This is a Torchwood/Boosh crossover fic. It involves characters from both shows and takes neither dreadfully seriously. However, I think you’d probably understand this without knowing a lot about one of either the two shows involved.
Pairing: Howard Moon/Vince Noir
Warning: Violence - Mild
Length: 10-20k words
Notes: Betaed by the lovely plain_jane08 , who checked that my Booshy characters were OK, and by the fabulous waqaychay , who did the fine toothcomb.
Sweet Dreams Are Made Of… by crowson75
Somewhere in Cardiff….
The sun was peeking through the autumn clouds as Ianto made his way to work. Damn, he was in a good mood this morning. It had started when he’d awoken alone in his bed, despite falling asleep beside Jack. However, though Jack had long gone, he had left Ianto’s stopwatch dangling from the brass rails of the bed. Clearly, it would be in use today, and not for work purposes. He couldn’t help but start singing in the shower.
“Summer time and the sun is shining, the birds singin’ in the trees…”
He then spent a few minutes attempting to whistle, which, unfortunately, led to nothing but making gurgling noises. That amused him enough that he carried on for some time and went on to singing about being funky underwater. He sang through dressing and doing his hair, through breakfast and the walk to work. Not even the fact that Jack had ‘borrowed’ his car again bothered him. He told himself that it would keep him fit and, since Jack was far too athletic, this could only be a good thing.
It was perhaps when Ianto walked into the tourist office that he had the first inkling something was wrong. Mickey was sat behind the desk; he sometimes did and that would be fine if it wasn’t for….
“At fucking last!” Mickey looked at Ianto shaking his head. “Where the hell have you been?”
Ianto was puzzled. He looked at his watch; it was quarter to eleven in the morning. His jaw dropped and he looked at Mickey, ready to apologise. However, what came out of his mouth was wholly unexpected.
“Sorry I’m late,” he said. His mouth seemed to be doing strange things and that wasn’t a Welsh accent, was it? “A hedgehog broke into my house last night. He had really big paws and he was making a hell of a racket stomping around the flat. I tried to catch it, but it had poisonous spines and really nasty lips.”
Ianto looked at Mickey, horrified. Mickey looked back at him with the same expression.
“What’s happening…?” Ianto said faintly. He looked at himself, felt his head and shivered. “I’m me, but I’m not. Why aren’t I wearing a suit? My hair’s a bit flat! Why does that matter? What’s going on?”
Somewhere in South London….
Howard banged on Naboo’s door again. The shaman could be a bit of a diva at the best of times and, frankly, this wasn’t one of them. The best of times, that is. Howard had been hiding from Vince all morning. He was scaring him.
“Naboo,” Howard shouted, banging until the small dark-haired shaman stood before him. “There’s something wrong with Vince! I don’t like it! I know you think he’s trying to freak me out, but it’s not right…”
“He’s just doing bit of a suit thing,” Naboo said listlessly, adjusting his turban. Bollo poked his head round the door and sighed at Howard, shaking his head. Howard didn’t care. He was beyond not being the gorilla’s favourite this morning.
“It’s not just that,” Howard said, trying not to plead. “Look, if he dies, what are you doing to do? Whose problem is it? It’s yours, sir, and I’m washing my hands of it. Your shop, your building…”
“Would you like a cup of coffee, Sir?” came lilting Welsh tones up the stairs. Then a small scream as Vince started banging his head off the furniture again.
“Who’s that?” Naboo poked his head round the door, pushing Howard aside to stand at the top of the stairs.
“It’s Vince,” Howard said from behind him. “Just like I’ve been telling you all this time.” Howard followed Naboo down the stairs. “Oh, now you believe me. Sure, but two minutes ago, I was a useless…”
“Howard,” Naboo said in an authoritative voice. He was staring at Vince. “Tell me when this started.”
It almost chilled Howard’s blood to see his friend like this. Not only was Vince wearing a suit, but he was also scrubbing the counter, then running back to the kitchen to try and make beverages, despite the fact that all the cups in the flat had been used and the counter top was full. Not only that, but the shop was pristine. The pumpkin ‘face’ in the window, commemorating Halloween, was shiny with polish. Vince had even touched up the skin with make-up so it looked extra nice. Even the stationery village had never looked neater. It was terrifying.
“I don’t know. He was up before me,” Howard whispered, his face crumpling. “That was my first warning.”
“It’s worse than I thought,” Naboo said mystically.
Howard wondered if he could strangle Naboo now, since it was so very clearly worse than the shaman had thought. It had taken Howard twelve trips upstairs full of banging and pleading to get Naboo down here.
“You should’ve called me sooner,” Naboo went on, stepping forward to hold Vince still.
Howard opened his mouth to argue, but Vince then dropped to his knees and began sobbing. A quiet, polite Welsh voice rose from the lump of oddly dressed Vince on the floor.
“Wha’s going on?” the voice wailed.
Back in the Hub….
It was Gwen who suggested it first. Ianto had awoken in the medical bay and, when he sat up, he immediately mussed his hair and told her to be careful wearing colours with black. She ran her fingers thoughtfully through her long dark hair and then peered deeply into Ianto’s eyes. Then, she pulled at the pink boa he was wearing around his neck and pulled him closer still.
Jack looked at her and then looked at Ianto. Ianto shook his head and then shook it again.
“Oh, bollocks,” he said, his accent distinctly un-Ianto-like. “Tell me I don’t have to live in a body with short hair for long. And where’s Howard?”
Jack was already pulling his mobile phone from his pocket and then, it rang.
And in Nabootique…
“I can’t believe you’re making me do this, Bollo,” Naboo told his familiar as he held his mobile to his ear. “There is more than one person in the universe who makes drinks and is really…clean…” His voice had been getting gradually quieter as he had spoken the words. Bollo was tempted to hit him on the head until he realised that pissing off a shaman wasn’t the best plan ever.
Naboo jumped. “Jack?” He listened for a moment.
“Yeah, Vince has started making lots of coffee and is wearing a suit.”
Naboo listened again. Howard was fidgeting as Vince gave him yet another cup of coffee.
“He’s not asked about you yet. Shall I try now?”
Naboo turned to face Vince, who was brewing coffee in Naboo’s best cauldron. “Erm… Ianto?” Naboo asked sceptically.
Vince turned and looked at Naboo.
“Oh, thank fuck you noticed,” Vince replied in a suddenly familiar Welsh voice.
Howard dropped five cups of coffee on the floor.
“Bollo, get the carpet out.” Naboo took the phone from his ear and ended his call. “We’re going to Cardiff.”
Vince absentmindedly passed another cup of coffee to Howard. He should have paid more attention, Bollo thought as he headed upstairs to the sound of another resounding crash. He had a bad feeling about this.
“Naboo will be here within the hour,” Jack told Gwen. “All we have to do is keep Ianto safe. I mean Vince. I mean… “
“Vinto!” came an excited English voice behind them. “Vinto Jonoir! I should be a French count with a name like that. Has anyone got a cape? I think the name suits a cape. A shiny cape! Genius!”
Gwen smiled and sagged slightly. “Do you think we ought to try and find out what happened to cause this?” she asked Jack rather desperately. “Maybe I could go to Ianto’s flat to have a look?”
“Can I come?” Vinto asked.
Jack shook his head at both of them. “I’ll go,” he told them in what he hoped was a masterful voice. “I know Ianto’s place. If there’s anything out of sorts, I’ll know it. Now, someone figure out how to work the coffee machine!”
He strode from the med bay, only stopping long enough to retrieve his coat from his office. He swung it around his shoulders, brushing specks of alien fluff from his RAF stripes. On his way out, he grabbed Mickey.
“Don’t let Ianto leave,” he told him.
“What’s goin’ on?” Mickey asked. Jack knew he was annoyed. He’d kept him up here in the Tourist office whilst he and Gwen had taken care of Ianto.
“No time to explain. Just keep Ianto here,” Jack said, squeezing Mickey’s shoulder. “And when a small shaman, a gorilla, a jazz freak, and a guy with long hair turn up, let them in.”
With that, Jack walked out into the chilly Cardiff air.
Somewhere over Swindon…
“I’m not sure I like this, Bollo.” Howard was clinging to the side of the magic carpet, feeling very sick.
“Just look ahead,” Bollo told him, pointing at the far horizon. “Not over side.”
Howard sat up and tried to do as Bollo said. Then he saw the mad Welshman in the mad Vince’s body step in front of him, pretending to surf.
“I wish we had one of these,” Ianto was shouting out from Vince’s body. “It’d be a really good way of exercising Myfanwy.”
Howard tried to look through Vince’s legs at the horizon. Vince, had he been here in his own pins, would have loved this, too. He sighed. He wondered briefly if Ianto and Vince had been separated at birth. Then something crossed his mind.
“Um, Ianto?” Howard asked the man who was surfing every ripple across the carpet effortlessly. “How did you suddenly know you were you when Naboo asked your name? You were definitely more… Vincey before.”
“Don’t call me Vincey,” Ianto said, turning and sitting cross-legged besides Howard. “I never liked Fossil calling me that, so I’m not having you do it, too. Sorry, when did I know I was Ianto?”
“You just spoke like Vince,” Howard replied, looking confused. Even Naboo had turned around and was looking at them strangely. “So who are you?”
“I think,” Ianto said thoughtfully, “if you call me Ianto, I am he.”
“And if we call you Vince?” Naboo asked, peering in to look into Vince’s eyes.
“Then I get really bloody confused.” Ianto rubbed Vince’s temples. “I know he’s in here; I can hear him and I know his thoughts. Did you really bum that fox, Howard?”
“It was only ever a rumour!” Howard said, rolling his eyes. “It was bad enough people in the zoo talking about it. Now… Cardiff. Where next?”
“Sorry,” Ianto told him. “It’s like being two people, except that, mostly, I think I’m Ianto.”
“Can you feel Vince in Cardiff?” Naboo asked. “If this is temporal soul replacement, then there might be bits of you both sharing the two bodies. If that’s the case, then you might be able to see through his eyes and be in both places.”
“How do I do that?” Ianto asked, looking confused. “Would it help?”
