Torchwood; Jack/Ianto, Gwen
PG-13, 2000 words
Summary: Jack's never really understood the point of celebratory days.
Notes: Set speculatively after Doctor Who S4, so casting spoilers for the finale. Undoubtedly makes a botch job of lefaym's excellent Torchwood timeline. Written in celebration of onehundredmoons' own anniversary - happy birthday!
When Jack arrived at his desk that morning, he found it miraculously tidier than the night before, where he'd left files everywhere in a fit of pique (the rage inducing paperwork being to do with a primary school and a hopscotch chalking that had come to life - long story). Accompanied with a mug of hot coffee before he's even seen Ianto, neither of these are unheard-of kindnesses, not that Jack isn't grateful. But now he's looking at his schedule for the day, and it seems suspiciously free of all the things he was sure had been his tasks as of late last night.
"Ianto!" he yells.
Ianto appears at the doorway moments later, a picture of composed innocence. Something's definitely up.
"What happened to today?" Jack asks.
"Which bit of it?"
"Well-- those interviews out at the nursing home?"
"Rescheduled," says Ianto, " some sort of do up there today, they'll all have had too much shandy to be much use speaking to us, apparently."
"That call out to the B&B?"
"They reckon it was just kids mucking around now, we can go out tomorrow."
Jack frowns. "What else - oh, weren't we running diagnostics on the network systems this morning?"
"Ran it last night," Ianto says, shrugging.
"Huh. So what exactly are we doing today?" Jack asks, suspicion gradually changing to intrigue.
"Well, we do have all of those artefacts that have been waiting to be examined for quite some time now. Seeing as we've got a clear day, it's probably high time we take a look at them," Ianto tells him seriously.
"So, let me get this straight," Jack says, laughing, "you cleared the diary today so we could play with alien toys?"
"Absolutely not. I'll go get the crate then, shall I?"
Jack grins. "Fine by me."
"What's going on?" Gwen asks as she enters the Hub. "Oh, brilliant!" she says, catching sight of the open box below her and dropping her coat to race down and join the others, where Ianto is currently laughing uncontrollably.
"You started without me!" she scolds, smacking Jack's arm. "And what on earth have you done to Ianto?"
Jack's laughing pretty hard himself. "It's this thing," he tells her, holding up a small blue rod. "Aim this at your victim and it's like you've just told them the funniest joke in the world."
Ianto clutches his ribs as a particularly loud guffaw sends him over sideways.
"And then, I think, if you just do this," Jack continues, retracting the rod back in on itself, "it stops again."
Ianto wheezes for breath. "Ow," he groans faintly.
"Yes, I'd say that was a successful test - wouldn't you agree, Gwen?" Jack says with satisfaction.
Gwen's about to reply when Ianto makes a sudden recovery, lunging for the rod and aiming at Jack. Within seconds, Jack's sprawled back in his chair, giggling madly.
Exchanging a grin with Gwen, Ianto pulls out a pen and paper and starts making notes.
"You know," Gwen muses, "for the purposes of complete records we should probably have photographic evidence of the device's effects."
Ianto nods swiftly in agreement.
"Hee hee hee," is all that Jack contributes.
Though the Giggle Stick -- Ianto's suggestion -- is eventually put away, laughter continues to fill the Hub for most of the day. They set aside anything that looks like a weapon and instead find musical instruments, intricate puzzles, even an innocuous-looking pod that turns Gwen's hair blue for three hours.
Jack finds he can't stop smiling, because what with everything that's been happening, even he had forgotten just how much fun the universe could be, all the wonders contained even in the simplest things. They find what looks like some kind of home video, filmed half a galaxy away, and finally get it integrated with their own computers. Gwen and Ianto watch in rapt attention as three Hath teenagers act out the story of Soldier Ethkella vs. The Desert, the drama and enjoyment of it practically undimmed by the Hub's difficulties with the bubble-like language.
As Ethkella faces off against the Great One (which looks like little more than a kitchen table with drapes over it and someone pushing it around from underneath), Jack sits back, arms around them both, and all he can only think that they should have more days like this.
Gwen eventually tears herself away - as she puts it, she can't in good conscience tell Rhys she's working late when in reality she's spent the past hour playing space snooker.
"Well," Ianto says, "we certainly got through a lot of our backlog today."
"Yeah, good work, team, now back to reality in the morning, ok?"
Gwen sighs. "I suppose. I'll come with you to have a chat with that old codger in St. Edward's, shall I?"
"Please do, could use those police instincts there," says Jack.
"All right, see you in the morning. And I wouldn't mind having another go at that voice modulator sometime," she adds with a grin.
"Good night, Gwen."
Laughing, she pulls on her coat and heads out.
The Hub's quiet after the entrance rolls shut again, and when Jack turns back he finds Ianto gathering up the debris of the day, smiling. Jack wanders over to hang off the railings, admiring the view as Ianto bends low to retrieve an errant mug from underneath a seat. "Right," he says reluctantly after a while, "I'd better go deal with all the calls and emails I've left hanging all day."
