Characters: Jack, Ianto, Gwen, Lois, Johnson, Rupesh, Martha, Mickey, Tish, Rhys, John, Alice, Steven, OCs, many cameos
Pairings: mostly canon
Warnings: AUTHOR CHOOSES NOT TO WARN (but will answer PMs for any content questions)
Spoilers: up through COE
Betas: eldarwannabe and fide_et_spe both performed major heavy lifting on this story, and have my deepest thanks for their efforts
A/N: Final fic in a fake third series where Lois, Johnson, and Rupesh have joined the team. Can be read as a stand-alone but will make more sense in context of the other stories.
Jack gave up on sleep around two in the morning. For three nights in a row he'd been unable to rest for more than ten minutes at a stretch. Tonight would make four. Careful not to wake Ianto, he slipped out from under the covers, tugged on jogging bottoms and a shirt, and padded out to the sitting room. Not in the mood for a film, he booted up the laptop and checked the Hub remotely.
Technically, work was supposed to stay outside the flat. Anything said on the doorstep could be Torchwood. Jack was an incredibly dashing and handsome leader and Ianto his adorable if sometimes insubordinate subordinate, and even if they didn't always like those roles, they were used to them. The second they stepped inside, Torchwood was nothing more than the firm employing them both, and they were just another couple who argued over whose turn it was for washing up. Jack found excuses to drop casual kisses on Ianto's neck or his hands, something forbidden during work hours. Ianto helped the neighbours with odd jobs and shouted at the telly as though the people on the screen could hear him.
Theoretically, home was theirs. In practise, Jack never stopped being on-call. Until three weeks ago, Ianto had ever been alongside him when yet another world-shattering event needed attention in the middle of the night. But they tried.
All that aside, Jack reckoned checking his email wasn't really working. When the screen loaded, he found the usual missives from UNIT, another nastygram from Mr. Weeds regarding the budget, Jack's weekly newsletter from Purple Pleasures, and a reply from Tish Jones (the conversation had lasted four months, and tonight involved comparing notes on pubs in Islington). He ignored the UNIT and budget emails, scanned the newsletter for anything interesting before deleting it, then settled in to write back to Tish.
His wrist strap beeped.
Ianto woke up alone. The alarm had been reset later than it ought to have been, part of Jack's eternal war on punctuality. That meant he'd been awake all night again and was compensating by wanting Ianto to sleep in. "I can get more done with an early start," Ianto told him often, but Jack always countered with, "You'll run yourself down." Ever since the incident at the UNIT co-training, Jack had been a mother hen on the matter of rest and recuperation, never mind that the gunshot wound was almost healed.
Ianto said as he went into the sitting room, "I see you couldn't ... "
The room was empty. There was a note in the kitchen: "Running an errand. Took the car. Will meet you at work." Jack's aversion to using subjects in his notes would have been more amusing had Ianto not now been forced to take the bus or beg a ride off Perry. If he didn't dawdle, he could make the earlier bus.
Showered, shaved, dressed, and fed (unless Jack cooked them breakfast, Ianto stuck with toast) Ianto gathered up his things to hurry down to the bus stop. He had his keys, he had his wallet, and he had a different, much-folded note he'd been carrying as a sort of good luck charm since he found it months ago. It hadn't prevented him from being shot, true, but then again, neither had he died.
The landlady had left another wedding magazine out in what she thought was a subtle, even helpful hint. With no time to hide this one, Ianto merely flipped it over and hoped Jack didn't notice.
On her way into work that cold Friday morning, Gwen stopped by the cash point. Rhys had mentioned going shopping this weekend, trinkets for the new house. The last time they'd tried this, Rhys had insisted on buying an expensive, terribly ugly lamp. Gwen hoped having money in hand to spend would help them keep to a budget.
As the machine dispensed the notes, she noticed a girl standing on the pavement across the street. She stood stock still, but for the wind lifting strands of her long hair. Gwen felt as though she knew her from somewhere, had met her before, but she could not place the face. The girl stared at Gwen, stared throughher, until Gwen felt uncomfortable and turned away, pretending to count her money. When she looked back, the girl was gone.
Lois dropped her report at the usual place on her way into the Hub. Stopping by the newsagent's had become habit, and she chided herself. The moment she became lax about her assignment would signal the day she'd be caught out. She spared a quick smile for the seller, an elderly gentleman with a soft, flyaway head of white hair. He grinned back in cold mirth. "Got something for ya," he barked, and handed her an envelope, still warm from his pocket.