“Not ‘specially, but it’s quite good fun.” Naboo settled himself firmly on the carpet and brought his hands together. “I’ve got an idea, but we need to get to Cardiff first.” With that, Naboo closed his eyes, whispering things under his breath that Howard couldn’t hear. The front of the carpet curled as it pounced into acceleration.
Ianto whooped and stood up on the carpet, working the speed for all he was worth. Watching him carefully, Howard leaned into Naboo. “Can you fix this?”
“Yeah,” Naboo said calmly. “It’s a good trick, but it’s low-grade magic. Well, as long as we find out who did it and how.”
“And we can find that out?” Howard asked, not sure why his heart was suddenly in his throat.
“I thought we might leave Torchwood in charge of that.”
Torchwood. The people who fought aliens. They should be able to find out who’d done this. And it was Jack’s boyfriend. Jack, who had also given Vince his phone number. Howard was slightly less at ease than he might have been. He looked up to see Naboo surfing the blanket with Ianto. Bollo turned and looked at Howard, shaking his head.
“I’ve got a…”
“Don’t!” Howard snapped, wondering if he was allowed to put his hands over his ears and scream “lalalala!” at the top of his voice.
“Don’t worry, Howard,” said Vince with Ianto’s voice. “We’ll work it out.”
Author’s Notes: The Boosh boys arrive in Cardiff
Gwen watched as Vinto stroked and cajoled the coffee maker into life. His fingers retained their deftness, his manner as efficient and gentle but with a slightly more laconic edge. It was rather a nice combination. This was a Ianto that would tell you he had a robot in the cellar. It would probably be made of cardboard and covered in glitter, mind you, but…
“There ya go,” Vinto said, passing her a cup. “Get those luscious Welsh lips round that beauty.”
Gwen sipped. It was a good cup of coffee. She rested back against the counter and considered the man slowly.
“Do you have any ideas how this happened?” she asked without having really thought of doing so. “Have you pissed anyone off, or…?”
“What sort of people do you think there are in Camden?” Vinto exclaimed and then caught himself. “Actually, that’s a really good point. It’s my style and my flair that annoys people most of all. I mean, look at me. I’m a walking piece of art. People would travel from far and wide to…”
“I get the picture,” Gwen interrupted. “Does anyone stand out, though, who might take that a step further?”
“Not really, though the head shaman did try to kill me once,” Vinto told her. “We sorted that out, though, when I told him I was in love with Howard.” He laughed and blushed ever so slightly.
“Are you?” Despite her best efforts, Gwen almost shouted the question.
Vinto stared into his coffee. He must have caught a reflection, because in the next moment, he was looking up.
“Myfanwy!” he called, cooing to her as if she was his oldest friend. His need for distraction wasn’t lost on Gwen, but neither was the fact that the pterodactyl, which shared her workspace, was circling ever lower. Her great wings fluttered as she landed on the railings close to them. With slow, gentle steps, Vinto approached her. He raised an arm, and Myfanwy seemed to inspect it, her eyes looking down the length of her beak, which nuzzled the man’s hand gently. Then she bowed, encouraging more caresses, gentle sounds coming from her. They were almost purrs.
“I know you’re confused,” Vinto told the ancient creature. “Everything will be back to normal soon. Howard’s bringing the other me here.” He tilted his head, examining the bird more closely. “You can’t just live on chocolate,” he told her.
Gwen, who was watching with quiet amazement, saw Myfanwy look up at Vinto, her expression suggesting that she wasn’t in the mood to discuss her eating habits. Then she hopped onto Vinto’s arm, then off when he stumbled. She nudged his chest with her head, as if trying to tell him something.
“What does she want, Vince?” Gwen asked carefully. She watched as Myfanwy started to bring her great beak to the man’s face. He flinched and Myfanwy flapped her wings with frustration.
“She’s trying to tell me something,” Vinto told her. “She keeps saying it’s the man. What bloody man?”
“Do you think she’s trying to tell you who you should be looking for?” Gwen watched Vinto pull a bag of sweets from his pocket.
“Oh, I dunno,” Vinto told her brightly. “I’m going to go and sit and have a bit of a gossip with her. That okay?”
Before Gwen could respond, Myfanwy had lifted the man in Ianto’s body off his feet. The pterodactyl sat him gently in her nest and settled alongside him, waiting for the sweets to be opened. Gwen realised that was probably the closest Ianto had ever come to telling her to sod off.
It was a little known fact that Roald Dahl’s Plass in Cardiff was built as a landing area for magic carpets. Naboo had attended a few parties in Cardiff and knew how useful the almond shaped ring of lights was in finding the floor when drunkenly in charge of a three-metre long rectangle of deep shag Persian. He also knew that the light towers were used by the Welsh shamen as weave poles for newbies learning carpet flying agility.
Naboo was a bit of a master, but, for once, he took pity on Howard, who was looking a little green, and landed neatly under the footbridge. Bollo had the carpet rolled up within seconds and, since the only people around were a few people jumping up and down on paving stones next to the water tower, Naboo was pleased that they had been as stealthy as possible. He was less pleased when Iance, as they had decided to call the strange combination of a Welsh butler and Camden pop-tart inhabiting Vince’s body, started wandering off in what seemed to be the wrong direction.
“Yancy,” Naboo shouted, making his own interpretation of the pronunciation. “The water tower’s this way, mate.” He pointed toward the fairly obvious huge water tower in front of them.
“That’s the poser entrance,” Iance shouted, turning to face Naboo. “We’re going in my way.”
Howard gave Naboo a look that indicated amusement was taking the place of nausea. He followed Iance without question. Bollo rolled his eyes and followed, too. Naboo shook his head, adjusted his turban, and went after them. He thought Vince was a diva, but Ianto, or Iance, was taking it to a whole new level.
The doorway was shabby. The Tourist Information sign that was hung by its side was no less so. The whole thing looked as if it was trying to be ignored. That made sense. What was slightly more puzzling was that, inside, the office actually looked like a Tourist office. There was information in here, maps and pictures. Naboo found himself rather impressed by the facade. The person manning the office, though, made it clear he wasn’t a local boy when he spoke.
“Fuckin’ ‘ell!” said the man behind the Tourist office counter. “I thought Jack was takin’ the piss!”
Iance shook his head.
“That’s a nice way to greet people, Mickey,” he told him, straightening a pile of Techniquest leaflets. “Jack in?”
Mickey’s jaw dropped. He even failed to stop Iance leaning over the Tourist Office desk and hitting the door release button. Howard, Bollo and Naboo kept their heads down and followed Iance through the hidden doorway and into the corridor. The door was shutting when Mickey began running after them.
“Hey, I only got told to let you in,” Mickey jogged after them. “Not let you in.”
Iance waved everyone into the elevator and looked back at Mickey. “I’ll take it from here,” he told him, then turned nonchalantly and walked into the lift. When he turned back, he looked at Mickey, smiled and waved.
“Ianto?” Mickey asked, a horrified look on his face as the door shut and the shaman, gorilla, jazz freak and bloke with long hair disappeared.
Naboo looked at Iance. “I take it he’s the member of the office not on your Christmas card list?” He blinked at the man who was his friend and, yet, really not.
“Everyone’s on my list,” Iance told him. He opened the elevator and pressed the release for the circular door into the Hub. “You know that.”
Naboo paused. Was he talking to Ianto or Vince or…who?
Jack wandered around Ianto’s apartment. It was a little untidier than most would expect, though it had several very redeeming features. The kitchen was spotless. If Gordon Ramsey walked into it, the man would barely be able to manage one swearword, other than in admiration for its owner. Ianto was a rather a good cook, if a rather grumpy one. The first time Ianto had cooked for Jack, he had been alarmed when, despite Ianto’s protestations, he had walked in during the process. When Ianto was cooking, the kitchen looked like a tip. It seemed like every bowl, saucepan, spoon or surface in the kitchen was in use. The mess was terrifying, though rather endearing. Ianto throwing a Bolognese-covered spatula at him was less so. The meal that had come out of it the mess and the temper, was superb, though. When Jack later entered the kitchen to try and clean up, he found it nearly spotless again. Jack almost interrogated his lover to find out if he was using kitchen elves.
The bedroom of Ianto’s flat was rather more rustic than Jack had expected. The man barely had one full set of matching linen, and his bed was often laid with a myriad of different coloured blankets. Today, the bed was laid with the purple duvet cover that had been bought new the first time Jack came here. He had realised that when a pin stuck him in the leg, leaving the Welshman apologising for not unwrapping the cover well enough. The ridges in the cotton had remained from how the duvet was folded and it smelled had of industrial cleaner. Now, it smelt of lavender. Most of Ianto’s house did. Though, the handcuffs still dangling from the headboard assured that Jack would never think of old ladies when he inhaled the scent.
The more Jack wandered, the more he realised that there was nothing here that seemed out of place. The remote control for the TV sat where it always did. Even the toy drawer looked the same at it had when Jack last delved through Ianto’s rapidly growing collection of dildos, plugs and lube. In the end, Jack found himself lying down on sofa, inhaling Ianto’s scent. He pushed his hands under the silky burgundy cushion, leaning up against the arm of the couch, and let himself remember the rather epic make out session that had taken place here last night. That was when his fingers brushed against something sharp.
Jack withdrew his hands sharply, knocking the cushion onto the floor. And there it was. The only thing he couldn’t explain. Such a small thing. Jack sucked his finger. Paper cuts always hurt more than they should. He stared down at the card, then lifted it with his fingertips. He looked around. He wasn’t in Gotham City, so this shouldn’t spook him. Somehow, though, it did. He put the card in his pocket and stood, determined to quiz the flat’s owner on the relevance of ‘The Joker’.
Howard gaped. He’d been to the Hub before but, here and now, with the huge pterodactyl soaring around the foot of the water tower, he was very aware of the huge cavernous space. Something brightly coloured was loopily thrown into the air. The pterodactyl swooped, caught it in its beak and let out an excited squeak.
“All of that sugar isn’t any good for her, y’know.”
