Word Count: 2529
Characters: Ianto, Jack.
Contains: Fluff, snow, and romance.
Written For: mahmfic’s picture prompt, at torchwood_fest 2017.
Summary: Ianto isn’t into public displays of affection, but on a very cold winter’s day, maybe just this once he could be persuaded.
Beta: My lovely friend milady_dragon. Thanks so much!
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
Jack couldn’t say he was happy about it, but he did kind of understand Ianto’s reluctance when it came to public displays of affection. While a lot of things had improved over the decades since he’d found himself stranded on Earth, there were still a lot of people who didn’t approve of same sex relationships, and nobody wants to give such people any excuse to hurl verbal, or even physical, abuse at them.
Ianto wasn’t a coward, not by any stretch of the imagination, and he was well able to stand up for himself, but he was also an intensely private person who didn’t relish drawing attention to himself, particularly when he was out with Jack. If people would only pay them as little mind as they did heterosexual couples, then maybe it would be different, but unfortunately the Earth was still a way off from that kind of acceptance being the norm.
It made Jack sad. He would have loved to walk through the city hand-in-hand with Ianto, showing everyone how lucky he was to have such a gorgeous boyfriend, but instead, even when they were out on a date, his lover kept enough distance between them that they couldn’t even brush against each other by accident.
Jack had spent the night at Ianto’s flat, which was not an unusual occurrence these days, following a late Rift alert the previous evening. In fact, when he thought about it, he spent more nights in Ianto’s bed than he did in his own quarters at the Hub. That at least was an encouraging sign; it proved that Ianto wanted to spend time with him outside work. Really, aside from the lack of handholding and other affectionate gestures in public, everything between them was pretty much perfect, but although Jack knew he shouldn’t be greedy, it didn’t keep him from wanting more. He lived in hope.
Christmas was only a couple of weeks away and Cardiff’s first snowfall of winter had happened sometime during the night. It hadn’t been much more than a light dusting, but it brought an extra chill to the air and both men had necessarily wrapped up warm before going outside, or as warm as they could. Despite being swathed in overcoat and scarf, with a woolly hat on his head, Jack couldn’t help noticing the way Ianto rubbed his bare hands together and blew on his fingers as they hurried though the chill air towards the SUV. It wasn’t like him to be unprepared for inclement weather, but his gloves had been ruined the night before, and when Jack asked him why he didn’t have a spare pair, he’d explained the ruined gloves had been the last spare pair he’d had left. Working for Torchwood tended to be even harder on gloves than it was on other items of clothing. Jack had offered his own gloves, but Ianto had refused because, as he’d pointed out, then it would be Jack who had cold hands, which wouldn’t be a good idea since he was driving; even with the heater going, the cold of the steering wheel would eat into his fingers.
When they were less than halfway to where the SUV was parked, it started to snow again, fat, lazy flakes drifting slowly down to join their fellows already coating the ground. Jack glanced up at the clouds, heavy and white, making the sky appear much lighter than it should so early in the morning. Looked like this was only the beginning of the snow. “This isn’t the weather to be gloveless in; we’d better stop on the way to the Hub and get you some new ones.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Jack! There’s nowhere open at this time in the morning, or at least nowhere that sells gloves. It’s not even six-thirty; the shops won’t open until nine. I’ll have to go later. Until then, I’ll be fine.”
“But what if you get frostbite?”
Ianto gave an undignified but amused snort. “We’re in Cardiff, not the Arctic Circle! It’s a ten-minute drive to the Hub even in this weather, and the SUV has a heater; I’m not about to freeze before we get there, and if necessary I can shove my hands in my pockets.” They weren’t very roomy, but they’d do in a pinch.
“Well, if you’re sure,” Jack said dubiously. Ianto could be impossibly stubborn about some things, and Jack had learned long ago to pick his arguments with care.
“I am; now stop worrying!”
It really would have been fine too, except that a Rift alert came through to Jack’s wrist strap before they’d made it to the end of Ianto’s street.
“Sorry; looks like we won’t be going straight to the Hub after all,” Jack apologised as Ianto logged into Mainframe from the SUV’s onboard computers.
