Characters: Ianto, Ianto’s family, OMCs.
Spoilers: Set pre-series.
Summary: One dismal autumn day, teenage Ianto broods about his life and his demanding father.
Word Count: 1095
Written For: Challenge 175: Push at beattheblackdog.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
Ianto sat on one of the swings in the playground, gripping the grimy chains and idly rocking himself back and forth, feet never leaving the ground. He’d had to get out of the house, just for a bit, away from all the arguments and strained silences, but he’d had nowhere to go and no money so he’d just wandered the streets until he’d wound up here. He’d have to go home soon though; he’d catch hell from his mam if he wasn’t back in time for dinner. Not that he was hungry.
He stared gloomily around at the battered slide, the wonky roundabout, the graffiti-covered seesaw and the rusting climbing frame; aside from him the playground was deserted, most likely because of the damp, drizzly autumn weather. Everything looked smaller than it used to.
‘That’s ‘cause you’ve grown, you twat,’ he reminded himself. He glanced sidelong at the swing at the other end of the row, the one he’d been on that day when he was seven and his dad had pushed him too hard. He’d been begging his dad to stop, saying he didn’t want to go any higher, that he wanted to get off…
“You’ll never be a man with that kind of attitude, boyo. You wanted me to push you so I’m pushing,” his dad had retorted.
“Dad, please! I’m slipping!”
“Don’t be such a baby!”
Of course his dad had been full of contrition a few moments later when Ianto had slipped right off the seat, lost his grip on the chains, and landed awkwardly on the hard, cracked concrete, breaking his right leg in two places. Ianto still loved his dad, but he’d lost his trust in him that day. He’d been scared, but his dad had ignored his fears and kept pushing, too hard. He’d always pushed too hard. Ianto had never swung on the swings again after that day, and wouldn’t even sit on the one at the far end. It held nothing but bad memories.
How long had it been since he’d last come to this rundown old playground? Two years? Three? He was thirteen now, not a little kid anymore, too old to play here, and yet his dad was still pushing him, harder than ever.
After he finished junior school, after the long, hot summer holidays, after he started at the new comprehensive, it seemed like all he’d heard from his dad was, “Work harder, you have to push yourself if you’re ever going to get on in life. You can do better than this, you’re not trying, boy! You want to be a loser like those so-called friends you hang out with? You want to wind up in some dead-end job?”
Deep down, Ianto knew his dad just wanted a better life for his son than he’d had himself, better than the other boys on the estate could look forward to. He wanted Ianto to do more, be more, make something of himself, but he just never let up, not for a second. It didn’t matter how hard Ianto worked, how high his grades were, how well he did in his exams, it was never good enough for his dad. He just kept pushing, kept demanding, and if Ianto’s grades slipped even a little his dad’s disappointment in him was palpable.
“I expect more of you than this, boy.”
His mates thought he was daft for trying so hard; they couldn’t see the point.
“You should stand up to ‘im,” Barry said. “Tell ‘im you’ve had enough and you’re not doing it anymore. There’s more to life that busting your arse to please your old man.”
Derek agreed. “What’s the use of staying home doing piles of homework? I never bother; my dad doesn’t care. I’ll be going to work with him at the plant when I leave school anyway; there’s always jobs to be had there and at least I’ll have some money in my pocket. Might not even bother finishing school. I mean it’s not like I’ll ever need history, or geography, or French, or any of the other crap.”
“Easy for you to say. You don’t have to live with my dad,” Ianto had muttered. He could only imagine what his dad would be like if he started skipping classes like his mates, hanging out with them after school instead of doing his homework. He was bad enough as it was, nagging and criticising, and always pushing. If Ianto got a B, his dad wanted to know why he hadn’t got an A, and if he got an A…
“If you’d made an effort that might have been an A+. Do you want to wind up working in a factory, boy? Because that’s where you’re headed if you don’t knuckle down and work harder!”
The worst of it was that even if he did get really great GCSE results it wouldn’t do him any good; his dad would want him to stay on at school another two years, take A-levels, and then what? There was no money for him to go to university, even if he had a mind to, which he didn’t. No matter how well he did at school, in the end he was still going to be stuck in a dead-end job of some description. These days employers wanted people with more than a few GCSEs and A-Levels; they expected university degrees, or at least a college diploma. Rhiannon was working part-time stocking shelves in the local supermarket because it was the only job she could find that didn’t require special qualifications.
With a heavy sigh Ianto stood up from the swing, shoved his hands in his pockets, and mooched back across the playground towards the street, heading for home.
“Soon as I hit sixteen I’m getting out of here, leave the estate behind, go to… I dunno, somewhere far from here, London maybe. Anywhere’s better than this,” he whispered fiercely. “I’ll go and I’ll never come back, not for anything.” He glanced up at the overcast sky, gradually darkening towards evening, and wished he was already gone. “Three more years.” It seemed more like an eternity, but it would pass eventually. Then he’d quit school and be free to live his life the way he wanted, no more having to put up with his dad demanding more from him when he was already giving his all.
One of these days when his dad pushed, he was going to push right back, dig in his heels and tell him, ‘Enough!” He swore to himself he would.