Characters: Ianto, Tosh (Gen)
Spoilers: Episode tag to "From Out of the Rain"
Notes: Written for noveltea as part of the Fandom Free For All. With thanks to Z, Chrys, Donutsweeper and Rusty for the speediest and most perceptive beta-services known to Livejournal.
Summary: Somehow, Tosh suspects that when Jack instructed her and Ianto to check Torchwood's archives ("Just in case anything else decides to start wandering out and killing people") he hadn't had their impromptu movie night in mind.
We try to grab pieces of our lives as they speed past us. Photographs freeze those pieces and help us remember how we were. We don't know these lost people but if you look around, you'll find someone just like them.
Tosh finishes fitting the video into the machine and scurries back to the sofa, pulling her feet up and tucking the blanket around her again. The screening room is chilly, and even the brief foray to change the film has left her shivering.
"Nearly ready." Ianto is fussing over the equipment he brought down with him: the small alien stove that gives off plenty of heat without a flame, and what looks to be a very large knife.
Tosh raises an eyebrow. "Couldn't you just break up the chocolate with your fingers?"
Smiling a little, Ianto doesn't look up, which is probably a wise decision given the speed he's chopping at. "I could," he says, "but then the chocolate wouldn't be small enough and it wouldn't- ah. Right." Moving quickly, he drops the chocolate into the bottom of the two cups, then lifts the jug of milk from the stove. Tosh watches the concentration on his face as he pours the milk over the chocolate, then stirs it quickly. There are dark circles under his eyes, and even in the dim light, his skin looks too pale. They've all had a bad time in the last week, but Ianto seems to be taking it hardest.
She holds her hands out for the mug, smiling gratefully as he passes it over and the warmth seeps into her cold fingers.
"Where are we going next?" Ianto asks, pulling half of the blanket over his own knees, and cradling his mug between his palms.
"Nineteen-sixty-eight," Tosh says. After a moment of awkward juggling with the hot cup, she manages to get the remote control untangled from the blanket. The stove isn't the only thing they've dragged out of the archives, although Tosh hadn't even known they had a 'universal film player' until Ianto had found the database reference. His instinct for these things would be downright unnerving if it wasn't so useful.
Right now, he's frowning. "Did they have video recorders in nineteen-sixty-eight?"
"Not exactly. Torchwood got hold of a few decades early. Apparently someone decided to play with it."
Ianto snorts. "Yeah. I wonder who that could be."
"Well, he might surprise us this time."
Jack has been in all but one of the films they've watched so far. Somehow, Tosh suspects that when he instructed her and Ianto to check Torchwood's archives ("Just in case anything else decides to start wandering out and killing people") he hadn't had their impromptu movie night in mind. But it isn't like either of them have anything better to do, and Ianto really does make very good hot chocolate.
She takes a cautious sip and presses 'play'. There's been no sound on most of the films, just people and places, some familiar, some less so. They've seen three different Torchwood teams so far, as well as some alien footage that she's pretty sure had to have been faked. Because everyone would have known about it if there had been dinosaurs in London, wouldn't they?
Absently, she stirs her hot chocolate and watches Jack, who seems to be giving a tour of the Hub, wending his way between huge old computers and sleek alien tech, although she's surprised to see what appear to be nineteen-fifties television sets in one corner, because she knows she's seen them around the Hub somewhere recently. She makes a mental note to check, then pulls her attention back to Jack, who's dragging people in front of the camera and forcing them to smile at it. Some go willingly, grinning and waving. Others try to shy away, retreating behind desks or equipment, only to have him chase them down, dragging them out and usually wrapping an arm around them so they can't escape, while his lips move constantly, talking and laughing.
Ianto snorts as Jack bends to kiss a small blonde woman in what is, for Jack, a fairly chaste manner. "Some things really don't change."
Glancing away from the screen, Tosh frowns at him. "Are you..."
"I'm fine." Ianto lifts his cup quickly, taking a long swig.
"It's a little weird, though. Seeing Jack like this. Back then."
There's the briefest of shrugs, and Ianto doesn't take his eyes from the screen. "It's how it is, isn't it? Everything else changes, but Jack's always here. Waiting in the background."
"Doesn't sound much like Jack," she says automatically, but Ianto's got a point. Through all these films, Jack's been a constant, like a piece of scenery, fixed on the stage while everyone else comes and goes. "How long has he been with Torchwood, do you know?"