Iance was looking up into the corner of the room. A head peaked round the corner of what seemed to be a nest, before withdrawing and emitting a strange howling call. The dinosaur bird flew towards the man, grabbing him with her beak and shooting towards them. Iance ducked, Naboo hid behind Bollo, who picked up the Shaman and hit the deck. Only Howard was left standing, his knees wobbling as a tall gangly office lad flew towards him. Howard extended his arms and caught the man, before he fell back himself. He looked up into the face of the mad Captain’s lover. Then the face went blurry as he felt two soft lips crush against his own. Rather embarrassingly, Howard melted into the kiss, closing his eyes and moaning with gratitude. It was Vince’s kiss, no matter what the face said. All too soon, the kiss ended with a self-conscious giggle.
“You took ages to get here,” Vince’s voice said. Howard didn’t want to open his eyes. When he did, he was looking into lovely blue eyes. They just weren’t the eyes he wanted to see.
“Eh-ehrm!” came a voice from behind Howard. The other Vince looked up, blushing.
“Sorry, Jack,” he whispered, disentangling himself from Howard’s grip. Before he could move too much, Iance was in Jack’s arms, hugging him tightly. “On the other hand,” came a small voice from the man in Howard’s arms. Vince, in Ianto’s body, was pouting. Howard poked his side, then rolled him over onto his back.
“Down, boy,” he said, in a voice a little too husky. He meant to tease, but his heart was beating too fast. He and Vince, but for kiss on a rooftop a while ago, weren’t lovers. Not yet. Howard reached down, expecting to have to brush Vince’s hair from his face. But the man beneath him was bereft of long dark locks. He smiled tightly and made his way to his feet. When he stood, he reached down to give the not-really-Vince a hand up.
“We’ve started calling him Iance,” Bollo said, motioning to the boy who looked like Vince that was exploring Jack’s tonsils with his own, by the looks of it. Bollo was pointedly not looking at Howard or the man who wasn’t quite letting go of his hand.
“We’ve christened this one Vinto,” Gwen said, startling Howard. She stroked Howard’s arm. “You okay, pet?” she asked him, her big brown eyes full of compassion.
“It’s all a bit weird,” Howard replied. Vinto squeezed his hand. “You sound like Vince, though,” he told the man in front of him who looked like the sort of Mod Vince would love. Howard straightened Vinto’s feather boa and smiled.
“I am Vince, you twat!” Vinto said. “It’s just that I’m a bit of him, too.” Vinto looked at Iance and Jack. “Get a fucking room, you two!”
Jack blinked and pushed Iance out of his face a little. He looked a little shaky and quite happy. He extended a hand to Naboo.
“Glad to have you here,” Jack told the Shaman, who looked like a 12 year old next to the tall captain. “And you, Bollo.” Jack nodded at the gorilla, who shrugged. “And Howard.” Jack’s expression seemed to take a turn for the colder. Howard wasn’t sure if he was paranoid or if the alien-busters really were out to get him.
“Nice to see you again, Jack,” Howard replied. His own voice sounded cold, too, he realised as he pulled Vinto closer to him.
Jack reached back to take Iance by the hand. “Well, I suppose every team needs its cheering section.”
“Oh really, Sir?” Howard said sarcastically. “I’m a dangerous man, Captain Pertness. You just try me.”
“Hello everyone,” came a voice from roughly behind Howard, who jumped alarmingly. If Vinto hadn’t tethered him down, he would have been up in the room with the flying rottweiller.
“Care to introduce me, Jack?” The voice came from an attractive lady in a doctor’s coat. Howard couldn’t help but notice that all the women at Torchwood were very, very chic.
“Martha, meet Naboo, the shaman, Bollo, his familiar, Vince-cum Ianto.” Jack looked at Iance adoringly. Howard almost gagged. “And Howard Spoon, their dogsbody.”
Martha, to give her credit, blushed at the Captain’s remark.
“Howard Moon,” said the man himself, holding his hand out to greet Martha. Her handshake was firm. “I suppose if you’re as old as Jack, you will forget a few names.”
Martha laughed. “I like this one, Jack,” she said to her leader. “He’s fun. And it’s lovely to meet you all. Now, I think Vinto had managed to get the coffee machine working…”
Iance’s sharp intake of breath stopped her speaking. Vinto held his hands up, though his shoulder nuzzled closer to Howard.
“Sorry, mate,” Vinto told his fellow body-swapper, smiling. “The ladies wanted their coffee. What can I say?”
“I’ll just go and check how the… coffee levels are…” Iance pouted and turned on his heel. Vinto pulled a guilty face towards Howard, who stroked the younger man’s back. Time to change the subject, thought Howard.
“So, you’ve been teaching the bad birdy thing to eat Haribo?” he asked Vinto, whose grin lit up the room.
“Myfanwy.” Vinto nodded. “She’s very cool. She likes the sugar rush combined with an aerobic, acrobatic workout.”
“Well, who wouldn’t?” Howard nodded. Iance was heading back towards them with a tray of coffee.
“It seems passable, sir,” Iance told Jack, who took a cup from the tray. Iance offered the tray around, leaving one cup to himself. Howard felt Vinto shudder as he took a sip.
“Sweeteners,” Vinto murmured.
“You looked a little tubbier than I remembered,” Iance told his swapper. “I think you should take more care with my body.”
Vinto’s smile in response wasn’t particularly kind.
“Like your mid-series pie-frenzy wouldn’t account for that,” Vinto chuntered. It wasn’t loud, but Howard could tell Iance heard him. The man’s shoulders stiffened. Howard’s soul screamed at Vince’s body looking quite that uptight. Not to mention uncolourful.
“Gentlemen.” Gwen began leading Jack across the Hub. “Let’s see if we can’t straighten all this out, shall we? At least before we have a catfight on our hands.” She glared at Jack, Iance, Vinto and Howard as she led the group up to the conference room. Once seated, she sat herself between Iance and Vinto very carefully.
Author’s Notes: The Joker… and some local help
Martha was intrigued. She’d sat in the conference rooms with many different types, races and in a multitude of different situations. Here, with two blokes from Camden – even if one was currently inhabiting Ianto’s body – a shaman and a Gorilla, Jack was a little off his step.
Jack and Howard were clearly territorial. Their little scuffle at the whiteboard, as they both tried to bullet-point the day’s happenings, showed that all too plainly. Whilst Jack was a picture of the walking, talking hero, Howard was something entirely different. He wore corduroy trousers and steady, sensible-looking shoes. He was wearing a polo neck jumper and looked a bit like a Geography teacher. If Vince was, as Martha suspected, all shine and glamour, Howard was… beige. She wondered if that evened up somehow.
Iance and Vinto watched each other sullenly. Considering they were linked, their brotherly spirit wasn’t really showing. Iance had already chipped two of Vince’s nails and Vinto was piling sugar into Ianto’s coffee. Naboo was clearly annoyed by the proceedings, though his familiar was more interested in winking at Gwen.
Martha had only really learnt what had happened from Gwen. She’d never met Vince and was amazed by the change he had brought to the body of Ianto. He seemed to be wearing eyeliner, for a start. It was running badly, showing that the real body’s owner was unused to such frivolity. Ianto in Vince’s body was more difficult. Martha wouldn’t mind guessing that Vince never wore his hair tied up like that. He looked… strange in a suit, as if his body was trying to crawl out of its own skin. Whatever had happened, Ianto and Vince’s bodies were clearly just as uneasy as their present inhabitants.
Jack was rambling on about Ianto’s apartment, then he reached into his pocket.
“The only unusual thing I noticed was this,” Jack said, slapping the playing card down on the table. It landed face up.
“The Joker,” Naboo moaned, putting his hand over his eyes.
“Erm, does that mean Batman’s going to turn up?” Gwen said, her eyes sparkling. Martha could tell that her colleague’s amusement was increasing in line with her own.
“Nah,” Bollo told her, extending a paw. He clamped Gwen’s hand, and she wrestled to get it free.
“It’s a sign,” Naboo replied cosmically. His curly toed trainers waggled slightly.
“No, it’s a playing card!” Vinto grinned. Iance rolled his eyes. Vinto noticed. Of course. “Sorry, Naboo. A sign of what?”
“A prankster demon.” Naboo sat forward in his chair, looking at everyone in turn. “Someone’s done this for no other reason than just to play with us. A prankster demon will only work for true mischief. That means there’s no ulterior motive at work, at least. With Vince’s track record, though, and the people he hangs out with, that doesn’t really help.”
“Why’s it got be someone Vince knows?” Iance asked, clearly rather upset.
“Cos if they wanted to mess with Torchwood, they’d be more likely to use a gun?” Gwen suggested. “Or they’d go for Jack.”
“Oh, I see,” Vinto replied. “Like Ianto’s not good enough to even toy with?”
Iance’s glance to Vinto turned a little warmer.
“And, besides, I think this is upsetting Howard and Jack, too.” Vinto looked at Jack and then Howard. His gaze lingered on Howard. Martha resisted the urge to go “awwww!” Out loud, at least.
“True.” Jack nodded. “So how do we find who did it?”
“There is a ritual,” Naboo said, adjusting his turban. “But I’ll need at least one more Shaman. I promised you I’d never bring the council here, Jack, and I won’t. But I do need help. There’s a shaman here in Cardiff I can call.”
“Do it,” Jack said, pushing a phone towards Naboo.
“Address book, Bollo.” Naboo reached out a hand to his familiar. Bollo shrugged.
“You never said to bring it,” the gorilla said, a slightly alarmed look on his face.
“Bugger, that means doing it the old fashioned way,” Naboo groaned. “You did bring the spell book, didn’t you?”
Barry the Shaman was not a hard man to track down. For once, the fact that he had bright orange hair and dreadful dress sense didn’t come into play. In fact, after looking under “shaman” in the Yellow Pages, Barry’s was the only name that emerged. Perhaps more cosmically, he was also waiting by the Water Tower when Naboo emerged, blinking into the Cardiff sunlight.
“Naboo!” Barry said, tucking his hands into his regulation green anorak. “I had a call about mysterious flying carpets. I should’ve known it was you!”
“Sorry, Barry,” Naboo apologised, shaking his head. “I was going to give you a call, but Bollo…”
“Forgot your address book,” Barry finished for him. He took his own familiar, a bat, from his pocket and waved him at Naboo. “I’m telling you, mate, it’s time for an upgrade! My Chrissie’s got sonar, man! No need for address books with that.”
Naboo looked puzzled.
