Lady Paperclip (paperclipbitch) wrote,
Lady Paperclip

"Could've Been Anyone", Torchwood, Ianto-centric mainly gen

Title: Could’ve Been Anyone
Fandom: Torchwood
Characters: Ianto; Owen, Tosh, Jack, Gwen, John (slightly Owen/Ianto if you tilt your head to one side and squint, and a trace of John/Ianto)
Challenge/Prompt: fanfic100, 083. And
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 5430
Genre: Gen
Copyright: Bits & pieces of Could’ve Been Anyone by Aimee Mann
Summary: “You should just stick to offering people coffee and picking up dry-cleaning.”
Author’s Notes: I’m not trying to get a whole cohesive story together; more a series of vignettes of the random awesomeness that is Ianto’s life. So it’s all the little Torchwood scenes I always wanted to write shuffled together because I couldn’t make them form a long, proper story individually. It’s not set in a specific time period, but there are vague season 2 finale spoilers right at the end. And areas of this could prove slightly problematic if you’re not vaguely familiar with British kids’ TV shows, though that’s what Wiki was made for ;)

{i think that’s enough now}

Most of the time,” he explains, vodka soaking into his tie, “I really dislike you.”

Owen’s grin is cocky in the dark lighting.

“And how do you feel about me when you’re not disliking me?”

Ianto smirks. “Oh, the rest of the time I bloody loathe you.”

Owen considers this, a cocktail stick stuck incongruously between his teeth. “I’d be more offended if I didn’t know that you don’t like anyone.”

“I like people,” Ianto protests feebly.

“Name one person that you actually like,” Owen counters, slamming a hand on the table. “And Jack doesn’t count, because you’re just obsessed with Jack.”

Ianto isn’t sure that he actually is obsessed with Jack; and even if he is, he’s no more obsessed than, say, Owen. Or Gwen. Maybe even Tosh, though she’s quieter about it.

“I dislike you more than I dislike other people,” Ianto decides.

“I think you’re special and wonderful too, Ianto.” Owen’s laughter is sharp but still amused; as though he’s getting something more out of this than Ianto is actually willing to give him. “I think we should get you drunk more often. You’re bitchy when you’re drunk.”

Ianto isn’t that drunk. “I’m bitchy when I’m sober,” he reminds Owen.

“You’re bitchy in a wittier way when you’re sober,” Owen shrugs. “This is more fun.”

“You’re just a masochist,” Ianto decides, stumbling over the word a couple of times before getting it right. “You’re probably getting off on me sitting here insulting you.”

“Ianto, I know you’re trying your best and all, but I’ve been insulted by masters. You sitting here whining that you don’t really like me while under the influence of a few too many martinis is just… pathetic.”

Ianto frowns, ignoring the majority of Owen’s statement, and instead settling on something he hasn’t noticed until now.

“You’re not really drunk,” he says a little blankly. “…Why not?”

“Well,” Owen shrugs, “One of us has to be well enough in the morning to pretend that this never happened.”

“I’m never drinking with you again,” Ianto mumbles. “You are a rubbish drinking partner.”

“Well, we tried,” Owen tells him. “It was a social experiment. It didn’t work.”

“Because you’re a twat.”

“Because I’m a twat,” Owen concedes. “And because you are actually incapable of getting along with anyone once you open your mouth. You should just stick to offering people coffee and picking up dry-cleaning. You’re almost charming when you’re just silent and doing… stuff.”

“I liked you better before we started trying to interact,” Ianto says. “I think we should go back to ignoring each other.”

Owen snickers. “You might have a point.”

{you lost your place in the sun}

“Jack…” Tosh’s voice is basically a slightly anxious wail, which is never a good sign. When Tosh starts wailing, you can tell things are bad.

“What?” Jack puts down his mug of coffee, apparently to show that he’s paying Tosh his full attention.

“You know the giant insect-like thing we’ve got in the cells until we can send it home?”

“I vaguely remember it ripping out my jugular when we brought it in,” Jack agrees. “Of course, on some planets that’s considered a courtship ritual, so it might’ve just been flirting…”

Ianto hardly ever believes the shit Jack spouts, although the problem is that the universe is full of all sorts of possibilities and most of those possibilities seem to become actualities mainly to annoy them. Jack swore blind for about six months that there was a planet entirely made up of bubble wrap, which of course none of them believed in, and then suddenly the Rift split open and sentient bubble wrap came through.

