Author's Note: In an earlier author's note I mused about this being an attempt at more consistent character development than given to us in canon. Little did I realise that when I turned the spotlight on Gwen, Tosh and Owen they would end up being the drivers of a very long chapter. That famous (or infamous) outburst from Gwen in Meat: "I won't do it" seemed to be ignored in subsequent episodes, with no apparent consequences. There is, in this chapter, an attempt to redress that. I like to think it is not Gwen bashing.

Disclaimer: BBC/Starz still own. But with so many plot holes and character inconsistencies there's room for people like me to play.

Gratitude: To followers and those who've faved: thank you, and thanks for your patience in waiting for this chapter. To those who reviewed, both old and new, I am indebted to your support, especially for the considered way in which you review.

Enormous Gratitude: Cerih, my beta, you've done it again. You are my own fixed point in time and space…when I'm dizzy and scattered you are just there, making this better. Thank you.


Singular Concerns

"Wow, Ianto!" Gwen whistled softly, "Don't you look the part."

It was early evening, and in the Hub the Torchwood team was winding down after a long and busy day. Earlier in the morning a small spike in Rift energy had taken them to Bute Park, where they'd been able to assist in returning to space a lost, but peaceful, traveller. Each member of the team had found the experience gratifying, and a spirit of delighted camaraderie had filled the Hub following their return. Gwen was busy at her desk when Ianto had appeared in the work area.

Coming up the stairs from the autopsy bay, where he'd finally completed his investigation of the remains of an unidentified alien, Owen stopped on seeing Ianto and remarked, "So, Teaboy, still got the Bond thing happening, I see."

"And how do you figure that?" Ianto asked politely.

"Firstly that track suit the other day, and now this. Sean Connery in Dr. No, am I right?"

"It is modelled on that suit, yes," Ianto replied with a measure of surprise. "I like the cut."

"Well, it's stylish, it definitely works for you," Owen casually responded before moving on to his work station, leaving an unsettled Ianto in his wake.

Coming out of Jack's office, Tosh heard the remark and said with considerable admiration, "And I think it suits you too, Ianto, makes you look quite sophisticated." She gave him a huge smile and went on, "I know you're probably sick of hearing this, so I'm sorry, but I do have to say it: you do look gorgeous." Reaching him, she stood on her toes and gave him a small kiss on the cheek, adding with a laugh, "I'd hate to crumple you so I won't hug you."

"Thanks, Tosh, your concern for my sartorial smoothness is noted." Ianto chuckled with her, and then asked, "Did you see Jack?"

"I didn't see him, but we spoke; he's down in his bunker and he said to tell you he'll only be a few more minutes." Her eyes sparkling with pleasure, Tosh speculated, "I wonder what Jack's will be like, will it be the same era as his coat, do you think?"

From her work station Gwen re-joined the conversation, "Good question, Tosh; so it will be double breasted if it is, wont it? That's a look that Jack could carry off."

"I think you may be right," Tosh replied, adding with a wink, "He's got the torso for it: big shoulders and a broad chest. You must have noticed them the other afternoon."

"I noticed." Gwen mimed a swoon.

Rolling his eyes Ianto said dryly, "Rhys has got bigger shoulders, and his chest is a bit broader than Jack's." He smiled innocently at Gwen. "I've done the comparison."

Both Tosh and Owen were surprised when, instead of groaning, Gwen laughed and responded, "Trust me, I know you did." Seeing Ianto quirk a brow she held up both hands and went on, "No, no violations of your precious rugby club rules have occurred. I'm just saying, all that time together in the sauna, it would have been hard –"

"Not as hard as you might imagine," Ianto growled suggestively.

"– not to notice! God, Ianto, what has gotten into you?" Gwen was shaking her head with amazement.

"Yep, sorry, slight loss of dignity there." Ianto slid his hands into his trouser pockets and appeared a little abashed.

Owen's chuckled quip of "Not so Bond after all, Teaboy" caused them all to laugh lightly. As the others turned their attention back to their work Ianto remained in the same spot, his eyes darting with some frequency toward Jack's office. After a little Tosh lifted her head and, noticing that he appeared to be fidgeting and was somewhat restless, she carefully suggested, "There's no reason to be nervous about your date, it's going to be wonderful."

Owen and Gwen both turned on hearing what Tosh had said, and both looked questioningly at Ianto.

He noticed their attention and replied to Tosh, "It will be and I'm not nervous, not really, more excited. A night at the opera, in black tie no less."

"And with a charismatic Captain to escort you," said Jack, beaming as he emerged from his office, "or I would be if I could get this damn tie straight."

"I thought I was escorting you," remarked Ianto with a bemused smile as he stepped forward and took the ends of Jack's undone tie in his hands.

"Does it matter?"

"Nope, not at all."

"You can be each other's escort," offered Tosh quietly as they all watched Ianto's hands deftly work their magic. A few quick twists and Jack's tie was perfectly knotted and in place. After tying it, Ianto laid his hands against Jack's chest for a moment. When he'd removed them they turned slightly, and together they stood side by side as if awaiting inspection.

Gwen lifted her right hand to touch her fingertips to her lips, her face full of wonder. With tears in her eyes, Tosh clasped her hands under her chin, and gently bit her lip. Tilting his head to one side, Owen exhaled a small whistle. All three said nothing. Thrilled by their reactions, Jack was about to say something when he felt the warmth of Ianto's hand take his. Chancing a glance, he saw an Ianto who was radiating his enjoyment of the moment – his eyes were sparkling, his smile beaming and his bearing was quietly proud.

Bubbling with enthusiasm he could no longer contain, Jack burst out with, "Well, whaddya think, kids, cinema moment or what!" It was enough to break the suspense of admiration, and they all began to speak at once. Jack held up a hand to stop the flow, and it was Gwen who spoke:

"I've already told Ianto he looks the part, and I'll say the same for you, Jack, you look marvellous. We knew you'd have a double breasted suit, it really becomes you, and it's definitely Hollywood stylish."

"You think? This old thing, had it for years," Jack replied, still grinning with delight.

"Decades even," quipped Ianto.

"What, you think I'm old fashioned?" Letting go of Ianto's hand, Jack turned to him with some surprise.

Ianto smiled and said soothingly, "True elegance never dates, Jack."

"I presume there's a comma in there, Ianto." Tosh laughed before she gasped, "Oh, before you go we must get a photo, something nice for the archives." Reaching down, she produced a large camera from her bag. "We don't have enough photos of us, and really, you two ought to be preserved for posterity!" As Jack and Ianto moved closer together she snapped some quick shots.

"It's a shame we can't all be in a picture together," commented Gwen as she watched.

Tosh chuckled, and reaching into her bag she withdrew a small tripod, and with a wink at Jack she announced, "I was advised by someone here to take up a new hobby so I have!" She fiddled with some of the controls and set the timer and, on her instruction, the team quickly gathered around Jack and Ianto. A series of clicks indicated she had set the camera to take multiple images.