“Not your fault,” Ianto replied, darting a smile Jack’s way. “The Rift can always be relied on to be inconvenient.”
“You noticed that too, huh?” Jack grinned back. “What have we got?”
“Looks like something’s come through up by Cathay’s Cemetery, other side of Eastern Avenue, near the train tracks. Don’t know what, but according to these readings, it’s not organic, which is good news. Chances are, it means we won’t have another chase like the one last night.”
“That’s some consolation, I guess.” Jack took a left at the next intersection and headed towards the cemetery.
Despite the weather, they made good time, turning into Ullswater Avenue just under twenty-five minutes later. That was as close as they could get to the coordinates of the Rift spike by car; they’d have to go the rest of the way on foot. Snow was still falling, but not heavily, the flakes floating down through the still air like feathers. Jack parked by the kerb and turned off the engine. Without it, the whole world seemed still and silent, like it was holding its breath. Jack looked through the windscreen for a moment before turning to Ianto.
“You know, if this thing’s inanimate then there’s no reason for both of us to go out in the cold. You should stay here where it’s warmer.”
“I’m without gloves, not an invalid,” Ianto retorted, rolling his eyes. “Besides, just because it’s inanimate doesn’t automatically mean it can’t be dangerous, Jack; you know that as well as I do. Plus, we don’t know how big it is and you might need help carrying it. We should both go.” Ianto opened his door and slid out, slamming it behind him and adjusting his scarf before shoving his hands in his coat pockets. “Come on. Quicker we do this, the sooner we can be back in the car.”
Ianto strode off down the pavement and Jack hurried after his lover, catching up to him just as he reached the railway lines that ran past the end of the road. Squeezing through a hole in the chain link fence that was supposed to prevent people from wandering onto the tracks, and checking both ways, they crossed to the other side and turned right, the rails on their right and the cemetery on their left. According to Ianto’s PDA, which he’d checked before leaving the car, and which was now crammed in his coat pocket alongside his right hand, whatever they were looking for should be somewhere along the stretch of gravel and weeds between where they were and the vicinity of Heathwood Grove, which was just past the end of the cemetery.
Thankfully, although they couldn’t see it through the clouds the sun was rising so it was gradually getting lighter; a good thing as it saved them having to juggle with torches. Nevertheless, even with a relatively small area to search, it still proved slow going. The falling snow affected visibility, and leant a dreamlike quality to their surroundings, which was abruptly broken as a train sped past, its wheels clattering noisily on the tracks. The air displaced by its swift passage tugged at them and made the falling flakes swirl giddily. They pressed themselves up against the cemetery fence until the last carriage was past them and speeding into the distance before continuing their hunt.
When they found what they were looking for, identifying it by the amount of Rift energy clinging to its surface, it was a bit of an anticlimax. That wasn’t surprising, since the Rift dumped a lot more junk on the city than it did useful items. On the plus side, it wasn’t a weapon of mass destruction, or anything else with a potential to cause harm, but coming all that way to retrieve a rusty old nineteen forties vintage doll’s pram with no wheels didn’t seem worth the effort.
Ianto reached to pick it up and winced at the icy chill of the metal against his bare and already cold fingers, recoiling and blowing on his hands. “God, why does metal always have to feel so cold?” he asked, shivering.
“Tosh could probably explain if you really want to know. Don’t worry; I’ve got it. Can’t have you freezing you fingers off.” Jack picked the pram up and they trudged back the way they’d come, crossing the tracks once more opposite the hole in the fence, and squeezing back through, Ianto first, then the pram, and finally Jack.
Back at the SUV, they shoved their find in the boot and climbed gratefully into the car. Jack turned on the engine and welcome warmth began to flow through the vents, heating the air. Ianto held his frozen hands in front of the nearest vent, feeling them gradually thawing. What a relief. He and Jack had been out in the cold for a good thirty-five minutes, and Ianto had lost almost all sensation in his fingers, but now they began to tingle painfully as feeling returned. He wasn’t sure which was worse, the numbness, or the throbbing ache that seemed to emanate from every bone in his hands.
Putting the SUV into gear, Jack turned the bulky vehicle easily despite the narrowness of the street and started back towards the Hub.
