Author's Notes: Hello! This is my first particularly long fic. It was written for the reel_torchwood challenge. The premise is to take a film and use it to inspire a Torchwood story. So, this is mine. My film was Fright Night. Don't go looking for something too similar to the film - I really only took inspiration from some of its most general plot points. Set Pre-CoE.
Rhys Williams was hungover. Correction, this wasn't any normal hangover that a cup of coffee and a plate full of greasy eggs could fix. This was one of those hangovers that he could feel before his eyes opened fully; the one that twisted the stomach into knots and made his actual body just ache. Rhys Williams was bloody hungover, and he knew it. Fortunately, on the sinfully sunny morning when he woke up in such a state, he was greeted with the smell of rich coffee and sausage drifting from his kitchen. Rubbing the sleep and gunk off his face, he stretched one arm lazily out to grope the space next to him. Empty. That seemed… unlikely.
Staggering out of bed, Rhys wrapped his dressing gown loosely around his thick frame and half-tumbled into the brightly lit kitchen. The smell of food and coffee assaulted him further and he guffawed at the sight greeting him. His Gwenie, his wife who could barely find her way out of bed in the morning, let alone to the kettle, was sitting at their small kitchen table drinking coffee. She was immaculate; well dressed in her skinny black trousers, long sweater and boots. That wasn't the surprising bit. His wife was always gorgeous. Nor, really, was the fact that a young man was sitting across from her, eating eggs and reading the paper in a pair of denims and a red button up. Alright. Considering the young man was Ianto Jones, the jeans should've been a bit of surprise, but Rhys had seen them, or him, last night.
The thought of last night's drinking made Rhys's head pound again and he grunted a greeting at the two Torchwood operatives before heading toward the coffee. Bloody Harkness had fucked off to wherever he went when there wasn't an apocalypse looming and the Welsh Contingency of World Defenders had taken the night off as well. The three of them had gone out the night before to watch a game at Rhys and Gwen's local, and then played a bit of darts. The drinking had been heavy, Rhys would admit that. They'd all overindulged to the point that he remembered openly cackling at the moon eyes his poor cousin Liz had made at Ianto for hours. At the end of the night, Gwen had dragged Ianto to sleep on their couch rather than risk him wandering off on his own or Liz dragging him into a corner when he wasn't in his most coherent frame of mind. Rhys knew he'd been in a state when they'd finally turned in for the evening. What he didn't understand was how the two of them were up, dressed for the day and chipper as red squirrels without even a suggestion of a long night.
"So. You two replaced by little green men? Do I need to call Captain High 'n' Mighty?"
Ianto looked up from his paper and shot a sly smile in Gwen's direction. They had a silent conversation entirely out of eyebrows and smirks, then Ianto took a drink of his coffee, nodded and returned to reading the paper. Rhys audibly sighed and held in a glare. Their little sibling act had gotten worse over the past few months, not that Rhys blamed them; they saw each other more than Rhys saw his own brother. However, it wasn't what he wanted to deal with first thing in the morning when there was a hangover attacking his senses and his stomach felt like it wanted to crawl back to bed with or without him. Gwen laughed, pulled a chair out and motioned for Rhys to take a seat. Slowly, and still with a bit of suspicion, Rhys did as he was asked. On the table, by a plate of eggs and sausage, was a tiny green pill. "What's this then," Rhys asked as he picked up the tiny tablet. He held it up in the sunlight and examined it with as much of a squint as his pounding headache would allow. It was a dull, pale green and gel filled. The plastic-like coating glistened in the natural light.
"Just take it." Gwen squeezed Rhys's hand before digging back into her breakfast. "You'll feel better. We're fine, yeah? It's a gift from a friend for nights like the last one." Rhys shrugged. If it really was a plot to invade Earth by little green men, it wasn't a very good one. Corrupting the best local lorry manager in Cardiff didn't seem like a huge priority on any world domination plan. He swallowed the pill, which left a strange, fruity taste in his mouth, and washed it down with a quick gulp of hot coffee.
After a moment, maybe two because Rhys couldn't remember how long he'd been staring at his coffee cup, the pounding in his head began to subside. The nauseous, tight feeling of his hangover slipped away and he nearly gasped aloud with relief. He glared at his two breakfast companions and made a small huffing noise in his throat. "Alright. Now what was that?"
"Rough Morning remedy," Ianto replied.