After the job had been done, Ianto addressed them all, "Right then, now that's done, we'll be off. La Traviata awaits. No need to worry, I've –"

Owen cut him off, "Yeah, yeah, Ianto, we know, you've done everything possible. Nothing's out of place, nothing is unfiled, uncatalogued, or unshielded; everything is restocked, refuelled, or watered, and you've even done the washing up. We'll find coffee on the bench in the thermal cups – great find by the way – and we'll have to put the pizza box on the coffee table because you've emptied the bins." Owen was ticking off his fingers as he went through his list.

"Myfanwy's happy, and we're competent, so bugger off and enjoy yourselves." He smiled at the surprise his comments had brought to Ianto's face. Smirking a little with success, Owen pressed home his advantage, "And without any prompting, can I too say you do look gorgeous this evening."

Ianto's astonishment at the genuine compliment was evident; he looked quickly at Gwen before turning to Tosh and then to Jack. Each was amused and appeared to be waiting for him to respond. Turning back to Owen he opened his mouth, closed it again, and with a shake of his head said nothing.

Owen chuckled, "And thus have I rendered Teaboy speechless. Strike one off my bucket list."

Dipping his head, Ianto acknowledged the success, "Well played, Owen."

Owen gave a slight bow in acceptance of the applause that followed Ianto's declaration.

"Time to go," suggested Jack, taking Ianto's hand, "enjoy your night, we'll see you as soon as it's over."

Appearing slightly puzzled by the comment, Owen queried, "Aren't you going to supper afterwards?"

"We've booked dinner before it starts, so we can get back and let you get off home," answered Jack, ignoring the opportunity for some innuendo.

Owen shrugged and said earnestly, "You didn't have to do that, I know Gwen is off shortly, but Tosh and I could hold the place together for a few more hours. Shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, mate."

"It's fine, Owen, really. It's been a good day for us all, and this way you get to share it."

Owen acknowledged the sentiment with a smile before turning it into a smirk and saying, "Well, thanks, though I suspect it might have more to do with one of Teaboy's games. Black tie bondage in an empty Hub, perhaps?"

Ianto chuckled loudly, "Thanks, Owen, I actually hadn't thought of that, it's a good idea though."

"Bugger," snorted Owen, as the others joined Ianto in his laughter. "Go on, be gone."

With a last smile, Jack and Ianto began to make their way to the lift stone, and as they did Owen dashed to his computer and began rapidly searching for something. As he muttered, "C'mon c'mon, where is it, where is it?" Tosh uttered a quizzical, "What are you doing, Owen?"

He exclaimed, "Got it, you'll see!" as he stayed by his desk and waited, watching for Jack and Ianto to step onto the stone that would carry them aloft. Seeing Jack press the necessary buttons on his wrist-strap to commence the operation of the lift, Owen simultaneously made some keystrokes before dashing back to join Tosh and Gwen on the gangway.

The lights in the Hub dimmed low, leaving only a gentle spot light to throw a silvery glow on the lift as it slowly rose. Myfanwy appeared at the edge of her aerie and launched herself into flight as the Hub filled with the rich beauty of two strong male voices – one tenor, one baritone. Owen had chosen as a soundtrack for the departure of Jack and Ianto an aria that he knew, although in French, would capture fully for both men all the emotions of the moment.

With the music rising, the voices soaring, and the lift ascending the three on the gangway could not help but notice how Jack's arm, wrapped as it was around the small of Ianto's back, tightened its hold in response to Owen's gesture. They also saw how Jack turned his head slightly to look at Ianto directly. He smiled in a way that embraced them both. They saw too how Ianto's arm, likewise draped around Jack's lower back, drew Jack in closer. They couldn't help but smile as, just as they were about to disappear from view, Ianto made a further, small, gesture of affection. Bringing his free hand up, he smoothed the collar of Jack's dinner jacket, at the same time saying something that softened Jack's smile into one of pure adoration.

And then they were gone, the aria concluding just as the roof closed and the lights returned to normal.

Gwen and Tosh exchanged looks, each trying to determine if the other would be the first to speak their shared surprise. Their silent communication was unbroken even when Owen spoke quietly with a slight quaver in his voice:

"Well, I would have expected you to say something. Right then, back to work." Without looking at either of them, he walked back to his desk, and his movement broke their frozen moment.

"I'm shivering," Tosh whispered as she followed him; her arms wrapped across her body and her head shaking gently from side to side.

Gwen did not move, instead watching as Myfanwy returned to her nest. She spoke quietly, "What was that, that music?"

When she received no reply she turned and made her way back up the gangway and joined Tosh, who was standing at her desk. As she approached, Tosh exclaimed softly, "Wow, I wonder when the Hub last had something so beautiful happen. And didn't they look wonderful?"

"They did, and so did Myfanwy, did you notice her?" agreed Gwen. She gently nudged Tosh, drawing her attention to Owen. He was sitting at his desk with his back to them. Although his head was held high and he appeared to be busy typing, his shoulders were trembling slightly. Gwen asked again quietly, "What's it called, Owen, that piece of music?"

Without turning he called over his shoulder, "English translation: 'In the Depths of the Temple', comes from 'The Pearl Fishers'. You can look it up, do a search, I've got work to do." Moving rapidly, he left his desk, avoided looking at either woman, and hurried to the autopsy bay.

"Owen?" Gwen called after him. When he did not acknowledge her, she turned to Tosh, and with a shrug of her shoulders asked a silent question. Tosh replied in the same silent manner with a slight shake of her head, before turning her attention to her screens. After a moment she said, "Here it is," and she began to read aloud.

After hearing a description of the scene Gwen asked, "Does it say what they are actually singing?"

"There's a translation, the last two lines of which are –" Tosh's eyes widened as she finished scanning the text, and her voice dropped into hushed tones:

"Yes, let us share the same fate,

let us be united until death!"

With the shock of her disbelief written on her face, Gwen whispered, "Oh my god, but, Owen, did he know? He must have known. Surely he knew?"

"I don't know, Gwen," an equally surprised Tosh responded, "and my question is why, it could have been written for them in that moment. It really was perfect, and yet –" She tipped her head back and took several long breaths.

"And yet it's somehow tragic as well," Gwen finished Tosh's incomplete sentence. "Especially in this place, and with –"

Gripping Gwen's arm Tosh quietly implored her, "Please don't go on. I know where you're going and I can't think of that, not now, not after what we just experienced." Releasing her hold she avoided making eye contact and said with a small smile, "I want to remember how magnificent they were just then – together, like two gods ascending to heaven accompanied by a perfect chorus."

Gwen laughed softly. "The two gods of Torchwood – Ianto and Jack. And I think you're right to suggest we just remember the experience. I'm sorry about going down that other track."

Tosh looked at her and replied, "Really, it's fine, but just for once it's nice to have something happen where we don't have to think about the other."

"It is," agreed Gwen, her eyes wandering to the autopsy bay. With a sigh of someone about to undertake an uncertain task she added, "I'm going to check on Owen, I can't hear any activity and I'm a bit worried by his disappearing like that."

When Tosh said nothing in response, she made her way across the space toward the autopsy bay. Halting at the top of the stairs she looked down. Owen was standing at the table, his hands pressing down on its cold metal surface, one leg stretched behind him as he lent his weight forward on to his hands. His head was dropped, his chin resting on his chest, and she could see his eyes were closed. She could also hear the sound of his long deep breaths.