Apparently, sentient bubble wrap doesn’t enjoy being popped.

A week after that, Jack started talking about the existence of the planet Blu Tack, which Ianto is desperately trying not to believe in because… because that’s just madness, and once you have a planet Blu Tack then you might as well have a planet Post-It Note or a planet Kleenex or a planet made up of plastic cutlery and after that the universe should probably just be destroyed for its own good.

“It’s pregnant,” Tosh announces, pulling Ianto out of his reverie and making the smirk starting to form on Jack’s face fall right off. “With something big. We should try to get it home before it gives birth.”

“I’m not doing the delivery,” Owen says quickly. “Just… no.”

“I’ll retcon you afterwards,” Jack offers. “You won’t remember the experience.”

“I’ll still have to go through it first,” Owen reminds him.

Ianto, meanwhile, rummages unobtrusively in one of the filing cabinets until he finds what he’s looking for, and then leans comfortably against the nearest workstation to study it. Around him, Jack and Owen continue to bicker, Tosh runs further scans, and Gwen begins to wonder about the possibility of either forcibly ripping the Rift open, or taking the creature to a local hospital where they’ll have lots of anaesthetics and midwives and things.

Owen, turning around, catches sight of Ianto. “What are you doing?” he demands loudly. Then he notices what Ianto’s holding. “Oh, no, seriously – you’re not…” he trails off.

Jack looks somewhat bemused. “I would’ve thought you’d be panicking about the gooey mess that’s going to be caused by this birth,” he remarks.

Ianto really isn’t as OCD as everyone thinks he is, but he’s also not going to point this out. “There are other things to take into account,” he says carefully.

“Where did you even get a baby naming book from?” Gwen asks. “Why does Torchwood need one?”

“People and things are always giving birth around here,” Ianto points out, “Where do you think Suzie chose the name ‘Myfanwy’ from?”

“Got any suggestions?” Jack asks, smirk widening, winking at Ianto. Tosh is still determinedly running scans on the now-twitching creature in the cells.

“I was thinking ‘Idris’,” Ianto murmurs, flicking through the pages. “Or maybe ‘Sienna’.”

“I pity your future children,” Gwen mutters, just loud enough for Ianto to hear.

{your pattern is different from what it implies}

It’s safe to assume, when a Starbucks spontaneously combusts, that it’s probably not just a team of restless tea-drinkers trying to prove that not everyone needs overpriced lattes to get through the day.

“That was my local Starbucks,” Ianto mumbles to no one in particular, squashed in the back of the SUV between Tosh and Gwen. Owen got shotgun, and occasionally turns around to grin obnoxiously at the three of them, because there are few things about Owen that aren’t obnoxious and yet Ianto remains curiously fond of him. He tries to ignore it, because thoughts like that can never lead anywhere good.

Gwen pats Ianto’s arm in an approximation of sympathy, while Tosh’s fingers leap excitedly over the keyboard of the inbuilt computer, bringing up CCTV footage faster than Ianto can follow with her eerie precision.

“Cheer up, Ianto,” Jack offers from the driver’s seat, “I’ll buy you a coffee plantation on Rygas-9 if you like.”

“Why does Ianto get alien real estate?” Owen demands.

“‘Cause he’s prettier than you are,” Jack responds, as though this is a perfectly reasonable piece of logic.

“This is true,” Gwen agrees.

“I don’t know,” Ianto pipes up, “Those cheekbones are quite nice from certain angles.”

Tosh is blushing, while Owen turns around and makes a rude hand gesture in Ianto’s direction.

“Don’t be mean to Ianto,” Gwen says, “His local Starbucks has been incinerated. It’s a tough time for him.”

Ianto suspects that the others think he has some kind of really creepy coffee fetish, and then amuses himself for a couple of minutes trying to work out what a coffee fetish would actually entail. The mental images are fairly amusing, if a little traumatic, and he decides that at some point he’s going to have to explain to the team that of course his life revolves around hot beverages, since that’s basically what he’s paid for, but he doesn’t actually have a weird kinky dependant relationship with coffee.

Or maybe he’ll let them keep thinking that; it’s more entertaining than the alternative.

“Oh,” Tosh says in a quiet voice. She’s brought up footage from before the Starbucks met its unfortunate and flaming end, and it looks like…

“What is that?” Gwen asks, eyes wide.