“It’s all to do with waves of sound,” Barry explained. “He could hear you from bloody miles away.”
“Right.” Naboo was still slightly confused, but also jealous that his familiar wasn’t quite that adept at well… anything. “Listen, I need your help. We’ve got a Prankster demon thing going on. We need to do the ritual for finding out our culprit so we can do the reversal. Only one problem – no spell book.”
Barry gave Naboo a withering glance through his thick NHS glasses. “I happen to have mine with me. Lead on, Mcboo, and let’s see if we can’t sort this out.”
“Thanks, Barry,” Naboo said gratefully. “There’s a lift thing here somewhere…”
“It’s not bloody Torchwood, is it?” Barry asked with a certain sense of dread.
“Is that a problem?” Naboo replied cautiously.
“They really get in the way of the Welsh Shamen’s Society for Carpet Agility’s annual competition, you know,” Barry told his old friend, shaking his head. “They’re even on bloody BBC One now!”
Naboo looked around.
“Do you think they know that?”
“Probably not,” Barry sighed. “They’re not very bright.”
“Well, they do work underground…”
“Naboo, man, have you been at the baccy again?” Barry stared into Naboo’s eyes.
“I’m the straight man, Barry,” Naboo replied, batting his friend away. “It’s not my fault I have to say things like that.”
“Fair enough,” Barry agreed.
Naboo bounced up and down on the paving stone outside the water tower. He grabbed Barry just as the slab moved and hoped that he could convince his fellow shaman that Myfanwy was his new familiar.
Howard sat back on the sofa. Naboo and his irritating Shaman friend were upstairs in the board room doing their ritual. Howard wasn’t really sure why Bollo had had to make microwave hash brownies for the ritual to work. To him, it seemed more like an excuse. But then, he felt the same about a lot of things the strange little shaman did. Bollo was curled up in the corner somewhere, having scoffed several of the doped cakes and declaring himself a monkey of the world. Gwen and Martha were in the med bay, giggling. Howard was pretty sure they had sneaked a few brownies themselves.
Still, it was a strange day. Jack had declared that he needed Iance to do some ‘filing’ and they’d disappeared into his office. Howard had got so tense, Vinto had sprawled himself over the jazz fan’s body. That perked Howard up quite considerably, though part of his brain was still freaking out as to why that was. The idea of his Vince never being his Vince again was horrible. Part of him also felt slightly jealous of Jack and Ianto’s relationship. They were so at ease with each other. Somehow, though, with all the strangeness and worry, Howard was aware that he was more relaxed than he would normally be. He stroked Vinto’s shoulder now that the un-hashed but sugar crashing young man lay asleep, his head still laid in Howard’s lap, his arms flopping off the side of the couch. He was twitching rather violently.
“Let the kestrel go,” Vinto mumbled against Howard’s cords.
Jack rushed from his office at the same moment and stood transfixed in the doorway.
“Ianto, I mean, my Ianto, is dreaming, too,” Jack mumbled.
“What is freedom?” Vinto whispered.
“Is he talking, too?” Howard asked, putting his arm around his friend, who was rocking slightly as if he was… dancing. There was no other explanation. His gaze never left the man in his arms.
“He is,” Jack said wistfully. “There’s just one problem.”
It was then that Howard looked up and realised that Jack was holding Iance in his arms, as well. The problem was rather apparent, as the younger man was standing, trying to work, but being held back by Jack.
“That’s not good,” Howard replied, holding Vinto a little closer.
“Ruby… find the ruby,” Iance told Jack, clutching his collar and shaking him.
“Any ideas?” Jack said, trying to remove Iance’s hands.
“Ianto, could I have some more of your excellent coffee?” Howard asked the man currently throttling his nemesis.
“Coffee,” Iance replied, putting Jack down. “Charlie come-a Hubba Bubba nightmare?”
“Ye-ah,” Howard replied, feeling slightly scared.
“Turn around, bright eyes,” Vinto sang softly. The wheels in Howard’s brain started to turn. There was a connection here.
Iance wandered towards the coffee machine, each step a little faster than the last. Then he stopped. At the same moment, Vinto shuddered and sat up, almost taking out Howard’s teeth in the process.
“Wah?” Vinto and Iance both asked together. It seemed that the two men had awoken.
“I think know who did this,” Howard told Jack. He stroked Vinto’s back absentmindedly. “Bugger.”
“Who?” Iance and Vinto both asked.
“What’s the matter?” Jack asked at the same time.
“We’ve already killed the bastard several times,” Howard told Jack grimly. He then looked at Vinto, then Iance in turn. “Still got the same moustache and the same pet kestrel. And a love of Bonnie Tyler.”
“Shit,” Iance and Vinto said in unison again. They pouted at each other. The double act thing was getting a tad annoying.
“But I’m the only man who can’t die!” Jack pouted.
“It’s a different world, Jack,” Howard began. Jack cut him off. He was working himself into quite a tizzy.
“Where? Camden?” Jack asked, snappily.
“No!” Howard was getting annoyed now. Jack was cutting off all his best lines. “BBC Three!”
“It was the ritual!” Naboo was a perfect picture of shamanly annoyance.
“My ass!” Jack was doing a pretty good job, too.
“We connected to the demon!”
“You connected to a plate of hash brownies!” A little bit of Howard was still annoyed that he was the only person present who hadn’t had a bit of chocolatey dopey goodness.
“And the pipe.”
“Whose side are you on, Barry?”
“Sorry, Naboo.” Barry seemed to be attempting to hide in his fluorescent orange anorak.
“If you were connecting to the demon, you’ve fucked up!” He was so direct, that captain Jack.
“If those two try and talk separately, they both fall over! That ain’t normal!” Jack was waving his arms around now. Howard had to agree on that point. Vinto and Iance had both tried saying things without the echo of the other. Both of them had fallen to the floor clutching their heads and howling.
“We connected to the demon…” Barry started, clearly trying to make amends.
“And it connected to them,” Naboo added.
“Are you two some sort of fucking tag team now?”
“Bugger off, Howard.”
“Bugger off? Is that what you’re saying, sir? Let me take a dash of that insult and splash that back.”
“All I’m saying is who figured out who the bad guy was? Me, Howard Moon.”
“You’ve got to give him that. He did.” Jack didn’t seem to be wholly pleased that he was making that statement.
“You hate Howard!”
“Naboo, don’t make me angry. I’ve just found out that someone who looks like a corduroy version of the Village People can’t die. When I signed up, the BBC promised me that I was their only undying star! Now I find there’s a tubby bloke on some obscure comedy show that’s on after Ten Pints of Lager… that has the same shtick! I’m a broken man, Naboo!”
“You’re taking this too seriously, Jack.”
“How would you like it if I got a shaman in curly toed trainers on my team?”
“Hah! The switcheroonie.” Howard was rather enjoying seeing someone other than him and Vince piss Naboo off, to be honest.
“Howard? Don’t make me turn my back on you.” The joy was short-lived, as Howard met the gaze of a very dangerous looking mini magician in a turban.
“Well… to be fair, Jack, the writers never thought anyone would notice that Bainbridge couldn’t die.” Howard was clutching at straws. When you meet creatures made of bubblegum, how realistic did anyone expect? “He’s sort of a… vaguely un-killable character.”
“You mean, he doesn’t jump up and have his wounds disappear like me?”
“S’pose that’s okay then.”
“Can we get on with sorting out the evil twins now?” Everyone gave Barry the evil glare for that line. It was a good job Iance wasn’t here, since it was clear that the line was just made for the Welsh accent.
“You mean you don’t fancy the Ianto/Vinto/Iance/Vince threeway?” Jack grinned. Howard looked at him archly. Jack was clearly spending too much time with Vince. Or rather Vinto… and Iance? Both in… bed. A little corner of Howard’s mind drooled at the suggestion.
“Probably shouldn’t. And that means you can’t, either.”
Author’s Notes: Sweets and the mission begins…
Whilst the less twinned members of the party were in conference, Iance and Vinto sat eating leftover Haribo sweets with Martha and Gwen. The conversation was quite difficult, if only because neither man could say anything independent of the other. It was tedious for both of them, but somehow, they could converse. Whilst Martha and Gwen had initially tried to join in the conversation, eventually they decided to sit back and observe. There were already far too many people talking, it seemed.
Vinto chewed a red and orange circle of bright jelly sweet.
“Why did Bainbridge pick on us?” both men asked at the same time. They looked at each other and shrugged. “We always seem to mess up their plans, don’t we? Me and Howard, I mean. Have you met Bainbridge, Ianto?”
Iance looked puzzled and pointed at himself. He blinked and the two men continued.
“He came to the Tourist Office a few months ago. He was trying to get Jack interested in some box with a fishy thing in it. Jack wouldn’t touch it. Told him to speak to Naboo…”
The men’s eyes widened and they looked at each other. “Old Gregg! It got sent to Howard”
“Thank heavens Jack didn’t go near it.” Iance shook his head. He remembered how much trouble the fishy man/woman thing had caused Howard. He just didn’t want to think about how he knew that.
“What about poor Howard?” the men both said, though Vinto looked slightly more alarmed. “He still has nightmares.”
“I know,” Vinto and Iance said. “I’m not sure how he got rid of Gregg, actually. Oh… but we do!”
Vinto’s eyes opened wider. “You got rid of him,” they both said, though only Iance nodded. “He’s okay. He’s safe. He just… doesn’t know how to find Howard.”
“Retcon. How could… we?”
“It was the right thing to do!”
“I’m not so sure, even a little fishy man thing has a right to love.”
The men rubbed their heads and tried to ignore the fact that Gwen and Martha were looking slightly scared. They also tried to ignore the fact that Martha whispered, “Are they possessed?” to Gwen. They both ignored Gwen when she grinned.
“Let’s not argue. It’s too difficult. So, Bainbridge got to Howard with Gregg and that didn’t work…”
“And I helped, so we were fair game. We were the next in line.”
Gwen rubbed Iance’s shoulder sympathetically. Martha copied the move with Vinto. He winked at her.
“Two of us and two lovely ladies…” Vinto and Iance both said.
“Shut up, we need to work this out while that lot are still bickering.”
“Alright, alright, keep your hair on!”