Hearing her arrive, Owen snapped, "What?"

There was some trepidation in her voice as Gwen asked, "Are you alright?" She began to move down the stairs toward him.

"What do you think?" Still refusing to look up, Owen's reply was muffled although his tone was clearly full of annoyance at being pressed.

As she reached the floor of the bay and stood on the opposite side of the table Gwen capped her own mounting irritation, and replied steadily, "I don't know, that's why I wanted to ask."

Owen finally raised his head and made an appeal for consideration, "I'll be fine, just leave it alone."

Gwen refused to accept his request. "Come on, Owen, something's going on, why won't you tell me?"

His eyes narrowed and, staring her in the face, he hissed with some frustration, "Can't you ever leave anything alone? Do you always have to know everything?"

Fists coming to rest on the metal table as she leant forward, Gwen took the lid off her own annoyance, "Sometimes it's impossible to know with you, Owen! One minute you're being nice to people, the next you're biting their heads off. You do something like you just did, then you run away and are a snarky bastard again. Did you know what that song was about?"

Lips curling with disdain he snarled, "Of course I bloody knew!"

"I didn't know that!"

"That's exactly right, Cooper, but then what do you really know about me?" Owen lashed out with some fury. "Tell me; go on, what do you know about me, or any of us for that matter?"

"Enough! Please!" The passionate commands reverberated off the tiles. Both Gwen and Owen immediately turned their attention to the top of the stairs, to find Tosh standing there. She was carrying a decanter of whisky in one hand, with three glasses suspended from the fingers of her other hand.

Her voice dropped, "It's been a busy day, and such a good one." Her voice took on some harshness, "And I'm tired of you two always sniping. If you must do this, then please, just do it quietly. Up here on the sofa, and with a glass of this." She held up the decanter.

Owen's shoulders dropped and his hands relaxed as he looked at her with a small wry smile. "Yeah, you're right, Tosh, as you so often are. Is that Jack's whisky?"

Replying in the affirmative, Tosh spoke as both Gwen and Owen moved toward the stairs, "Today was brilliant; we rarely get a chance to actually see something of such wonder, so it would be nice not to spoil it." She turned and moved quickly to the sofa. Sitting at one end she placed the glasses on the floor in front of her and began to pour a large measure of whisky into each. By the time she had finished pouring Gwen had settled on the other end of the sofa, leaving space for Owen to sit between them. He smiled, shook his head, and said, "You two sprawl out, I'll go and find a chair."

As he walked away Tosh handed a glass to Gwen, and by unspoken agreement they sat in silence, each taking a small sip as they waited for Owen to return. Owen was back with his desk chair a few moments later. He twirled it and sat on it backwards, his arms resting on the top of the backrest. Tosh passed him a whisky and he took a large mouthful. No one spoke – fascinated as they all seemed to be by the patterns of the liquid in their glasses. Each was turning their glass and resolutely avoiding beginning the conversation.

Some time passed in silence and then Tosh began to chortle softly. She glanced at Owen and then at Gwen before remarking, "The courageous Torchwood superheroes, happy to deal with aliens, scared into silence by human interaction. Here's to us." She raised her glass. Gwen and Owen both matched her toast, but still said nothing.

Tosh looked at them with frustration and tried again, "I don't know what's going on with you two. I thought we were a team; we built a team when Jack was gone, so why are you doing this? I thought you'd gotten beyond it so why begin it again?" She waited a moment for something to be said before adding, "And either one of you could start. I really don't mind who." She took a further sip of her drink, and remarked, "This is quality stuff."

"Okay, well it might as well be me since Owen doesn't seem to want to say anything." Looking only at Tosh, Gwen attempted to keep her statement free of sneering but was not entirely successful. "I just don't understand why he's so upset when he did something so nice." She turned her attention to Owen and found him to be watching her with an expression that was impossible to read. "And I'll admit that 'theatre' was such a surprise, Owen, coming from you."

Before he could respond Tosh reached out and placed a hand firmly on Gwen's arm. She looked at Owen and said, "Not yet with that, because that's not the question I asked. I want to know why you two are again snarling and sniping at each other because, frankly, it's really tedious." She giggled to herself at something about her last words.

"But we all do that," replied Gwen defensively, "we all snap and banter and take shots."

Owen huffed out a sigh and shaking his head he responded, "Yeah we do, but Tosh is right – you and I snipe with venom. I'm guilty and if you could be honest for a minute, so are you. It's probably more my fault than it is yours, but you pissed me off a while ago and you haven't apologised."

Tosh raised her eyebrows at the blunt honesty of Owen's contribution and hid her smile behind her glass. Gwen appraised him for a moment before leaning back into the sofa for support. She folded her arms across her chest and rested her glass on a bent elbow. Once resettled she matched his honesty. "Thank you, because it feels like I'm always being baited by you, Owen, and you know I react to things. But I don't understand how I pissed you off. You've been angry at me since I brought Rhys in here and, yes, I do realise you were upset when I refused to wipe his memory. It seems unfair that you'd still be cross at me for that. So I don't really know what it is I should apologise for."

Noticing that Owen had exchanged a look with Tosh, she added, "Would one of you please tell me what exactly it was, since you both seem to know."

Owen began slowly, his first words an attempt to smooth his path, "It's not about you bringing Rhys in; like Ianto said at the time, it was unprecedented but it turned out well enough. So it isn't about him, or him keeping his memories. He's a good bloke and he deserves to keep them." Taking a swig from his glass he swallowed and went on with determination, "Really, it has nothing to do with Rhys, it's what you said when you came back that day that annoyed me -how you didn't seem to notice how offensive you were being. It still irritates me that you don't realise it."

"Oh god, offensive! But how?" Gwen slumped, her elbows coming to rest on her knees. "I wouldn't, not intentionally. I really don't remember what I said. I just wanted you to understand –"

Tosh cut across her. Her comment was made softly but her eyes carried the strength of her belief in her view, "Actually, no. You needed Jack to understand, not us. We didn't come into it."

"But Jack had to understand." There were tears in Gwen's eyes as she began to realise that her performance that afternoon had not been without cost.

Owen noticed her reaction but was not prepared to let her off the hook. "So Tosh is right then, and we didn't matter." It was a statement but Gwen responded as though he'd asked a question.

She whispered as she wiped her eyes, "Yes, of course you all matter."

Taking several breaths and dropping his head back Owen took his time to respond. As he brought his head back up he seemed to ask Tosh for silent support before saying calmly, "Perhaps we do, but it always appears that Jack matters more. Sometimes I feel like an extra in a movie starring you and Jack. That's how it felt that day; me and Ianto and Tosh – you talked about us as though we were bit players, but we're not. You didn't really look at us while you proceeded to tell us how you're the only one who knows what it's like out there."

"But I'm the one supposed to keep us all grounded, to tell you what it's like. Jack said I had to remind him what it is to be human. That's supposed to be part of my job." When neither Tosh nor Owen said anything Gwen replied to herself, "Not doing a good job of it though, am I? And it's not the same thing as keeping Jack grounded is it? Ianto is the one who does that."