“It appears we’re dealing with a creature that incinerates things with its eyes,” Tosh says slowly, “And apparently it likes burning anything that gets in its way.”

“Oh my God,” Gwen breathes.

“I know,” Ianto says, “Can you imagine the size of its carbon footprint?”

The others stare at him as though he’s suddenly grown an extra head – although that was Owen that happened to, and it was months ago, and they’re Not Allowed To Talk About It – but Jack’s eyes are twinkling.

Ianto thinks maybe he’ll get his coffee plantation after all.

{so we all make mistakes; it just figures that you’d make the biggest one}

Gwen is late for work, raindrops caught in her hair, and she comes to find Ianto in the archives with such pleading expression on her face that he caves and goes to make her something warm to drink. After all, her perseverance in wandering around the badly-lit and ever so slightly mouldy corridors deserves to be rewarded.

Owen is playing Fun With Squishy Alien Corpses in the autopsy room, which guarantees that Ianto will have to spend the majority of the afternoon up to his elbows in viscera while Owen does a really crap job of looking penitent. One day, Ianto is not going to tidy things up and then Owen will have to take responsibility for his actions; when Ianto will do this is slightly uncertain though. And white is really not a sensible colour at all for a room when the walls are regularly covered with brightly-coloured innards; Ianto seriously wants to kick whoever designed it.

Jack is whistling tunelessly through his teeth in his office, a sound that really carries since he insists on not putting doors on his office. It sets Ianto on edge the minute he hears it, and it follows him and Gwen as they finally arrive at the coffee machine. It’s the work of a minute to brew some decent coffee, and Gwen’s expression of sheer relief and glee is really very sweet.

“What’s Jack up to?” Ianto asks, as Tosh walks over, apparently drawn by the smell of fresh coffee. They are all really disturbing addicts, Ianto reflects detachedly, and he’s beginning to feel like an enabler every time he makes a cup.

“He’s on hold with the Devil,” Tosh shrugs, watching eagerly as Ianto begins steaming milk for her latte.

“I know the UNIT director can be a bit of a tosser,” Gwen begins, “But I’d hardly call him-”

“No,” Tosh interrupts, “I mean, as far as I can tell, he is actually on hold with the Devil.”

There’s a pause.

“Bloody Torchwood,” Gwen mutters into her mug.

Ianto begins a quest for biscuits, searching through the cupboards in the hope some will appear. He gets the feeling it’s going to be a Hob Nob sort of day; they may not survive if they don’t get access to copious amounts of carbs and sugar.

“I wasn’t aware we had his telephone number,” he manages eventually. “Actually, I didn’t really think the Devil had a telephone number.”

“Apparently some Torchwood leader a few decades back made a deal with him,” Tosh explains, “You know, he could have all our souls or something. Jack’s trying to find a loophole.”

Ianto pours coffee into a mug for her and blinks a few times as he tries to process this. It would be nice to work somewhere where you don’t have to worry about things like eternal damnation on top of all the other things like pterodactyls eating your potplants and your boss humping inanimate objects. And, on occasion, humping you.

“What exactly is going to be the difference between an eternity in Hell and working here?” he asks eventually. There’s a trace of amusement in his tone, but it all comes out a little too serious.

“Better heating,” Owen says cheerfully, walking up to join them. Ianto wonders if perhaps the coffee machine sends out a special psychic pulse whenever he uses it that draws all the team members towards it, or if Owen has just got bored of wielding a scalpel in a way designed to make as much mess as possible and has decided to come and harass everyone else instead. “Jack seriously needs to install some sort of central-heating system, I had a Weevil getting hypothermia last December, and that all kinds of fun.”

“Has Jack won back our souls yet?” Tosh asks.

The fact that this question can be asked seriously does do Ianto’s head in a little bit. He starts making Owen’s coffee, trying to ignore the fact that this job is so stupid some days that he doesn’t know why he even gets out of bed.

“He’s still on hold,” Owen replies. “But it’s ok, I’m sure he and the Devil have some kind of incredibly sordid history and Jack will be able to pull some strings.”

It wouldn’t really surprise Ianto if that turned out to be true after all.

{i was saving it up; now it’s spent and i don’t know what i spent it on}

“You are pathetically tragic,” Owen says, with more kindness in his tone than he probably means to have, “We should have a Blue Peter Appeal for you. Get people to send in bottle tops until we’ve got enough to get you a life.”