“I’m trying!” Iance covered his hair with both hands. Then he realised he was clutching Vince’s rather luscious locks and relaxed. He eyed his hairline on Vinto with a slight wince.
“Mind the merchandise, mate! Is your Dad bald?”
“Fuck off, your Dad’s not…”
“I wonder if I punch you, do I punch us both?” Iance inspected his knuckles. They were Vince’s knuckles and a bit, well, dainty. If Vinto punched back… he was going to be in trouble. Ianto’s body knew how to throw a punch.
Vinto grinned. He’d heard that thought. “Not in the face! We’re too pretty for bruises.”
“Do you think Bainbridge would fall for the delivery gag?” It was harder to say whether Vinto or Iance was more puzzled by the fact that they had returned to business. “Nah, we’re going to have to come up with something else. Besides, we want him here and reversing the spell, don’t we? We’ve got to get him here. Or rather, someone Bainbridge doesn’t know has to. Like….”
The men turned to Gwen and Martha. They’d both been out in the field on the day Bainbridge had turned up at the Hub. Since Bainbridge knew Jack, Ianto, Vince, Howard, Naboo and Bollo, there were few alternatives. If Iance and Vinto squeezed their brain’s very tight, they could even see that since Mickey had been up in the Tourist Office all day, he was a bit dodgy, too. The only two people who Bainbridge didn’t know were Gwen and Martha. All they had to do was to think of a way for Gwen and Martha to convince Bainbridge to come to the Hub.
“It’s got to be something simple.”
“Hi, guys,” came a voice from behind them. A familiar voice. “Shall I put the kettle on?”
“Awright, Howard,” Vinto and Iance replied. Then, they both looked horrified and jumped up, following Howard out the door. The coffee making facilities were theirs and no one else’s. “NO!”
Martha wasn’t sure whether to be happy or insulted that she was the driver. She looked at herself in the mirror and adjusted the peak of her cap. She’d promised it to Vince after she’d finished. Or, at least, she thought she’d promised it to him. It was rather hard to tell whether she had been talking to Ianto or Vince at the time. She frowned and tightened her tie. She looked good in uniform, she had to admit. She seemed too formal without it. In uniform, somehow it all made sense.
Mickey put his head round the door and caught her eye, nodding. She followed him silently to the car park and looked at the vehicle before her. It wasn’t the newest Mercedes, but it was new enough. This thing was like a barge on wheels, black and rather sexy. She may have been playing the part of driver, but this was a role she was going to enjoy.
Gwen was waiting by the car. She hadn’t got away with trousers like Martha had. The fitted, straight skirt and jacket looked good on Gwen, but she seemed a little uncomfortable. It might have been the fact that Howard had told her over and over just how dangerous Bainbridge was that did it. But, once Gwen had bullshitted Bainbridge into the car, then Gwen could come sit in the front and be out of his way. As long as they got him in the car.
Mickey had found out that Bainbridge was staying at a hotel just a few minutes away from the bay. That at least meant that once he was in the car, they didn’t have to hold him captive for long. Martha counted the minutes as she drove to the hotel. Jack and Iance were keeping an eye on the situation from a multi-storey car park that sat roughly between the Hub and the hotel. Iance and Vinto’s connection meant that there was little need for walkie-talkies, as Vinto was an instant relay to anything Iance said. What they did need help with, though, was getting Bainbridge out of the car and down the invisible lift. Mickey and Bollo would wait there, but obviously, Mickey and a gorilla shoving a bloke around was only fine once they got onto the paving slab covered by the chameleon circuit. Before then, there was Naboo, waiting outside the Millennium Centre, doing his shaman thing with Barry, trying to make it work. That left just Howard and Vinto in the Hub.
In theory, this meant that all Martha and Gwen had to worry about was the first bit. The important bit. Martha tried to ignore the fact that, when she pulled up outside the hotel, Gwen was biting her nails. She made a decision then that, later, she would realise probably saved both women’s lives.
Gwen opened the car door. “Won’t be a minute,” she said brightly, falsely. Martha could hear Jack telling them both to be careful. Careful. Yes.
“I’m coming in with you,” Martha said, jumping out of the car. “My aunt works for a chauffeur firm. They never let their female drivers pick up male clients alone unless the cars are security locked.” She could vaguely hear Jack on the other end of the phone, but she cut him off. Pressing her fingers to her earpiece she replied, “Do you trust me, Jack?” He told her he did. “Then, just trust me that I think I need to go with Gwen.”
Martha stopped listening and chivvied Gwen into the hotel lobby. They told the receptionist that they were here to collect Mr. Bainbridge for an important meeting at the Millennium Centre. His room was called, and the receptionist told him, “Two young ladies are here to pick you up.” Martha wasn’t surprised when they were invited up to his room. She looked at Gwen, and Gwen looked back at Martha. Neither of them moved. They turned to the receptionist.
“Would you put me through to Mr. Bainbridge’s room?” Gwen asked sweetly. “It’s just that my boss always tells me that we shouldn’t go to people’s rooms. It’s a health and safety thing.”
The receptionist blushed. “Of course! Sorry, it’s that Mr. Bainbridge. He makes me nervous.” She dialled the number and passed it over to Gwen.
“Mr Bainbridge?” she said smoothly, talking into the receiver. “Gwen Cooper here, Millennium Centre welcoming committee. We’ve brought a car to take you to the…”
Gwen’s voice trailed off as Bainbridge’s voice boomed through the phone. Even Martha could hear him demanding that she stop being a difficult filly and get up to the room now.
“That’s not our company policy, Mr. Bainbridge,” Gwen told him. “We need to get going, though, so perhaps you could meet us here in reception in five…”
“I’m not going anywhere until I know that you two aren’t fishy,” Bainbridge’s voice boomed through the phone.
Gwen looked and Martha and mouthed the word “fishy” to her. Martha remembered what Iance and Vinto had said about a little fishy man and shuddered.
“I’ll be up in a few moments,” Gwen said, nodding at Martha. Martha nodded back.
“Room 610,” Bainbridge barked down the phone. After thanking the receptionist and handing her back the phone, Martha and Gwen made their way to the lift. Once inside, they began to plan.
“How do we play this? Do we assume he’s dangerous and start out defensive? Or… what?” Gwen seemed to be asking Martha as well as Jack. Iance’s voice crackled through the airwaves.
“You’re supposed to be a welcoming committee. Jumping on him and pummelling him isn’t very welcoming.” It seemed strange that the voice wasn’t echoed by the voice of Vinto. “Stick with the disguise for as long as possible. When it’s time to give up, smack ‘im.”
Martha and Gwen grinned at each other. There was a definite English London-ish twang to Iance’s voice for the last bit, even if it was a little husky. They could imagine Vinto sat in the Hub being unimpressed by the subterfuge. Jack murmured something that was either proof that he agreed or wasn’t paying attention at all, so they went with Iance’s idea.
The lift doors opened into a square area, with little corridors behind fire doors branching off of it. Bainbridge’s room wasn’t far from the lift and seemed to be in a side corridor. As the two women approached the door, they could hear knocks and shuffling sounds inside the room. Gwen knocked and both women stood a little way back from the door. Martha looked down and saw a slight shadow under the door frame. Then a click. It sounded famil–
She grabbed Gwen and pulled her down into a ducking position as half the door was turned to matchsticks with a loud bang. As they stood up, they could see a greying man with a handlebar moustache appearing through the smoke. He stood, wearing slacks and a beige roll neck jumper, holding a smoking shotgun. When he saw them, he lowered the weapon.
“Oh!” he said, smoothing his moustache. “Sorry, ladies. I wasn’t expecting…. Well, I was expecting someone else.”
“Do you think sorry covers almost blowing our heads off?” Martha said, straightening and brushing bits of wood from her chauffeur jacket. “I’m a bloody driver! I’m not used to people pointing guns at me.” Then, with studied grace, Martha pretended to cry.
“Shush, my little sherbet fountain.” Bainbridge opened what was left of his room door and looked up and down the corridor. “When a man is a hunter, as I am, we sometimes forget to soften our edges for the fairer, gentler sex. The curvier, more intriguing and appealing sex. But then, intriguing and appealing sex is my raison d’etre. Well, hello, gorgeous.”
Gwen had put her arms around Martha and was giving Bainbridge the full-on big brown eyes.
“Yes, my lovely Welsh siren.” Bainbridge winked at her.
“Welcome to Cardiff. We, at the Millennium Centre, learned of your visit and we’ve set up an impromptu welcome reception for you at the centre. We’d be very interested in putting together a talk or something here soon, so you can tell people about your expeditions…”
“Well, of course, a man of my stature can barely walk to the end of his garden before people notice.” Bainbridge nipped back into his room and reappeared with a blazer. “Remind me one day soon to journey all over both of your peaks and valleys, my enchanting maidens. If you want, I’ll even give you a slide show afterwards.”
Martha pretended to stop crying. Or at least she stopped pretending to cry and wiped away pretend tears. Gwen stroked her hair. Martha could see the excitement in Bainbridge’s face.
“Will I need this?” he waved his shotgun at them. “Crowd control?”
“I think it’s fine, sir,” Gwen said sweetly. “We’ve got a team and we’ll look after everything. All you need to do is get in the car.”
“Shall we go then?” Martha said quietly and sashayed a little way down the corridor. She paused and waited for Gwen, then Bainbridge to follow.
“Meow, pussycat,” Bainbridge said. “You shake your tail like that, and I’ll follow you anywhere…”
Author’s Notes: Jack does what Jack does best and the girls return with Bainbridge.
Down in the Hub…
A rather more interesting diversion to Iance and Vinto’s current problem was occurring.
Since neither man could say anything without the other one saying it too, Vinto was relaying to Howard everything that Iance said. Vinto was also experiencing every thought Iance was having, so when Iance was nervous for Gwen and Martha, so was Vinto.
Except that Vinto knew that the reason Iance and Jack weren’t voicing their concerns, or even sounding very interested, in the girls’ plight, was because Iance currently had his hand around Jack’s dick. Vinto could hear Iance thinking, Either Vince’s hand is smaller than mine, or Jack’s cock’s got bigger. He could feel the arousal as Jack grabbed Iance’s collar and pulled him in for a bruising kiss.