"He does," Tosh said simply as she curled her legs up onto the sofa and turned slightly to face Gwen. Stretching an arm along the back of the sofa she gently placed a hand on Gwen's shoulder in a gesture of comfort and recognition. "And you, well, let's say I know it wasn't an easy day for you."

"It certainly wasn't." Gwen laughed ruefully, and then went on, "I had to find a way for you to know how important it was for Rhys to keep his memories."

An edge of irritation had returned to Owen's voice, as he snorted, "So the best way you could think to do that was to come storming back telling us we don't know what it's like out there. Get a grip, Gwen, because we do, we bloody well do." He took a large gulp of whisky, draining the remains, before using his feet to drive his chair across the space and holding his glass out to Tosh for a refill.

Gwen recoiled from Owen's recollection of what she had said, "Did I say that?"

She looked to Tosh for an answer. Bending forward without unfolding her legs, Tosh placed her glass on the floor, lifted the decanter and poured another measure into Owen's glass. As he took the drink she continued her quiet support of him by saying, "Yes, in truth you did. In fact I'd go so far as to say you gloated. It may not have seemed like it but it certainly sounded like it. And in the process you insulted all of us." She glanced at Gwen, before dropping her gaze to the floor and settling the decanter again. Retrieving her own glass and holding it with both hands she turned her attention fully on Gwen and continued, "You told us that because we don't have anyone we have no idea how cold the world can be. I think we do. The worst bit was you didn't stop to think that we might."

A look of abject disappointment crossed Gwen's face, and she began to speak tentatively, "I didn't realise, oh god, that day I just had –"

Not wanting her to miss the point Owen stopped her explanation. He took a deep breath and said with considerable steadiness, "You said it yourself, you react to stuff; but no way does that justify you not thinking about how we react to your reactions. We do, and that, Gwen, is because we all have stories – it's not just Jack who has a back story. And we all know yours but you don't know ours." He laughed sadonically, "Well, except part of Ianto's, and there's no way any of us could have missed that one. We do know just how cold it is because we have all experienced it." When he finished speaking he attempted a smile for her, and received a wan grimace in return, so he added, "I guess what I'm saying is be more careful."

Gwen drank some of her whisky and shook her head slightly at the burn it gave as she swallowed. Her fingers tapped gently against her glass as she held it on her knees and considered what Owen had said. Dropping her head she stared into the glass. As she did her hair fell and curtained her expression, and she struggled to find words to form a response.

Aware neither Owen nor Tosh would say anything further, Gwen eventually spoke the one thought that had repeated itself in her mind, "I don't know why I think that. I suppose I've always thought that."

"I'd say that's true," Tosh said quietly. "It's a view you formed on day one, and you've held onto it. Even with Jack and Ianto being whatever they are."

Not lifting her gaze from her glass and avoiding Tosh's gentle accusation, Gwen murmured to herself more than to the others, "Who knows what they are?" Lifting her head she raised her voice a little and it contained a hint of defiance. "They haven't exactly told us. Who knows – maybe they're friends with benefits, maybe it's just a bit of fun. Maybe it is just that famous part-time shag, we don't know for certain."

"Do we have to know?" asked Owen bluntly, taking the altered direction of the conversation in his stride. "Couldn't you – we – just let them get on with whatever it is?"

Before Gwen had a chance to respond Tosh laughed openly. "Gwen, it's time to stop denying it. Whatever it is, it's happening." Her tone became more serious. "And I have to say – and I am not sorry for doing so – that it was really rough of you saying none of us had anyone when they were standing right there."

"I suppose it was," Gwen acknowledged cautiously before attempting a justification. "But they're not serious, are they? So they don't really have anyone." Seeing the looks of astonishment on the faces of both Owen and Tosh, she attempted to explain, "I know, I know; they date and they flirt and they do look good together, and we play along; but it's not serious though, is it? It can't be, not with Jack as he is."

"I'm not sure I understand what you mean," Tosh said with some puzzlement. "He still has the full range of human emotions."

"But he doesn't do relationships. Well, not one on one exclusive ones." Gwen's persistence in her belief did not surprise.

Tosh simply laughed. Owen stood up and pulled his shoulders back and stretched his arms behind him, before releasing them. He turned to Gwen and held a hand to forestall any further assessment of Jack's character. The determined expression he wore was more serious then she had ever seen on him. "You know that, do you? I mean, you really know that?"

"I would have thought it was obvious," she replied, not cowed by his questions.

Owen's stance became that of someone delivering a lesson to a recalcitrant child. "Listen to yourself. It's like you have a picture of him that's as fixed in time as he is. So I'll tell you this: I've known Jack much longer than you, and despite his bravado and his innuendo he's a very private man. We have never, I repeat never, known who and how he loves." He laughed, and it was gentle as he seemed to realise he was perplexed by his need for Gwen to really understand.

Tosh shrugged her shoulders when he raised an eyebrow at her so he continued, "He's a man, – an odd man, that's true – but still only a man." He looked down at Gwen, still sitting hunched forward on the sofa. "And that's why Ianto is so good for him because something in him gets that Jack is just a man. So let me ask you this: Do you?"

She looked up and said, "I don't think it's that simple. He can't be, not with what's happened to him. It's so much bigger, he has so much more to face than we do."

"Does he really? What do you think, Tosh?" Owen sought her contribution with the hope that it would offer an alternative explanation of his point.

Tosh looked at them both and the fingers of one hand scratched at the threads of the fabric of the sofa. When she responded it was, somewhat unexpectedly for Owen, directed to him. "I can't disagree with Gwen on that. Jack is facing stuff now he hasn't faced before. It's all different for him since he saw his Doctor. He used to hope he could be fixed. Now he knows he can't be. So he'll do things differently."

When she saw that they hadn't understood what she was getting at, she said simply:

"Ianto is his first attempt at a relationship since he discovered he can't be fixed."

Silence fell as the implications of her statement hung in the air between the three of them. Gwen sat back and shook her head, processing the insight. Owen gaped open mouthed at Tosh, his shoulders slumping as though the wind had been knocked from him.

"Geezus!" he muttered softly. He whistled as he flopped back onto his chair before rapidly running on, "I hadn't thought of that. In the past he believed he would be fixed – so he had a perfect reason not to really be involved with anyone. I'll bet he dreamed that when he was fixed he could find someone and they could grow old together."

"Exactly," replied Tosh, "and now he doesn't have that. And I think he may be beginning to understand that difference –"

"Wow, that makes him even more amazing," Owen interrupted with enthusiasm. "Whatever it is with Ianto, he's doing it with that knowledge. That's magnificent." He whistled again.

"And I'll bet Ianto knows it too, which makes him just as amazing," Tosh responded with genuine admiration. "Not that he would say anything. Or at least, he hasn't talked about it with me." She looked to the others for confirmation.

Owen shook his head, "Not to me, either."