“At least we can go back to the Hub now for coffee and a late breakfast,” Jack said, trying to be encouraging.
“That’s a nice thought,” Ianto agreed, relaxing in his seat as the ache in his hands began to ease.
Naturally, halfway back to the Hub, another Rift alert came through.
“Charming,” Ianto grumbled. “The Rift must know I’m gloveless; it’s got a sadistic streak.”
Jack shook his head. “It’s not sentient,” he said, amused.
“I’m not so sure about that. I think it likes tormenting us. Why else would it send us running all over Cardiff whenever the weather’s bad?”
Chuckling, Jack focused on the road ahead. “Where to this time?”
Ianto checked the onboard computers again and groaned. “Other side of the city, of course. Capital Business Park, off Wentloog Road. Looks like another inanimate object.”
“There, see?” Jack said. “If the Rift really was intent on tormenting us, it would have sent something living so we’d have to chase it through the snow.”
“Don’t tempt fate.” Ianto glared at Jack, who just laughed again, steering the SUV through the early morning traffic.
Arriving at their destination, Jack found a parking spot and the two men set out in search of the day’s second Rift Gift. If anything, it was even colder out now, but thanks to the business park having an excellent CCTV network, which Ianto used one of Tosh’s ingenious programs to hack into, they had been able to pinpoint the object’s location before leaving the SUV’s cosy interior so it wasn’t necessary to be out in the cold for long.
Nevertheless, by the time they returned, this time carting a small, carved box containing the board and pieces for an alien game Jack claimed was similar to chess, but designed for four players, Ianto’s hands felt like blocks of ice again. Two pairs of latex gloves from the box Owen kept in the SUV were a poor substitute for good leather lined with thermal fleece, and even tucking his hands in his armpits as he and Jack had slipped and slithered through the snow back to the car hadn’t served to do more than take the edge off the chill.
“Right,” Jack announced as he started the engine. “Shops will be opening by the time we get back to the city centre, so we’re going to stop off and get you some new gloves before going back to the Hub; maybe a mug of hot chocolate too.”
“I’m not going to argue with that,” Ianto replied, huddled in his seat, trying to thaw his hands in front of the heating vents yet again.
After a lot of searching, Jack eventually found an empty space in a car park not far from Cardiff Central station; farther from the shops than they would have liked, but with only eleven shopping days left until Christmas, the city was packed with shoppers trying to beat the last-minute rush. Snow was still falling, slowly but steadily, and the cars to either side of them were already covered in a thin film.
“Lovely weather,” Ianto sighed, trying to stuff his hands into the inadequate protection of pockets that weren’t deep enough for the purpose in order to prevent them getting frozen yet again. Snow was settling on his woolly hat and in Jack’s thick hair. Speaking of Jack, he was doing something to the rear window of the car next to theirs. “What are you up to now?”
Jack stepped back with a hopeful smile, letting Ianto see. Written in the snow were the words, ‘I want to hold your hand’ followed by a little love heart.
Before he could say anything more, Jack cut him off. “We’ve got a fair walk ahead of us through the snow before we get to anywhere selling decent gloves and your hands are going to get cold again. If we each wear one of my gloves and then hold hands, maybe it won’t be so bad.” He peeled off one glove and held it out. “Who’s going to notice in the snow anyway? They’ve all got much more important things to think about than two guys holding hands.”
Ianto hesitated a moment longer, but his hands were already starting to feel the cold. “Well… Go on then.” Taking his hands out of his pockets, he accepted the offered glove and pulled it on, finding it still pleasantly warm from Jack’s hand. “Maybe just this once.”
Smiling so widely Ianto was sure his teeth must be aching from the cold, Jack wrapped the fingers of his left hand around Ianto’s right, stuffing both their hands in the capacious pocket of his greatcoat. “There, isn’t that better?”
There was no point lying about it. “Actually, it is.” Ianto smiled slightly.
“Ready to go hunting for gloves?”
Ianto nodded and side-by-side, they set off across the snow-covered car park in the direction of Cardiff’s main shopping area. Despite the cold, Jack couldn’t help hoping that they wouldn’t find suitable gloves too quickly; he wanted to make this moment last for as long as possible.