"Well. Special Torchwood version anyway," Gwen continued.
"It's better than a glass of water and a parametacol."
Rhys raised a hand to stop them there. Hangover or not, It was a bit hard to suppress his irritation at their super-secret club talk when they went on like that. "Next time you're going to give me weird alien drugs, you warn me," he cautioned. "Today I'm going to hold off on being angry because that little fellow was brilliant. I feel great. Better than I did before the booze. I swear, I thought I wasn't going to make it through breakfast." Gwen patted his hand and smiled beautifully. Gorgeous wife, she was, if a bit sneaky.
"Like we said, it's a gift, not something to get used to having"
"Perks of employment and all – when we can sneak it away."
Gwen leaned over and kissed Rhys on the cheek. "And now, Ianto and I've got to go into work, lover."
Rhys nodded between mouthfuls. He offered to do the washing up so they could be on their way – least he could do, considering Gwen had given him wonderful alien remedies and Ianto had made breakfast (at least, he assumed it was Ianto, as the food was edible). He was thanked when the two stood up and then Rhys's mouth twisted in confusion. "That's not your usual work get up, is it, Ianto?" He never could get why Ianto insisted on wearing such nice clothes to work. He seemed like such a normal kid otherwise, and Rhys knew that job had to be hell on clothes. Rhys couldn't make it through his day without getting something on his shirt and, well, while his job was certainly satisfying, it couldn't be messier than catching aliens.
"It'll make it until we get back. I've got my razor and a couple changes of clothes there." As soon as the words left Ianto's mouth he pulled a face like he'd accidentally insulted someone's mum. Gwen cackled and smacked Ianto roughly on the arm as she grabbed her purse.
"I knew it. I knew you'd been staying again. Do you even go home anymore or are you kept too busy?"
"Oh, shut up, Gwen Cooper."
The sound of mock bickering followed Ianto and Gwen out of the flat. Rhys shrugged when he heard the door click shut behind them. Apparently, saving the world for a living didn't really change office dynamics all that much. He shoved his mouth full of the last of the remaining sausages and scratched his head absently. It was nearly time to start the action packed adventures of Lorry-Man and the Transporters of Doom anyhow.
Who needs aliens to make life interesting?
Around six, after a ridiculously long day of work, Rhys was officially home and officially parking his car to go open a beer and watch some bad television. Gwen predicted that she wouldn't be done for another hour, so in typical fashion, Rhys figured he had until around seven or seven thirty to start dinner if he wanted it done before she got home. Today had gone well, if a bit boring, in his world. He'd picked up some new contracts. His drivers were happy. Torchwood's magic green hangover remedy had done wonders and if Bevie the Bookkeeper hadn't seen Rhys arguing animatedly with Ianto over Newport's rugby skills then no one would have known of his overindulgent night out. As it were, the ladies and gents of his office thought he still had the stamina and recovery time of someone in his early twenties and if that didn't chase away any lingering alcohol effects, then nothing would. Suddenly, Rhys was jolted out of his recollection of his day. A loud crash sounded above him, and Rhys nearly jumping from his skin. On the balcony of the third floor, Rhys saw a shadowy figure and he sagged in relief. Just the new neighbor messing about outside.
Gwen and Rhys's flat was part of a five unit structure with three floors. Theirs was a nice sized space on the second floor, with two tenants below them and one to the right of them. The third floor had been empty since about a year of their living here, when the owner of the building had moved to Calais. The space, from the brief glimpses Rhys had seen of it, was massive and fitted with top of the line fixtures and permanents. It'd been enough for Rhys to ponder, for at least a few months, if he and Gwen could have afforded its overly inflated price on his salary and Gwen's then pittance for being a constable. He'd forgotten about the space until about three weeks ago when a moving truck, not Harwood's he remembered noting sourly, had pulled up late in the afternoon. Apparently, the price had gone down and now there was a tenant. A poncy tenant with little regard for his neighbors.
