."
Ianto seemed to think about his next words. "You have such a big heart, Gwen. So much love and compassion and understanding." She glanced up in surprise, but then came the hit. "You need to let us into your heart, as well, and show us that same compassion and understanding."
Gwen broke down, taking her hand from Ianto's and covering her face. Rhys tutted and took her in his arms, holding her tight as she sobbed. She was vaguely aware of Ianto moving away as if giving them privacy, and so she let herself cry and babble and beat against Rhys, her heart breaking.
Ianto had just laid bare the core of her faults. He was absolutely right. She had prided herself on her sense of humanity, on the compassion and understanding he had just praised, yet her pride had got the better of her, and too often she flung her perceived superiority in her teammates' faces. She held herself better than them for being less broken, less flawed, when in reality she was just as flawed as anyone because she had failed them. She had not held her friends and coworkers to the same regard as she routinely held the strangers they helped on the street. She knew them and loved them and yet how many times had she treated them so heartlessly, words escaping her mouth without thinking? Tosh, after Mary…Owen, after Diane…Ianto over and over, constantly underestimating his intelligence, his abilities, his feelings.
And Jack. She shamelessly manipulated him every chance she had, simply because she knew she could. She took advantage of his feelings for her, over and over, rarely backing down because she knew she would always win. She was there to question, to challenge, to remind them of the things they forgot, only she had rubbed their noses in it instead, until she had forgotten herself. She wasn't any more human than they were; at that moment, she was less.
Only now did she realize the depth of her faults. And it wasn't her boss, or her former lover, or her fiancé pointing it out to her, it was Ianto Jones. The man who stood back and watched and listened. The man who really did know everything, because he had lost everything, yet he was still there, still fighting, and still ready to forgive her. It occurred to her that Ianto might be the most human of them all.
It was breathtaking and humbling and Gwen started crying all over again, which was when Ianto reappeared with a cup of tea.
Gwen took it with shaking hands, and Rhys unwrapped his arms to lean forward.
"What's the deal with the paperwork then, mate?" he asked Ianto. Gwen stayed silent and listened.
"It's more of a reminder than a binding contract," said Ianto, sliding forward the large packet of papers. "Whether or not you sign it is irrelevant, for you will be expected to maintain the secrecy of Torchwood either way. The document details everything from what remains secret, from whom, how, and most importantly, the penalties for revealing classified information."
Rhys picked it up, flipped through it, and nodded. "And the penalties—they're bad?"
Ianto cocked his head. "There are different penalties depending on the infraction. We won't toss you through the Rift or throw you to the Weevils, but at this level, yes, it's bad."
Rhys stared hard at Ianto before leaning forward and speaking with a strong voice. It was not unlike his confrontation with Jack at the Hub, though Ianto appeared far less affected than Jack.
"I wasn't going to tell anyone anyway, much as I'd love to tell my mates I got shot trying to rescue an alien from being tortured. I'm just glad Gwen doesn't have to hide it anymore. Because while she may said some harsh things to you, this hasn't been easy on her either."
"I understand," Ianto evenly. "I've worked for Torchwood for longer than anyone except Jack. I've kept secrets myself. Not being able to talk about the things we do and see is one of the most difficult aspects of the job."
Rhys nodded, apparently satisfied that Ianto understood him. Gwen stared at her coworker in surprise. "Then how do you handle it?" she asked. "What do you do to keep hold of something that's not dark and alien, something that's normal?"
Ianto shook his head as he glanced away. "My life stopped being normal the day Torchwood London fell. The only thing I can do is make peace with that. Fighting it only makes it worse."
"But don't you want something outside of Torchwood, away from the Hub? Something it hasn't touched, something your own?" Gwen knew she was pushing again, but she couldn't help herself, and she didn't think she was being offensive...was she?
"Gwen, you're doing it again, love," Rhys murmured with a sigh. "Leave him be."
"I just want to understand!" Gwen exclaimed, then turned to Ianto. "I'm sorry."
"I know," said Ianto. "And I will answer your question if you promise to listen. Do I want something or someone outside of Torchwood, away from the Hub? Sometimes. But right now I have exactly what I want. I'm where I'm supposed to be, doing what I'm supposed to do, with whom I'm meant to be. That's more than most people can say about their lives, isn't it?"
