Truth or Dare

Jack had long since stopped wondering why the others still played cards with him. He'd thought Tosh and Owen would have known better after the infamous Strip Happy Families incident, but they always came back for more, so sure that this time they were going to win.

Knowing that, he felt no guilt whatsoever as he pulled the pile of chips towards him. They were playing for chores, and so far Jack was up by ten hours filing, three weeks feeding Myfanwy and a month's surveillance duty. Not bad for an hour's work.

Leaning back in his chair, Jack glanced at his wristband. "It's going to be another hour or so until the computer spits out the addresses we need. Another round, or have you had enough of losing?"

There were groans all round the table.

"Can't we play something that the rest of us at least have a chance of winning?" Tosh complained.

"And something you can't cheat at," Gwen added.

"Did anyone catch me cheating?" Jack asked, holding up his hands. "Nothing up my sleeves. No sleeves for that matter." He pushed the cuffs of his shirt further past his elbows.

Gwen shook her head. "I'm sure you managed it anyway. You're not dealing again, I know that."

"Fine." Jack turned to Ianto. "Have you still got that other deck?"

"Other deck?" Ianto's face was innocently blank.

"The one I found filed under 'T', remember?"

"Oh, those cards. They're around, somewhere."

"Do you think you could find them? If it's not too much trouble?"

"Of course." Ianto pushed his chair back and headed down into the Hub, leaving the others to give each other puzzled looks. He came back a few minutes later holding a larger deck of cards which he handed to Jack.

"Where had you filed them this time?"

"You mean you couldn't find them?"

Jack laughed, spreading the cards on the table so everyone could see. "These are all Ianto's own work," he said. "Took him hours."

Gwen picked up one of the cards. It had a stylised 'T' on the back and, as she turned it over she looked up in surprise.

"It's a Weevil," She ran her finger down the writing underneath, which was a list of categories with numbers next to each one.

"It's Top Trumps," she said, looking at Ianto in surprise. "Top Trumps with aliens?"

"Not just aliens. All the strange things we've encountered or that Ianto could dig out of the archive," Jack grinned at her. "Think I can cheat at this one, Gwen?"

"I'm sure you'll find a way." Gwen gathered up the cards again, shuffling them and beginning to deal them out.

"Let's make this a bit more interesting, shall we?" Owen said.

"Can you bet on Top Trumps?" Tosh asked dubiously.

"Probably, but that's not what I had in mind." When the others looked at him, he grinned. "Truth or dare. Each round, the loser has to answer a question with the truth or take a dare." He was looking directly at Jack, whose half-smile didn't waver. He shrugged.

"Fine by me. Everyone in?" Getting nods all round, Jack picked up his cards. "Then let's play."

hr

Tosh lost the first hand and had to admit to Owen that, yes, she had played with dolls rather than machines as a child. Then Owen lost to Gwen and confessed to sleeping with five patients during his hospital practice.

"That's malpractice," she said.

"Not the way I do it."

Jack lost the next hand to Gwen and had to drink a shot of the strange pink drink that had fallen through the rift the previous week.

"Like whisky crossed with drain cleaner, with just a little bit of tequila on the side," he told them, voice rasping in his throat. "Ianto, make sure you mark it as hazardous. Mind you," he coughed a little, trying not to choke, "might do wonders for shifting pterodactyl droppings."

Tosh then lost to Ianto, who turned out to have a surprisingly imaginative line in dares.

"I hate you all!" she shouted as the lift began to rise to ground level.

"Get 'em off!" Owen called, clapping as she turned her back and pulled her top over her head. She threw it and her skirt down to Ianto, who left her standing in the square, albeit invisibly, for a full five minutes before bringing the lift back down. Jack hadn't realised she knew so many swear words, some of which she seemed to have picked up from him.

The next few rounds went off peacefully enough. Jack lost to Tosh who had him feeding Myfanwy by hand, but he got away with his fingers only lightly scratched. Gwen lost to Ianto and admitted that at the age of twelve, she'd nicked a chocolate bar from the corner shop. It only confirmed Jack's suspicions when she also admitted to leaving the money on the counter the following day.

Then Gwen lost to Owen. She paused for a moment, staring at her card before looking across to him.

"Dare," she said firmly. Jack supposed there were some things she didn't want to tell the truth about, not in front of everyone.

Owen's lips twisted into an evil smile. "Fine. Time things got more interesting. I want a kiss."

"Is that-" Gwen began saying, until Owen raised a hand, cutting her off.

"Not me. Him." He pointed directly across the table at Jack.

"Owen," Jack began, but this time it was Gwen who interrupted.

"No, it's fine, Jack. Apparently voyeurism's his thing."

