"Are we done here?" Owen's voice carried through the Hub as he stomped up the stairs, wiping his hands on a paper towel before dropping it into a bin with a feathery rustle.
"Almost," said Gwen. "Two more reports to fill out on this morning's Rift activity."
"Can't it wait?"
Tosh asked, "Hot date, Owen?" She tried to play it casual. No one was fooled.
"As a matter of fact, tonight is February 13, also known as the best night of the year to find some lonely bird who's willing to put out so she can meet someone before Valentine's Day."
Tosh also tried to play the hurt on her face as casual, with the same success. Ianto would feel bad for her, but instead nursed his own bitterness. The person whom she pretended she wasn't pining after was still in the same room, same country, same galaxy.
Ignoring her, Owen said, "Jones, come with me? Even you could pull tonight. And I could use a wingman in case, you know, she's got an ugly friend."
Only Owen could layer that many insults into what was one of the nicer things he'd said to Ianto. "Thanks, no. Filing." He held up a folder: early data archived about the aliens they encountered yesterday, with handwritten notes and a photograph so old Ianto could practically hear the pop of the flash bulb. Jack had gone on that mission back then, and every time Ianto saw the name in neat typewriter or scrawled in a note, his heart gave an uncomfortable thump.
"I'm surrounded by bores."
"Go on," Gwen said, and Owen was out the door like his arse was on fire.
Ianto took a stack of folders down to the archives. When he returned, Gwen and Tosh were still poring over their own work. He glanced over Gwen's shoulder at her report, saw nothing especially complex. "I can finish up here."
"Are you sure, pet?" Gwen gave him a sad little smile. "I was hoping to get everything done today." Of course. She wanted to finish tonight so she could take off early tomorrow to spend time with Rhys. They'd have a nice dinner. He'd bring flowers home and she'd bring a bottle of wine. She'd coo and cry over the ring he was almost certainly going to give her. It would be a perfect Valentine's Day.
"I'm sure. Tosh?"
Toshiko sat back in her chair. "My reports are done. I can finish this tomorrow." He watched her expressions play out behind her eyes, her own hopes to have found someone by tomorrow, to have a reason to take off early the same way Gwen did.
"I'll see you both in the morning, then."
He waited until they were gone, then went into Jack's unused office. The unclear chain of command in their employer's absence had inspired a cobbled-together approach to leadership. Gwen gave the day to day orders, Owen took command in the field, Ianto kept the Hub running smoothly, and they all listened when Tosh told them to do something. None of them sat in Jack's chair. Ianto officially only came in to dust and to take calls from Whitehall explaining that Captain Harkness was unavoidably detained on a mission.
He unofficially came here nearly every night, and he often slept beneath it in the safety of Jack's bunker. Tonight he pulled up the unfinished reports and busied himself with the mindless work until he was too tired to read the screen. He could go home to an empty flat. He could crawl into the camp bed. He opted for visiting a few oft-used websites where reading was not a requirement.
A bit after midnight, he noticed the date change.
Gwen would be curled up with Rhys now. Owen would still be at the pub or back at his place with a woman for the night. Tosh would be home if she was wise, and at a different pub if she wasn't, looking to pull someone just as lonely as she or as predatory as Owen.
Jack would be ….
Ianto went outside through the tourist office, and watched the darkened bay as he smoked. Jack hated it when he smoked. So had Lisa. Ianto hated himself every time he lit one, but couldn't give it up yet. He swore to himself he'd quit for good the day Jack came home but for now the habit remained his one great "fuck you" to the world.
Moonlight glittered on the waves. He looked up, spying ragged clouds drifting over the cold, white moon.
How many moons circled the planet Jack stood on tonight? Ianto didn't bother wondering if Jack was looking at one of them now and thinking of him. Jack didn't do Valentine's Day, didn't do romance. Ianto thought he wouldn't mind a life without the trappings of this bloody day: the flowers that died, the chocolates that got eaten and forgotten, the cards that went into the bin like used paper towels. He'd offer up every last valentine in exchange for a warm hand holding his, warmer lips to kiss. No little gifts left for the other to discover. No breakfasts in bed. No jewelry, no trips to the cinema, no breathless views at the top of a Ferris wheel, no promises. All he wished for was his lover, home and safe.
Ianto took one more drag from his cigarette then crushed it out.
He hoped it was his last.