Gwen took a deep breath to stop herself from arguing, because she knew she would if she didn't. She still couldn't help but wonder if Ianto had settled. Was he truly happy, or had he accepted something less? Didn't he want to find love, get married, maybe start a family one day? Torchwood did not really lend itself to children, but he still deserved a partner, someone to be there for him like Rhys was for Gwen. Jack and Tosh and she and Owen didn't count; didn't he want someone untouched by Torchwood?
He was watching her closely, as if waiting for her to continue her argument. And so she stopped, she smiled, and she nodded.
"Yes, it is. And it's none of my business, either, is it?"
"Miracles happen!" Rhys exclaimed. "She's figured out!"
He laughed, and Gwen joined him, and even Ianto smiled. It felt as if they had finally reached the understanding they'd been struggling with since Ianto had walked in the door. It was probably what had troubled her all morning. She had treated her coworkers terribly, and she knew that now. She knew, and she understood, and she would try her hardest to do better by them.
A slightly awkward silence descended, until Rhys asked for a pen and signed the paper with a flourish. Ianto thanked him as he tucked it back in the envelope. "Welcome to the fold."
"Ah well—if you ever need someone to sneak you into an alien abattoir again, I'm your man."
"Rhys!" Gwen exclaimed, the possibility that he might actually do such a thing terrifying.
Her fiancé gave her an innocent look. "What's the use of knowing the big secrets if I can't help out once in a while?"
"Because you're not on the payroll?" Gwen suggested.
"I can fix that," Ianto offered, and as usual, Gwen wasn't sure whether or not he was joking.
"He's not trained," she protested.
"Jack can fix that," replied Ianto.
"Oh god no," said Gwen, pointing her finger in Rhys's face. "You are not going anywhere near Jack's training." She knew she was blushing furiously, especially when Ianto raised an eyebrow and smirked at her.
"And that's my cue to leave," Ianto said as he stood. "I'll leave you two to work out the details."
"What details?" asked Gwen. "Ianto, you're not serious, are you?"
She followed him to the door, until he turned and placed a hand on her shoulder and gave her one of those knowing smiles. "Of course I'm not serious. Just giving you another reminder of what it's like when someone you care about is sent into danger."
"I don't think I'll ever forget yesterday," she murmured. He nodded.
"Don't forget today either," he said.
"I won't," she promised.
"Jack said to take a long weekend. Give us all time to cool down and think about things." He pulled her into an embrace that, though still slightly stiff, was at least absent of the anger he had directed at her earlier. "Call if you need anything," he said softly.
"Thank you, Ianto," she said. "For everything."
"Just doing my job, ma'am," he replied in an overly courteous tone that made her laugh. She placed a hand on his arm and squeezed.
"You're pretty damn good at it, you know that, right?"
He cocked his head. "You're the second person to tell me that. I could get a big head."
"Never!" she laughed again. "Who was the first?"
He actually winked at her before extending his hand to Rhys. "Take it easy, Rhys. We appreciate the help." He gave Gwen a sideways glance. "With everything."
"Stop it, you!" she exclaimed. This time Rhys laughed, and they ushered Ianto out the door. Gwen let her hand rest on the doorknob and took several deep breaths before turning back to Rhys. In spite of the more relaxed end to the conversation, she still expected to see more disappointment in his eyes, but instead he was now standing at the window, peering through the curtains and looking down at something on the street. She tentatively joined him.
As she came to stand beside him, she hoped he would pull her close, reassure her, but he merely glanced sideways, then motioned for her to look down as well. She saw what had drawn his attention.
The black SUV was in parked front of their building, and Jack was standing beside it, leaning against the driver's side door. Ianto was standing before him, gesturing with his hands, pacing back and forth, then stopping to run his fingers through his hair. She thought he was angry again until his shoulders slumped, and he scrubbed his hands over his face, which was when Jack reached out and took his hand, pulling him closer, his unheard words obviously calming as Ianto's body language slowly relaxed.
And then Jack stood up straight and wrapped one arm around Ianto's waist. He brought his free hand to Ianto's face, brushing his fingers across the Welshman's jaw and speaking intensely. His face grew more and more upset, until Ianto raised his hands, framed Jack's face as if to stop him talking, and kissed him soundly. Ianto's fingers continued to trail down Jack's neck and shoulders until Jack wrapped both arms around Ianto and pulled him close for another fiery kiss. Gwen gasped; Rhys raised an eyebrow.
