Notes: this begins pre-series. Hence no Gwen in the first couple of scenes, and the return of Suzie.
Disclaimer: I don't own Torchwood and I am not making any profit from this work.
"I've got it," Suzie said, and Owen looked over at her lazily. They were sitting at her desk (okay, Owen was in her chair, and Suzie was on her desk) eating lunch (Thai takeout, which both hated, but knew Jack wouldn't steal because he hated it even more, so ate just to annoy him) and watching the new guy working through lunch. Again. Creepily.
At least, they thought he was working. He was on the phone - common enough - and speaking in Welsh - well, it was South Wales and he could easily be on the phone to the police station trying to smooth feathers Jack had ruffled for the fiftieth time - and he didn't look relaxed and casual like he should if it were an ordinary chat to a mate or his sister or something like that. So he was probably working.
"Well?" Owen prodded.
"It's to piss off our Dear Leader," Suzie said.
"He can't understand a word coming out of Ianto's mouth," Suzie grinned. "Watch. When he wanders off, see if Ianto switches to English. If he does, then he's doing it just to annoy Jack."
"Why would he switch languages just to piss off Jack?"
"Sexually frustrate him, I think."
"What?! Okay, never mind, I..."
"Come on, Owen, you can't pretend that's not hot," Suzie said, gesturing at the apparently oblivious Ianto.
"I don't need to pretend, because it isn't. No way in Hell is Ianto hot."
"Suit yourself," Suzie shrugged. "But Jack thinks it's hot. I bet his trousers are uncomfortable enough just watching the tea boy talking, let alone the tea boy talking in a language Jack doesn't understand."
"Foreign languages are sexy, Owen, everybody knows that."
"Everybody should learn English and cut the crap," Owen responded flatly.
"Watch," Suzie hissed.
As Jack gave the back of Ianto's head one last frown and headed up to his office, Ianto twisted to watch him go, still rambling away down the line in rapid Welsh and scribbling notes on a pad. As the office door closed behind Jack, he, as Suzie predicted, switched straight back to English. And, apparently, a completely non-work-related conversation.
"Kick-off's at half seven so if we get there by six we'll be nicely pissed for the anthem..." he continued, and it was incredible (to Suzie) how professional he sounded even when arranging what sounded like a sports-based pub crawl.
"Told you it was to annoy Jack," she said smugly.
The biggest, most awful problem with Gwen (besides that empathetic business she had going that just got in the way sometimes) was, in Jack's opinion, that she was Welsh.
Ordinarily, he had nothing against the Welsh. In fact, Welsh men were, on a whole, very easy on the eyes, and putting them in sharp suits and giving them a taser resulted in unrivalled sexiness that Jack would never, ever complain about. And their obsession with rugby - men and women - just meant that he got to watch two teams of hot, fit, sweaty men in too-short shorts running about in the mud and wrestling on a very regular basis, and look normal whilst doing it.
The problem was that Jack had found that lots of Welsh people liked to switch into speaking Welsh only when English speakers were around. Which included him. It was particularly bad whenever they had to leave Cardiff for whatever reason, but he had never expected it to invade the Hub.
Sadly, he'd forgotten, in hiring Gwen, that they already had a team member who was Welsh. And spoke fluent Welsh. And came from the same area of Wales as Miss Cooper. And that they had lots to talk about in their differing experiences of Newport and Cardiff and mining villages with stupidly long names that Jack couldn't remember anyway.
And he had realised shortly after hiring Gwen, that she and Ianto both seemed to enjoy winding him or Owen (or both together) up. A lot. And what was the best way they knew and enjoyed of doing this? Speaking in Welsh. To each other. Loudly, and apparently thoroughly enjoying their conversations.
He didn't know - and never found out - whether they really were laughing about ordinary things, or whether it was faked. But they would laugh together, obviously joke together, and share secret jokes and smiles hiding behind this veil of Welsh. And it infuriated Jack no end.