"Thank you," she said, and gave him a coin. The envelope went into her handbag. She felt him watch her the rest of the way down the street. This particular contact was new, and he made her skin crawl.
There was a short stretch between one street and the next where the CCTV didn't cover. She pulled out the envelope and read the message inside, then crumpled it and threw it in the closest bin. No evidence. She hurried her steps and continued to her bus stop.
The note was in Mr. Frobisher's hand, but she held no illusions he was the author. Mr. Gloucester wasn't pleased. She'd been given her orders. If Lois didn't follow through within a week, she would be removed from her assignment. Threats lurked under the words. She'd been working for the government for four years, recruited when she was still in uni and trained to infiltrate. She had yet to fail on an assignment. Agents who did fail in their tasks were not given a second opportunity, but given how Torchwood dealt with threats, a mistake on this end would mean her death anyway, either by gunshot or permanent amnesia.
Lois offered her normal smiles for the bus driver, for the regular passengers who took this route. She found a seat by a window, and she stared out into the cold, bright morning as she went over her plan.
Problem the first: Torchwood as a group was heavily armed and willing to take anyone down who opposed them. Solution: Separate them from the majority of their weapons.
Problem the second: Captain Harkness could not be killed, not permanently. Any operation must focus on capturing him, but due to his physiology, very few methods that would incapacitate him would not as a consequence kill everyone with him. Solution one: Separate him from the rest. Solution two: Accept the need for casualties. Gwen, Ianto, and Perry were listed in her mission as acceptable losses. Lois disagreed.
A woman she knew by face sat next to her. They exchanged sociable nods as the woman opened her book, a mass-market self-help title. She had a vivid red scar on her left arm, obscured by the sleeve of her coat, and her hair was brushed forward to hide the traces of a paler scar on her cheek under her makeup. An old injury? Reminders of an encounter with extraterrestrials she wouldn't have been allowed to remember? In Cardiff, there was no way to tell.
Lois looked away from her, back out the window.
Problem the third: Torchwood had embroiled non-Torchwood personnel into their illegal schemes, making simultaneous capture of all relevant parties more difficult. Solution: With assistance from UNIT, Lois would arrange for Dr. Jones and her sister to be brought in at the same time. The same would have to be done for their London operative Smith, and the new hire in Glasgow.
Problem the fourth was personal. Lois had come to like and respect Captain Harkness and his people. Yes, they'd committed acts that required her to bring them to justice, but they viewed themselves simply as doing their jobs, risking their lives and protecting Cardiff from alien threats for no recognition. Under other circumstances, she'd be proud to work with them.
The solution was for Lois to let go of her personal feelings.
The bus deposited her on the Plass. She wrapped her coat and scarf firmly around herself and made her way down to the TIC entrance. Gwen met her up along the way, and matched her brisk steps.
"Morning," Gwen said with a cheer that didn't cut through the chill.
"Oh, the usual. Rhys had me looking at furniture half the night." As they reached the door, Gwen launched into a story of the latest round of house-decorating with her husband. She drew Lois into the debate, and onto her side on wallpaper versus plain paint. Wallpaper gave the room a finished look, Gwen believed, and she described with fluid hand motions the crown moulding she wanted to install. Torchwood might hunt aliens for a living, but Gwen was good at convincing people what she found interesting was in fact just as amazing. She was easy to like, and big-hearted enough for the whole world.
Problem the fourth was going to be a big problem.
She'd promised herself she wasn't going to act this way. She'd promised herself that under no circumstances was she going to well up in tears, or nag, or God help her, whine. And she'd sworn not to blame her hormones in any fashion.
Martha managed to angrily brush the tears away before he saw them. "I know it's only a week. I know you'll call." Her voice sounded bitter even to her own ears.
Tom sat down on their bed, and took her hands. It would have been much sweeter had he not been sitting next to his suitcase. "I can tell them I can't make it." He rubbed the skin at the base of her thumbs. The gesture was tender but she was having another prickly nothing-feels-right day, and she pulled her hands back. "If you really want me to."
Martha stamped down on the words she wanted to say. That he always did this. That he set up situations where he was needed elsewhere, then put the pivot point on Martha. Yes, he'd stay in the country if she asked him to, but it would be her fault. The other doctors at the site needed him, and yes, someone would die, there was no question, and Tom would never directly accuse her, but the knowledge would remain there between them.