It was a kiss that spoke of understanding and support, and seemed to have the desired effect. Their foreheads leaning together, Jack sighed and nodded, Ianto spoke some more, keeping Jack's eyes on him, and then kissed him once again. When they broke apart, Jack wiped at his eyes, laughing, and Ianto grinned as he stepped back, one hand lingering on Jack's cheek before he turned. Jack watched him go around the car, a soppy look on his face, until he glanced up at the window, jumped in the car, and after a minute or two—and it was easy to guess the reason for the delay—the SUV drove away.
Next to her, Rhys pulled away, moving slowly back to the sofa, where he watched her warily, as if waiting for some sort of reaction.
"I had no idea," Gwen said softly, turning to look at him.
"No wonder he was so angry," said Rhys.
"What do you mean?" asked Gwen, frowning. She knew there was a connection she needed to make, but once again she was failing. How was it that Rhys was the one to see so much more clearly than she?
He shook his head, but there was fond exasperation in his expression. "Come here, love," he said, patting the sofa, and she went to him gratefully, relieved to be accepted in spite of all that had happened.
"You still don't get it, do you?" he said softly, stroking her back with his good arm as she curled up beside him.
Gwen sighed, but he chuckled softly and continued before she could say anything.
"I asked Jack yesterday if he was gay," he said, laughing once more. "I was joking, of course, although I was sort of hoping."
When she turned to ask him about it, he shook his head and stopped her. "I had no idea, and I'm willing to bet you didn't either, did you? That he and Ianto were a couple?"
"A couple?" she asked, looking up at him in surprise. "They're not a couple. They slept together before Jack left, but I didn't think they'd hooked up since Jack came back. And if they are shagging again, that doesn't mean they're a couple, they're just—"
"Gwen, open your eyes." She did—wide in surprise at the tone to his voice. "Think about what you just saw. Think about what you said to them yesterday. I didn't see how angry Jack was, but I did see how upset Ianto was in here. Do you really not understand?"
And just like that, she saw it, and her heart broke within her once more for her hurtful ignorance.
She had Rhys…and Jack and Ianto had each other. She had accused them of not being able to understand because they didn't have anyone. Maybe not on the outside, but yes, they did, on the inside. Ianto had said that Jack cared about them all, that he didn't want to lose any of them. That he sent all of them into danger every day and had to live with it. Rhys had done it once, but it was a fluke, an accident. It was Ianto's job to be by Jack's side taking those risks. It had never occurred to Gwen that it might be even harder for Jack to watch Ianto walk into danger, knowing he could die any day.
"Oh my god," she whispered, as she thought back to the previous day. Ianto and Rhys had both been captured, but Jack had ordered her to stand down. She hadn't, and in the end, that was why Rhys had been shot. Thinking back, she vaguely remembered Jack stepping out, hands raised, to confront the criminals. Had Ianto been threatened? He must have been, she remembered Jack shouting, "No!"
But then Jack had sent Ianto after the men. And while Owen had patched up Rhys at the Hub, Tosh had told her that Ianto had taken out four of the thugs. He'd been captured and tied up, then managed to escape, only to be hit and kicked and almost shot—the gun had misfired—yet he had still got up and gone after them. She remembered Tosh telling her everything, but she had been so fixated on Rhys, she hadn't given it a thought.
She'd never even thought to ask Ianto if he was all right, she had just lashed out at them all. Even when she had noticed his stiffness earlier and seen the bandage on his hand, she hadn't said anything, so wrapped up in her own worries and concerns. How could she have been so thoughtless, so cruel? A small part of her wanted to cling to Jack's anger as a sign that Jack would be devastated if she left Torchwood, because he cared so much about her. But she knew now, deep down, that a good part of his heated response had not been about almost losing her, but about almost losing Ianto as well.
"Ianto almost died," she told Rhys, staring blankly at the window. "Tosh told me he fought with those men at the warehouse, that they shot at him but the gun misfired. He could have died, and all I did was yell at Jack about not understanding what it was like."
"I'd say he understands," Rhys said softly, still stroking her back.
"I had no idea," she said again. "I really didn't. They never said anything, never did anything, but they…they…" She couldn't describe what she had seen. Or maybe she didn't want to.