Ianto sighs quietly, pulling open a cabinet drawer. “I thought it was all Bring And Buy Sales now,” he remarks.

“Same principle,” Owen shrugs.

“I’m alright,” Ianto says peaceably, reaching for yet another Torchwood file that screams classified! in red, slightly smudged letters. “I don’t think I need rescuing just yet.”

Owen folds his arms across his chest and glares at him until Ianto obediently stops putting things into drawers and pays attention to him.

“It’s three in the fucking morning,” Owen tells him.

Ianto does his best not to grimace. “Oh.”

“You need a life,” Owen reiterates.

“You’re still here,” Ianto points out. “Surely there must be some clubs around here that are just about open.”

Owen rolls his eyes. “I’m experimenting with being a Better Person,” he says, dropping the capitals easily but significantly into place.

Ianto arches an eyebrow. “And how’s that working out for you?”

Owen shrugs. “It’s three in the fucking morning.”

The Hub is not really a nice place to spend the night; most of it makes disconcerting beeping noises and Myfanwy is always flapping about being noisy and Jack tends not to sleep – ever – and so always ends up popping up when you’re least expecting him. It’s his domain, and he prowls it like a caged tiger; though nothing and no one is keeping him here, he’s already proven that once.

“Go home, Owen,” Ianto suggests. “Get some rest. However hard you’re trying not to be an insensitive bastard all the time, it’s a stupid time to still be hanging around.”

“You think I’m an insensitive bastard?” Owen asks neutrally.

Ianto smirks slightly. “I’ve called you worse,” he points out.

They’ve called each other all sorts of unforgivable things in the past; driven each other halfway crazy and now the quietness of the uneasy truce they’ve reached makes Ianto more awkward than when Owen was striding about snapping teaboy at him.

“I’m still going to write to the BBC,” Owen says, walking a little closer. “Tell them that you’re in desperate need of help and the overly-perky presenters had better launch something to help you.”

“I don’t want a life,” Ianto replies firmly. “If I had a life I wouldn’t be able to walk in here every morning and do what I do. I’d go mad.”

Owen sighs. Then he holds his hands out. “Give me files.”

Ianto obediently picks up a stack of manila folders and passes them to Owen. “Mess up my filing system and I’ll shoot you again,” he offers.

Owen smirks at him; the slightly crooked smirk that makes him look sweet and slightly vulnerable and that also makes Ianto suspect that maybe he doesn’t completely hate him after all.

“I think you might be beyond the miracles Blue Peter can work,” he says.

Ianto forces a smile; for some reason that thought makes him feel unbearably empty.

{it’s hard not to put all the blame on you}

Their latest alien visitors are approximately eight inches high, but Owen’s prophecy – that they can stamp them all flat and go for pizza – proves inaccurate, as it turns out the Bet’aan are seriously overcompensating. Ianto’s inner eight-year-old is very excited by the giant metal robot structures that the aliens have concealed themselves in, although his outer twenty-six-year-old remains somewhat anxious.

“It’s all very Transformers,” Gwen remarks blankly, watching the CCTV footage.

“I fucking hated Transformers,” Owen mutters.

Tosh’s eyes are lit up in an oh-the-pretty-technology way, which makes Ianto smile in spite of the gravity of the situation.

“I thought the film was ok,” Gwen offers. When they all turn and stare at her, she quickly blames it on Rhys.

“Philosophising robot cars,” Owen murmurs, shaking his head. “It’s just sad.”

“You play World Of Warcraft on slow afternoons,” Jack interjects. “I almost miss the days when you just used to download porn.”

“With integrity comes geekiness,” Ianto intones cheerfully.

And then there’s the sound of screeching metal as one of the Bet’aan grabs hold of the Water Tower on the surface and begins to shake it.

They fall into horrified silence.

“This is the point at which I kind of wanna call International Rescue,” Jack manages eventually.

“Oh,” Gwen sighs nostalgically, “I loved that show.”

Owen and Tosh start humming the theme tune obnoxiously loudly. Jack looks expectantly at Ianto.

Ianto sighs. “If you want me to say ‘yes, milady’ at any point then you are either going to have to give me a bonus or a day off,” he warns.

Jack raises an eyebrow. “There is a distinct possibility that we’re going to die in the next hour, Ianto,” he points out.

Ianto gives him a yeah, and I would like to die with dignity look.