"Pretty much as long as there's been a Torchwood, I think." Ianto replies. "I found some records of him from decades back, and he sort of comes and goes all through the twentieth century. He only took charge of Torchwood Three at the turn of the millennium, though."
"You wouldn't know it, would you? He always looks so…in charge." On screen, Jack is gesturing for whoever's holding the camera to come round and join him. The image lurches, then steadies, and a man in a dark grey suit makes his way over to Jack, shaking his head the whole time.
Tosh is the first to admit that she's generally better at reading computers than people, but even she can see something different in the way Jack puts his arm around the man, his hand lingering for a moment on his neck, straightening his tie. It's obvious in the way Jack's expression softens when the man glares at him, re-adjusting his tie to actual straightness, and the way Jack laughs this time, gentle and genuine, different from his usual broad grins and dirty chuckles. Tosh knows those looks and gestures, because she's seen them on Jack in real life.
When she looks at Ianto, his gaze is back on the screen and his expression is unreadable in the flickering light.
"Ianto-" she begins, but he shakes his head. Draining his hot chocolate, he puts the cup down and gets to his feet. It's a weird moment, the man on the screen and the man in front of her, both in neat suits, both looking at Jack with the same expressions on their faces. The resemblance is almost uncanny and Tosh has to blink to remind herself that she's not seeing double.
It's not like they don't all know about Jack's past, often in more detail than they really needed, but this is different. They're not getting the details that Jack chooses to tell them, this time. There's nothing hidden in the expressions on the screen, nothing careful or guarded or overblown to make the story better. It's simple and honest, and Tosh feels like she's intruding on something private.
No. She knows this is something private, and she looks away from the images just as Jack pulls the smaller man close and presses his lips to his forehead. As with his earlier kiss, it could be chaste, but she knows it isn't.
Looking away draws her eyes to Ianto, who is watching the screen with an odd expression. She didn't expect jealousy, but the obvious affection surprises her. There's something deeper, though, as he takes another step towards the screen, and the men there come back into Tosh's field of vision. The mirroring is even stronger now, as the unknown man tries to fend Jack off, even as he stays within the circle of Jack's arm. That man and Ianto share the same expression, somewhere between exasperation and fondness, and Tosh finds herself smiling.
The room goes dark as the film comes to an end, and she can't see Ianto's face at all as he slowly comes back to the sofa. He doesn't say anything as he takes her now-empty mug, and Tosh is content to leave things unsaid. She's not really sure what she could say, anyway. Instead, she just watches as he takes the cups over to the small table, putting them down next to the now-cold milk jug and remains of the chocolate.
After a moment, he looks up at her, raising an eyebrow. "Aren't we going to watch the next one, then?"
Tosh hesitates. "Ianto-"
"Tosh." He's shaking his head. "That was forty years ago. Anyway, it's kind of good to know. That some things don't change."
He's right. Of course he's right. Jack's still Jack, infuriating and fascinating in equal measure, and there is an odd kind of comfort in knowing that. Tosh has had enough turbulence to last her a lifetime – several lifetimes – and life at Torchwood isn't exactly calm and steady. Maybe there's nothing wrong in having one thing stay the same.
Nodding, she uncurls from under the blanket, shivering a little in the coldness of the room. As she goes over to the box of films, she hears Ianto start up the alien stove again.
"Where do you want to go next?" she asks, lifting the top one to see how many are left.
"Your turn to choose."
It's not like she can choose something that Jack absolutely won't be in, if Ianto's right, so she just picks up the first one that comes to hand, tugging it out of the box without really looking at it. The machine accepts the VHS cassette as willingly as it did all the others, and starts playing before she can get back to the sofa.
This turns out to be a good thing, because it means Tosh can turn it off in five seconds flat.
"So," Ianto says, clearing his throat a little.
"Well." Tosh is very, very grateful for the gloom in here, because she's sure she's blushing like a beacon.
There's a moment's silence. When Ianto speaks again, she can hear the laughter in his voice, and it lets her smile too instead of just wanting to die of embarrassment. It's lifted that strange tension between them, at least, and really, after all her time at Torchwood, it's nice that she can still be surprised.
"You know," Ianto says thoughtfully, "I always did wonder what Jack did with that CCTV footage."
"What-" She didn't mean to ask, but fortunately Ianto interrupts her before she can make things any worse.
"Hide and seek," he says simply, and even in the darkness, she's pretty sure she sees him wink. "Jack cheats."