Title: Undeniable Intermission: Hair-Brained and Hinky
Summary: Whilst tidying up one day, something intriguing catches Ianto's eye...
A/N: This is...actually I don't know what this is! I guess it's just a little something to whet your appetite for what's about to come! Set after The Undeniable and the first of three intermissions before the next part in the series.
Gwen's desk had never been anything even resembling tidy, right from the moment she had commandeered it, and yet Ianto couldn't help but suspect it was due to the nature of the furniture itself, rather than the user. Not because he found Gwen to be an exceptionally neat person, but because that attribute had applied before it had become her desk.
Of course, the previous owner had been Suzie, who'd guarded her territory like a tomcat. Even if Ianto had dared remove an empty crisp packet whilst the rest of the team were out, she would always eye him suspiciously upon her return; a silent warning that he'd better not do anything more than that, lest he wished to suffer her wrath.
But then Suzie was gone and Gwen was there, and she'd quickly claimed the area for one of her projects; barely taking the time to shove aside Suzie's flotsam (for Ianto to relocate, naturally) before filling the space with whatever caught her magpie eye. And of course subsequently failing to return those items, even if she never found a use for them.
Time, Rift alerts and a childlike insistence that she definitely needed everything there ("Yes, Ianto, even the things beneath the stacks of files covered in dust.") had kept Ianto from ever getting around to a really good clear out of all the junk.
Now, ironically, he was free to venture towards that corner of the Hub without Suzie hissing or Gwen hovering and he simply couldn't bring himself to do it.
There was no indication whatsoever of how long Gwen would need to be kept in cryo before they found a cure for her illness; it could be months, even years, and surely it made sense that Ianto straighten things up a little in the meantime. He should at least check for anything that could possibly rot, mutate and develop a personality of its own, right?
The thought of a half-eaten sandwich festering beneath the random detritus was almost enough for Ianto to take that first step forward...but only almost. Apparently the notion that the desk represented a provisional shrine to his absent colleague was stronger even than his desire for a mould-free working environment.
And so, performing a very smart about-turn, Ianto instead began to eye up Toshiko's work area.
Unlike her colleagues, Tosh's neatness had suffered due to more pressing and world-threatening issues, rather than personal indolence, and Ianto knew he'd be able to straighten up her things without too much grumbling or pouting as a result. (Quite why Jack thought pouting would work to avoid spring cleaning, Ianto could never guess, but he still tried it every time the Welshman got out the duster.)
With fingers itching from the memory of the bombsite behind him, Ianto set about clearing away the distinctly smaller amount of rubbish from the technical genius' desk. There were few items he was actually able to throw away and once he'd dropped them all into the nearby bin, he began arranging what was left over into neat, orderly piles.
Finished faster than he'd expected, Ianto moved back and scowled at the undemanding challenge. He glanced over to Gwen's desk, well aware he'd get much more satisfaction clearing that instead, but he valiantly resisted the lure and forced his attention back to the work station before him.
He stepped forward again and started to line everything up in tidy right-angles that were pleasing on the eye, then, after a moment's thought, rearranged the various stacks into order of decreasing size, from left to right, all the way across the desk. But that ended up blocking the bottom corner of one of Tosh's monitors and that just wouldn't do, so he had to shuffle everything around again, creating new piles that collected items together based not on size nor shape, but relevance to each other.
It took longer, and was infinitely more fulfilling, but once Ianto was done he realised it still wasn't enough. He ducked down to rummage through the drawers, removing the contents from each one and replacing them in a logical pattern for ease of access in the future.
Crouching before the desk, almost finished with the bottom drawer, Ianto lifted the next object in reach and paused when he saw what he held. It was a hairbrush, but it was the largest hairbrush he'd ever seen, and something about it made him unable to set it down again.
He grasped the handle and turned it over, examining the back of the wooden head. It was almost bigger than his entire hand, a fact he confirmed when he flipped it back over and rested it against his palm. Only it fell a little harder than he'd intended and the smooth wood hit his skin with a loud slap.
A shudder went through his body.
"What are you doing?"
Ianto recoiled in surprise, dropping the brush as he glanced up to see Tosh walking over to him. "Uh, tidying?" he responded uncertainly, his mouth left to fend for itself whilst his mind raced to hold back certain thoughts that didn't belong out in the light of day.
She stopped beside him, looking over the distinctly altered surface of her desk, then peered down into the neat drawer still open by his knees. For one brief panicky moment, Ianto thought he could see a flash of irritation in her expression, but it was gone so quickly he could well have imagined it, and she turned back to him with fondness in her dark eyes instead. "Okay," she said. "Did you find anything interesting?"
Ianto almost choked. "Like?" he managed to ask, astounded by the guilt he could hear in his own voice. He hadn't been doing anything wrong, hadn't even thought of anything wrong...oh, but now he was and dammit, was he blushing?
"Money...chocolate...an alien device that removes the need for sleep..." Tosh nudged a stack of papers a fraction and sighed dramatically. "I'd always hoped one of those would magically appear through the Rift."
"You've probably got more chance of that happening than one appearing in your desk," Ianto told her, forcing himself to regain his composure. He shoved the last few items back into the drawer without looking, brush included, and stood. "Anyway..." he went on, feeling suddenly perverse and very awkward, "I'm done here so..."
Finishing the sentence with only a vague uninformative wave, the Welshman hurried off, leaving Tosh alone to admire her newly Ianto-ised desk.
The next day, after a rather lengthy and wet Weevil hunt with Jack, (and not of the euphemistic kind either) Ianto was returning from changing into a dry suit, rubbing his hair with a towel as he crossed the Hub, when his feet brought him to an abrupt halt beside Tosh.