Rhys had met him once, just a few days after move-in, while Gwen had been out containing or investigating somewhat-living store mannequins on Queen Street. Jerry Dandrige had been obnoxiously handsome, even more than Captain Jack. He'd had darks spiky hair, lush green eyes and a strong Roman nose and jawline. He'd worn a pair of designer jeans, a well-made dress shirt and a sporty blazer. Even Rhys had found it hard to pull his eyes away, though he'd die before he'd admit it to most. Jerry had been polite, if a bit distant. He was from Canada, he'd told Rhys. He'd move to Cardiff for some consulting work and got a great deal on the flat for a short-term lease. Rhys had nodded, taking in Jerry's taste in clothes that seemed to rival even Ianto's inner fashionisto and the flash car he'd seen outside. Jerry had a bit of cash to spare, obviously. He also came off as one of those blokes with too much free time andtoo much ego Silently thanking the H&M store props that kept Gwen from being there to fawn over the neighbor, Rhys had bid his farewells and tried to go on with his life.
Jerry had not been a good neighbor since then, feeding much into Rhys's smug first impressions. Loud parties, drawn and exhausted looking girls and boys leaving in the morning, and a general air of arrogance and inconsideration just leaked from the flat above. Rhys never saw Jerry go to work, or even leave the house during the day. It seemed the man worked from home, but if that was the case, why did he need to move to Cardiff to consult someone at all? The whole thing hackled him. Gwen gently teased and said it was a bit of envy, but no, it didn't feel like that at all. Alright, he was a little envious every time he had to park his practical sedan next to Jerry's pricey little number, but really, Rhys was a big enough man to admit when it was Jealously and when it was something else entirely.
Forcing a frown from his face, Rhys waved up at Jerry—just to be polite - as he checked the locks on his car. Jerry didn't see him or the arrogant bugger was too involved in his evening contemplation to bother with him. Rhys looked up again to give Jerry a glare but froze. In the well-lit parking area Jerry's hands, draped over the balcony, were clearly visible. They were also clearly covered in something dark and reddish. Blood? Torchwood must have been rubbing off on him because the second things took a suspicious turn, Rhys instinctively scurried toward the side of the building, out of Jerry's line of sight, to get a better look. There was definitely blood, or something similar, on Jerry's shirt and hands. Rhys swallowed a gulp of air. It was probably the something else though, wasn't it? It was a bit dark. Jerry could be painting, or cooking or doing any activity that could be a bit messy. Muffled voices made Rhys look up again. A girl, probably in her mid-twenties, was on the balcony now and she looked horrid. Actually, the girl herself was gorgeous – all long legs and raven hair – but the state of her was enough to raise hairs on Rhys's arms. Her skin was pale with dark circles under her eyes, and she seemed to be shaking. Jerry looked annoyed with her and growled something Rhys couldn't make out before roughly grabbing the girl's armand dragging her back inside. The door to the balcony slamming filled the air and Rhys sagged against the wall.
What the hell had that been about then? Was his neighbor running some kinkfest upstairs? After taking a couple of deep breaths, Rhys headed up to his own flat. His mind must have been playing with him – making him see the worst in someone he already didn't care for that much. He did it to Jack often enough and, he'd admit it easily, this guy reminded him a bit too much of Captain Toothy-Grin. He'd go upstairs, have his beer and cook some dinner for the missus and then, hopefully, his overactive imagination would calm down. Once inside, the tension in Rhys's muscles relaxed considerably and he exhaled slowly. Yeah, just stress.
Gwen didn't come home that night, but Rhys wasn't too bothered about it. He'd been home about an hour when he'd got a text from Ianto.
G's fine. Sentient ooze frolicking in Splott. Ate her mobile. Or mating with it. Can't tell. Don't wait up. Also, kisses. From her, not me.
Rhys blinked a few times before reading the message again. That would never stop being surreal. He sent a reply to Ianto, thanking him and reminding Gwen to be safe. Then he had dinner, put up the leftovers, drank some more beer and ignored the mysterious thumping coming from the floor above.
Rhys was off the next day, so he didn't mind waking up when his wife stormed into their bedroom at half past six covered in flaking. dried purple…stuff. She was holding a biohazard bag and raised a finger menacingly to silence Rhys before he could even groggily open his mouth. "Not one word, Rhys Williams. Not one word. I'm going to take a shower. I'm going to stop smelling like cheese and I'm going to sleep for ten hours. I don't want one word otherwise."
Rhys nodded dumbly as Gwen stormed off into the bath, cursing under her breath the entire way. He made out the words 'explosion,' 'ruined new shirt,' and 'stupid Jack' before he let his head hit the pillow again.
"Did you at least get your phone back?" A half-garbled scream met his ears and he heard a door slam before he fell back asleep. Bloody Torchwood.