Gwen added, "Nor me. And I'm not surprised; he and I – I think you know we don't talk. Not really." She mused for a little while, and as she did she drank the remains of her whisky and settled her glass on the floor. Silently refusing Tosh's offer of a refill she quietly suggested, "He's not the sort to reveal too much anyway. And if he's not saying anything to you guys – especially you, Tosh – I imagine he's not talking about it at all."

Owen pondered for a moment and, with no trace of malice and with a hint of humour suggested, "Maybe he and Rhys talked about it in their sweaty confessional."

Gwen chuckled ruefully, "I have no idea; Rhys has not said a word. In fact he refuses to, and I've never known him so determined."

Glad for the lightening of the mood Owen tried a good natured retort, "What? No pillow talk?"

"Believe me I did try, and as you said – I can't help myself. I have to know everything." She widened her eyes and laughed to let Owen know her comment was self-mocking. "But nope, not a word. It's as though Rhys has a new best friend."

"That is impressive," Tosh remarked. "Good on Rhys."

Gwen replied with a muttered, "I suppose so." Tosh changed her position, and sitting cross legged on the sofa turned to face her, saying, "That sounds like you're not happy about it."

Gwen flopped back and spread her hands in a gesture of confusion. "I don't know; Jack keeps saying the days of secrecy here are done with, so it just seems a little unfair that he and Ianto don't talk about what's going on. I don't know, maybe I'm just being petulant." She sighed and dropped her head back onto the upper edge of the sofa. "Help me out here, because I'm obviously not getting it."

"I'm not sure there's anything to get. There's no reason for either Jack or Ianto to say anything, because they could be figuring it out for themselves," replied Tosh. "Would you prefer they run around telling the world how much they might love each other, or how they feel about what they face? Which I'm not sure they know yet anyway. But it's pretty obvious that something is happening, and they are finding their own way."

Gwen countered, "But that's it! It annoys me they don't tell us anything."

"Why should they?" offered Tosh with some irritation. "It's their business."

After a moment's reflection Gwen tentatively agreed, "Yeah, I suppose you're right. But after seeing them tonight I really feel like they should just tell us something, why can't they at least come out and say it: we're a couple. Even just saying that would make things easier."

It was Owen's turn to laugh, and he did so freely before replying with his usual snark, "Who for?"

As Gwen gave him a look of denial at the implication, he asked plainly, "Seriously, why are you so desperate to know?" When he didn't receive a reply he gently mocked her silence in the language of her conversation of a few days previous. He simpered, "Is it your fan-girl stuff? You want your god all gooey and coupley and in 'lurv' with his hero?" Tosh began to giggle and Gwen's lips hesitated on the edge of a smile at Owen's taking the piss. Encouraged he continued, "Reality check: apart from everything else they have to deal with they're men, not fairy-tale princesses. This is Torchwood and we don't do Disney."

Shaking her head in disbelief, Gwen smirked as she retorted, "Really, Owen, that's a lot of help – 'we don't do Disney' – yep, thanks, that's great for my understanding." She took a breath and sighed as she exhaled, "I am asking seriously."

He nodded and in a calm manner said, "Okay then, if that's the case I'll answer seriously. Like I said: Jack's a private man, and so is Ianto. Whatever they have to work out, they'll do between themselves. So maybe you should stop waiting for an announcement. And I'm not sure your interest is with Ianto anyway. If I can use Tosh's idea from before I think the truth is you're only interested in what matters for Jack. So you want to hear it direct from him. And that's not going to happen." He fixed her in place with a pointed look, "You could start by believing what you're seeing, not what your hopes have you dreaming. And if you take a good look at them you might see what I saw."

Gwen ignored Owen's suggestion about her dreams and asked with what appeared to be genuine curiosity, "And what exactly did you see?"

"After the pub the other night I drove past them on my way home. They didn't see me, and I pretended to myself that I hadn't noticed, but I had. It was just the two of them walking along a quiet street and everything about them said 'we're an item'. And 'items' work things out for themselves."

Owen placed his glass on the floor and stood. Swinging a leg over his chair, he stepped to one side of it. "And you know what else? I need a piss. But before I go, here's my big confession. After seeing them on the street like that I couldn't sleep. I ended up sitting on my balcony, wrapped in a blanket, watching the sky and thinking about them. I watched the sun come up." He added with some irony, "There you go, there's something else to be surprised about."

"But why?" Tosh asked with genuine curiosity.

He quirked an eyebrow and quipped, "Because I'll bet you both think it's not in my character, that's why."

She groaned with good humour. "Don't be a smart arse, Owen, you know what I mean: why did you end up not sleeping?" Before he could answer she began to grin, and she challenged him. "Any chance the outcome of your sleeplessness is a desire to show the real you – the man behind the snark?

"And why would you say that?" he asked, quirking a single eyebrow.

"Well, my evidence is twofold: first you pay Ianto several unprompted compliments, then you play an aria from an opera and create a moment of …umm, fan-girl niceness." Giving him a bemused wink she drained her glass, her eyes not leaving his.

He raised both eyebrows and smiled at her. "I've said for several years you're a clever woman, Tosh; and it's true, I'm not naturally a snarky bastard. And I really do need a piss." Checking his watch he added, "And it's almost time for our pizza to be delivered so I'll go up and wait." Turning and walking away he called over his shoulder as he went, "Play nice now, kids." He left them: one gaping open-mouthed, the other giggling with genuine delight.

After they had watched him leave and Tosh's laughter had subsided, they sat in silence for a time, each wanting the other to speak first. Gwen broke the silence, not looking at Tosh but keeping her gaze fixed on the point where Owen had disappeared:

"I am sorry – about the insulting comments. I guess I didn't stop to think." She muttered further, "Something I seem to accuse others of doing."

"Apology accepted. As I said it wasn't an easy day."

Musing on Tosh's comment, Gwen pondered a question uppermost in her mind, "I wonder what Jack thought. God, I hope he wasn't too upset with me."

"I think he is used to you," came the cutting response. Annoyed by Gwen returning her focus to Jack, Tosh unfolded her sitting position and stretched her legs out in front of her. She went on, with controlled heat, "What I couldn't get over was how you blackmailed him."

"Goodness, don't hold back, Tosh!" a surprised Gwen exclaimed. "I didn't blackmail him; I just told him what I thought the options were."

Tosh reined in her frustration, although her tone implied her incredulity, "You threatened to leave – with full blown drama. And you played on it; to me that counts as blackmail. Could you have left?"

"Of course I could have!"

"I don't believe you. You knew that Jack wouldn't want to lose you."

"I would have done it for Rhys!" Gwen's reaction was swift and sharp.

"Really," an indignant Tosh replied. "You would have chosen Rhys over Torchwood if Jack had stuck to protocol? Seriously, I don't think so."

Gwen ducked the challenge. "When does Jack ever stick to protocol? He could have Retconned Ianto after Lisa; that would have been within protocol. Or Owen, for shooting him, but he didn't. He could have given it to any of us for that matter, for betraying him. So why is it different because it's Rhys? It shouldn't –"

"I'm not sure that's the point here," Tosh interrupted, with unguarded frustration. Moving her elbows to her knees she rested her chin on her closed fists, and turning her head she scrutinized Gwen. "I want an answer to my question, seriously, no avoidance. We all know you're attracted to Jack, so I'll ask again, would you have chosen Rhys if he'd been Retconned: yes or no?"