"Any luck?" she asked, fingers flying over her keyboard and gaze never straying from the glowing screens.
"Hmm?" Ianto responded, his own attention fixed on a collection of loose papers and the object upon then that had brought his body to an unwilling standstill.
"The Weevils. Did you get them?"
Ianto continued to stare at the brush he'd found in her bottom drawer, somehow unable to understand how it could be there now and not where he'd left it. "Oh, yes, one of them. The spray's starting to lose its potency again though."
Tosh glanced up then, mouth open to pursue the topic, but evidently changed her mind when she saw what he was looking at. "Oops," she said. "Sorry."
Ianto didn't reply straight away, focused as he was on resisting the urge to touch the brush. "What?" he said eventually, frowning at his own inability to tear his eyes from the innocuous grooming tool.
"The desk. I messed it up after you went to all that trouble..."
Ianto absently waved away her concern. "Don't worry, I didn't expect you to keep it like that."
"Still," she went on, picking up the brush herself and waving it to punctuate a point she never reached.
"What is that?" Ianto blurted out, unable to hold back the question any longer. His eyes stuck to the brush like a hawk watching its prey. "I mean I know what it is, but..."
"What?" Tosh twisted her chair around to face him before following his gaze to her hand and laughing. "Oh, it's a paddle brush. It came in a pampering kit Gwen gave me last Christmas but my hair isn't really right for it." She waggled the oversized hairbrush. "Ridiculous, isn't it? Good as a paperweight though, so I should thank you for finding it again!"
Ianto opened his mouth only to close it again without saying anything. The suspicious part of his mind had wondered if the presence of such an object in the Hub was Jack's doing, but it seemed that wasn't the case. And yet, somehow, discovering the innocent nature of the brush made it even more alluring. "Paperweight?" he asked, more to say something than because he needed the clarification.
"Yeah, it's heavier than it looks." She held it out for him to take, watching expectantly until he closed his fingers around the handle. "See?"
"Yeah," he croaked, hefting the indeed weighty brush and all the while repeating a mantra in his mind not to smack it against the palm of his other hand. If this wasn't Jack playing around, then it must be some giant cosmic joke at his expense; how else could such a bizarre item have found its way into the Hub? And now - apparently - be forever in his sight as Tosh's new paperweight.
Wait a minute...
"Wait a minute. Why do you need a paperweight?" he asked, suspicion rising once again. "There's not exactly a draft down here."
Tosh gave him a look that suggested she wasn't entirely sure if he was being serious or not. "No, but there isa pteranodon that seems to enjoy flying right over my desk whenever I'm working on something important."
"Ah." That was true enough: Myfanwy did like to dive-bomb the occupants of the Hub on occasion. She never actually got near enough to hurt anyone, but the buffeting from her wings did tend to ruffle a few feathers...so to speak.
"So it'll come in handy," Tosh was saying, reaching out to take back the brush. "Even if it's not the intended use."
Ianto was barely aware of releasing the wooden handle, but he watched her return it to the pile of paper as though looking away would make it disappear. "Right," he agreed, again feeling the need to say something to cover his discomfort. He knew he should leave; his hair was still wet and rivulets of water were running down his neck beneath the collar of his shirt, but he couldn't seem to make his feet move, nor even lift the towel back to his head.
All he could do was stare at the wide, flat, wooden object that would feel so-
"Everything okay?" Tosh asked, cutting into the images flashing through his mind.
Ianto took a quick step back, a guilty look passing across his face. "Uh, yes, fine. Thank you." He gave an unnecessary nod of his head and took another step away, silently cursing himself for losing his composure over so mundane an entity.
For the rest of the day, Ianto's eyes were drawn to Tosh's desk each and every time he happened to pass close by. The paddle brush remained employed to hold down loose pages for a while longer, but then it was mysteriously pushed aside. Whether Tosh had decided she didn't need a paperweight anymore, or if she'd simply forgotten that it existed once again, Ianto couldn't tell, but it became harder and harder to spot beneath the gathering mound of objects above it.
Once more, Ianto's fingers itched to tidy the desk; this time not as a distraction from the mess in Gwen's area (which had inexplicably grown in the past few days) but to bring the brush back up to the top of the pile. There was something inexplicably satisfying in glancing at it as he passed, just knowing it was there, a waking dream he didn't need to pursue so long as he could see it from afar.
Although, he reluctantly admitted, he would rather like to lift it again, only to see if it was really as heavy as he remembered, not for any other reason...not to swing it...not to imagine it sweeping down towards his body...
Ianto stopped three paces from the desk. Not even a bristle was visible now within the collection of print-outs, wires and tools and that troubled him. He glanced around; it was late now and Tosh had left for the night, but there were still two other people in the Hub and he checked carefully before sidling closer. Tilting his head this way and that, Ianto searched with his eyes, hoping to glimpse just a sliver of wood, to reassure himself it was still there, but he could see nothing.
Giving into temptation, he reached out, movements casual despite his solitude within the immediate area, and eased aside some of the objects in his way with one finger. He didn't want to tidy it all again, just wanted to make sure it hadn't been lost, just wanted to see...
Ianto jumped and span around to find Jack standing behind him, a malicious grin upon his face. Startled, Ianto began to curse the Captain for sneaking up on him, but then his eyes flicked down and the words died in his throat as he realised what had made the noise that had startled him so.
Jack was holding the paddle brush: handle in one hand, head in the other. "Looking for this?" he asked, slapping his palm a second time as his grin spread even further.
Ianto jumped again, much to his embarrassment, the sound reverberating about the Hub with far greater volume than should have been possible.
Jack's eyes widened almost imperceptibly, surprised by Ianto's telltale reaction. He began to chuckle, a deep dangerous rumble in his chest, and Ianto realised he was in big big trouble...