The rest of the day was easy for Rhys. He picked up, cleaned the floor of any weird purple flakes of dried goo and did a bit of shopping. He watched some football, relaxed and generally enjoyed a day without chaos. Gwen woke up later in the afternoon, staggering out of bed in her usual fashion with her hair pointing in every direction and a yawn wracking through her body.
"You're always such a picture when you wake up," Rhys joked fondly while flipping through the channels. "There's some leftovers in the fridge for you. Eggplant parm."
Gwen scratched her head and tried to smooth down some of the waves of unruly hair. "That'll be lovely after some tea." She put the kettle on and grabbed a throw from a nearby chair and then went to settle next to Rhys on the sofa. Once she was settled in next to him, he wrapped an arm around her shoulders.
"Did the ooze thing not go so well?"
Gwen scrunched up her nose. "It really was more of a goo. Multiple goos. Or a jellyfish. A swarm of land jellyfish."
"And one ate your mobile. Lucky it didn't eat one of you instead."
"Er. I don't think it did it on purpose. I sort of…dropped it."
"You sort of dropped your phone on a land jellyfish?"
At least Gwen had the decency to look abashed for a moment. She stared absently at Chef Ramsay going through dirty kitchens before answering again. "I wasn't really paying attention. It snuck up on me. I got startled, dropped it and the jelly sort of… rolled over it."
"How, exactly, did it sneak up on you?"
Gwen half-heartedly poked Rhys in the stomach. "Stop it, you. Jack said they were friendly but not very smart. He and Ianto went off to gather the ones we knew of into a… jar or something. I was watching the SUV. Playing Brick," she admitted.
"And the exploding?"
"The mobile signal made it excitable. Jack thought he could counter it with something on his wrist strap. It countered it. Into exploding."
Rhys laughed until he caught Gwen's expression. He tried to cover the rest with a cough but he couldn't hide how his eyes twinkled.
"You were covered in purple slime."
Gwen huffed and went back to watching their show. Rhys got up when the kettle boiled. He made them two cups of tea and they just lay against each other, enjoying warmth and subpar entertainment. Secretly, these were Rhys's favorite moments. The moments where he could pretend his wife wasn't a modern day super hero and didn't come home early in the morning smelly and covered in dried alien bits. Right now, they were just Gwen and Rhys. Watching bad telly and sipping on their tea. No Torchwood. No Captain Jack. No dead co-workers or fear that one day, when Torchwood contacted Rhys, it wouldn't be about an eaten cell phone.
Once the cooking show ended, Gwen stretched against Rhys and looked up at him. "We still have that DVD, you know."
"Yeah, the one about the dragons. Waited to watch that with you."
"Mm. And as good as your leftovers sound… already hot food sounds good too. You could get us a takeaway, I could clean up and we'll watch our DVD?"
Rhys nodded. He was hungry and there weren't enough leftovers to feed them both. "Yeah, you can take the egg parm to work tomorrow. I'll get us something from that Portuguese place round the corner?"
Gwen grinned and leaned up to kiss Rhys's nose and then his mouth. "You spoil me." She then squeaked when Rhys playfully smacked her backside as she stood.
"I do. Brush your teeth while you're at it. Your breath could be better."
"Oi!" The bedroom door shut and Rhys grinned. He gathered his keys, wallet and coat and headed out, locking the door behind him.
Rhys was whistling as he walked, staring at his mobile and texting Daff, when he collided with someone outside. "Sorry," he blurted. "Wasn't paying attention at -" he stopped when he looked up and saw Jerry, the neighbor, looking at him in a haughty fashion. "Right. Well. It was an accident."
Jerry gruffed an apology in return and reached behind him to pull up a large canvas sack. "Moving something, mate?" Rhys couldn't help but be curious. The sack was old, worn and covered in various stains. Rhys sniffed their air pointedly. This was the closest proximity Rhys had ever shared with his neighbor, and he smelled strongly of earth and, randomly, strong ginger.
"Yeah. Some art project."
"Ah. You do a lot of art projects?"
Jerry laughed, though it sounded hollow to Rhys's ears. He tapped the bag he'd been dragging. Rhys held in a surprised noise when he saw the fingernail on Jerry's hand slice neatly through the canvas material. They looked sharpened, now that Rhys was looking, and seemed to have some sort of gray tint to them. It could've been nail varnish, Rhys tried to reason. However, how many people could cut through thick material like that?