“I was madly in love with Scott…” Gwen muses, as sparks crackle down the tower. “I don’t think I really registered that he was actually a puppet.”

Owen has a thoughtful expression on his face.

“They were weirdly attractive given that they were twitchy and you could see the strings,” he says. A smirk slips across his mouth, filthy and inappropriate. “I bet Jack fucked one.”

Jack snorts. “I do have some standards, Owen.”

The team all stare at him incredulously.

“Has it really got to the point where you all willingly believe that I’m capable of having sex with a puppet?” Jack asks.

They all remain silent, as metal screams and twists above them.

“We should have palm trees that drop down on either side of the lift,” Owen says at last.

“Myfanwy would eat them,” Ianto points out.

Owen looks crestfallen. And it’s then they all realise that Tosh has gone. Looking around desperately, they find her dragging huge cables into the poor at the base of the Water Tower.

“I’ve re-routed most of the Hub’s electricity,” she explains calmly. “Can someone go flip that switch?”

Ianto obediently walks across to find the makeshift circuit Tosh has created from the Hub’s mains.

“Get back everyone,” he calls, and re-routes the energy.

The sound is incredible, and veins of blue lightning leap up the tower. The world shakes as the Bet’aan’s metal structure breaks and tumbles to the ground.

“Ah,” Jack says into the silence, “Who needs weirdly attractive puppets anyway?”

Even as they all grin gratefully at Tosh, the team continue to blink disbelievingly at him.

“I did not have sex with one of the Thunderbirds puppets,” Jack says, loudly and clearly. “All right?”

Eventually, Owen pipes up: “What about the Stingray ones?”

{the words may be true but i realise it isn’t description so much as disguise}

The Hub has gone into one of those lockdowns where they can’t get the doors open for about six hours. No one is entirely sure what triggered it – although Owen is loudly suggesting that Jack did it so they’ll all be forced to have sex out of sheer boredom – but for once Cardiff doesn’t seem to be imploding so Ianto makes some fresh coffee and opens up one of his special secret packets of Jaffa Cakes.

“Hiding biscuits is very bad form, Ianto,” Gwen says, mock-pouting.

“You’re all like kids who come home from school and raid the fridge,” Ianto points out. “I have to hide some food or we’d never have anything around here.”

“That’s what Tesco’s is for,” Owen reminds him.

“You ate three packets of custard creams over the course of one afternoon last week,” Ianto shrugs. “And you don’t even like custard creams.”

Owen scowls.

About half an hour later, and everyone seems to be going mad with boredom. Ianto is not entirely sure how claustrophobic you can get in a facility around ten levels deep that covers an area around half the size of Cardiff, but the other team members seem to be giving it a good go. Even Tosh is complaining that there’s nothing to do. Finally, Ianto goes down to the archives, fetches up some files, and herds everyone into the conference room.

“Here,” he says. “Torchwood’s creepily thorough stalking files. Let’s all laugh at each other’s dreadful misguided hairstyles.”

Gwen reaches for her file, flicking it open.

“How the hell did you get hold of my baby photos?” she demands loudly, glaring at Jack.

“Don’t look at me,” he replies, raising his hands in a gesture of surrender.

“I think there are computer programs that do this,” Ianto interjects. “The photos all print off neatly and I stick them in a file. No one actively goes looking for them.”

“You were adorable,” Tosh says, reaching over and picking up a picture of what is presumably a very small Gwen, wearing a green jumper about twice as big as she is.

In minutes, they’re all flicking through the pictures; the fact this is serious Invasion Of Privacy seems to have been forgotten in favour of cooing and teasing.

“Nice to see you’ve always been a grumpy bugger,” Ianto tells Owen, picking up a photo of a deeply scowling little boy who is possibly a two-year-old Owen.

“And it’s nice to know you’ve always been a snappy dresser,” Owen replies in retaliation, holding up a picture of Ianto, aged about three, dressed up in his sister’s favourite pink princess dress.

Gwen seems to be unable to decide which is cuter: a solemn big-eyed Tosh in her garden in Japan, wearing a tiny blue kimono, or Owen, mashing spaghetti bolognaise into his hair.

The photographs document their entire lives, but there’s an unspoken agreement that no one will look beyond anyone’s tenth birthday; they’ve all had varying degrees of interesting lives, and for every shot of someone finishing medical school or their police training, there are dead lovers and UNIT incarceration orders. Somehow, it’s easier to just stick with childhood. And Ianto is privately glad that no one’s going to find the photo of himself aged eighteen, in tight jeans and a ripped vest and eyeliner for a bet. He’s not sure Owen or Jack would ever let him hear the end of it.