Martha sat down beside him, turning her head so she couldn't view the black bag whose presence meant her husband was leaving again.
"Go," she said with a heavy sigh that no doubt sounded overdramatic and forced. But she had no room left for pretending she wasn't hurt. "I'll ask Tish to come with me to the ultrasound."
"That's not until ... " His face changed. "I thought it was two weeks from now. Martha, I'm sorry. I'll tell them ... "
"You'll go. They need you." She smiled without feeling it. "Tish wanted to know first anyway. She thinks it's going to be a boy. Leo thinks it's going to be twins."
"Leo's wrong," Tom said, bringing his arm around her and kissing her hair. "I love you."
She couldn't bring herself to say it back without crying. "Get your things together, mister. Traffic's going to be hell."
And it almost ended there, fight averted. Then Tom said something quietly, and Martha asked, "What was that?"
"Nothing." He put on a smile as false as the one she'd just used.
"It's not nothing."
He turned away, and put the last of his shirts into his suitcase. "I said, I don't get cross every time you run off with Captain Personal Space."
"I'm not cross," said Martha, in defiance of what she was now certain would be her mood in the next minute. "What do you mean 'run off'? It's for work, the same as yours."
"I'm saving lives." Tom waved his hand before Martha could shout, "And I know you are, too, and saving the planet from galactic threats to boot. Your work is important. I've never questioned that."
He continued packing. "Every time Jack whistles, you go running off to Cardiff or to the middle of nowhere. If I was going to be upset and jealous, that would be why. But I'm not."
"Of course you're not. There's nothing to be jealous over." Martha took a breath. "I'm not jealous, and I'm not angry at you for leaving. You said you were done until after the baby came."
"Yes, and you said you were leaving Cardiff for good because of the baby, but how many times has Jack called asking for favours since then?" He took her hand again. "But you've said it's all for work, and for good reasons, and I believe you."
"What else would it be?"
Tom wasn't one of those people who could raise one eyebrow. He tried anyway, and looked surprised rather than suavely cynical as he intended. "He flirted with you at our wedding."
"He flirted with you, too. It's how Jack says hello." Jack had even kissed her mum. Martha thought she'd seen tongue.
Her mobile chirped. Tom stared at her. Martha broke the stare first, and looked at the caller ID hopelessly.
She flipped open the phone with, "I'm going to kill you."
"I'm calling a taxi," Tom said, closing his suitcase with a snap. "I love you, and I will see you in a week."
As he walked past her, Jack said on the other end, "What?"
Jack stayed in his office most of the day. Ianto had minimal time to wonder why, as calls came in and Jack sent the team out in waves, himself staying back to coordinate. Ianto went out with Johnson to take down a Weevil. Gwen and Lois took witness interrogation on a pensioner who swore her cat was stolen by little green men. (The cat turned up midway through the questioning, none the worse for wear.) Rupesh and Perry were busy at a murder scene, thanks to a tip from Gwen's friend Andy, but the victim's wounds were human-caused, no matter how gruesome. In between assignments, they dealt with the never-ending stacks of paperwork.
The day was like any other Friday up until the point where the six of them returned from an impromptu trip to the sewers and headed directly to the showers. Jack would normally take this opportunity to stand outside and make lewd comments. The lack of sexual harassment sent alarm bells through Ianto's mind as he scrubbed, ignoring Perry and Rupesh whilst they sluiced off beside him. Voices came over the barely-adequate modesty partition separating them from the women's side, and not one conversation scrap was interrupted by a borderline sleazy Jack Harkness come-on.
When he'd dressed, Ianto went directly to Jack's office. "What's wrong?" He stood in front of the desk.
Jack looked up from his keyboard. Ianto didn't miss the quickly-doused appreciation of his damp hair and rumpled jeans; the last spare suit was with the dry cleaner, leaving Ianto with the old clothes he kept around for when the SUV needed maintenance. "Nice outfit."
Ianto folded his arms. "Something's eating you."
Jack turned back to his keyboard. "It never rains," he said, closing the window he'd been reading. "Come on. I'd better announce this to everyone."
Mystified at the sudden change, Ianto followed him out to the Hub proper, and leaned against the railing as Jack did his favourite schoolteacher's clap. "Gather round, kids. I've got some news."
Gwen took in Ianto's confused expression and matched it. "Good news? Bad news?"
Johnson said, "Captain, if you're pregnant, all I ask is to be in the room when you tell Alice."