Rhys awkwardly stood there for a moment before coughing and motioning that he'd move out of the way. It wasn't normal to just stand in doorways staring at the neighbors and their odd fingernails. Jerry gruffed again and pushed past Rhys toward the stairs to his flat. "Have a good night," Rhys lamely called after him.
Jerry turned around abruptly, with a speed that seemed unsettling. "You too, good neighbor." His teeth flashed, a bit too bright and he laughed. The laugh, loud and fake, made Rhys's blood go cold. He stood until Jerry was out of sight, a hand on the wall, and took in what he just saw.
Jerry's face, upon closer inspection, just looked fake. Plastic. Like it'd be molded into some facsimile of human. The bag he'd been carrying looked mostly empty. That wasn't what unsettled Rhys. The stains on the canvas sack, first off, seemed strange, mostly because they were the dull brown color that he was used to seeing on Gwen's shirts. Was it blood? If it'd been an art project, that would make sense – could be paint or varnish. Who carried art around in a large canvas sack though?
Most damning though, had been when Jerry opened his mouth to laugh. Rhys had seen it then, just a glimpse, and he wondered how he couldn't have noticed it before.
Jerry's tongue had been pointed. Like a snake.
Rhys made it home about fifteen minutes later, takeaway clutched to his chest. Gwen was dressed, sitting at her laptop reading her emails. Her hair was tamed and tied back behind her head and she wore a long sweatshirt – one of Rhys's old ones – and a pair of dark leggings. She looked so much like she had when they'd met at University that it made Rhys's heart ache.
"Good evening, my missus I've got the food you ordered," Rhys smiled and flourished toward the food he'd set on the table. "Best delivery service in town, I am. I put it on the table and deliver it with a grin. Don't even have to tip."
Gwen's eyes lit up and she closed the laptop with a definite click. "Excellent. Was starting to get hungry," she said as she eagerly tore into the containers. Catching Rhys's annoyed look, she flashed her gap tooth grin. "And miss you, of course."
Once the food was served and they were settled back into the couch, they tucked into their dinners. Rhys found he wasn't particularly hungry. Tonight's encounter with Jerry was digging at him too much. With a sigh, he put his fork down and looked at Gwen.
"I think your job is getting to me."
Gwen swallowed her mouthful of chicken and gave him a wide-eyed look. "What?"
"Our new neighbor, right? The poncy bloke upstairs? There's something off about him."
"You think he's an alien?"
Rhys rolled his eyes and shoved his takeaway box further from him on their small coffee table. "I didn't say that, did I? I just said something feels wrong about him."
"Like what?" At this point, Gwen had put down her fork too and was giving Rhys her full-on 'copper paying attention' face that she used when she was trying to absorb what someone was saying and make them feel comfortable saying it.
"There's something wrong with him, yeah? I never see him go to work. He's loud when he's home. He's got weird people over all the time."
"So, then I see him last night, when I was coming home. On his balcony. I swear he was covered in blood and he had this poor sickly looking girl with him. He dragged her inside like he was going to… eat her or something."
Gwen raised an eyebrow. "Look, I'm the last person to say that weird things don't happen in Cardiff. But you saw him on a balcony. At night. With a girl. How could you see what he was covered in?"
Rhys scowled. "I just could. There was something all over his shirt and hands. She didn't look like she was pleased to be there either. Besides, I saw him tonight too. He had this duffel with him and I swear, it was covered in blood."
"Well. It was brown splotches. And he said it was an art kit, so it could've been paint. But it looks like the stains you bring home." Rhys hit his palm against his forehead as if he'd just remembered to pick up the dry cleaning. "And! His tongue. It was pointed – like, like a lizard or something. Normal people do not have pointed tongues, right?"
"Unless he had a piercing, or had been in accident. Or maybe he just had eaten something and it had stained his tongue and made it hard to see. That happens. Remember that time you had the green candy floss and then went up to your boss?"
Rhys felt a surge of blood rush to his face. It had been at a company outing, before his last promotion. He'd gone up after a couple of beers to talk about how right he was for management with Harwood. At the time, his boss had been all smiles and friendly and it had flustered Rhys. Her low-cut sweater and curvy hips hadn't helped either though. Regardless, Rhys had forgotten all about the incident until pictures appeared of him – red face, flustered with his mouth open in the middle of a laugh. It had been green. Green candy floss dye smeared everywhere. Embarrassing.
