Pairing/Characters: Ianto, Gwen, Rhys; implied Rhys/Gwen, Jack/Ianto
Warnings/Spoilers: None, takes place post S1, during The Year That Never Was
Word Count: ~1,670
Beta: sariagray ♥
Summary: Ianto and Gwen celebrate an anniversary of sorts, without Jack.
Notes: Written for redisourcolor's challenge #20. The theme is anniversary. I think this is sort of a combination of Ianto coming to terms with Jack's absence, and the beginnings of his friendship with Gwen - coincidentally, two of my favorite things! ^_~ I hope you enjoy it. :)
Come what come may, time and the hour runs through the roughest day.
William Shakespeare, Macbeth
Ianto tipped the rim of the glass to his mouth and let the sweet wine roll around on his palate a bit before he swallowed.
Outside the restaurant’s broad windows, the bay’s shiny surface rolled back and forth in the darkness. Ianto thought it resembled colored tinfoil, somehow, but wasn’t sure how that held up as a metaphor, so he kept it to himself, despite the slightly awkward silence that’d fallen over the table. He felt like he should say something, anything to make conversation, but instead he just he took another generous sip of wine, and watched Gwen exchange a glance and a shrug with Rhys across the small table.
He’d been a bit skeptical of Gwen’s invitation out at first, afraid he was intruding - nothing worse than a third wheel after all - but it’d been late, and he hadn’t eaten all day, and so when Gwen had asked him to join her and Rhys for dinner, he’d accepted with only slight reservations.
It was her treat - a penance of sorts for not making it home in time for Rhy’s cooking for the third night in a row, and for a particularly unpleasant filing request she’d made earlier in the day. Ianto had spent nearly three hours buried in dusty files in the depths of the archives before Gwen had interrupted him.
Beyond the boardwalk, the lights of St. David’s Hotel were spread wide across the surface of the water in long strips that seemed to stretch for miles.
Jack had mentioned taking him there months ago, before he’d disappeared and left the team without a word, and at the time Ianto had laughed it off. He hadn’t quite believed he was serious. Now he wished he’d demanded they book a room immediately. He wished he’d made more demands full-stop, really. It hardly seemed like it should matter anymore, after two months and no word from Jack at all, but the problem was… It did matter. Ianto found himself regretting mundane things like this time and time again, day after day, week after week. The longer Jack’s unexplained absence stretched out, the more they just seemed to multiply.
Across the table, he flashed Gwen and Rhys a smile that felt hollow and awkward, even after a glass and a half of wine (never a good sign), and tried to relax as they smiled back, and Rhys raised his beer in a friendly salute.
Ianto liked Rhys. In another life, he’d like to think the two of them could have been friends, buying each other pints at the local pub. Trading stories and advice about the women in their lives, how little they understood them, maybe.
“So how’s the lorry business been these days?” he asked finally, and was relieved when Rhys smiled warmly, and then leaned forward with a rather animated story of having to bail out a particularly daft driver who’d gotten lost on the M4 between Crickhowell and Barry at half four in the morning.
By the time Rhys had finished, their food had arrived.
An hour later, Ianto could say with all honestly that he was glad he’d come. Maybe there was something to be said for getting out of the hub every once in a while after all.
Rhys had stepped outside to take a phone call, and Ianto glanced over the table at Gwen. She looked pretty tonight - maybe a bit knackered, a bit worn around the edges, but she was still glowing with that relentless energy that Ianto found himself a bit envious of at times. And her shirt brought out the green in her eyes brilliantly.
He wasn’t surprised at the slightly sympathetic look she gave him as she reached over and patted his arm across the table, but it brought a slight flush to his cheeks all the same.
“How are you, Ianto?” she asked. Her eyes were dark and concerned.
“I’m fine. Really.”
“None of us are fine, Ianto. Come on, be honest.”
“Okay.” Ianto sighed. “I’m worried. Really worried. But worrying isn’t going to bring anyone back, so…”
Gwen leaned back in her chair, and sighed. “I know…” She took a sip of wine, and then nodded at the bottle. “Come on, let’s finish this off.”
He didn’t argue with her.
They still could hear Rhys’s voice outside the door to the restaurant, loud and animated, even from this distance. Gwen smiled at him through the glass until he waved, and blew her a kiss.
“Sorry,” she told Ianto sheepishly as she turned her attention back to him.