Still avoiding the real question, Gwen replied with some indignation, "Why are you and Owen suggesting that I'm attracted to Jack, I'm not attracted to him."

"You're kidding me, right?" Tosh snorted with laughter, "Oh god, stop with the self-delusion. I heard you and him the day he returned so let's not pretend anymore, 'Miss No One Else Will Have Me'. It's time to 'fess up."

Gwen stared at her, and there was some fury in her reply, "Whoa, Tosh, once again, don't hold back. Say it like you mean it."

Realising that an antagonistic approach would get her nowhere Tosh met her look, but her manner softened. There was real affection on her face when she said soothingly, "That's what I want us to do." As Gwen's posture relaxed in response Tosh took her hand. "I'm not judging you, Gwen, and neither is Owen. He's right; we do react to how you are, and a lot of that has been defined by how you are around Jack. So come on, a one word answer to my question, that's all I need. A Retconned Rhys - yes or no?"

"Alright, okay, here goes," Gwen finally relented and provided a response. "On that day, in that moment, I could have. Probably, I think so. I don't know. God knows what I was thinking."

"Can I tell you what I think you were thinking?"

"Go ahead, refresh my memory!"

"You wanted it all – Rhys, Torchwood, Jack. And you were prepared to threaten anything if it meant you didn't lose any of what you love. Including Jack."

For the second time Gwen tossed her head back onto the edge of the sofa, flinging her arms out wide as she did. "Yeah. Fair call; I suppose I did want it all. Who wouldn't? As for Jack, yes, it's true I do love him but it's not in that way. Or maybe it is. Again I don't know. And I wish I did. Every time I get close to him everything else goes blurry. I just see him. It's weird. And you know what?" Turning her head she looked quizzically at Tosh.

Tosh raised her eyebrows to indicate she would like to know, but said nothing that could cause Gwen to be side-tracked again. Gwen went on:

"Rhys says I'm like a schoolgirl with a crush on the teacher – that I've got a bad case of hero-worship and he's going to build a shrine. He thinks I'm desperate for Jack's approval, his admiration, and he's probably right. It must look strange. I just want him to notice me," She chuckled with self-deprecation. "Or maybe I want him to notice just me.' She laughed and said wryly, "Maybe Torchwood does do Disney after all – because it feels like I'm swooning over a fairy-tale prince. And don't we all want one of those?"

Tosh giggled at the accuracy of the question. "True enough. And maybe Ianto is Torchwood's Cinderella; the one who wins the handsome prince!"

Gwen snorted her laugh. "I think you just made me an ugly step-sister!"

Grinning slyly Tosh replied, "I suppose you are if you won't accept the prince preferring the scullery maid." As Gwen opened her mouth to protest, Tosh once again placed a hand on her arm – this time to prevent an interruption. "You know they adore each other, and they're seeing each other, and yet you can't admit that Jack might be choosing to make something special with Ianto."

"Yep, you're right, once again," Gwen finally conceded, "and I don't know why I won't admit it."

"Then let me have a go for you. Admitting it would mean acknowledging you're not as special to Jack as you think." Tosh sighed and she let her hand gently stroke Gwen's forearm. "Truth is, he believes it of all of us, in different ways. You make yourself feel that bit extra special because you think it's only you. We're all special to him; you just force him to publicly acknowledge it about you."

With a small nod Gwen accepted Tosh's explanation. "Right from the start I've felt that way. He made such a point of it in those first few days. And I knew something about him that you didn't, so of course I felt privileged and special." She pursed her lips and ruminated on the thought for some time. Again Tosh maintained a quiet support, and in due course Gwen spoke again, "I wish he'd never said that stuff about reminding you about being human. And having me keep his secret about his returning from the dead was wrong on his part. He set me up with something I shouldn't have had to carry on my own. It made me think I was above you and different, that I was more special to him. And I believed it."

"You know, with hindsight none of that should have happened. It wasn't a good way for you to start here, especially since you knew nothing about us." Tosh laughed ruefully and smiled. "But you're not the only one who forms an idea and then won't let it go."

"What do you mean?"

"Being blunt, you were an idea in his mind that he acted on without knowing anything about who you were – or are – as a person. But that's what Jack does; it's one of the things I love about him: he sees that special something in each of us and acts on his instinct. And he hasn't been wrong."

"He was wrong about Suzie."

"No, he wasn't. She was brilliant. And then he stopped noticing her. He and you are alike in that: at times you both forget to notice other people and you hang on to your view of them despite the changing evidence. But hear what I said: he hasn't been wrong with any of us. It's what brought you here in the first place."

"I suppose it did," Gwen accepted the explanation. Again she laughed at herself. "God, I'm surprised you put up with me, if I'm as self-absorbed as all this suggests."

Tosh giggled with delight at the possibility of some wickedness. "Probably because no matter what happens you're indestructible! Poisoning and shooting, and then threatening to retcon Rhys – all ineffective. And it seems whatever else we do doesn't work, so we'll just have to keep you." After they laughed together at the apparent truth in Tosh's jesting remark, she added, "In all seriousness, you do bring in something different. We're a team, Gwen; you know that – we worked that out months ago. Rhys knowing about us hasn't changed that, and nor has Jack and Ianto – god that's a mouthful, we must find them a nickname – becoming involved. Maybe all that's needed is to follow Owen's suggestion and be a bit more careful; you belong here, you do have special qualities."

"Aww, Tosh, I think you're going all fan-girl on me," Laughing as she said it, Gwen flushed a little at receiving a compliment from Tosh.

"Nope, one god's enough for me," Tosh replied and they exchanged a look that spoke of having cleared out unspoken rubbish to reach a clear resolution.

Gwen stood and looked about the space before appearing to come to a decision. She looked back at Tosh, saying, "I think I'll get out of here, I'll say goodnight to Owen on the way out. And thanks, Tosh, there's a lot for me to think about." She laughed. "It should make for another interesting conversation over the supper table."

Tosh waggled her eyebrows and smirked. "Supper might be a late one then!"

Gwen threw her hands up theatrically. "For crying out loud, Tosh, it's bad enough with the revised Ianto without you becoming another Harkness. And that doesn't bear thinking about."

'Don't think on it too much then, think instead about finding a nickname for Jack and Ianto."

"Oh yeah, that could be fun," Gwen mimicked a delighted Jack.

Tosh reached down and collected the decanter and gathered the empty glasses before standing, and together she and Gwen walked back to their desks. After tidying her desk a little Gwen wished Tosh goodnight, made for the cog door and left. Watching her walk away, Tosh noticed a slight spring in her step and a loosened swing of her arms; unconscious actions that spoke for the impact of the conversation.

As the door rolled shut she picked up her phone and sent Owen a message:

Gwen's on her way up heading home. I'll be in the boardroom.

gathering her laptop and camera she walked quietly away from her desk, reflecting on the conversation as she went. As she did she noticed that the sound of the door opening and closing had woken Myfanwy, who was perched on the edge of her nest ready to take flight. Pausing to watch her fly through the upper spaces of the Hub, Tosh laughed and remarked to herself, "I'd call that a Disney moment." Her chuckles carried through until she was seated at the table in the boardroom and working on transferring the photographs from her camera to the laptop.