Gwen was looking at him now, all patient doe eyes and half-amused smile. She carefully picked up her dinner again and took a smile bite. "I think it's sweet that you're on the lookout for us," she placated.
"There's something wrong with him, Gwenie. I can't… I don't know if it's Martians or not, but he's not normal."
Gwen reached over and grasped Rhys's hand. For something so small and delicate looking, Rhys was always amazed at the strength in it. "There aren't marts—"
At that moment a short, low sounding cry drifted through the ceiling, followed by a sharp distinct thud of something hitting the floor above them. Rhys and Gwen both jumped, though when Rhys half-jumped off the soda he knocked a container of food all over the table. Gwen realized she still held Rhys's hand and grinned weakly at him. "That's just unnecessary. We're just trying to enjoy our dinner."
"You believe me now? Eh? Sounds like he's offed someone up there."
Gwen blew her fringe out of her face and grimaced. "No, sweetheart, I think our neighbor is entertaining someone up there and is being really inconsiderate to his neighbors. I don't think he's an alien. Just rude." There was another thump above, this one not as loud, but still enough to make Rhys jump a little. "Very, very rude." Another series of thumps and bangs and Gwen was grabbing her coat.
"Where are you going?"
"To remind him, politely, that he has neighbors. Neighbors that want to enjoy their dinner, have some quiet time, and not be interrupted by his thunking around."
Rhys frowned. This is what he wanted, wasn't it? Gwen to take him serious and go up there, investigate that man, confirm he wasn't crazy and get rid of him. Except, Gwen didn't really think there was anything special going on. Gwen, he could tell by the way she was glancing at him, either thought he was spending too much time in front of the television or was a bit jealous of Jerry's glitzy lifestyle. Rhys grabbed a dishcloth from the kitchen and began mopping up the remains of dinner from the table. "Will you at least take your gun?"
"I don't think that's a good way to make friends."
"Please. For me, just so I don't worry."
Rhys suffered through Gwen's best analyzing look and, finally, she nodded. She went to her bedroom and came back out with the black standard Torchwood issued handgun that she kept hidden in there. Gwen lifted her shirt and tucked the weapon into the waistband of her jeans. That didn't seem particularly safe to Rhys, but he wasn't going to argue with her "special-ops" training when she was doing him a favor. "I'll be back in a bit," Gwen assured him. "Just going to have a chat. Maybe invite him for dinner next week."
"Even if he's not an alien, I think that's taking the good neighbor routine too far."
Gwen smiled. "You're awful. Keep dinner warm for me."
With that, she was gone, closing the front door quietly behind her. Rhys worried his bottom lip and looked around the wreck of the flat. Well. The least he could do was get things cleaned up. It'd be easier than worrying about Gwen anyway.
Gwen marched up the stairs to the neighbor's flat, grumbling slightly in her head at Rhys's paranoia. The new man seemed alright, if a bit shallow. Seemed like a young man that came into a little bit of money without the responsibility to know what to do with it, honestly. She'd seen the type plenty of times. Flash car, nice clothes and, sure enough she'll see it, lots of boy's toys littering the place. Gwen reached the top floor of their building and looked around. No noise coming from the flat. No one in the entryway. She frowned and knocked lightly on the door before calling out a greeting.
No answer. That was odd. Gwen knew he was there. So did Rhys. They'd heard him and they would have seen him on the stairs or the car leaving if he'd headed out before then. Gwen pressed on the door and it swung open – just an inch. Her intuition started itching. Jerry could be hurt. Someone could have broken in. That would have explained the noises, right?
Feeling justified in her curiosity, Gwen opened the door slightly and peered inside. The flat was spacious and beautiful, just like she remembered. Sure enough, it was decked out in gadgets and designer wall art as well. A grim smile passed over Gwen's face as she slid the door shut behind her. The flat reminded her a lot of Owen's. Big space, bigger toys and a bit impersonal. Actually, it reminded her of Ianto's in that regard as well, what with the lack of photos or anything particularly personal adorning the walls. Ianto kept all of his keepsakes and family photos tucked away in albums and relied on IKEA to keep his walls from being blank. The men, past and present, of Torchwood definitely confirmed Gwen's belief that men were very good at filling up a flat, but apparently not so good at making it feel like a home.
