Spoilers: Pre-Cyberwoman, but general S1.
Notes: 2200 words for the Exposure challenge. Thanks to kaneko and astolat for beta!
On a warm and quiet day, when they were all quite out of their minds with boredom, they got a call about a man in Splott who'd been hit in the head with a lump of metal. It had strange buttons and a lever he was afraid to push, sensibly enough.
"iPod?" Owen argued, not wanting to leave the comfort of his chair or the wilds of the internet and go back to Splott so soon after the last time. "Gameboy?"
"An iPod from the sky?" Jack raised his eyebrows. "A unique marketing idea, I've gotta admit. But I'm thinking probably not. Go with Tosh. Bring it back."
Owen got up, grumbling, and grabbed his jacket. "If it's an iPod I'm keeping it," he said, and swept out the door, Tosh hot on his heels.
"If it's a Gameboy it's mine," Jack yelled after him, then shrugged at Ianto and Gwen. "Gameboy. Sounds like something I'd like, doesn't it?"
Gwen laughed at him, and Ianto had the faintest hint of a smirk on his face as he stooped to collect a stack of cardboard boxes; he'd been busily sorting Rift debris and cataloguing it all day. "It's a toy, sir," he said as he passed Jack on his way into the archives. "A children's toy. Certainly entertaining, but would perhaps clash with your coat."
Jack grinned. "Maybe we can put a 1940s-style faceplate on it," he said, and watched Ianto walk away with a great deal of appreciation. "I have a few toys I'd love to show him, I have to say. What?"
Gwen was shaking her head. "Ianto could own Torchwood with the amount of grief you give him," she said, lips twitching.
"Ianto! You love it, don't you, Ianto?" Jack yelled across the Hub.
"Certainly, sir," Ianto called back, not even bothering to look over his shoulder as he headed down the dark corridor to the archives, and Jack dropped down onto the couch and beamed at Gwen.
"Incorrigible," she said. "The both of you. I'm going to see if I can catch up with Tosh and Owen; it's too nice out to stay trapped in here all day. You should come along. Leave poor Ianto to his filing."
Jack hesitated a moment, considering. It might be entertaining to follow Ianto down to the archives and perhaps mess with his filing system, but Gwen was right. The sun was shining and the day was beautiful, and there would always be more filing. He rose quickly, coat swirling around him, and said, "Come on. I'll teach you the shortcut."
They came back a few hours later, sun-warmed and laughing. Ianto was clearing away coffee mugs from their work area; he looked up and smiled as they passed him. "Come to the Boardroom," Jack said, gripping Ianto's elbow, feeling the good, solid strength of him through his suit. He teased but mostly didn't touch; resisting temptation was all the more difficult when he could tell what he was missing.
"It's been quite some time since I played with a Gameboy," Ianto said, but he didn't hesitate to follow. "I'm not sure I can show you any of the cheats."
"We've got something even better than that," Jack said, tossing him a grin.
"I already have an iPod."
"Better," Jack said, and guided him into the Boardroom. Everyone sat in their usual place, and Jack waited until they were settled before pulling the bit of metal out of his pocket. "Et voila. Meet the Guisomer."
"Meet it?" Tosh asked, a bit repulsed, and everyone leaned back. "Is it alive?"
"No, no," Jack said. "It's sort of like a Polaroid camera. It takes a picture. The fascinating and often quite hilarious thing is that each Guisomer takes a different kind of picture. For example, some may show you as your skeleton, and some may show you with your last sexual partner, and some may show you the last time you laughed so hard that tears rolled down your cheeks."
Owen eyed it, distrustful. "And what does this one do?"
"That's the hilarious part--we won't know unless we try it. So. Everyone game?"
"It's not going to steal our souls or melt our skin off, is it?" Gwen asked, as uneasy as Owen.
"Maybe," Jack said, and raised the Guisomer quickly, snapping a picture of Ianto before the rest of the team was ready. "Or, maybe not! Aren't we relieved? Okay, Ianto, when the layer on top goes grey, pluck it off, and you'll see your picture underneath."