"They're obviously doing a bit more than shaggin'," said Rhys with a chuckle. "And now you know, you need to be respectful of that. And the others as well," he added at Gwen's look of surprise. "They may not have partners, Gwen, but they have family. Parents, brothers, sisters, even good friends that they care about. You need to remember that."
"I will," she whispered, wiping away tears. This time, however, she laughed at her incredible ignorance. "God, I've been such a fool."
"At least you're my fool," Rhys replied. "And now you can talk to me, when it gets bad."
She turned toward him with a big grin and kissed him soundly. "I can, can't I? Thank you for signing the paper. I know it can't be easy."
He rolled his eyes. "It was a piece of paper, and not signing it never occurred to me. I want to share this with you. Besides, I can keep a secret, so you don't need to threaten me with treason."
She laughed again, and they were silent for a moment. "So Jack's been with Torchwood for over a hundred years, has he?" Rhys asked, trying to sound innocent and failing. She gave him a funny look. "What? I signed the bloody paper, you can tell me now, remember?"
"I know. It's just…it's going to get weird, Rhys. You might not even believe me."
He shook his head. "Not a chance. I saw a bloody space whale yesterday. Is Jack an alien, then? A time traveler? Or is it some secret government technology keeping him young and fit for so long?"
Gwen burst out laughing, the excited look on Rhys's face too much after the seriousness of the last hour. "Actually, you're not that far off. He's not an alien, but he has traveled in time. And he's been around for a while because he can't die."
"No really, he can't. Not permanently. I've seen him come back," said Gwen, then stopped when she realized something. "And so has Ianto. Oh god, so has Ianto." She sat up and faced Rhys, grabbing him by the hand. "Rhys, he has to watch Jack actually die. He comes back, but Ianto still has to watch it happen. He sat with him last time, held him until he revived, and we all thought he was just being overdramatic. Oh my god, I can't imagine how hard it must be when…" She trailed off as the tears threatened to start again, then shook her head to stop them as something akin to a feeling of peace washed over her.
She had seen Jack die several times, and though it was disturbing, it did not upset her, and she never doubted he would come back, even after Abaddon. Yet the thought of Rhys going through that same endless cycle of death and rebirth shook her to her very core. She could barely handle him throwing himself in front of danger and getting shot in the shoulder; there was no way her heart could survive watching him actually die, always wondering if he would come back or if his time was up. Was that how Ianto felt?
And why didn't she feel that way about Jack? She loved him, didn't she? Just as she loved Rhys. But it was not the same; it never had been. She loved Rhys more deeply, she saw that clearly now. She had made her choice, and her heart rejoiced at the unexpected confirmation that she had made the right one.
"You're serious, aren't you?" Rhys asked, interrupting her thoughts, and she nodded. "Wow. Well, I think you know even better why Ianto was so upset, then. You saw me get shot, he—"
"He's seen Jack get his throat ripped out," Gwen murmured. She curled up against him again, clinging to him, needing to be grounded. "I wonder how they do it."
"I'd say they trust and respect each other, for one," said Rhys. "From what I saw, Ianto is a bit like his right hand support man, isn't he? Like Alfred to Batman, maybe, if Alfred was young and sexy and sleeping with Bruce Wayne. Couldn't have one without the other."
Gwen nodded slowly. "Yes, Ianto's always been like that, but for all of us. It's obvious that it's more with Jack, though, now that I think about it. He's always at Jack's side, they're always together, staying late, tossing things around, practically finishing each other's sentences."
"Well, then you lot really are a bit blind," laughed Rhys.
"It's Ianto," said Gwen, letting her eyes slip closed. "And it's Jack. They've always kept their secrets close."
But now the biggest one was out: they were together. And though a part of her mourned the loss of something she'd never even had, another part was happy for them, and she was determined to hold onto that feeling, because she had no right to feel any other way.
"I wonder if the others know?" she murmured, leaning against Rhys.
"You mean Owen and the Japanese girl, what's her name? Tish?"
"Tosh. Yes, I wonder if they've been keeping it to themselves."
"You didn't know, so how could they?" Rhys asked. Gwen shook her head with a self-deprecating laugh.
"Because they're both much more clever than me, for one," she said, and then sighed. "And because I probably didn't want to see it, for another. Co-workers sleeping together and all that." She obviously couldn't confess her real reasons for not wanting to see it, that she'd always thought that she was special to Jack, that if he wasn't always telling her to hold on to her normal life with Rhys, she, not Ianto, would be with Jack instead. No, that was one secret she would keep. It was well past time to bury it, anyway.
