Title: The Play’s The Thing – Sequel to ‘The YoungPerformers’
Characters: Jack, Ianto, Andy, assorted OCs
Word Count: 3384
Summary: The three boys work and play their way through Secondary School, learning a lot about all kinds of things along the way.
Warnings: Completely AU, set in a universe where Torchwood doesn’t exist.
Written For: My cottoncandy_bingo square Play.
Beta: The wonderful zazajb, my advisor in all things school related. Thanks so much, your advice and assistance have been invaluable!
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood or any of the characters. Which is sad.
A/N: This is the fourth in a series of AU stories for different prompts on my bingo card, following Jack and Ianto through their school years and beyond. There are seven in total, of wildly varying lengths, this one being the longest.
A/N2: Yes, I know the quote I’ve used as the title of this one is from a different play by Shakespeare, but it still seemed apt for this part of the story.
Jack was staying over at Ianto’s that night. They often spent the night at each other’s homes and neither set of parents minded as long as they knew where their sons would be. As soon as they arrived, they headed up to Ianto’s bedroom, changed out of their school uniforms, put on some music and settled down to get their homework out of the way. Ianto, always the more sensible of the two, had made the rule early on that homework should be done first so that the rest of their time was their own. Throwing themselves onto the twin beds, they set to work; they had Chemistry, History and Maths tonight. Jack groaned.
“Too much homework.”
“You think this is bad, just wait ‘til next year.”
Picking up a pillow, Jack swatted Ianto with it.
“Don’t remind me.”
An hour and a quarter later, Ianto closed his books. Jack hadn’t quite finished his History homework.
“I’m thirsty. You want a coke?”
“God, yes, I’m parched. I should be finished with this by the time you get back.”
Down in the kitchen, Ianto filled two tall glasses with cola and ice. He eyed the pans on the cooker and sniffed the air.
“How long until dinner?” he asked his mother.
“About an hour. I’ll call you when it’s ready.” Ianto was gone again before she even finished speaking. Sometimes she despaired of having an actual conversation with her son. He was like a Ninja teenager; he’d pop up, say something, grab something food-related and vanish again.
Back in his room, Ianto put Jack’s glass on the bedside cabinet then sat on his bed and gulped down half of his own drink.
“Thought you said you’d be finished by now.”
Jack kept writing for a few more minutes, then sat up and closed his book.
“Finally!” Ianto rolled his eyes and grinned.
Jack stuck his tongue out.
“Okay, smarty-pants! Just ‘cause I’m not as clever as you are! I may have to work harder than you do and it might take me a bit longer, but I get there in the end!” Snatching up his glass, he drained it in a few gulps. “Ah, I needed that!” He set the empty glass back down beside Ianto’s and looked over at his friend, grinning.
Ianto smiled back at him.
“And now the rest of the evening is ours! So what d’you want to do?”
“Well…” Jack hesitated.
“We could try the kissing.”
Ianto turned a brighter shade of pink than Jack had ever seen before. He really was beautiful. Jack was sure his resident butterflies were turning somersaults.
“Okay.” Ianto sounded oddly shy. “If you’re sure you don’t mind. Umm… d’you think we should be standing or sitting?”
“Let’s try sitting first.” Jack joined Ianto on his bed, sitting right next to him and taking his hand. Ever since they’d first met, they’d been used to holding hands, cuddling, kissing each other on the cheek or forehead or nose, but this was different; they’d never kissed on the mouth. Ianto looked at him, blue eyes wide and a shy smile on his lips. Jack leaned in carefully and pressed a soft kiss to that perfect little smile, eyes drifting closed, and the rest of the world seemed to fall away.
When they parted a few minutes later, they just stared dreamily at each other for a while, not saying anything. At some point, their arms had found their way around each other and somehow they’d ended up lying down, even though neither of them could remember that happening. Jack reflected dreamily that it was a good thing they hadn’t been standing. He licked his lips, tasting coke and something else that could only be Ianto.
“Mmmmm. Don’t know about you, but I think we’re pretty good at kissing already.”
“Natural talent, obviously,” Ianto agreed. “I think we should keep practicing though, just to be sure,” he added, pulling Jack down for another kiss.
“I can live with that.”
Half an hour later, lying with their arms around each other catching their breath, they looked at each other, grinning giddily.
“How come we never did this before?” Jack asked.
“Dunno. Maybe because we’re both idiots?”