Ianto nods, holding up the notes he's been making. "I'll just file these away, then."
Jack's just about finished teasing out any messages of real importance that came through today when Ianto appears again, coffee and the remainder of lunchtime's pizza in hand.
"We really must talk about your diet sometime," Ianto says as he hands them over.
Jack waves him off. "So, what was today all about, anyway?" he asks "I mean, it's a good idea, we could use a break."
Ianto shrugs. "It did need doing at some point."
Ianto looks up. "Well, according to the records, it's your birthday today."
Jack blinks. "Really? I didn't realise."
"Surely you don't mean to suggest they're inaccurate in some way?" Ianto asks, mock horror on his face.
Jack laughs. "Sorry to disappoint."
"Well," Ianto says, "better to be safe than sorry."
"Your attention to detail is, as ever, impressive."
There's a twitch at the corners of Ianto's mouth that's threatening to be a smile as he swings himself round to perch on the edge of Jack's desk, wilfully blocking Jack's access to the files he'd been working on. Jack suspects that's the sort of thing he ought to object to (this management gig is still tricky to get right, after all), but instead he grins at the interruption.
"So, do you have a birthday? You weren't grown in a loom or anything?" asks Ianto.
"A what?" Jack raises an eyebrow, bemused.
Ianto shrugs. "It seemed like a possibility."
"No no, born like everybody else. As it happens, it was on the 421st day of my home planet's solar orbit, so it's kinda tricky to convert into this calendar."
"We could have a system," Ianto suggests. "You could pick an arbitrary day, like the Queen. We'd take a day off like today, drink to your health, that sort of thing. You might even coax me into a party hat if you're very good."
"Aw, and I'd only get to see it once a year? That's no fun." Jack smiles. "I'm good without, thank you." He's quiet for a moment, unsure whether to voice his thoughts. "When I was growing up," he says eventually, "there were never any of these anniversaries like you have, personal days to mark the annual passing of things. Time was measured communally, I suppose - solstices, harvests, that sort of thing. Then I came here, and you all have your individual dates and seasons, birthdays and weddings and deaths that you observe each year, like trying to stamp your own mark on time itself."
Ianto's silent, but he's listening, interest clear in his eyes. And even though Gwen and Ianto have both been here a good while now, it still feels strange to Jack, their open minds and sharp insights that almost scare him even as they allow him to speak more freely than he ever has before on Earth.
"Course, my own timeline's shot to hell in any case, has been since way back when," he continues, mostly talking for the pleasure of not having any particular point to make nor any great secret to keep hidden. "Time Agency used to make us keep records of how long we spent on missions, trying to keep a track on our length of employment - doing payrolls must have been hell, I shudder to think. Anyway, plenty of agents would keep their own logs too, days noted down even as they delved into time loops and ran through the vortex, but I never did. Not sure whether I'm glad about that or not."
"So start here," says Ianto. "It's--" he only stops to think for the briefest of moments "--a year, two months and fifteen days since you came back to us."
"A year before that when I hired you," Jack continues to a nod from Ianto.
That's the other thing about dates. They blur out time as much as they make a note of it. Jack doesn't have to say that it's almost exactly two years ago that a cyberman was let loose in the Hub, twenty days after that before anything was fixed again, ensuing months when Ianto still wasn't right and Jack still wasn't helping, not really. Anniversaries also show how far you've gone, how much has changed.
"Two months since the Doctor," Ianto says (and two weeks before since Tosh and Owen, he doesn't add).
"Five weeks since the incident with the jellyfish--"
"--of which we will never speak again," Ianto cuts in darkly.
Jack chuckles. "Ten days since you took me to that restaurant round the other side of the bay."
"Yes, and ten days minus half an hour you got us both unceremoniously chucked."
"Hey!" Jack protests. "I thought we'd both agreed that was entirely not my fault."
"So you say."
Jack steers into different territory. "Two days since you had me spread out in here, doing that incredible thing with your hands."
"Mmm," Ianto agrees, "and three hours since you last tried to get me to do it again."
"An hour and a half since Gwen went home," Jack points out hopefully.
Ianto pauses, and Jack almost thinks he's going to find a cue to leave, but then he leans forward, his hands reaching out to cup Jack's face as he looks at him for a moment. "And a day too long since I did this," he finishes, meeting Jack's mouth with his own.
The kiss is familiar with the days that have gone before, but also always with the hint of what's to come, the new dates to be forged against the whole expanse of time. Jack clings to this, makes a mark of it, the finite moment set against forever. Ianto's pulling them both up, saying something about a particularly interesting bit of alien tech they hadn't quite got the chance to thoroughly test out yet. They should have more anniversaries, he decides, more celebrations in amongst everything else that they do. And as Jack is moved down the stairs, work entirely forgotten, all that he can really think is how much he needs more days like this.