Ianto shook his head, and took a generous sip of wine. It warmed his throat, though he was sure it shouldn’t; surely that feeling was reserved for the stronger stuff that Jack kept in the bottom drawer of his desk, along with two matching tumblers that Ianto always took extra care in cleaning, because they looked like antiques. All the same, he felt good. Warm. A little happy, even, though that felt wrong somehow, with things as they were.
Ianto was sure that something had happened to Jack. Even if it felt like wishful thinking at times, it was the truth. Ianto believed to his core that Jack would have contacted them if he was able to. At least he’d like to think he knew Jack well enough to believe that as strongly as he did. All the same, they’d all exhausted every option they had trying to find him. Wherever Jack was, it was far, far away.
“It’s been a year,” Ianto said finally, when it was clear that Rhys was still deeply embroiled in his conversation, and wasn’t coming back to the table anytime soon.
Gwen turned her attention to him thoughtfully.
“A year since what, love?”
“Torchwood Three. It’s been a year since I joined.”
Gwen’s eyes widened. “Oh Ianto, I’m sorry!”
Ianto choked on a laugh and then covered his mouth with his hand.
Gwen glowered at him from across the table. “What?” she asked, frowning.
“Sorry, I just…” Ianto blinked. Maybe all this wine was getting to him a bit after all. “It’s not like I expected you to know.”
“But still,” she frowned, and patted his arm.
This time she kept her hand there, and the warmth seeped through his jacket. He found himself focusing on it for a moment, gratefully.
“I’m sorry I’m here instead of him,” she finished.
Ianto closed his eyes, and because he could, he imagined for a moment the warmth of Jack’s body. Jack’s shoulder pressed against his side on the hub’s small couch; the palm of Jack’s hand on the small of his back. He blinked, and everything disappeared. Gwen’s hand hadn’t moved.
“Well, even if he was,” Ianto told her, “I don’t think we’d exactly be out celebrating.”
Gwen shook her head. “I’d tell him. I’d make sure he took you out somewhere nice.”
“Thanks,” Ianto said, a small smile playing at the corners of his mouth.
Gwen smiled back, earnest and charming as always. “It’d be the least I could do.”
On their way back to the hub, as Gwen and Rhys lingered around the outside of the restaurant before they parted ways, Ianto found himself staring out at the bay.
It had gotten darker while they’d been in the restaurant, and the water was an iridescent blue-black now. It seemed huge. A colossal body of water, stretching out for miles and miles, though Ianto knew that was hardly the case. Cardiff Bay was no ocean. And this small operation, this was no London, no Torchwood One. But Jack… Jack really was something. Jack was larger than life, even when he wasn’t here. It was infuriating, really.
He’d have to bring up that concern to Jack, if – when - he came back.
Ianto turned his attention back to Gwen, and smiled for a moment at her firm insistence to Rhys that she’d be home before morning, and at Rhys’ knowing smile (it was clear that he knew as well as Ianto did that this was questionable – especially with the rift the way it’d been lately).
Ianto gave Rhys a quick wave as he headed off, and Gwen sidled up to him. She linked their arms together, and after a moment, she stared up at him, and placed a light kiss on his cheek.
“Happy anniversary, Ianto,” she told him with a smile.
“Thanks,” Ianto said, even though he didn’t quite trust his voice, and then he tightened his grip on her arm, enjoying the closeness for a moment.
“He’ll be back,” Gwen said a moment later, as if answering some unspoken question. “Next year he’ll be here to celebrate with you.”
“I know,” Ianto agreed. Then he paused. “He wouldn’t just leave.”
“No,” Gwen said quickly. “No way.”
And about that, there was really nothing more to say. It wasn’t as if they hadn’t had this conversation before, so many times.
“You know,” Gwen said, as they reached the lift, the Millennium Centre jutting out bright and imposing behind them, “Rhys does a pub quiz Thursday nights with Dav and the gang. We should join them sometime.”
Ianto let go of Gwen’s arm as she stepped up onto the lift, and for a second, she hovered at the edge of his perception as the filter started to take hold. He hopped up to join her, and her face became solid again. She grinned at him.
“It’d be brilliant, don’t you think?”
“Yeah,” he said, meaning it. He watched the Millennium Centre and lights of the Plass and finally the sky above disappear into the depths of the hub, which whirred into life below them as they descended.
“Yeah,” he agreed again, with genuine enthusiasm. “Absolutely.”