Rather more interestingly, Howard could see Vinto’s Iance-induced arousal, as it was tenting Vinto’s trousers. When Howard reached out rather reflexively to touch the pronounced bulge, Vinto assumed that Iance could also feel it. He could probably feel Vinto’s heart blip a little, as well. He’d been waiting for Howard to touch him this way for so very long.
“Yes, Howard!” Vinto moaned, aware that nothing from Iance was conflicting with the view that Howard was pretty spectacular. Howard continued to be spectacular for some moments, especially when he worked out how to actually get his hand inside Vinto’s trousers. Until Jack got a bit jealous. Vinto realised that, during the tender moment, not only could he feel Iance’s thoughts and sensations, he could also hear Jack.
“Howard?” came Jack’s voice.
“Sorry, Jack,” the men heard themselves saying. “I’m turned on, and so is Vinto.”
“And Howard is touching Ianto?”
“Yes… but also no,” Vinto and Iance told him. “Who’s got their hand around your cock, Jack?”
“You’re touching his dick with Vince’s hand?” said Howard, withdrawing his hand from Vinto’s trouser area.
“But… Please, Howard.”
“What? Please what? What’s he doing now?” Jack almost yelled. “Let’s get back before that man touches my boyfriend again!”
“I am your boyfriend, Jack,” Vinto and Iance said in unison.
“Both of you?” Howard said, his head tilting. “Is Jack with both of you?” He looked sad, like he expected Vince to say yes.
“And I love you, Howard.”
As Vinto and Iance’s arousal both cooled, their connection weakened. Vinto stroked Howard’s face, hoping he was alone in that feeling for the moment. Somewhere in the back of his brain, he heard Jack ask Iance if he was allowed to kill Bainbridge.
“Yes,” both men whispered as Vinto bought his lips to Howard’s. “Yes.”
Mickey, who knew little of the evil ways of Dixon Bainbridge, was starting to feel a bit sorry for him. Though he had walked very calmly towards the water tower at first, when he caught sight of Naboo, his hackles rose.
“What the hell is going on?” he shouted, pushing Martha away. Bollo growled and went to run at Bainbridge, but Gwen got there first. In seconds, her gun was pointing at his temple and she was urging the man towards the water tower.
“Is this some sort of kinky game?” he asked, loudly. He was looking at passers-by, hoping someone would pay attention. When that failed, he started yelling for help. That failed, too.
Mickey was actually quite impressed with this. He’d thought the idea that the little bloke in the turban and the speccy anorak could spread the chameleon circuit to cover Bainbridge was pretty wild. The fact that they’d managed it was remarkable, as far as he was concerned. But then again, he’d been amazed that they’d managed to make hash brownies.
Then Bainbridge started to panic slightly and began to struggle violently. Since Gwen and Martha had a pretty good grip on him by now, it wasn’t dreadfully successful, but Bollo wandered over to make sure, just in case. His way of stopping Bainbridge was to thump him on the top of the head, then sling him over his shoulder. When he returned to Mickey’s side, he told him, “No one said he had to be awake.”
Mickey decided this was a very good point. He tried to ignore the fact that Jack and Iance were legging it to the Tourist office. Iance kept bending and groaning, though. Mickey would have suspected that he had eaten a dodgy sausage roll was it not for the fact that Iance’s own sausage was very clearly visible. That and the fact that Iance screamed “Fuck me, Howard!” at one point. It was a bit of a giveaway.
It was about that time that Gwen and Martha started to giggle. Mickey wasn’t sure if it was Iance, Jack or the idea of someone wanting Howard to shag them that started it. It made Bollo look a bit pale, too. If you can tell paleness in the face of a gorilla. Everyone was going to have to take his word for it. Mickey shuffled Bollo onto the paving slab and waited for it to descend. They waited some more. Any minute….
“Now!” Vinto shouted. “Please, yes, right there, yes, now…”
Vinto was slightly alarmed by how much he was enjoying this. He was sure this wasn’t one of his kinks in his normal body. Then Howard’s moustache brushed his skin and…
“Fucking hell yes,” he whimpered.
The alarm of the circular door blasted its way through the hub. Howard’s head shot up and he looked at the monitor outside. He hit the paving slab release and then, very clearly, hid behind Vinto. Just a little bit. Vinto didn’t care much. He was feeling quite randy and reckless. Iance had started all this, after all. In fact, as a very red and angry looking Jack strode through the door, it was worth reminding him.
“Iance started it!” he said, pulling his socks back on. Iance mirrored each word, of course, which made him look pretty mightily peeved. Then Vinto noticed Iance’s erection. Howard noticed it, too.
“Bugger…” he said, his eyes rooted to Iance’s root, so to speak.
“We might have to wait for that until I’m back in my body,” Vinto and Iance both said, looking at Jack. His lips were curved into a nasty sort of grimace as he watched Bollo descend into the Hub with Bainbridge. It was horrible.
“Hey, now,” Howard said, pulling Jack’s arm. “Let’s not get carried away.”
“Leave it, Howard,” Jack replied. “Don’t you want to have five minutes with Vince – your Vince – without me interrupting? I missed out on a handjob on that rooftop because of that man!”
“Well, yeah…” Howard replied, trying to place himself between Jack and Bainbridge as the elevator reached the floor of the hub.
“And I am the only man who should ever suck Ianto’s…”
“I don’t wanna know,” Mickey shouted above the din. “Can we get on with sorting this shit out?”
“Awright, keep yer hair on!” the psychic twosome yelled. Vinto was feeling rather annoyed, and so was Iance. The combination of the two men’s ire was pretty heady as far as the anger stakes went. And it had certainly put the end to the rather nice turned-on feeling he’d been enjoying. Now he was going to have to wait a while for an interesting bumming adventure. That pissed him off, too. “Where the fuck’s Naboo?”
“I’m here, you randy muppet,” came a gentle voice from behind Jack. “Bring Bainbridge down here, Bollo,” Naboo told the gorilla as he headed down to the med bay.
“Alright there!” Barry greeted everyone with a cheery wave before following Bollo quickly. Gwen and Martha trooped in last. They were still giggling, but the tension in the room stopped them. Both women and Mickey all decided that watching Naboo work his mojo with Bainbridge was far more interesting than looking at Vinto and Iance staring at Jack, who was staring at Howard. Vinto felt rather proud of Howard, actually. Last time they’d been to the Hub, Howard would have wet himself if Jack had looked at him like that. Now, Howard was holding the gaze.
“Oy!” came a shout from the med bay. It was Naboo. “You two ghost whispering wankers do need to come down here as well! I know I’m good, but my magic’s crap with stairs.”
Vinto grinned and Iance looked worried. They still followed the sound of the mini shaman’s voice. Vinto had hardly taken a step when he felt Howard take hold of his hand. Then he took Iance’s, too.
“It’s going to be okay, you know?” He smiled at them both with affection. “Naboo will sort it all out and we can leave all this behind us.”
Vinto smiled and nodded, as did Iance.
“Thanks, Howard,” they said in unison. They could both hear Jack huffing behind them, but neither of them even tried to speak. Naboo watched them all walk down the med bay stairs.
“I can’t do this with the bad vibes in the air,” he said, looking at Jack. “Howard’s brightened these two grumpy bollocks up. What are you doing, Harkness? There’s a time and place for broody, but this isn’t it. Prankster demons feed on bad mojo. If I do the reversal, the Prankster will be in this room for a split second. If you’re going to stand there being a sour-faced old woman, you might as well bugger off to the roof.”
“But, but, but…” Jack stammered. “I am angry. I want to kill the demon and Bainbridge. And you know what the worst thing is? I could have had a threesome in the middle of this fic, if Howard hadn’t have got all possessive!”
Naboo shook his head. “I’m sorry, Jack. I respect you as a leader and as a freak of nature. But I’m afraid you’ve gone too far…”
“No, I’m sorry, Naboo,” Jack apologised. “I’ll try and calm down, I promise.”
“It’s too late for that, Jack,” Naboo replied.
“Do you have to do this, Naboo?” Howard asked.
“What?” Gwen demanded, the blood draining from her face. Barry was shaking his head sadly. This was a low day for Torchwood, even in Cardiff where there were quite a few of them.
“It’s no good,” Naboo told Jack solemnly. “I’m going to have to turn my back on you.” The tiny shaman brought forth the “dung-dung dung” music and revolved. He paused with his back to Jack, then completed the spin to face him once more. “Let that be a lesson to you.”
“Is that it?” Gwen asked, as Jack whimpered slightly.
“Shh!” Howard replied with a gentle smile. “The ways of the shamen are mysterious indeed.”
Vinto nodded, giggling madly inwardly. He looked at Iance, who seemed to have caught on. Mickey coughed, his face contorted with bubbling, unspent laughter.
“That’s much better,” Naboo said as Jack’s shoulders started to loosen. “Think of love and peace. Think of these two kittens.” He paused to hold up a picture of two kittens in a basket. “Think of the lovely little kittens. Well, that and the fact that if you don’t cheer up, I’ll get Bollo to rip one of your arms off.”
Author’s Notes: Bubble bubble, toil and trouble. And mentions of Peter Jackson.
Now that Naboo had calmed Jack down, he rolled up his sleeves. Vinto was already feeling like it was time for this ritual thing to get going. It was weird being this tall and gangly. He was even starting to doubt his own abilities to accessorise so much… bloke. He was heartened then, when the tiny Shaman adjusted his turban and seemed ready to get on with business.
“Barry,” Naboo turned to his shaman colleague. “Tweezers.”
The Titian-haired shaman grinned and brandished a shiny pair of silver tweezers. He used them to pluck out several hairs from Dixon Bainbridge’s moustache. The still-unconscious man twitched slightly. He slumbered on as Naboo lay a red silky cloth over his stomach. The hairs were placed onto the cloth and Iance and Vinto were instructed to stand either side. Naboo stood then at Bainbridge’s feet and began to speak, his arms summoning a pink cloud above the cloth.
“Prankster demon reverse your swap,
Turn it back and let it drop….”
Before Naboo could utter another word, Bainbridge’s eyes opened.
“Bah!” he yelled with fright. Then, as he seemed to notice Barry, his eyes gleamed. He let out a high-pitched squeal that only bats and shamen could hear.