Jack glared at her, but Johnson kept her insouciant face. Ianto felt a nervous flutter go through his stomach and depart. Jack had joked about that in the past. Martha had even tested him once to be certain. Surely ... No.
"Please," Jack said, after a beat. "Everyone knows you don't tell until after the first trimester."
Perry's bewildered voice cut the joke. "Jack?"
"I've got the word from Mr. Weeds." Jack managed to convey every ounce of disrespect he held for Her Majesty's Esteemed Bean Counter. "Our funding has been frozen as of the end of business today."
"Again?" Ianto said right before the chorus of "What?" and "He can't do that!"
Jack held up his hands for quiet, which Gwen broke into with, "That's twice now, isn't it?" She caught Ianto's eye, and he gave her a quick, tight smile.
"Since you've been here. He did it another time after I took over the Cardiff branch, and his predecessors defunded us off and on for the past twenty years. This isn't anything new." Jack didn't mention that the predecessors had been the bureaucrats from Torchwood London, who'd thought to keep their other branches under heel. Ianto had read the budgets for the last fifty years after he'd taken over that task, and found, instead of a dry chronology, a cut-throat and vicious mutual antipathy where brinksmanship had nearly cost the planet everything over a discrepancy of a few shillings in an expense report.
Ianto cleared his throat. "We operate with a two-month buffer in the official accounts, and another month in the unofficial accounts. We'll be able to keep the lights on until this is sorted."
Gwen said, "Except for our pay." Jack frowned at her, but she was right.
"Yeah. We're paid directly from the Crown, and those accounts are frozen. Each of you was warned to set up a savings account when you signed your paperwork. You may be living out of it for a while. When the hold is lifted, you'll receive your back pay. It'll be fine." For Jack, things wouldbe fine. He had money stashed away in multiple accounts, and he owned investment properties all over the city. Jack could live on those assets for years. This wouldn't take years, though. Mr. Weeds would have his day, Jack would force the issue, Jack would win, and everything would go back to normal.
Jack fielded questions, nothing Ianto didn't already know. His own position was less precarious than the rest: Jack had given him access to his private accounts months ago, and Ianto was used to spending the money, obtaining food and other supplies for the flat, purchasing gifts at Christmas for their families and friends.
"What about the Glasgow location?" Gwen asked, as the meeting broke up.
"The funds are already approved and held separately. They haven't said anything about stopping those."
Rupesh raised his hand. "Request for a transfer to Scotland?"
They all ought to go, Ianto thought, and then dismissed the idea. True, Jack had offered Ianto the position as Director for Torchwood Two, which he'd declined. (Gwen had declined the same offer, but Gwen didn't have to consider if she'd been presented with a career opportunity or a convenient excuse for a break-up.) The new Director wasn't an ideal choice. They needed someone familiar with the inner workings of Torchwood and loyal to Jack yet willing to tell him to go fuck himself when necessary. Walter Trent had been given Torchwood Glasgow based on Jack's prior dealings with him in a timeline that never was. The transition was going to be rough all around now that Glasgow had funding and Cardiff did not.
Ianto followed Lois back to her workstation. "I'll pull up the unofficial accounts for you. We'll need to watch our spending around here, but honestly, this is like a fire drill. It happens all the time."
"Thanks." She took a quick glance at the others, her gaze resting a fraction of a second longer on Perry. "I feel terrible," Lois said in a low voice. "I'm officially temping. I don't think this affects me."
Ianto thought back to the contracts everyone had signed when they'd first brought the new people on board. Johnson had transferred. Perry and Rupesh were both recruited directly. Lois herself had never converted to Torchwood properly and was still considered temporary help from the Home Office.
"Don't feel bad. Just be careful in case someone asks you for a loan."
Gwen found one of the few spots in the Hub where her mobile picked up a signal, but before she could dial, Jack walked over to her. "You okay?"
"Fine." The house payment would be less fine. They'd been counting on her pay to cover the fees. It was a grand house, absolutely beautiful, and they could not afford it on Harwood's wages. "I need to tell Rhys the bad news."
Jack's face went strange. "Are you doing anything tonight?"
The question was asked in a very prelude-to-asking-on-a-date voice. Gwen's brain stuttered to a halt before restarting. "What?" Jack wouldn't ask her out. Not when she was dialling Rhys. Not when Ianto was across the room talking to Lois. That would be ... "What?" she asked again.