Ianto waited, holding the multi-layered scrap that wasn't quite metal, or fabric, or paper. Jack took all of their pictures, handed them out, and they watched Ianto watching his while they waited for their own to develop. When the top layer was grey, Ianto looked up at Jack, eyebrows raised, then peeled it off.
He took a deep, quick breath, and turned to look behind him. Everyone looked with him, reflexively, but there was nothing to see. Just glass, the Hub beyond, as familiar to them as their homes, or more.
"Ianto?" Tosh asked, concerned.
Ianto turned back and his face was very pale. "I'm all right, Tosh," he said. He put the scrap down on the table and looked at it again, pushed it forward so they all could see. There was Ianto's image, as clear and sharp as a professional photo, in his immaculate suit and tasteful tie. He looked faintly surprised.
Behind him stood a girl. As soon as they all realized it, they looked over Ianto's shoulder again, but there was no one.
"My girlfriend," Ianto said, his smooth voice gone slightly rough--more emotion than Jack had ever seen from him. "Lisa. She--the Cybermen. Canary Wharf."
Gwen reached out and took his hand. Ianto permitted it for a moment, then moved away. He folded the scrap and tucked it into his pocket.
"It'll be dust in a few hours," Jack said quietly. "That's the problem with the Guisomer. The pictures don't last long."
"It doesn't need to last," Ianto said. "Excuse me."
Owen was peeling the top layer off his picture, probably to avoid looking at Ianto, who was rising. Jack stood back to let him pass, and watched him move down the stairs like a man who'd been hit right in the gut. Then he looked back at the rest of the team, who were all studying their pictures intently.
"I've got Gwen standing behind me," Owen said, frowning. "What's this, then, the last person we thought of shagging?"
"Owen!" Gwen said. "That's disgusting!"
"That's not what you said when I was shagging you," Owen said, leering at her.
"In your fantasy." Gwen crossed her arms over her chest and sat back. "Really, Owen."
"Who'd you get then?" Owen asked. "Me? Rhys? How about great big Jack here? Who was it for you?"
"Rhys," Gwen said, and showed them. Tosh cooed that he was lovely, and Gwen's smile went soft. She touched the scrap gently, smoothing the edges with her fingertips. "And you, Tosh?"
"Well, I don't know what it means, but I do know I haven't been thinking of shagging anyone," Tosh said. She put her scrap down on the table. In her picture, she was smiling prettily at the Guisomer, and behind her right shoulder stood herself, somber in a dark suit, jewelry glinting in the light.
"Ooh, Tosh, perverse," Owen said, admiring, and Tosh blushed and punched him.
Jack laughed as Owen yelped and started bitching, and he put the Guisomer back in his pocket. "All right, kids, that's enough," he said, and Owen shut up, though he continued to rub his arm and glare at Tosh. "This wasn't as much fun as the time a Guisomer showed me my last orgasm. Sorry you missed out. Go on back to work now--or better yet, go on home. Enjoy this beautiful day while it's still here."
Gwen beamed at him and jumped up. "Brilliant, Jack, thank you," she said and was out the door and down the stairs in a heartbeat, Tosh and Owen following more slowly, bickering a little as they went.
Jack watched them until they'd gathered their coats and other belongings and rushed out the door. He rarely saw them move quite as fast as when they were escaping work, he thought, and smiled. Then he sat down, and pulled the Guisomer back out of his pocket.
He ran his fingertips along the words transcribed into the bottom of the machine. He'd lied, really. Every Guisomer came labelled--for safety and decency's sake, he'd always heard. Ah well. He'd never claimed to be safe and decent. Jack hesitated a moment longer, then pressed the lever, snapped his own picture. He ripped off the little scrap, and waited for the top layer to go grey. Peeled it off.
Ianto stood behind him, shoulder to shoulder with Gwen, her eyes red and teary, and Owen beside her. Tosh a little to the side.