“That must be it,” Jack agreed, nodding. “There’s just one slight problem.”
Ianto looked at Jack, frowning.
“What might that be, then?”
“How the hell are you gonna be convincing kissing a girl?”
“Oh shit, I’d forgotten all about that! Just kill me now!” Ianto buried his face against Jack’s shoulder, his voice muffled. Lifting his head, he added, “At least now I know why I’ve never really been interested in girls.”
“Because you prefer guys?”
“No. Because I prefer you.”
“That’s good, ‘cause I prefer you. I think I always have, from the first time I saw you. I got butterflies when you smiled at me, and after all these years, I still do.”
Leaning over, Ianto pressed his lips to Jack’s.
“I’m only ever really happy when I’m with you, you know.”
“Me too. I hope we’ll always be together. Remember our promise? Forever and always.”
“How could I forget? Forever and always, you and me.”
Before either of them could say anything else, they heard Ianto’s mam calling them that dinner would be ready in ten minutes, and they scrambled off the bed, hurrying to get themselves tidy and washed up before heading downstairs to eat, hoping no one would notice anything different about them.
Rehearsals were soon underway, both at school and at home. This would be the longest play any of the students had ever taken part in and there was much more to remember, so as the weeks passed Jack and Ianto had little time for anything other than school, homework and rehearsing. However, they still managed to find time for ‘kissing practice’ whenever they were alone together. The only trouble with that was the way it made it difficult to think about anything else. Ianto sometimes found himself daydreaming about Jack’s lips in class, and if not for his photographic memory he might have found his grades slipping. Jack was having similar problems too, but he knew anything he missed in class, Ianto would explain to him later. For some reason, Jack found it much easier to remember things when he watched the words forming on Ianto’s lips.
“D’you think we should tell our parents about us?” Ianto asked Jack idly one day, as they were lying under the big tree in Ianto’s back garden rehearsing their lines.
Jack shot bolt upright.
Propping himself up on his elbow, Ianto looked at his boyfriend in surprise.
“O-kay. I was just askin’.”
“I know. Sorry.” Jack grinned sheepishly, flopping down beside Ianto again. “Guess I’m just worried about how they’d take it. They might stop us having sleepovers, or worse, say we can’t see each other at all outside school.”
“Is that likely? I mean, mam and tad like you.” Ianto was looking worried now.
“I’m probably overreacting. I just don’t want to take chances, not right now in the middle of rehearsals.”
Ianto looked thoughtful.
“No, you’re right, maybe we should wait a bit. Just until we’re sixteen. Or until GCSEs are over.”
“Or until we start college…”
That made Ianto laugh.
“How about we just play it by ear? If they don’t notice, we won’t say anything but if they ask, we won’t lie.”
“Sounds like a plan. Right, now that’s sorted, let’s get back to work.”
They flopped back down, side by side, and picked up their scripts again.
The dress rehearsals for the play proved to be quite an adventure. The costumes were unlike anything they’d ever worn before; real costumes, mostly made by the group of students who’d volunteered to work on wardrobe for the production, with the help of the school’s two needlework teachers. Jack couldn’t help feeling envious of Emma, dressed in Juliet’s flowing gown.
The boys’ costumes were doublets and hose. The doublets had frills and lace and there were odd little feathered hats. Not quite as glamorous as Juliet’s costume, but still pretty elegant to look at. Wearing them, on the other hand…
Jack shifted uncomfortably.
“What’s wrong now?” Ianto giggled.
“My hose are chafing.”
“I told you to wear briefs instead of boxers.”
“I know, but all my briefs were in the wash. Damn it!”
“Everything alright, boys?” Mrs Marshall, the grandmotherly senior needlework teacher asked as she went around checking everyone’s costumes for the first full dress rehearsal.
“Everything’s fine,” Jack squeaked.
“Jack’s finding his hose uncomfortable,” Ianto explained, getting a murderous glare from Jack in response.
Mrs Marshall studied the garment in question, to Jack’s acute embarrassment.
“I see. Well, whip them off and let me have them, dear, I’ll make some adjustments.”
Looking like a deer in headlights, Jack stood frozen as Mrs Marshall wandered over to the next group of costumed players. Ianto grabbed him by the elbow and steered him to their curtained dressing area, helped peel the offending garment off and took it to the seamstress, who examined it and nodded.
“Ah, I can see what’s causing the problem. I’ll have these fixed in a jiffy.”