And they knew it.
After Lisa died, Jack learned to utterly loathe the Welsh language. Gwen and Ianto laughing and joking om their secret little code was no longer the problem - in fact, Jack would have given a hell of a lot to have that back.
No, it was Ianto's almost complete reversion into his first language. English would appear sparingly and only when necessary. His endearing habit of muttering to himself when looking for things in the archives or cleaning up disappeared into his own language so Jack couldn't understand him. And when Jack had sat him down and tried to make him speak about what had happened, Ianto had obeyed. In loud, angry Welsh.
Even Toshiko's attempts at breaking through the forcibly-erected barrier failed, though she did wring the most English out of the man, but for the most part Jack was forced to wait for Ianto to stop hurting quite so much. But it made the wait near-torture, knowing that if Ianto had been pushed too far, Jack would never know until it was too late.
He didn't know the Welsh for goodbye.
The first time Jack went over to Ianto's flat, some four or five days after the trip out into the countryside that had ended...not so well...he had been left in the living room while Ianto went to find the prescription painkillers the hospital had given him for his ribs. When the phone had rung (loudly and shockingly in the otherwise quiet flat) Ianto had bellowed for him to pick 'that son of a bitch!' up. When he had, he had only got out a brief greeting before being assaulted with loud, female, and heavily-accented Welsh.
"Um, Yan?" he called. "It's for you."
"Well, yes," Ianto had grouched, staggering back from his room with the packet of pills in hand. "Who is it?"
"I have no idea," Jack said apologetically, and handed it over.
"What?" Ianto had snapped into the receiver irritably, then went red, then white, before murmuring: "Ma!" in a voice that suggested he had just snapped at someone who was not to be snapped at.
Immediately, the conversation had vanished into Welsh territory, but this time, it didn't irritate Jack so much. It was sort of sweet, seeing Ianto looking so flustered and ready to pace - had he been able - and trying to guess at what his mother was demanding.
And Ianto's obvious deferrence to his mother explained how a man who was essentially a secretary, a tea boy and a janitor rolled into one could be both so damn quiet, and so damn scary.
After Suzie died again, and Jack had Gwen in his office was talking things over with her, she said something surprising.
"Did you know Ianto used to speak in Welsh to annoy you?" she asked.
"What?" he asked intelligently.
"She...wanted to know if Ianto still spoke Welsh on the phone," Gwen said awkwardly. "When we were going to the hospital. And she said he always used to do it to...annoy you."
"Welsh sod," Jack muttered. "Yes, it annoyed me."
Gwen looked as though she was going to tell him something else then, but didn't.
A few days after Jack returned from the dead, and reaching out tentatively to see if Ianto was angry with him, he asked why Ianto so insistently spoke Welsh around him.
"You're not even one of those nationalist types who votes for the independent party. What's it called?"
"Yeah. So why the Welsh all the time?"
"It pisses you off," Ianto shrugged, powering down his computer and stretching. "You always used to watch me on the phone when I spoke in Welsh. The sexual frustration was practically tattooed on your forehead."
"And how did you find that out if you didn't speak Welsh normally anyway?" Jack prodded. Literally. Ianto winced and rubbed the back of his head ruefully.
"Accident," he said. "I was speaking to a relative - a nationalist, as you put it. Insists on Welsh people speaking Welsh and woe betide me if I don't. And you happened to be giving me that look."
"An accident?!" Jack demanded. "An accidental observation led to eighteen bloody months of torture!"
"Yes," Ianto said, and smirked. "It's very odd to get a sex-charged look from your boss while your elderly aunt is telling you exactly what sort of oranges she wants you to get her at the supermarket in the morning."
"I'll give you sex-charged..." Jack growled, hauled Ianto up by the shirt from his chair. "So why don't you use it in bed, huh?"
"Because that would be swearing," Ianto purred, "and I was taught not to ever swear, Captain."
"I'll break that training here and now," Jack leered.