Jack touched their faces, then folded the scrap and tucked it away in one of his pockets. Picked up the Guisomer and ran his fingers along the label again.
The one you'll next betray.
He'd been right. Not nearly as much fun as orgasms.
Ianto had either a knack for knowing when people were coming down into the lesser-used areas of the Hub, or his own security system. Jack wasn't certain which it was, and knew he didn't want to ask. Extra security could hardly be a bad thing, could it? And Ianto was a dedicated, competent employee. He certainly wasn't napping in the cells, like Owen, or daydreaming over an empty notebook like Gwen.
Still, when Jack turned the corner into the archive, Ianto was busy putting things away, but it was the kind of showy, distracted busy that hinted he'd been slacking off moments before.
Jack stood in the doorway for a moment and watched him, and Ianto seemed to settle into a more efficient, thoughtful rhythm. He'd taken off his jacket and rolled up his shirtsleeves for the dusty job of sorting through old artifacts, and his forearms were sleek, muscled, leading to slender, bony wrists and attractive hands. It was more of Ianto than Jack had seen bare in all the time they'd worked together, he was fairly certain, and he took the time to enjoy it.
"An apology might be in order," he said finally, and Ianto frowned but didn't look away from the box he'd pulled off a high shelf. Stationery, it read. It was next to a box marked Staves and under the box marked Sex Potions. Good old alphabet.
"No, it's not neccessary," Ianto said briskly. "You couldn't have known what the picture would show."
"I couldn't have," Jack agreed, and touched the scrap of fabric in his pocket. He took the Guisomer out and filed it, Devices: Harmless. Small box. Somewhat mislabeled. It happened so often at the Hub, where people sometimes just didn't understand what they were working with. "And I didn't say I was apologizing for that. I didn't say I was apologizing to you, either. I just said an apology might be in order."
"Ah," Ianto said, and nodded. "I see, sir. In that case, yes. I'm sure at some point in the past or in the future, there will be something worth apologizing to someone for."
"Exactly," Jack said. He sorted a Klavian Night Springer out of the Devices: Harmless box and sighed. It wasn't even in the off position. He flicked the little switch and tucked it in his pocket, for depositing in the safe later. "This could have killed a man before he even knew what he was holding, and here it is misfiled under harmless. Sometimes I wonder how Torchwood made it this far."
Ianto didn't respond.
Jack hesitated, then went to stand near him. Revelations, said the box at his eye level, a few below Reader's Digest and above Rex. Ianto was still rifling through stationery, but seemed to have lost his purpose there, if he'd had one. Jack watched light glint off the pale hairs on his forearms, smelled Ianto's aftershave and cologne above the old, musty smells of the Hub.
"Gwen says I'm incorrigible," he told Ianto and, with the apology to his poor, dead girlfriend already out of the way, he reached out and put his hand on Ianto's shoulder, turning him around and holding him firmly. The scrap of paper was heavy in his pocket, and he could see a strange grief in Ianto's eyes, but Gwen was right.
Gwen had no idea.
He leaned forward and kissed Ianto, who was expecting it, who welcomed him, whose mouth was hot and bittersweet. The taste of him made Jack want to waste the rest of the beautiful day locked deep underground with him. At that moment he'd gladly have committed to wasting the rest of time with his mouth on Ianto's, his hands on Ianto, and Ianto's arms wrapping tight around his back, leaving no room and no opportunity for anything else. No chance for things to go wrong.
"Finish up your work, Ianto," he whispered, and kissed him again quickly, one time, two, three. "Come find me, when you're done down here."
Ianto watched him for a long moment, his eyes wide and dark. Their hips were tucked in close together, and Jack could feel his hardness, but he seemed undecided. Jack thought of the picture in his pocket and didn't press him, simply watched as Ianto's uncertainty and grief ebbed, slipped away, and determination took their place.
And then Ianto nodded. "I will," he said, and smiled. "When I'm done."