The five-minute hook
Jack wasn't actively listening in to Ianto and Gwen gossiping over their afternoon coffees. He was in his office, trying to get through a batch of tedious UNIT paperwork. It was only an accident of acoustics that he could hear them anyway. There just happened to be an amenities duct connecting the north side of the water feature and his office, and with the hatch open, it conducted sound like an old-fashioned, long-distance telephone line.
Gwen probably didn't know about it, although Jack wasn't so sure about Ianto. Ianto's knowledge of the Hub was subtle and surprising, and Jack wouldn't put it past him to have chosen that spot, just so that Jack had some soothing background noise as he worked. They were all in need of a little soothing these days.
And that's exactly what it was -- a soothing murmur of familiar voices, without any meaning attached -- right up until Gwen said his name.
"... Jack does such inappropriate things in the field. Thank god for retcon, or we really would be facing a sexual harassment suit," she said, her voice mostly humorous, but with an edge of disapproval. "Doesn't it bother you?" It clearly did bother Gwen.
Jack wasn't terribly surprised by that revelation.
"No," Ianto replied, and he at least sounded completely unperturbed.
Jack leant back in his chair and prepared to be entertained.
"Really?" Gwen needled. "I mean, you and he--"
Ianto cut her off before it could take a turn to the personal. "It's just his five-minute hook, Gwen. You do your nosy copper routine, and Jack finds the witness's nearest emotional button and mashes it down so that they're off balance. Given that it's Jack, the nearest button is usually seduction, that's all."
Five-minute hook. That was a good name for it. Jack was barely even aware anymore of the casual once-over he gave people, looking for chinks in their armour and how he could use them to get his way. Jack rubbed a finger over his lips, amused. It was ironic to think that these days he used his conman skills to fight aliens and save the world.
Down below there was a thoughtful pause and a crunch of biscuits.
"I see what you mean," Gwen said, sounding more thoughtful now, "Today I thought Price was going to have an aneurysm when Jack made that crack about 'taking his statement in any position.' He was so angry at Jack that he didn't really notice what he was saying to me afterwards. I don't think he would have let the hint about his missing wife slip otherwise."
"That's Jack for you," said Ianto. "Sexually harassing witnesses into confessions since 1869."
Jack snorted a laugh at the same time Gwen did, but with the benefit of not having a mouthful of coffee and biscuits.
After the spluttering died down, Gwen spoke again, her voice soft and concerned, "He doesn't do that to you, does he, Ianto? The five-minute hook, I mean. Mashing your buttons to get what he wants?"
The silence before Ianto replied stretched just slightly too long to be playful, and Jack sat up straight in his chair.
"That's... not a yes/no question." A clatter of plates and cups being collected accompanied Ianto's answer. "Better get back to it," he added, his voice fading away as he left the hotspot.
"Ianto," Gwen said, before her voice was gone too, vanishing into the background noise of the Hub.
Jack looked down at the unfinished reports on his desk, neatly tagged with Ianto's Post-it notes: "Read this first," and "Sign here," and "Is this right? Check dates." For a long moment he just sat and breathed, three fingers pressed to the spot above his right eye where tension headaches always began. And then he sighed, flexed his hand, picked up his fountain pen and got back to work.
Gwen couldn't help being curious. She had tried, oh, how she'd tried, to stomp it down and put a lid on it. But, god, sometimes she just burned to know what Ianto was like when he was alone with Jack, what Jack and he were like together.
It wasn't entirely prurient interest, either, although Gwen was woman enough to admit that there was an element of sexual curiosity in the mix. But it was more than that. She just didn't understand their dynamic, and they were two of her closest friends, the two people she saw more than anyone else and trusted every day with her life.
On the surface it made sense: they were two guys shagging. Two hot, active, bi guys, with heavy work schedules and not a lot of time for dating.
Simple. Easy. It all made sense, especially if you knew anything about Jack Harkness.
Except. Except, except, except, except, except, except!
Jack's mystery was part of his charm, as obvious as the coat; but Ianto's mystery was altogether different, and something that regularly ambushed Gwen. She would look into his eyes some days and think, "I don't know you at all." Then he would hand her a coffee, just the way she liked it, or the report she had been just about to ask for, or he would say the perfect thing, all dry wit, and she would laugh and forget, comforted by a warm sense of companionship.