"I said, are you doing anything tonight?" His arms were folded, a classic Jack gesture that screamed nervousness, and although his face was in a pleasant, teasing pose, his voice had a catch.
"I don't think so. No." She was stammering. "That is, we don't have any plans that I know of. Rhys and I. Why?"
"Good. The two of you should come over to ours tonight for dinner. Will Rhys eat lamb chops?"
The picture of her beloved husband ploughing through a plate of chops made her smile unexpectedly. For good lamb, Rhys would even be nice to Jack. "He'll eat all of them if you don't stop him. Should we bring anything?"
"Don't worry about it." He squeezed her arm. "Tell him seven o'clock unless the world ends."
"I will." An old warmth washed through her as Jack walked away, heading for the medical bay. She found the spot with the signal and dialled Rhys.
"Bit busy," he answered, affection in his tone. "Make it quick? Working late tonight?"
"Not unless the world ends. I've got some good news and some bad news."
Johnson stopped her in the corridor between the Hub and the Tourist Office. Lois flicked her eyes to the camera, and saw it had been put into sleep mode. Johnson followed her gaze. "I'm running a diagnostic. We have two minutes. Was that your doing?"
"No. I don't talk to Mr. Weeds."
"What game is he playing?"
"I haven't the faintest. Jack said he does this all the time."
"The Captain is hiding something. Can't you tell?"
Lois had noticed the same distant behaviour that had Ianto pensively watching Jack's window most of the morning. "He's always hiding something. He's probably worried about a shutdown. He doesn't get paid either."
"When is this going to happen?" Johnson moved closer, not menacing, not friendly. "If you don't act soon, he will find out."
Lois looked at the camera again, but it was still dormant. "It will be the beginning of next week. Tell the doctor."
Johnson's face remained impassive. "What's your plan?"
The camera made a soft click as it returned to service. Lois continued walking as though she'd never stopped. "I'll put that on the next shopping list. I'm going to have to run comparison prices."
"I understand," Johnson said, and she rounded on her heel to go back to the Hub.
"We're entertaining?" Ianto read the shopping list Jack had scribbled. Along with the usual "those crisps I like with the vinegar" and "that cheese stuff," Jack had included parmesan, fresh mint, and a wine Ianto knew for a fact Jack himself would not be touching.
"Gwen and Rhys. We'll all have dinner together and chat."
"We don't chat." He amended mentally, "You don't chat with Rhys, and we're all happiest that way."
As if he'd heard the thoughts, Jack sat back in his chair. "You and Rhys have spent quality time together before. This will be fine."
"I didn't say it wouldn't be fine. It's just unexpected." Of course, it was within Jack's purview to invite another couple over for dinner, and as it was Jack's home too, he hardly needed to ask permission. And this was Jack. He bothered with social niceties when they suited him. This was probably about the budget announcement, Jack's way of reassuring Gwen, with Rhys present to defuse any questions of how or why Jack was taking care of her.
Ianto glanced over the list in his hand again. "Is there anything else you can think of that we need?"
"Not now." Jack took a look out his window. "We're slow this afternoon. Why don't you leave early? I'll meet you at home in a few hours."
"Do you want me to pick you up?"
"No need." He wore an expression Ianto didn't like and couldn't read. They'd just finished addressing their need to reduce consumption and reserve their resources. Surely Jack wouldn't turn around and use the SUV as his personal car on a frivolous whim?
"All right. I'll see you at home." No kissing at work, no hand-holding. For a worried moment, Ianto wanted to drag his lover down into the bunker beneath their feet and demand to know what he was thinking, not that it would do him any good.
"What's this about, then?" Rhys asked for the third time as they parked in front of the block of flats where Ianto lived. Gwen scanned the street out of habit, looking for anything out of the usual. Except for the fact that she and her husband were meeting Jack and Ianto for dinner, everything was perfectly normal.
"It's just dinner," she said, getting out of the car and brushing her hair from her face in the stiff wind. "Jack's probably aiming to apologise for annoying the auditors."
The building was a bit grubby, she'd thought every time she'd waited impatiently for Ianto to sprint out the door. As they stepped into the front hallway, she took in the fading décor, straight from the early 1970s, with sad old paper on the walls. The doors to the first floor flats had all seen better days. Still, someone clearly loved this place. A three-legged table stood by the one small window, with a hopeful bunch of flowers stuck in a pink porcelain vase. Yesterday's newspaper sat neatly beside it in offering to the interested, as well as a small assortment of magazines. Taped to the wall by the stairs was a reminder of the upcoming tenants' meeting, which would be potluck.