By the time Owen arrived a few minutes later she had settled in and was reviewing her efforts on the boardroom's large screen. As he came in carrying a pizza box she asked, "Did you see Gwen?'

"Yep, she seemed cheery. She also gave me an apology for the insult, which was good of her." Owen replied, dropping the box on the table and taking the seat alongside. Opening the box he muttered, "I really am going to have to tell Teaboy not to keep getting us meat feast." As he took a slice he asked, "You two obviously had a good talk, want to share what she said?"

Tosh pretended a stern reply, "I think that would breach confidentiality, so I mustn't." Her lips began to quiver at Owen's surprise, and trying not to let him know she wasn't serious she too began to eat.

"No rugby club rules here," Owen drawled around a mouthful of food, "so c'mon, Tosh, spill. You know you'd like to." His eye was caught by a change in the image on the screen. "Wow, great image. Look at them."

Tosh had captured Jack and Ianto in a moment where they were turned slightly toward each other and smiling – as if each knew the other was amused by being the subject of a photograph. It caught their mutual delight at sharing that understanding.

Owen waved his free hand at the screen and shook his head. "There, that's what I mean, you only have to look. Seriously, how many words would it need to describe what that is?"

"Possibly only one, but I'm not sure it's one they would use yet." Tosh flicked her way through several more images before pausing on a group shot. "This one I think I'll delete." When Owen muttered "Why?" she explained by saying simply:

"Have a look at Gwen."

"Ahh, yeah, I see your point." As he reached for a second slice of pizza, he asked, "Do you think we made any difference tonight?"

"I don't know, I think she gets it, but you know how determined she can be. Perhaps she'll talk to Rhys and he'll help. She did tell me he thinks she's got a bad case of hero worship."

Owen's chuckle turned into a cough as he choked on the food he had been swallowing. Once he'd cleared his throat he quipped, "Now there's a surprise." Pointing at Gwen in the picture he added, "I think the wide eyed mooning might be the clue, or is it the dropped chin and clasped hands? She's not half obvious. She's looking at him while the rest of us are looking at the camera."

Recalling her conversation with Gwen, Tosh gently came to her defence, "I'm not sure she does it consciously – and Jack hasn't exactly discouraged her. That's something we agreed on, that he made too much of how special she would be for us and –"

A startled expression appeared on Owen's face. "She said that? That's unexpected."

"Not quite; she agreed with me when I suggested it."

"Even that's a surprise. How'd you manage it?"

"I have my ways!" When Owen simply stared with a look of exasperation Tosh answered more fully, "I suppose the truth is I was a little over the denial and delusions. And if I'm really honest I was annoyed that her priority was what Jack thought. So I spoke plainly."

Owen's response was not what she'd expected. He laughed and said, "I thought it was my job to be annoyed with her."

Pausing for a moment, Tosh's brow furrowed with confusion, which cleared quickly and she continued, "I just hide it better. Bottom line – it was good to channel all my frustration at being considered less important."

"Like I said, we've been extras in the Gwen and Jack show," Owen quipped as he considered the slice of pizza he was holding. Looking at it briefly he dropped it back in the box with a groan, "I really have no appetite for this."

"Me either," agreed Tosh, as she dumped her half eaten slice on top of the remains. "I loved you for saying that about how it feels like we're extras." Noticing that Owen grinned slyly she huffed, "What rankles most are all the subtle inferences that we need lessons in how Jack thinks. As if we don't have some understanding of him. For goodness sake we've been around him far longer."

"You're not wrong there, that pisses me off too." Owen pushed his chair back and hoisted his feet onto the table, his arms going up to clasp his hands behind his head. "I dunno, maybe I shouldn't let her get to me, but I'm tired of feeling insignificant around here." Apart from a look of curiosity, Tosh did not react, and let him continue. He raised his eyes to an image of Jack and Ianto that Tosh had brought up on the screen and pointed at it – both Ianto and Jack were so intently focused on the camera, he felt they were peering down the lens and into the boardroom. "Sometimes I really do feel like we've been relegated, Tosh – and I don't mean because of them. I'm fine with them."

At the flick of an eyebrow from Tosh he insisted, "Really. Even when they're together they still see us. And Ianto by himself doesn't drain the energy, he's always got a word – even if it is at my expense. But put Gwen and Jack together and …whoosh, all the air gets sucked out of the room into a vortex of just them."

"Well, maybe after tonight there'll be less of it." Tosh mused, and smiled regretfully. "Maybe we also can't blame her – we've let her get away with it and not really stood up to her."

"Yeah, I suppose you're right, and it's easier to snipe from the sidelines than challenge her full on." A faint chuckle from Tosh caused him to turn his attention from the photograph. "Not sure that's going to be true anymore though, not after tonight."

"We'll just have to challenge more in future and support each other when we do," Tosh suggested.

"Sounds like a deal to me, since we did alright tonight." Owen grinned and pointing at the laptop he changed the subject, "You want to show me the rest of your collection. Any good ones of me?"

"Possibly, and if not, then an image altering program can work wonders."

"Yeah, very funny, Tosh; you channelling Teaboy?" Owen snarked, though it was without his usual acidic tone.

"I do love my inner Ianto," she shot back.

"Don't we all, I adore mine," he retaliated with such sincerity that Tosh faltered, unsure of how to respond.

"You're kidding, you have an inner Ianto?"

"Sure do – how do you think I made him speechless." Owen cackled with laughter at catching her out.

"Score one for Owen," replied Tosh with a roll of her eyes. She considered him for a several moments, and at the end of that time she hesitantly asked, "So why is it …no, let me ask it another way; why do you –" She still seemed still unsure about how to go on.

Owen made it easy for her." You want to know why I'm always snarky about him. Easy. Two reasons: firstly because you guys are always going on about how great he is, and that gets under my skin. I know he's great – I just don't need the regular reminders. And secondly, because I'm envious."

"Envious, you, of Ianto! Now I really am surprised."

Owen pulled himself up from his slouched position and removed his feet from the table. Swivelling in his chair he turned to face Tosh directly. She responded by turning slightly to face him. "Believe me, I mean it when I say he's bloody admirable. I wish I could handle things like he does." He stopped and looked at the screen, and there was a quietness in his voice when he continued, "He's a far better man than I am."

"Wow, Owen, you're full of surprises tonight." Shaking her head at what she was hearing, Tosh's attention too was drawn to the screen. "And he's not a better man, you're just different."

"Oh, c'mon you really don't have to be all nice about it, Tosh, it's the truth. Think about it, we each lost someone to an alien, and he handled it better. Simple as that."

Feeling a mixture of sympathy and confusion at Owen's blunt assessment, Tosh attempted a well-meaning consoling, "No, it's not, Owen, you handled it how you needed to, everyone responds to loss differently."