Later, at three in the morning on nights when her mind whirled sleeplessly, it would sneak up on her again.
On those nights, Gwen made lists. She had To Do lists. Petty Revenge lists (which she would never actually follow through on). How To Kill or Subdue Aliens lists (with clarifying questions to ask Jack the next day). Hot New Shoes lists (and the associated What's on My Credit Card? list).
Her Ianto List went like this:
- He was man who had loved so hard and so loyally that he had almost ended the world in his attempt to save his lover.
Gwen had not really understood the big picture at the time, caught up in the newness of the job and the adrenaline rush of unfamiliar danger. Now, thinking about Lisa made the skin prickle at the back of her neck.
- You would never know he had emotional depths to look at him. He rarely revealed more than a lift of the eyebrow or a quirk of the lip.
Gwen was not foolish enough to think that meant he took the world lightly.
- He had kept Jack's sexual interest for... at least two years. Possibly longer.
On the face of it, that didn't seem like much; Jack was easily interested in sex. When Gwen thought about it, though... most people didn't keep Jack's attention for long. And the one other long-term lover she knew of... well. It rather made Gwen wonder if Jack had a type. John Hart had an obsessive streak a mile wide (like Ianto), an odd kind of loyalty (like Ianto), was good-looking (ditto), and a nutjob (and it bothered Gwen that she couldn't say that Ianto wasn't a nutjob in his own, Iantoish way -- dear god, the suits).
And then there was this:
- Once, very late at night, after a long, exhausting week in the field, when they were all worn out and missing Tosh and Owen and tempers were running thin, Gwen had caught Ianto looking at Jack not only with hunger, and concern, and affection -- which she had expected -- but with a look she had only ever seen on the beat: the look of a feral gang thug, staking a claim to his turf.
Sometimes, Gwen thought that look was the most honest thing on her Ianto List.
So her curiosity was understandable, really. While "two guys shagging" was the obvious conclusion, and the one Gwen suspected that Ianto, at least, wanted people to draw, she wasn't entirely convinced that it was just shagging at all.
It made Gwen burn to know. It made her ask nosy questions and slip into the Hub at odd hours. And on bad days -- when Ianto was especially suitish, and Jack lingered around him, all bedroom eyes, which Ianto, of course, pretended to ignore -- it made her more than a little jealous.
On those days, she rather suspected Ianto knew she was jealous too, and that he was flaunting the mystery of their relationship in her face, the red stripes in his tie nothing but an expensive and tasteful gang-coloured warning: Hands off!
The long con
"Is it true what they say about Captain Harkness?"
Ianto leant his head back against the smooth, polymer-based cell wall. The UNIT soldier he had been captured with -- Lieutenant Daisy Jones (no relation) -- had been keeping up a stream of mindless patter as she wandered around the cell poking at the corners. She sounded like a ditz. Her short blonde hair had puffed up with the humidity, and despite the uniform, she looked like a ditz.
Ianto had never been more positive in his life that someone was not a ditz.
"Depends what it is they say," he replied, admiring the way Daisy poked at the thing that was probably a toilet with her sunglasses. If Jack were here, he would have poked the probably-a-loo with his hand, and got it bitten off in the process. Then Ianto would have had to deal with the blood.
"Oh, you know," Daisy said. "That he'll fuck anything if it's pretty enough."
"Yep. That's true."
"Really?" Daisy looked up from the definitely-a-loo, which she had managed to get open. It looked rather like a cross between a bidet and a beanbag, and was releasing a waft of sweet-smelling chemicals.
"Really." Ianto checked his watch: twenty-two minutes in the cell. Probably another thirty before they were rescued.
"Huh." Daisy waved flirtatiously at the hidden camera located near the flushing mechanism -- just as she had with all the other hidden cameras. Then she flipped the lounger-loo's lid closed and came over to sit next to him. "I thought it must be a load of bunk. You hear all that stuff about him being a giant manwhore, but I've never actually met anyone who's slept with him. Which seemed pretty improbable once I thought about it, if it were true. So after a while I figured..." she shrugged, "well, you know how rumours can grow in the telling. Specially in our line of work."