"It doesn't matter," Rhys said softly. "What's done is done, love. You didn't know about them, and you were upset about everything that happened in the warehouse. But here on out, things'll be different, yeah?"
"Yes," she said, turning to kiss him softly. "Things will be different. Everything changes."
He kissed her back, running his good hand through her hair. "Everything changes. A year ago, I had no idea you were chasing aliens through rips in space and time. Now I can worry about you properly when you come home late with some bloody gash or another."
Gwen couldn't help but laugh. Rhys saw straight through to the heart of the situation, recognized it for what it was and didn't judge her for it, then tried to make her feel better with his wonderful sense of humour. He really was a treasure; she was lucky.
"And now I can wake you up in the middle of the night to tell you about the latest slimy, green alien with tentacles to come through the Rift and shuffle its way through Cardiff." He grinned.
"I'll look forward to it."
He squeezed her tight with his good arm, and she returned the embrace, content. The strange feeling of discomfort she'd been fighting all morning was starting to dissipate after the confrontation with Ianto, as if her subconscious had recognized how wrong she'd been, but it had taken the Welshman to bring it to the surface with his blunt words. It still stung to think about how badly she'd messed up, and she was surprised that it was Ianto who had stood up to her and made her realize the truth of the matter. She knew she shouldn't be, though, and in a way, she was glad. Tosh could never be so blunt, and she and Owen would probably have been reduced to a never-ending cycle of yelling and cursing. And she had already manipulated Jack once, to terrible consequence. No, Ianto had cleared her conscience, and she was grateful to him, in a strange sort of way.
That Ianto and Jack were involved again only highlighted her ignorance and unkindness and made worse the harsh words she'd flung at them. She would make it up to them, though—to all of them. She would do exactly what Ianto had said, and she would stop and think about her words, and about her coworkers, before she spoke. She would remember that she wasn't any better than them, any more human, that they were friends who deserved the same compassion and respect that she offered strangers on a case.
"So what about Tosh and Owen then?" asked Rhys, breaking into her thoughts. "Anything going on there, or is it just Jack and Ianto having the secret office affair?"
She laughed, then stopped. "I don't know. I don't think so, but I didn't think Jack and Ianto were together either."
"Maybe sometime we can all go to the pub, have a drink after a good alien chase," said Rhys. "Ianto seems like a nice Welsh bloke."
"You just like his coffee," Gwen teased.
"I like a man who can stand up to the likes of you and come out of it in one piece," Rhys laughed. "I want to know his secrets."
"Good luck with that," she said, shaking her head. "He holds his cards close. But yes, I think if they forgive me, they'd really like you, and you'd like them."
He kissed her temple. "They'll forgive you, love. Ianto already has, and it sounds like Jack is a better man than he looks."
Gwen burst out laughing. "Better man than he looks? Rhys, have you seen him?"
"Don't go rubbin' it in," Rhys grumbled. "Sure, he looks like a movie star, but he also swaggers around like a bloody action hero with an ego the size of the London Eye. Now that I think about it, Ianto could probably do better if he's into blokes."
Gwen pecked him on the cheek and curled up against him. "I love you, you know."
"I know," said Rhys, holding her tight. "And I love you too."
In that moment, Gwen was more content than she had been since she'd joined Torchwood. She had joined for the change, for the excitement, the challenge, the danger and drama. And she had joined for Jack, almost instantly willing to follow him anywhere. She still would, but now Rhys would be by her side, her rock and grounding presence, while Ianto did the same for Jack. She saw it now, saw how much sense it made, and wished them only the best, knowing they'd both been through so much already.
She had Rhys, and Ianto and Jack had one another. It wasn't cold and lonely for them. Now if only they could do something for Tosh and Owen. . .
And there you have it, a very different discovery for Gwen than the other two! It seemed appropriate, though, and I'm not sure if I've really addressed this scenario. Seeing as it's practically required of a TW fanfiction writer, I can now check it off the list. I do, however, have a very AU setting of Jack and Ianto post-Meat that I'm sort of chuffed about and hope to share one day as well. But now I'm marking this complete and heading back to my other works in progress. Thank you to Taamar for beta reading this and helping me get unstuck, and to everyone who has read, reviewed, and left kudos on this story. I hope you enjoyed it—let a girl know, yeah? :)