“Hit him, Bollo,” Naboo shouted, but before the great ape could move, Chrissy flew from Barry’s pocket. The bat swooped to collect the hairs from the cloth. Clamping them between tiny jaws and taking the pink cloud of magic with it, Chrissy flew up to the main Hub.
“Get the bat, Bollo,” Naboo shouted, taking the restraining of Bainbridge into his own hands. “Now the spell’s started, we have to use the same hairs and candyfloss cloud!”
As Bollo lumbered towards the stairs, the shaman bopped Bainbridge on the nose. Iance, who clearly felt more direct action was needed, grabbed a hefty medical instrument from the med bay trolley and thwacked Bainbridge over the head. The great man fell back into unconsciousness.
In the meantime, Vinto had followed Bollo, as had Gwen. In the main Hub, Chrissy was fluttering around the water tower, flapping madly like a moth in a lampshade. Bollo was climbing steadily up the side of the water tower, using his monkey strength to hang on to the slippery tower. It was hard going, and Vinto worried that his friend wouldn’t reach the top. Spotting Myfanwy, he called her and she swooped down to his side.
Gwen seemed to cotton on to Vinto’s plan almost immediately.
“Let me go,” she said to Vinto. “I’m lighter.”
Vinto squealed the instructions to Myfanwy, and the great winged prehistoric pigeon flapped her wings, grabbed Gwen by the shoulders and flew up to the water tower.
By this time, Bollo was almost at the top, holding onto the water tower with one arm and trying to catch Chrissy with the other.
“This is all getting very King Kong,” Howard said as he appeared behind Vinto at the top of the steps.
Bollo grunted with frustration as the bat evaded him. As Myfanwy soared to the same spot, Gwen reached out to grab it. She swung wildly in Myfanwy’s claws, pushing herself off the water tower, stretching her hands to capture Chrissy. She got a tiny leg, but her swinging had loosed Myfanwy’s grip.
“Bollo!” she shouted as she slipped from the dinosaur’s grasp. Bollo reached out and grabbed her around the waist, Chrissy still flapping in Gwen’s grip. Myfanwy circled them, squawking her encouragement as Bollo clung on the water tower.
“I wish Peter Jackson could see me now,” Bollo moaned as he began to slip down the tower, Myfanwy circling the descent. She never stopped until Bollo landed with a splash in the water at the foot of the underground tower. Then, with no small degree of chivalry, Bollo carried Gwen back to solid ground. Vinto and Howard applauded their efforts, Vinto hugging Bollo cheerily and saluting Myfanwy, and Howard awkwardly side-hugging Gwen. She seemed happy with their efforts, though, as the team trooped back below stairs.
The scene which greeted them there was rather bizarre to say the least. Iance was still stood near Bainbridge, ready to thwack him if needed. Martha and Mickey were involved in trying to tie Bainbridge to the med bay table, whilst Naboo and Barry were creating a new little pink storm of clouds above Bainbridge’s body. Jack, on the other hand, was now laying prone below the table.
Vinto and Bollo shared a look and carried on walking down the steps. Gwen was far too busy bouncing down the steps to present Barry with his errant familiar, still holding Bainbridge’s moustache hairs in her jaws. That just left Howard to speak when speech was least needed.
“What happened to Jack?” he asked as he descended into the med bay.
“Don’t ask,” Mickey answered as he and Martha completed their restraint of Bainbridge.
“But I am askin’,” Howard said, looking down at the prone man on the floor. He seemed very quiet.
“He’s dead, okay?” Iance replied a little impatiently, glaring at Vinto who had no choice but to echo those words. “But we’re all relaxed,” Iance and Vinto took a deep breath, “so we can continue.”
“What do you mean he’s dead?” Howard gasped, looking panicky.
Martha looked embarrassed. “I shot him,” she whispered.
“You shot Jack?!” Howard’s voice showed the rate at which his panic was rising. Then, Jack groaned. Howard looked down as the man sat up and squinted at Martha, who pulled out her gun.
“Don’t make me do it again, Jack,” the woman warned him, waving her gun as he stood. Howard rocked on his feet.
“I know you said you couldn’t die,” Howard told Jack quietly. “I just didn’t know it meant that…”
“I couldn’t die,” Jack finished the sentence for him. “Yeah. I get that a lot. Okay, guys, let’s get this done.”
“But why did you kill him?” Gwen asked, watching Barry try to prise Chrissy’s jaws open. “This time.”
“He was getting annoying,” Martha said brightly. “Let’s move along, shall we?”
Vinto and Iance chuckled softly in unison. Iance clearly knew what Martha meant, and Vinto had an idea that just wouldn’t budge. It involved a slight delay in the magic whilst Jack could be dreadfully naughty with some spiked confectionery, Vinto and Iance. Now, Vinto was rather glad Howard had followed him upstairs to help Bollo.
Barry, in the meantime, was still trying to get Chrissy to release the moustache hairs infused with shaman magic and pretty pink clouds.
“Bugger,” he whispered under his breath. Naboo, who was watching, caught Vinto’s eye and winked. With nothing but a tiny squeak, Vinto, and Iance by proxy, persuaded the bat to relinquish its prize. “You couldn’t have done that earlier, like?” Barry looked up at Vinto, unimpressed.
“At least I could,” Vinto and Iance said rather petulantly. “And at least Bollo does what Naboo tells him to…”
Bollo crossed his arms and nodded. Barry pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose and huffed quietly. Beside him, Naboo placed the hairs back on the red satin cloth, below the pink cloud of magic. Naboo began to chant.
“Prankster demon reverse your swap,
Turn it back and let it drop
Clear off from whence you came
We’ve got no time for your game.”
As soon as the words ended, the hairs seemed to turn pink themselves, but they were bright, neon glowing pink. The powderpuff cloud turned stormy, as it was infused with puce, fuschia and hot pink tones. It rose above Bainbridge’s body, pulsing with light, before expanding.
Vinto and Iance shuffled quickly into position either side of Bainbridge’s prone form, as the cloud grew to encompass them both within its glow. Inside, the cloud made Vinto shiver, though he knew he was warm. He felt as if his chest was being pulled outwards. He opened his mouth, unsure of whether he would yell or be horribly sick. Instead, a plume of silver, glittery shimmering light emerged from his mouth. Looking over at Iance, he saw that the same seemed to be happening, though the light which left Iance’s body was purple and plum. As the lights met each other in midair, they seemed to dance around each other, entwining and parting, then circling.
For a moment, Vinto felt completely empty. He realised that he didn’t know who he was, where he was or what was going on. And in that moment, he was more scared than he had ever been. But before he could focus on the feeling, a purpley-plum light was embracing him. He seemed to breathe it in, and, with each breath, he came to know who he was a little more. His name was Ianto, and this place was his home from home. He caught aliens. But this time, he had caught something else. A horrible case of Vince Noir.
He looked down to the body of a man. Was it…? Yes. Dixon Bainbridge. Opposite him was Vince, enclosed in a pink cloud. The cloud was around him, too. And Vince was being engorged with silver light, until he seemed to shimmer with it. A sigh from next to him. Two, in fact. One was Jack. The other? It was Howard, who was rushing to Vince’s side.
As the last shimmer of purple light disappeared between Ianto’s lips, his knees wobbled. The pink cloud seemed to pull at him as it lifted from his body. Jack’s hands appeared on his arms, his chest against Ianto’s back. He steadied him and gave him a little of the comfort that Ianto needed.
Before him, the neon follicles on Bainbridge’s chest glowed brighter, until Ianto could barely stand to look. He closed his eyes for a second, and when he reopened them, there was nothing on the red satin cloth but a playing card. It was face down on Bainbridge’s chest, but Ianto knew what card it was. Before he could check, Barry picked up the card and stared at it for just a moment, before the joker flickered into golden flame and was reduced to ash. He looked up to see Vince with Howard’s arms around him, watching the card, as well. His eyes flicked up and met Ianto’s.
“Hello,” Vince greeted him softly.
“Hi,” Ianto replied. Before he could say any more, and without putting too fine a point on it, Ianto fainted.
“Hey, Howard,” Vince croaked, wobbling slightly. “How tough am I that I’m still conscious!?” Vince wobbled a bit more, then his eyes rolled back in his head. Howard was ready and waiting and scooped up the unconscious man into his arms. He looked at Jack, who was trying to get Ianto over his shoulder.
“At least mine’s lightish.” Howard grinned.
Author’s Notes: Where do we go from here?
It was the following day before Gwen saw Jack, Ianto, Howard and Vince again. After the ritual was over, Gwen and Mickey had taken Bainbridge back to his hotel with a huge dose of retcon in his system. They’d taken away his shotguns and ransacked his room, removing anything that would clue him in to what he’d done. They left him a hand-gliding leaflet on the foot of his bed and hoped he’d assume that this why was he had come to Cardiff. Naboo, Barry and Bollo had been in charge of ensuring that any residual magic from the spell and ritual was gone. Neither Gwen nor Mickey had commented when the sickly, smoky sweet scent of ‘magic’ was hanging in the air of the Hub when they returned.
Martha had checked over Vince and Ianto and put them into Jack and Howard’s care. She had left strict instructions with the team that if they saw them anywhere near the hub before the next day, she should be informed. Then, Martha had driven all four men back to Ianto’s flat, ordered a pizza for them and told them to stay. Surprisingly, they seem to have obeyed her wishes.
Gwen was chatting to Naboo and Bollo when Jack, Ianto, Howard and Vince trailed in. She grinned at Jack’s expression, which was akin to a cat who had just been given a big bowl of cream, a little fishie on a dishie and a wind-up mouse to play with. Ianto looked at her face, blushed slightly, and hurried to the coffee machine.
Howard and Vince looked relaxed and happy. Howard sauntered in, his hand at the base of Vince’s back. It wasn’t quite an arse fondle, but it was pretty close. Vince’s overall demeanour seemed to brighten up the Hub as he wandered in, greeting everyone with a smile and warm hug. He reached into his pockets and pulled out two huge bags of sweets, offering them to everyone and pouting at refusals to partake. He took several from the bag and, after calling to Myfanwy, he threw them up in the air, cheering as she caught them in flight.