“I suppose it’s too much to hope for pictures of you, Jack?” Gwen asks.

“I popped into existence just like this,” Jack responds gravely.

“Bollocks,” Owen snorts.

“As far as Torchwood is concerned, anyway,” Jack shrugs. “Our creepy stalker system can’t get all the way to Boeshane.”

Ianto flicks back through sepia shots of Jack in various military uniforms until he finds a picture right at the back labelled, in flowing cursive script that puts his own to shame, First Day 1899.

The team gather around nosily.

“Oh dear, Jack,” Gwen says softly.

“What?” Jack demands.

“Sideburns,” Owen explains.

“Really not your look,” Ianto adds.

“Not good,” Tosh agrees.

“Hey,” Jack says, “It was the nineteenth century. I had to do something to pass the time.”

“So you grew sideburns?”

“So I grew sideburns.”

{but i’ve found if you try hard enough you can wear it down til it’s just about gone}

Ianto is not going to share Kinky Sex With Jack stories, partly because he still has the last few shreds of integrity that Torchwood hasn’t managed to strip from him, and also because he is not actually having Kinky Sex With Jack. He is barely having Sex With Jack at all, if you get right down to it. After all, Jack is problematic. To know him is to want him and it never gets less complicated; but Ianto isn’t sure how much he wants from him. If he wants anything at all. So: Not Much Sex, but a whole load of Internalising.

“Come on,” Gwen presses, “I’m an almost-married woman. I need to live vicariously through other people!”

Ianto can’t help wondering uncharitably if she just wants to have vicarious sex with Jack, but dismisses the thought on the grounds that if she really wanted to shag Jack then she could. For all he knows, Gwen and Jack already have. And for some reason that thought doesn’t hurt as much as he thinks it should; perhaps Ianto’s growing as a person, or perhaps…

Yeah. Lots of Internalising.

“I’m sorry,” Ianto tells her. “I’m a deeply private person. You must have gathered that by now.”

“‘Deeply private’ is just a code phrase for ‘really dull’,” Owen cuts in, leaning across the table for another biscuit. For some unknown reason they’re all up-to-date on paperwork, and it’s apparently a bank holiday in Evil Alien Land, and Jack has left the Hub to go annoy Detective Kathy Swanson, who has become randomly possessive since Jack came back from his several-month gallivant. Once again, Ianto isn’t jealous. The pattern is starting to worry him. “Well, either that or you’re having more robot sex again.”

Tosh and Gwen both tense, but Ianto isn’t in the mood to be volatile. Instead, he just sighs. “It was physically impossible for me to have sex with Lisa,” he tells Owen. “Next time you bring it up you get shot again.”

Owen rolls his eyes.

“The last time I had sex,” Tosh mutters, “It was with a soldier we’ve been keeping cryogenically frozen for the last ninety years, and then I sent him off to die.”

She pulls the biscuits back from Owen, not looking distressed so much as resigned. Torchwood kills people you love and people you shag and everyone in between. You either get used to it, or go out of your mind. And Ianto would wonder how they got onto this topic of conversation on their protracted tea break, but this is Torchwood. If you’re not talking about sex, you’re talking about the aliens who are trying to murder you. As the lesser of two evils, this is the slightly better conversation topic.

“Owen?” he asks, “Shagging anything?”

“Thanks,” Owen says, “You could have said anyone. That would’ve been nice.”

“Well?” Gwen enquires. “Are you?”

“I’ve given up one night stands,” Owen shrugs, carefully not looking at Tosh. Ianto wonders if he’s the only one to notice this. “I may actually be, God forbid, more dull than Ianto.”

“Call me whatever you like,” Ianto says, “I’m not sharing Sex With Jack stories.”

“Most of us don’t need Sex With Jack stories,” Owen responds, glaring, “It’s only Cooper who’s managed to keep her knickers on around him.”

Tosh blushes and reaches for another biscuit. Gwen glances between them and opens her mouth.

“I wouldn’t,” Ianto advises.

There’s an awkward pause, and then Owen starts laughing.

“This is turning into Sex And The City with fewer shoes and more aliens,” he observes.

“Has anyone seen Manolo’s Spring Collection?” Ianto manages, straight-faced.