Gwen tried to picture Jack attending a potluck with Ianto's neighbours, a mix (in her mind) of elderly women who talked to their cats, and single mums with toddlers. They would chat about rent increases, whose job it was to shovel the path, and issue reminders of when the rubbish would be collected.
"Come on," said Rhys, leading her up the stairs. A moment later, a mouth-watering smell reached her nose, and Gwen hurried up with him.
Ianto opened the door on their first knock, a nervous but pleased smile on his face. "Come in. Make yourselves at home." He took their coats, hanging them up beside Jack's greatcoat and his own warm black wool coat. Gwen patted his arm and gave him a squeeze.
"Thank you for inviting us over."
"We brought this," said Rhys, handing Ianto the loaf of bread they'd picked up from the bakery. Gwen didn't know good breads from bad, but this one had looked nice in the window.
"Thanks." From Ianto's face, he didn't appear to know good bread from bad, either, and she relaxed. "Won't you sit down?"
"Dinner will be in a few minutes," Jack called from the kitchen, not coming out to greet them. Gwen imagined he was busy with the last-minute preparations. Rhys tended to shoo her out of their kitchen when he was nearly finished, despite her desire to lend a hand.
Ianto's flat was not terribly large. Gwen remembered few details from the last time she'd visited. He'd been living out of boxes, nothing on the walls, a few pieces of second-hand furniture. She recalled best the crisply polite expression he'd worn the entire time, offering her something to drink, answering her questions with short replies, not asking any of his own until she'd given up and fled this dark room.
Ianto came up behind her. "We've decorated since you came over last." He always had been good at reading her mind.
The broken-down sofa had been replaced with something out of a bachelor's dream catalogue. Fat brown leather cushions yielded beautifully when she sat down, with a perfect view of the television. Wood-trimmed lamps perched on tables to either side, warming the room with their golden glow. A few trinkets were set out on display: a bowl with pebbles, some candles, an old music box. One lonely but healthy green plant sat on the windowsill. Bookshelves lined one wall with battered old novels and new DVDs, and the other featured a spray of photographs in metal frames. Gwen saw Lisa in two different snaps, did not know the faces in most. With a jolt, she recognised a young Alice in one, and Steven grinning in another. Amidst other pictures was a black and white photo Gwen had seen before: Jack and Estelle, from sixty years ago.
Heart fluttering uncomfortably, Gwen excused herself to freshen up. Her world had been askew all day, and the visit to this alien planet wasn't helping her composure. As she splashed water on the back of her neck, Gwen took in the small details of the bathroom as though assessing a crime scene. Someone had tided in here recently: no toothpaste on the mirror, and the bath mat was freshly laundered (rather than having the slightly distressing smell of any lavatory carpet regularly frequented by a sleepy man taking an early morning slash). But the room wasn't obsessively cleaned. She could see the build-up in the tub where the soap line lingered just out of easy notice, and the towels were hung neatly but had been used.
A second door led from the bathroom directly to the flat's only bedroom. With a glance to the other door, Gwen silently opened it, unsure if she was ready to gaze upon Jack's playroom. She didn't know what to expect in the unlit room, if she was about to scar her mind with heavy-duty chains and elaborate costumes set up for an evening's entertainment. Worse, her thoughts supplied as her eyes adjusted, she didn't know why Jack had invited her and Rhys to visit, it could be his motives were as impure as the rest of him.
Her eyes finally focused on the very normal bedroom set, with a dark duvet, rumpled pillows, and a wardrobe with one door ajar that revealed familiar-looking blue shirts neatly hung in a row. The only significant difference between this space and the bedroom she shared with Rhys was that this bed was made and none of the drawers overflowed.
If there were any items of unusual note, they had already been stored inside the beside table, and she was not about to go looking. A sense of unease filled her, and the knowledge that she didn't belong in this room. This was prying. She closed the bedroom door, and flushed the toilet as she ran water.
When she came back out, Ianto handed her a glass of wine.
"I like what you've done with the flat," she said, and meant it.
He made a pleased face. "You should have seen the place at Christmas. Someone insisted on stringing fairy lights."