“You are not taking my pterodactyl back to London,” Jack said, his grin not dropping for a second. “She likes the sea.”
Vince smiled. “She’s happy here, Jack,” he replied. “Especially since Gwen’s been bringing her in some veggies. She likes Little Gem lettuce by the way, Gwen.”
Gwen smiled and shook her head. She wasn’t sure that she would ever get used to the fact that Vince could talk to Myfanwy. She would have been tempted not to believe him, but then… yesterday had brought a whole new complexion to what Gwen could and could not believe.
“Oh, Howard!” Vince said, turning to his friend. “Check this out!” He held his mobile phone up in the air, pressing the centre key. The unmistakable sound of “Cars” by Gary Numan blasted through the tiny speakers. Myfanwy swooped down to land on the railings around the Hub and head-banged her way through the tune, still chewing sweets.
“I’m so sorry,” Howard said, turning to Jack. “He was like this when we worked at the zoo, you know? He even dressed some of the animals up…”
“That was never proved!” Vince said, laughing. “Just like the rumours about you bumming that fox.”
“My relationship with Jack – well, that Jack – was purely platonic,” Howard said looking haughty. “And besides, what about you courting lady pandas?”
Gwen looked at them both, wondering whether any of this was real, and if it was, if she could have some brain bleach.
“Don’t let’s start,” Vince giggled, shaking his head. “I know a song about that…”
“I know a few songs,” Jack replied, his unshakable grin growing ever wider. “Music, music, music, that’s me.”
“But what about us?” Ianto murmured, stepping into the room with a tray of coffee. Jack winked and began singing lightly under his breath, as he took his coffee.
“Um, not to upset the general atmosphere, here, guys,” Naboo said softly. “But we should really be heading back to London. People depend on me for… stuff.”
I’m sure they do, thought Gwen. She looked around, trying not to look anyone in the eye, when a movement on her computer screen caught her eye. The feed from the security camera outside the Hub flashed up on the screen. A man in a suit that was far too tight was loitering outside the tourist entrance door. He had big hair and was looking as shifty as a man with his stomach hanging out from between the buttons of his shirt could look.
“Fossil,” Howard whispered walking towards the monitor. “What’s he doing here?”
“Do you want me to…?” Vince indicated behind him to the door.
“No!” Ianto said loudly. “I don’t think it’s a good idea that he knows you lot are here. Please, guys, I suggest you take the elevator upstairs and get out of here. Leave him to us.”
“I agree,” Jack said, looking at the camera. “Even if I’m not sure why. Who is he?”
“He used to run the zoo that Bainbridge used to own,” Howard said grimly. “If Bainbridge was up to something, you could bet Fossil was involved somewhere. On the plus side, he’s madly in love with Vince and…”
“Get out of here,” Jack said, hugging Vince and then Howard. “Mickey, go keep Fossil busy. If he sees you guys, he’ll just… complicate things. I think we could all do without anymore complication, couldn’t we?”
Gwen wasn’t dreadfully surprised that Bollo nodded quicker and more enthusiastically than the others. She’d taken a bit of shine to Bollo. She thought he was possibly the only sane one in the whole Vince and Howard gang. The mighty gang from Camden. Mighty? Why had she thought that? Before she pondered it, the gorilla was in her arms. Everyone seemed to be hugging someone and, slowly but surely, Bollo and friends were being pushed onto the elevator paving stone.
“We’ll see you soon?” Jack called as soon as everyone was on the lift and rising up above the Hub floor. “You got my number.”
“Oh!” Ianto said suddenly, his cheeks flushing to a dark crimson. “We’ll send you the video.”
Gwen saw Naboo and Bollo give Howard and Vince a questioning look as they both looked down and grinned to Ianto. It was the same look Martha was giving Ianto. Jack ran his tongue over his top lip, and Gwen smiled silently to herself. Whatever the video had on it, she was pretty sure that it wasn’t family entertainment.
Ianto let Jack pull him into a warm embrace.
“Glad to have you back,” Jack whispered against his neck.
“Vince is sexier,” Ianto grunted in response. “And he’s got a bigger…”
“But he doesn’t have a beautiful accent like you do,” Jack told him, his hands running down Ianto’s back. “He doesn’t look anywhere near as good as you in a suit. I wouldn’t trust him with a gun or anything else. You’re the right person to be here in the Hub and in my arms.”
Ianto grinned, happy with Jack’s response. “I’m glad we got that sorted out,” he whispered, pulling Jack in for a brief kiss. “If you’d have said the wrong thing, I was going to suggest you a grew a moustache, you know that, right?”
Jack pulled Ianto towards him for a deeper, sloppier kiss. Then, his body seemed to stiffen slightly in Ianto’s arms and he pulled back.
Vince looked around the shop at the number of discarded cups of cold, nasty looking coffee on every surface in the house. He had a vague memory of doing this. A muscle memory, but no idea at the logic behind it. He wasn’t sure if he was really, truly and completely Vince, but as each moment passed, he felt more at home. He bustled around, collecting cups, emptying them and loading them into the sink. He was just running water over them to wash them when he heard footsteps on the stairs.
“What’s up, little man?” Howard asked, stepping up behind Vince and putting his arms around his waist. Vince leaned back against him, relaxing into the embrace. “Can’t sleep?”
“Nah,” Vince replied softly, nuzzling his cheek against Howard’s arm. “Your pyjamas are soft,” he whispered, rubbing his cheek against the brushed paisley material.
“And?” Howard whispered, lowering his lips to Vince’s ear. “You don’t get to hide your feelings from me anymore.”
“Not hiding.” Vince nuzzled closer. “I don’t really feel completely myself, yet.”
“You heard what Naboo said on the way back.” Howard kissed the top of Vince’s head. “It’s going to take a while. You’ll get there, though. We’ll get there.”
“Will we, Howard?” Vince pulled away slightly, turning off the taps and beginning to wash up. He heard Howard sigh behind him, then he was at Vince’s side, drying he cups when they appeared on the draining board.
“Not if you don’t tell me what the matter is,” Howard said, his eyebrows raised. “On the other hand, you could talk to me in something more than short statements, and I might be able to make a more accurate judgement.”
“It’s not that bloody easy!” Vince said, slamming a cup down on the draining board. “I’ve always been unique. You and I have always muddled through in the vaguely flirty sort of way we always have. Then I swap bodies and have to deal with being… a suit wearer!” Vince slammed another cup down. “Which is traumatic. Then it all goes parrot-y and my head’s, like, half me and half Welsh bloke, and you suddenly decide that you fancy me and we do all the naughty stuff and… and… Howard?”
Howard had stopped drying. He was still holding a cup and tea towel, but the towel was really only being used to wipe away tears of laughter. The man was shaking with it, gasping for each breath.
“Cheers, mate,” Vince exclaimed, his voice rising in both pitch and volume. “Here’s me pouring my heart out and you… you!” Vince put his hand into the sink and splashed Howard with warm, soapy water.
“Stop!” Howard gasped out, reaching out a hand to hold Vince’s arm steady. “Just… Wait!” he wheezed, bending over, his hands on his knees. “Jesus, Vince, have you really been worried about this?”
Vince turned back to the sink, pulled his arm from Howard’s grasp, and began washing cups mechanically. He could see why Ianto found some sort of solace in this sort of repetitious, domestic stuff. Of course, it wasn’t something Vince was willing to carry on doing, but at least he could fiddle whilst he waited for Howard to recover.
“Okay,” Howard said slightly breathlessly, standing up. “First things first.” Howard pulled Vince away from the sink, using the tea towel to dry his hands. Once finished, he kissed the back of each hand, then pulled Vince into a fierce hug. “It doesn’t suit you to get nervous about things. That’ll fade, though, I promise.”
Vince nodded against Howard’s shoulder, knowing that it was probably true. He opened his mouth to point out to Howard, though, that whilst this was all well and good, Vince did have reason to be insecure. Vince didn’t like that feeling at all. The last time he’d felt it was at the hands of Howard, who had declared his love for Vince and then buggered off with an American girl.
“Shush,” Howard said, pulling back and studying Vince’s sulky face. “My turn to talk now, okay?” Vince nodded solemnly. He was vaguely tempted to whimper. “When I realised yesterday that you weren’t Vince, it was dreadful. I was scared, Vince, scared that I would never talk to you again. I was scared we’d never make pancakes or do jigsaws or shop for hammocks or any of that stuff anymore. And… I knew that I didn’t want to not know what it would have been like if you and I had ever… done naughty stuff.”
Vince blushed slightly. Howard didn’t. Vince wasn’t sure what that meant.
“When that bloody Harkness bloke kissed you, Vince, I could have killed him. Then I realised that he was kissing him and it didn’t matter, because you were in my arms. I didn’t let you go after that; not because you looked like him but because when you kissed me, it was you. If I closed my eyes, you were with me, not him. Never. I want you by my side, Vince; only you. Last night was fun, but… part of me wishes it had just been you and me.”
Then Howard stopped talking. Vince made sure of that, his arms around Howard’s neck, their lips and tongues against each other. Howard’s hands reached down and lifted Vince slightly, pulling him off his feet. Vince deepened the kiss, feeling warm and alive in Howard’s arms. He could feel his own normal buzzing energy begin to zap around his body, and he knew that it was his and his alone. Well, apart from the bits of it he chose to share with Howard. He lifted his head as Howard put him gently back onto his feet.
“I thought you were going to whisk me off to bed,” Vince purred in a husky, amused tone. “Well, I was hoping that…”
“And I will,” Howard said, his smile as broad as Vince had ever seen it. Love suited Howard. “Just want to ask you one thing.”
Vince had felt it coming. The question. Howard had looked rather nervous last night when Vince had dropped his trousers. “It’s okay, Howard,” he said in a soothing tone, stroking Howard’s face. “I know I’m a bit big and, well, I don’t expect you to…”
“No!” Howard interjected, looking amused but interested. “Though that’s good to know. I just… well, you don’t really like toe-sucking, do you? I mean, it doesn’t matter if you do, it just seemed a bit… un-Vince-like.”
Vince grinned. “That’s for me to know.” He thought for a second. “Or maybe not know. But it’s for both of us to find out.”