She was as good as her word and soon Ianto was back with Jack, helping him thread his feet back into his costume.
“I’m glad I wasn’t born in the 14th century. Can you imagine having to dress like this all the time? I mean I don’t mind when it’s just a couple of hours a day for a performance, but all day every day? It would be a nightmare.” He looked at Ianto and grinned. “You look really good though. Red suits you.”
Ianto’s ears went red to match his costume, making Jack grin as he adjusted his hose.
“Wow, that’s amazing! I don’t know what Mrs Marshall did, but they feel so much better!”
“You can thank her later, right now we’d better get to rehearsal.”
After a week of dress rehearsals, any problems caused by the costumes had been ironed out. Being in costume made a huge difference, even more so than in previous plays. Somehow, speaking Shakespearean English seemed to come more naturally when they were dressed appropriately. Jack and Ianto felt almost like they were real 14th century courtiers; their costumes altered the way they moved and they stood up straight instead of automatically falling into the teenage boy’s traditional slouch.
“I think you might be slightly taller than me now,” Jack commented in surprise.
“Probably because of the shoes,” Ianto chuckled. “First night tomorrow, I can hardly wait!!
“I know! And we get to do three performances this year. Guess the school wanted to get their money’s worth out of the costumes.”
They headed back to their changing area, slipping out of their costumes and pulling on jeans and t-shirts.
“I’m excited, but a little sad too,” Ianto confessed. “This is what we’ve been working towards for weeks, but in three more days it’ll all be over and we don’t even have a play to look forward to next year.”
“That really sucks. I know it’s because of our exams, and I get that they’re important, but still… It’s gonna be a really dull year.”
“There’s still drama club to look forward to until that finishes after Christmas.”
“It’s better than nothing, I suppose. Let’s get going. Race you to the bike racks!” Jack raced off before Ianto could move.
Shaking his head, Ianto grinned. Jack always managed to cheat. Picking up his bag, he headed after his boyfriend, laughing.
The three performances of the Year 10 play went down a storm. There were the usual minor errors and mishaps on first night, but nothing that would spoil the show for the audience. Jack and Andy’s swordfight looked quite convincing, and Jack died well. In rehearsals, he’d sometimes hammed it up, making everyone laugh, but when it came down to the public performances he went down almost gracefully. Watching him brought a lump to Ianto’s throat and tears to his eyes as he realised for the first time that someday, hopefully not until far into the future, he would lose the person who had come to mean more to him than anyone in the world. The thought brought added poignancy to his performance and the audience’s applause at the end of the scene was deafening.
After each performance, the boys found someone to take their photograph. They wanted to remember everything about these three nights; the memories would have to sustain them throughout the next year.
It was after their final performance, when Jack and Ianto had already changed back into their own clothes and were packing up their costumes to get them cleaned, that Emma, Ianto’s Juliet, approached them.
“Hi, Ianto. Can I talk to you for a minute?”
“Sure. What’s up?”
Emma blushed slightly.
“Umm, I was wondering if you might like to go to a movie with me tomorrow night?”
“Oh. Look, Emma, you’re a nice girl, but I can’t, I’m sorry. It’s just… You know Jack and I really want to make a career out of acting, but it’s going to take a lot of hard work. We already don’t have much free time what with all the homework we’ve got to do over the holidays, and we’re going to be volunteering at the local community theatre all summer, working backstage. Neither of us really has any time for dating, it wouldn’t be fair to you to say yes and then not have any time for you. You deserve better than that.”
Emma was obviously disappointed, but she took it pretty well, considering.
“Oh. Okay. It was great working with you, Ianto. If you change your mind, I’ll be around. Have a good summer.”
“You too, probably see you at school next term.”
“Probably.” Emma hurried away and Ianto winced.
“You let her down a lot nicer than I would have,” Jack commented, squeezing Ianto’s hand briefly.
“Yeah, well she’s nice for a girl. I didn’t want to hurt her more than I had to. She worked really hard as Juliet.”
“At least you only had to kiss her on the cheek in the end.”
“God, yes!” It had been such a relief when he’d been instructed to just peck her on the cheek rather than going for a full-on snog. Much less embarrassing on stage.
“I guess when we’re professional actors we’ll have to get used to kissing girls.”
“Mmm, I suppose so. Cross that bridge when we come to it though. I’ll do it when I have to, but not before.”