"I maintain they added an ambience," Jack said, finally emerging from the kitchen, wiping his hands on a towel. "The food's ready." He'd changed out of his typical clothes, and Gwen hardly knew him. He wasn't flashing his 600-watt smile, nor had he started in on the inappropriate comments yet. She had long ago accepted her infatuation with someone she saw as an action hero and matinee idol brought to immortal life. The man waving her into the kitchen tonight was just some bloke with questionable taste in fashion, whose lover was right behind her. This was their home.
"You all right?" asked Rhys. "You look peaky."
"What every woman wants to hear," she replied, taking his arm a little proprietarily. "Let's eat."
The food was delicious. To Gwen's delight, Rhys and Jack managed a thoroughly polite conversation about cookery. Rhys was kind enough not to mention the potatoes Gwen had accidentally exploded in the oven last week, though he did use the word "menace" with the phrase "in the kitchen."
"Now then," she said, "it's not that I can't cook. I can. It's just that the bloody appliances keep trying to kill me."
Jack said, "That happened once. One of the local factories got outfitted with a Deneezian replicator. They made toaster ovens that tried to eat their owners." He laughed at the memory. The rest of them stared in horror. "What? There were some burns. I got to wrestle a vicious glass door off some poor chap with a wooden leg. He was fine."
Rhys gave Gwen his usual, "This is what you do for a living?" expression but didn't comment.
They kept up the conversation, easy enough with Jack around. Gwen complimented the risotto, which Ianto thanked her for.
"You're getting better," Jack said. "For your final exam I'll make you fix dinner for the whole team."
"There's an exam?"
Gwen said, "I can't imagine Jack teaching you something." Actually, she could. Her imagination was unfortunately clear regarding Jack conducting naked cooking lessons.
Ianto took a drink of his wine. "It's better than his firearms training." They shared a laugh, which Rhys picked up on.
"Can't teach someone to shoot a gun?" he asked Jack.
"I take them out of their comfort zone."
Gwen said, "I've been teaching the new recruits. Less hands-on, as it were." She coughed.
Jack said, "And that's why Lois still can't hit the side of a house. Twenty minutes of lessons and she'll be a master markswoman."
Ianto stood and took their plates. "I'll remind her where the harassment forms are stored."
"You should take Johnson down there," Gwen said.
"Hell, no. She'd shoot me. Several times. On purpose."
They retired to the lounge, Gwen sitting comfortably against Rhys, warm and content. Ianto sat next to Jack on the sofa, stiffly at first, but relaxing as Jack stroked the smooth skin on his wrist. Gwen hadn't even noticed the little touches at work had stopped, not until she was reminded all over again of how tactile Jack could be.
Jack cleared his throat. He looked at Ianto, contrition open on his face. "I'm going to break one of the rules now, and I am very, very sorry."
Gwen tensed inside, and sat up, just as Ianto pulled his hand away and stared at Jack. "What is it?"
Jack looked at Gwen instead. "We have this rule, he and I, that Torchwood business doesn't come home with us. We can talk about work, but the way normal people do." He broke off and asked Rhys, "How do normal people talk about work, anyway?"
"Jack," Ianto said, not exactly with impatience.
"Yeah. Okay. Short story, we're on the clock, and I am your boss." He cleared his throat again. Ianto had already moved away on the sofa and was fixing him with an annoyed stare. "I invited you here because we have a scrambler in place to make sure nobody's eavesdropping."
Gwen asked, "Is something wrong?"
Jack blew out a breath. "I'm transferring you both to Glasgow, effective Monday."
"What?" Ianto said, as Gwen said, "No, you're not." Rhys swore. Gwen pushed his hand down to the cushion and mouthed, "Let me handle this."
Ianto said, "I'm not going to Glasgow. We have been over this." He stood, putting more space between them. "I'll resign first."
"You're not resigning," Jack said, as Gwen started in with, "This is ridiculous. You picked someone to be the director for Glasgow."
"Trent starts next week," Ianto said. "All the paperwork has gone through."
She said, "Exactly! I'm not transferring to bloody Scotland."
Ianto said, "This is completely unfair of you."
Jack stood. Gwen expected him to move toward Ianto, take his hand or something, but Jack walked away. He went to a large silver bowl on a table near the door and picked up his wrist strap. He hadn't been wearing it, she realised. The ubiquitous reminder that Jack didn't belong in this time, on this world, and he didn't wear it at home. She didn't have time to consider what that meant. Jack held it in front of him and pressed a button inside.
A holographic figure appeared. Gwen's blood ran cold.
"Hello, lover,"said John Hart.