Owen shakes his head. “You are so fucking gay,” he says, not entirely without affection.

Ianto reaches for the biscuits, and prays for an immediate alien invasion. As per usual, it doesn’t pay off, and he has to put up with the girls’ giggling and Owen’s bemused expression; apparently Torchwood doesn’t hire people who aren’t willing to act like sixteen-year-olds on a regular basis.

{don’t worry, you can learn to live without; you’ve got a lifetime of that to draw upon}

Jack sits in his office drinking coffee mixed with some kind of other-worldly alcohol, courtesy of Captain John, who claims to have been living on Earth for the last few months. He’s wearing a pair of nice jeans; Ianto suspects Gap or Levi’s, but doesn’t say anything. Instead, he watches Jack and John, keeping their careful distances although their knees keep brushing; a constant need for contact that makes Ianto smile nostalgically, although he’s not entirely sure why.

“How are you?” John asks. He sounds like he cares about the answer, and he’s not dragging Jack down a bar of glass bottles; Ianto wonders if maybe this is as compassionate as John gets.

“I’m alright.” Jack smirks a little. “I’m always alright.”

John smiles easily, with too many teeth. “Yeah, you are.” His laugh has a trace of hollowness. “Eye Candy looks kind of unstable.”

“Stay away from Ianto.” There’s amusement under the possessiveness, and Ianto shrinks back against the wall so they won’t sense him eavesdropping.

There’s a pause, and then John begins: “Do you need-”

“Don’t need anything,” Jack interrupts. “You know us. Torchwood.”

“Very possibly the worst team name ever. Sort of implies you go about setting trees on fire. Also you live under a fountain in a giant underground station with very probably the worst decorating scheme I have ever seen, and I lived in the sewers of Caldassria for a fortnight that time I was trying to avoid getting lynched. The other agents would never let you live this down.”

Jack sighs. “There’s more to existence than interior design, John,” he says.

John coughs slightly. “Really? Has Flaming Trees given you a purpose?”

Jack smiles lazily, and puts on his very best Shiny Leader voice. Ianto has been subjected to this voice on a number of occasions and remains both bemused and irritated by it. “The Twenty-First century is when everything changes,” he says, sounding ever more like some kind of advert. For what, Ianto still isn’t sure.

John seems to be considering this. “Well, actually, I’d say the Twentieth Century was when it all changed,” he offers.

“Well, yes, but I can hardly tell my team that,” Jack says, laughing. “I can’t really say: ‘oh, well, everything’s already changed and you kind of missed the boat’. It’s not very inspirational.”

“Look at you being all motivational-speaking,” John remarks, grinning. “It’s very sexy, you know. And slightly irritating too, of course.”

“No, John,” Jack says softly.

“Still shagging Eye Candy?” John asks.

“…No,” Jack murmurs, as though it pains him to say it. Ianto shuts his own eyes, curling fingers into his palms.

“Pity,” John says, in the least sincere tone Ianto has ever heard. “Can I shag Eye Candy?”

“Eye Candy will probably shoot you first,” Jack remarks, with a trace of pride in his voice.

Ianto decides that if Jack starts calling him ‘Eye Candy’ too he will actually inflict some kind of painful and lasting damage on him. Or at the very least, he will spike Jack’s coffee with something unpleasant from Owen’s lab and copious collection of chemicals with mean side-effects.

“I think that’s for Eye Candy to decide,” John says.

“You could try calling him by his name,” Jack suggests.

“But ‘Eye Candy’ is my nickname for him,” John explains. “We have a special bond.”

Ianto bites down on his tongue to keep from choking.

Jack laughs, and then quietens suddenly. “Go easy on him,” he says. “Be gentle.”

Ianto wonders if Jack is actually trying to set him and John up, and really hopes that Jack is just humouring his old flame. Because, seriously.

“I don’t do gentle,” John reminds him.

“If you ever hurt Ianto,” Jack warns, “I will kill you.”

“Promises, promises,” John laughs.

Psycho, Ianto thinks. And then remembers Jack’s gun against his temple for a while.

It’s been a long couple of years.

Tags: challenge: fanfic100, character: gwen cooper, character: ianto jones, character: jack harkness, character: john hart, character: owen harper, character: toshiko sato, pairing: jack harkness/ianto jones, pairing: john/ianto, pairing: owen harper/ianto jones, tv show: torchwood, type: gen

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