Neighbor Jerry's flat was posh though. And clean. Much cleaner than Gwen's and that made her frown. Rhys was definitely the cleaner of the pair of them, but even he didn't manage to keep this level of spotlessness in their home. All of the electronics were dust free, the appliances in their American style stainless steel were smudge free and spotless. The whole flat was done up in whites, reds and deep chocolates. The whites were shining, the reds of accents and pillow cushions were bright and clean and the brown leather of the sofa or dark wood of the room gleamed in a way that made all of it seem more like a showroom than a place where anyone actually lived.
Gwen heard a door creak and instantly stiffened. She had to stop herself from pulling the gun out from the back of her jeans and swore silently to herself. Definitely wouldn't make a good impression to pull a weapon on the neighbor.
"Hello," Gwen called out cautiously. "I knocked and no one answered. The door was cracked open and I'm just checking up on you."
"Yeah, really?" Oh, that time Gwen definitely jumped. She clenched her fists and spun around to face Neighbor Jerry. He was leaning against a shut door that Gwen assumed led to his bedroom. He was handsome, and Gwen considered herself a fairly astute judge of that and, more so, he wasn't entirely dressed. Heat rushed to Gwen's cheeks as she took in the half buttoned light gray shirt and denims that weren't fastened and, instead, hung loosely off the man's hipbones. Gwen hoped with all of her might that Jerry was alone. She was getting bad at walking in on people and this was almost as embarrassing as walking in on her half naked boss and his secretary.
Gwen winced at the awkward silence that was quickly filling the space. "Right. Didn't mean to disturb you. I'm Gwen. I live downstairs." Jerry didn't show any reaction other than to eye Gwen like some curiosity that had stumbled in – or a stray cat. She smiled in what she hoped was a friendly way. "I think you met my husband. Rhys?"
Jerry raised an eyebrow. "Hefty gentlemen? Likes to talk about trucks?" If Gwen hadn't already been prepared for it from Rhys, she would have been startled by Jerry's accent. Rhys said he was Canadian or American or something of the sort. His accent wasn't like Jack's, something was off about it, but then again, Jack's accent wasn't really American either.
"He's not hefty. He's solidly built," Gwen laughed. The environment in the room shifted immediately when Jerry smiled at her joke. He finished fastening his jeans and headed toward a breakfast bar that separated the kitchen from the living space. "Anyway, we heard noises. Through our ceiling. He was worried so I thought I'd pop in, say hello, see how you are settling in."
"Well, Gwen from Downstairs," Jerry drawled. "You can see I'm doing fine, but I am glad for the hello. Get you a drink?"
Gwen looked at Jerry's sparkling eyes, and that winsome grin, and she found herself smiling in return. "Yeah, just a quick one. Dinner's waiting."
By the time Rhys heard the door open, he'd done the sweeping up, tidied a bit and washed the dishes from the previous night. He was feeling pretty sorted as he pulled Gwen's leftovers out of the oven. "I kept this warm for you, sweetheart. Look at me, keeping the home fires going." He turned around grinning and felt his smile dim a little. Gwen was giving him a big gap tooth grin and had a slight flush to her cheeks.
"So, not an alien then?"
"Had a drink, did you?"
"Just the one."
Rhys sighed and placed the plate on their small dining room table. "Well, good thing he wasn't an alien then. I mean, it could have been part of his nefarious plan to get you off your guard."
"Rhys. He wasn't an alien." Gwen huffed and sat down to finish her food. "I appreciate you watching out for Cardiff – for me, but you don't need to worry about it so much. I know what I'm doing and so do Jack and Ianto."
Rhys felt reprimanded and what a ridiculous feeling that was. He knew something was off. Maybe Gwen was right, their neighbor was from this planet, but something was off. Maybe he was just a normal murderer, or just double parked, but Rhys wasn't about to give up on it yet. Gwen stood up, her fork clacking against the plate. Her expression was drawn, tired looking and she seemed like she was somewhere else already. "I'm going to bed," she said as she stood. "I'm exhausted and I've got to work in the morning."
"Right. I guess we could get to bed. Finish our evening together." Rhys placed a hand on Gwen's shoulder and kissed her temple.
"No. Rhys. I'm going to sleep so I can go and hunt actual aliens tomorrow and contain actual threats that are threatening actual people." Gwen brushed Rhys's hand away and, with a small smile, retreated to the bedroom. Then, with the quiet click of the bedroom door, Rhys realized his cozy night was over and there was no one to blame for it other than Jerry the bloody mysterious neighbor.