Notes: This is an apology for my absence. I've been working on original things, one of which has suddenly jumped a lot closer to success. If the editor likes the edited excerpt she asked for, then I may be in with a publishing house and a contract for my first book. Keep your fingers crossed, guys!
In other notes, I'm all out of oneshot ideas for the moment. Any suggestions or challenges would be great, but oneshots only, please. I'll let people know if I take on their challenge.
Disclaimer: I don't own Torchwood, and make no money from this work.
On the Formation of Negative Behaviours
Part of being a Torchwood operative, it seemed, involved developing - or sustaining - bad habits. It wasn't even something related to Cardiff - both the English and Scottish bases had the same problem. Hell, Jack knew full well that half of Torchwood: London had been popping the happy pills because Hartman didn't like them drinking.
He could observe the same tendency in his own team. Both Ianto and Owen probably counted, medically speaking, as neurotically messed up, and both competed for the worst team member when it came to habits: drinking, smoking, and the odd brush with dangerous out-of-work activities to get the adrenalin going. Though it was probably a bad sign if feeding a dinosaur didn't count as an adrenalin rush any more.
Tosh and Gwen weren't any better. Jack knew that Tosh chain smoked when stressed, and had caught her and Ianto on 'fag breaks' together more than once. Gwen wasn't much one for drink - probably too used to the police being able to call her in at a moment's notice - but she, too, indulged in the odd cigarette now and again, or went home and yelled at her husband. Or shagged a team-mate, whatever. Gwen's bad habits weren't so much habits as the others, really. Too erratic.
"It's the stress," Owen had told him, the only time Jack had enquired about the pattern. "Let's face it, Jack, the job's shitty and we'll all be dead before we get that nice pension plan Ms. Hartman battled the government for when it was set up. Bloody stupid idea."
"Government idea," Ianto had said, shrugging almost idly. It had been the most relaxed Jack had seen him in a month; he suspected that the coffee was laced with alcohol. "Less cash for them to fund to the institute."
"Bloody politicians," Owen grumbled.
"It was Welsh, what do you expect?" Ianto asked, and flushed at the incredulous looks he got from the others. He had wandered off then, muttering something about Plaid Cymru and stereotypes and not-everybody-votes-for-independence and 1997. Jack had tuned out then. A couple of centuries on a planet didn't mean you cared about its politics.
But now, he thought, watching the glow and fade of the end of the cigarette that Ianto was smoking on the edge of the dock walkway, it was really time they changed the rules on that. The pay for Torchwood wasn't exactly brilliant - it was alright, but both Ianto and Owen could be making much better money in other, safer places.
"Bad habit," he called, and Ianto jumped. He relaxed when he saw the greatcoat and the idle, American smile, though, and turned away again, drawing on the white stick again.
"I know," he said.
"It'll be the death of you," Jack teased, coming to put an arm around Ianto's waist and lean on the railing with him. "You alright?"
"Yeah," Ianto said. "Just furthering my bid for lung cancer."
Jack rolled his eyes. He was used to Ianto's macabre sense of humour - about the only thing that the man shared with Owen. Between the two of them, straight-faced, they had worked Tosh's cold up into various types of fatal, insect-borne blood disorders the other day. And then she'd thrown a pen at Ianto and a clipboard at Owen, and they'd shut up.
"If I gave you a raise, so you could buy other stress-busting things, would you quit?" he asked.
Ianto looked a bit surprised. "No," he said.
"No?" Jack blinked.
"Believe it or not, Jack, I don't smoke to stop myself punching Owen in the face, or killing the odd weevil."
"So why do you?"
"Force of habit," Ianto shrugged. "Addicted, I guess. Who cares. I like it."
"It'll kill you."
"No it won't," Ianto said, and they both knew he was right.
"But if it's not stress..."
When he got a very blank look, Ianto raised his eyebrows, then frowned and figured it out.
"Oh," he said. "You think I smoke because of Torchwood."
"Well. Yes. Everybody else does."
"I'm not them," Ianto shrugged. "I've been smoking for years. Since I was sixteen."
"Like I said. Peer pressure. I wanted to fit in, smoking was an effective way of doing it," Ianto shrugged, drawing on it on last time before dropping it and stamping it out. "My Torchwood-related bad habits don't include smoking."
"What are they?" Jack asked, wondering idly if he could filch the cigarette packet from Ianto's jacket pocket without him noticing. Probably not.
Ianto snorted: "Try you."
"Yes. Very bad habit. Probably increases my stress levels and blood pressure."
"Really?" Jack frowned. "I'm sure Owen said sex was good for you. He practices it, certainly."
"Owen practices a lot of medically inadvisable things," Ianto pointed out, reasonably enough.
"True," Jack said. "But I'm not bad for you."
"Jack, you'll be the death of me."
Normally, in the dark, on a windy, wet, Welsh pier, with the smell of smoke in his nostrils and the faint, early buzz of the third pint of the evening in his veins, Jack would have found the words chilly and foreboding, but that night, they passed him by easily and he smiled.
"At least you'd enjoy it, if that killed you," he smirked.
Ianto laughed; years later, Jack would remember that laugh the clearest of them all. At the time, he drew Ianto in and resumed the beginnings of the bad habit, and ignored the future.
That was Jack's bad habit.