Quickly, probably before she could change her mind, she put a hand behind his head and pulled him towards her. As their lips met, her grip eased, and she ran her fingers through the soft hair at the nape of his neck. He reacted without thinking, bringing his own hand up to cup her face and deepening the kiss. Time temporarily stopped.

It was Gwen who broke for air first, gripping his head again to pull them apart. She sat back in her seat, face red but apparently otherwise unbothered. Owen's mouth was hanging open and Tosh was almost as red as Gwen. Only Ianto appeared unmoved.

Gwen picked up her cards and gave the rest of them an expectant look.

"Well, are we playing or aren't we?"

Shaking his head, just a little, to clear it, Jack gave Owen a bright smile.

"Let's play."

In the next hand, Tosh beat Gwen who protested fiercely.

"That's a dinosaur!" she said, pointing at the card.

"Actually," Ianto corrected, "it's a brachiosaur. And you've got to admit it's taller than anything else."

"Since when are dinosaurs Torchwood's business?"

"Since they roamed London," Jack told her.

"But that was millions of years ago."

Jack glanced at Ianto. "Nineteen seventy-four, wasn't it?"

"Something like that, I think."

"You're just too chicken for another dare," Owen said, and Gwen flushed.

"Fine." She looked at Tosh. "Dare."

In the end, the best Tosh could come up with was sitting through five minutes of the Tralinian music they'd intercepted the other day. While Gwen's expressions of disgust were amusing, they lacked a little in comparison with the other stunts.

"I'm down to my last card," Jack said, holding it up. "What's it to be?"

"Life expectancy, one hundred and ten," Owen read, looking round the others, who shook their heads.

"One hundred and fifty." Jack laid his card down on the table and looking round the others. "And we have a loser with a pathetic seven year life span. Truth or dare, Ianto?"

"Truth."

Jack thought he heard a collective intake of breath from the others as he considered his question. Looking into Ianto's impassive face, he realised there were all kinds of things he wanted to know. He didn't doubt that Ianto would answer honestly. He only doubted that his team was ready for the answers.

So he took his time, leaning back in his chair and examining the other man, who didn't shift, didn't look away and didn't flinch under the scrutiny. After a while, Jack realised Gwen was holding her breath, and decided to put all of them out of their misery.

"Mr Jones, be honest with me." Jack leaned forwards again, pressing his hands together. "How many times a day do you actually clean the coffee machine?" He heard a gasp of laughter from across the table and smiled. "Because I swear, some days when you bring a cup to me, it's got these little tiny bubbles on the top. Are you using too much soap?"

Everyone was giggling now, and not suppressing it very well. Ianto thought for a moment, then said, "Twice a day. But I don't use soap."

At which point Gwen fell off her chair and the game was declared closed.

hr

The computer had started to beep, churning out addresses to be checked. Jack sent the others off, hanging back as Ianto started to clear up.

"Good game," he said, tapping the pile of Torchwood Trumps.

"Thank you." Ianto scooped up a crisp packet, then paused, looking at Jack. "Can I ask-"

"The game's over, Ianto."

"I noticed you always chose a dare."

Jack laughed. "Can you think of anything I'd be too embarrassed to do?"

Ianto shook his head, staring down at the table.

"One more hand, Jack?" he said quietly. "For the truth this time?"

Without answering, Jack picked up the pack of regular cards, concentrating on shuffling them.

"Fine," he said at last, fanning the cards and offering them across the table. With a glance up at Jack's face, Ianto took one from the right hand side of the spread, watching as Jack stacked the remaining cards and set them down on the table.

"What have you got?" Jack asked. Turning the card over, Ianto laid it next to the deck. Ten of diamonds. "Not bad." Without looking away from Ianto's face, Jack cut the deck in the middle, lifting the half-pack up and showing the bottom card to the other man. "But not good enough. Not this time." He slipped the card away from the pack and laid it down next to Ianto's. "Come join us when you're done."

Ianto finished gathering up the glasses and rubbish, deciding that he'd come back for the rest later. As he left, he gave a last look at the two decks and two cards sitting on the table. He'd decorated the back of the Torchwood Trumps with a stylised 'T' in red hexagons on a black background. They looked strange sitting next to the red and white pattern on the back of the normal cards.

Curious, he picked up the regular deck, turning the cards over in his hands, trying to see patterns or tell-tale marks on the back. There was nothing, not visible to his eye, anyway. But that didn't explain how Jack had known what card he'd cut, how he knew he'd beaten Ianto, even before looking at it.

Shaking his head, Ianto returned the Torchwood cards to the table, leaving them next to the plain deck and the cards he and Jack had drawn. The ten of diamonds. And the Jack of hearts.