Ianto knew. In their line of work, things got pretty insular, and gossip flew faster than the TARDIS. Torchwood One had been the biggest hotbed of gossip this side of the Channel -- bigger even than his Tad's gardening circle. UNIT really wasn't much better. And Gwen could gossip for Wales.
"He claims to have slept with aliens," Ianto offered, hoping that their captors were hanging on every word, wasting time trying to figure out the secret code hidden in what they were saying. Bastards. Before he and Daisy had been captured, he'd seen Gwen take some fire; he wasn't sure how bad. Consequently, Ianto was entirely out of the diplomatic mindframe as far as the Rur and their request for asylum were concerned. He only wished the cell was slightly less plastic, and Daisy had given him a no-doubt ditzily disguised let's-wreak-havoc signal. He could just go a bit of havoc. Instead, he said, "Not sure I believe that he has slept with aliens, though. All the exes we've met have looked human enough. Not a tentacle amongst them."
"You've met some of his actual lovers? For real?"
"Unfortunately." Ianto did his best to hide his amusement. Apparently Daisy didn't think him pretty enough to be a contender. Odd really, as she seemed happy enough to flirt with him.
Daisy leaned in closer, lowering her voice. "What were they like?"
Ianto snorted. "Pretty and homicidal, every one of them. The Captain sure can pick 'em."
"Ha! Of course. That's a perfectly brilliant addition to the legend." She clapped her hands together, delighted. "Thank you, Mr Jones. I'll eat out on that tidbit for weeks."
"You're welcome, Lieutenant. Us Joneses have to stick together."
She beamed at him, pretty and bright-eyed, her calf brushing against his own. She wasn't at all like the standard soldier, which was probably how she'd ended up with UNIT. Ianto couldn't help but think her eccentricity would probably do even better at Torchwood; he wondered just how outre it would be to invite someone into a threesome while locked in an alien prison cell. He knew what Jack would say, but Jack's sexual manners were never a good guide in these situations.
Daisy glanced at her watch, and then made a hand-gesture in the sheltered space between their thighs: Twenty minutes?
Ianto signalled back: No. Ten.
She raised an eyebrow at him, but said in the exact same ditzy tone as before, "I don't suppose you have any scurrilous details about the Captain's lovers that you'd care to share? It's not like I'll ever get a chance to meet one face-to-face. And a few key details would be gossip gold."
Before Ianto could answer, a muffled THWUMP echoed through the plastic walls, as though the hand of god had swatted the ship. The room juddered and the lounger-loo gurgled.
Daisy said, "Your cavalry or mine, do you think?"
"That'll be Jack," Ianto said. "The structural damage is always a giveaway."
She laughed and rolled to her feet. "Let's hope so," she said, settling into a sure-footed combat stance between him and the door. Ianto took up position behind her, ready to guard her back.
There was a long beat of silence as they stood together, waiting, and then the door burst open and Jack strode in, coat swirling.
"Ianto!" Jack said, sparing a glance for Lieutenant Jones only long enough to decide she wasn't a threat.
Martha and Mickey appeared in the doorway, covering the corridor with wicked-looking alien blasters, and then Jack's hands were on Ianto's face, tugging him into a thank-god-you're-safe kiss, plasma rifle pressing hard and still-hot against Ianto's hip.
When Ianto pulled away, licking his lips, he saw Daisy, already armed with one of Martha's spare guns, watching them avidly, wide-eyed and a little shocked.
Ianto decided that he'd definitely mention the threesome idea to Jack later.
"Is that for me," Ianto said, putting a hand on Jack's plasma rifle. "Or are you just happy to see me?"
"Oh, it's for you!" Jack said with a leer. "Definitely all for you, Ianto." He unbandoleered the gun from his chest and handed it over, pulling out his trusty Webley for himself.
"That's what I thought," Ianto said, and checked the rifle's power gauge -- still half full. Then he looked up and met Jack's gaze. He smiled and tilted his head just fractionally towards Daisy. "Let's go home. I've got something for you too."