As Ianto had predicted, their summer holiday was beyond busy. They had a pile of homework to get through, which they worked at in the mornings, then after a quick lunch they caught a bus to the theatre, where they helped with scenery, ran errands, swept up and made a lot of tea and coffee. Well, Ianto made the coffee, he seemed to be the only person who could coax something drinkable from the ancient machine. In fact the quality of the coffee got significantly better after he gave it a thorough clean and persuaded everyone to chip in so he could buy some decent beans to use. Soon, Jack was as addicted to Ianto’s coffee as everyone else was. He half expected the stage crew to try to keep them when the summer came to an end, just so Ianto could continue to satisfy their coffee cravings.
However, all good things have to come to an end. Almost before they knew it, the start of term was approaching. They checked that all their homework was done, endured the annual school supplies shopping trip and packed their school bags ready for the first day of their final year.
In Ianto’s bedroom the night before their return to school, they lay together on Ianto’s bed, arms around each other, thinking about the future.
“One more year of secondary school, then if we do well enough in our GCSEs this time next year we’ll be getting ready to start college,” Jack murmured.
“We’ll really have to work hard this year, especially in History, English and Maths.”
“Why Maths?” Jack sounded puzzled.
“Jack! Everything comes down to numbers in the end. Trust me, doing well in Maths will be important.”
“I’ll take your word for it. We have to get up early, we should get some sleep.”
“You’d better get into your own bed then,” Ianto sighed.
“I’d rather stay here with you.”
“Me too, but I don’t want to freak mam out if she comes barging in here first thing in the morning to make sure we’re up.”
“Maybe we should have spent the night at mine. At least I have a double bed.”
“My house is a mile closer to school though, means we get an extra fifteen minutes in bed in the morning.”
“Good point. Those extra minutes are important!” Jack reluctantly climbed off the bed, bending to kiss his boyfriend.
“Night, Ianto. Sweet dreams.”
Their final year at secondary school proved to be every bit as hard as they were expecting, with what seemed to be twice as much homework as before. A lot of their classmates seemed determined to goof off and do as little work as possible, so Ianto and Jack spent most breaks and lunchtimes in the library, getting a head start on homework. They were glad to still have drama club meetings twice a week at lunch; that was their only respite from the daily grind of schoolwork and Jack often thought it was the only thing keeping them both sane.
Christmas came and went. Jack got a new digital camera and took photos of everyone to disguise the fact that he was mainly photographing Ianto.
Ianto got a brand new laptop, which he used for both schoolwork and fun, on those rare occasions when he had time for fun.
Almost before they knew it, they were sitting their GCSEs, which were pure torture, as exams usually are. Days of revising, quizzing each other on every subject were followed by hours of sitting in silence among dozens of other poor souls, trying to concentrate on the questions in front of them. By the time their last exam papers were gathered up they’d both decided they didn’t want to take another exam for the rest of their lives.
“Ugh,” Jack muttered, slumping onto the low wall outside the gym where they’d just finished their last exam. “Never again. Remind me again what earthly use Chemistry is going to be when we’re actors.”
“I have no clue,” Ianto replied. “How’d you do?”
“Terrible. I think I’ve probably failed. Everything we revised went clear out of my head when I looked at the paper. I wish I had your memory.”
“Wouldn’t have helped you much. Four of the questions were on things we didn’t even cover in class because Mr Harris said they never came up in exams.”
“Oh, that’s just wonderful! I’ve failed Chemistry because we weren’t taught the right things. That’s just perfect.”
“It’s over. No more lessons, no more exams, no leftover homework, just six blissful weeks of summer ahead of us. We might actually get to do whatever we want for a while.”
“Whoa! Scary! No one telling us what to do, or what time to get up in the morning…”
“Freedom from alarm clocks! Yay!” Ianto turned to Jack, wide eyed. “What the hell are we going to do with ourselves all summer?”
“Beats me. Guess we’ll just have to make our own fun.”
“Oh yeah? Well, I reckon we should be able to manage that, don’t you?”
“Count on it. I have a few ideas. You hungry?”
“Starving. Breakfast was like forever ago.”
“I want chips.”
“Chips sound good.”
Picking up their bags, they left the school campus for what would probably be the last time before their graduation, heading out into the world. They were about to begin the next stage of their lives, but no matter what the future held, they both knew they’d meet it together. There was no one else they’d rather share the adventure with.
TBC in ‘Part 5 - The Show Must Go On’