"Give over on the warm fuzzies, Tosh, because they really aren't needed. He handled his well, I didn't. I let my grief overwhelm me." Owen shook his head. "So here's the blunt reality: I got bitter while Ianto got better."

"Well, wow, I'm not sure what to say." Her confusion now even more evident, Tosh floundered, taken aback by Owen's honesty. "This isn't like you. You admitting you're bitter. That must be tough."

"Not as tough as you think, because it is true. Look at how he built himself back up, got his life back into order. Me, I just retreated, and went looking for every rock I could crash against. Now he's the adored god of Torchwood and I'm its snarky bastard. Good on him. He is bloody admirable. Nothing startling in that."

"Oh, I know all that about him, and it is admirable; but no, it's your acknowledging you know you're bitter that's a bit startling. I'm just a bit taken aback, and I'm wondering why, why now? It's not like you to even refer to Katie. I can't remember the last time you did, it seems so long ago."

"Has it been that long?"

"It has. I was a bit surprised when we dealt with the cyberwoman. You knew she had been Lisa, yet you didn't draw any comparison. You never said anything to him. I mean, I know he knows about Katie -I think Gwen is the only one who doesn't. But you didn't ever, I don't know, use it as a way of 'bonding' with him?"

He groaned, "It comes back to Gwen again, she was so in Jack's space about Lisa and Ianto, there was no room for me. And Ianto was off on leave, and then we did the Brecons and after that things just moved on. By then it was too late to raise it."

"And now you respect him anyway so it's not needed." It wasn't a question, rather a statement of an evident truth.

"I do and you're right, it isn't," Owen opened up a little more. "But it's more than just respect – I admire him and, funny as it may seem from our behaviour, I like him. He's actually great fun, all that droll dry wit; I do enjoy all of that – even if I come off second best."

With a sense of enlightenment, Tosh carefully put pieces of Owen's conversation together with the various examples of his recent behaviour. Her comprehension of the truth of Owen's last comments washed across her and she beamed. She suggested:

"So your comments with the taunting strip the other day weren't a shot at him, but annoyance at what Jack, Gwen and I had been saying about worshiping him?"

"That's about right – how to make me feel insignificant!"

"And the refusal to say he's gorgeous?"

"Same reason."

"And the story about having some same-same?" Tosh pursed her lips to hide a giggle.

Owen laughed with some irony. "It brought me Jack's attention, and I won't deny it's nice to have his real attention occasionally. And it put me on a par with Ianto!"

"And sitting on your balcony?"

"Ah, yes, that. I don't know, it's all a bit of a muddle. It hit me, that moment when I saw them, just how strong Ianto has been, and how he has been able to make something good. It got me thinking about the last few years for me. And thinking about Katie, and what I might have missed out on."

Tosh again asked a question, this time with extra caution, "Could that be a part of the envy?"

Owen gave her a light slap on the arm. Laughing with her, he said, "Too bloody good, Tosh. Gwen thinks I'm envious of her and Rhys, but you know what, you're right, I'm actually envious of Ianto and Jack. You saw that look when they were on the lift. That's how I used to look at Katie. Those guys do have something, you know. There's a kind of mystery around them, like there's something they get that we don't. That's how it was for me and Katie."

"And you miss it? Realising she asked the obvious, Tosh rushed on, "Of course you do, what am I saying. Sorry, Owen, that was pretty silly of me."

"I do miss it, but not quite like you might think. It isn't so much about Katie anymore, you know; that's four years ago. It's more for not having something like that. If I'm truly honest it's the absence of that kind of look in my life that gets me. I thought I'd been protecting myself, but really I was just missing out on all the good things I'd packed away and didn't dare touch again."

Tosh was silent for a moment, allowing Owen to go on if he chose. When he didn't, she said quietly, "Like an aria from an opera you and Katie enjoyed together?"

Owen bit his lip and nodded.

"And yet you wanted to play it for Jack and Ianto," Tosh remarked. "Even with those memories."

"Because of those memories, Tosh." Owen's smile carried some weariness. "I think it's time to unpack some of the good things again."

They sat quietly absorbing the significance of Owen's reflection. Neither moved, though their attention drifted away from each other and to the screen and the image it showed. The presence of Jack and Ianto in the room was large, as if bestowing approval on the truth of the conversation. Owen quietly remarked "Maybe I should follow Ianto's example." He laughed at the admission and wagged a finger at Tosh. "But don't you dare tell him I'm using him as a role model, I'd never hear the end of it."

She quipped in response, "It might make him speechless."

"Yeah, good point." They laughed together. At Owen's suggestion they worked their way through all of Tosh's pictures, debating which ones to keep, and which to discard. Their shared enjoyment dispersed the seriousness of the conversation and they were soon having fun comically altering the images. When Owen drew a pair of devil's horns on Gwen's head, Tosh responded by altering Owen's clothing to a cardigan and spectacles – and she roared with laughter at the complete character change it suggested. Owen quickly found his revenge by downloading other images, and cutting and pasting Tosh's head onto them. It became a game, in which they took turns at outdoing each other. After Owen put her in the attire of a scantily clad show girl, she'd plopped his head onto an image of James Bond emerging from the sea and groaned, "Nope, never going to work." She erased it quickly, despite his protests of, "But that's me!" Sourcing the perfect image of an embarrassed man in tiny white briefs trying to cover himself, she pasted on his smiling face with an exultant cry of, "That's it, perfect. I win!"

"Okay, defeat conceded," Owen acknowledged, "but I can think of one more image." He pulled the laptop over and made a short work of producing a picture of Jack and Ianto, each adorned with stag's antlers.

Tosh took one look and couldn't help but snort with real delight. "That's going to go down well …with Ianto at least! Jack, I'm not so sure about. And you must save it."

When her amusement had subsided Owen chanced a glance at her before saying, "Looking at these photos has given me an idea, Tosh. Let's go out to supper."

Noticing the immediate rolling of hers eyes and raising of her eyebrows, he rapidly went on, "Not the Harkness kind of supper. No, a proper supper; just you and me, tonight."

"What?" she asked with curiosity, somewhat surprised. "What are you thinking, Owen?"

"We used to do it all the time, go out for a drink, but we haven't done it for ages."

"Not since Ed Morgan and that ghost machine thing," Tosh confirmed with her usual accuracy.

"Don't remind me."

"Sorry. And why not, it'd be fun." She looked down at her work clothes, "but I'm not exactly dressed for going out."

"We've got a couple of hours before the guys return, you could always nip home, do what you need to do, put your party frock on –"

"My party frock?" Tosh asked with more surprise, "You mean get dressed up?"

"Yeah," Own pressed his case, "It has been a good day and everyone else has had some way of celebrating it, so why not us too? Let's do something different and special."

"Of course, I think it would be lovely, but what about you? Won't you need to change?"

Owen laughed. "I'll let you into a secret. My dinner suit is hanging in my locker downstairs." Tosh's gasp brought forth an explanation, "I wore it a while ago and had it dry-cleaned afterwards, and I've just forgotten to take it home. The whole kit is there, suit, shirt, and tie. And I'm sure there are some black shoes around somewhere."

"My goodness, Owen, a full on party frock then. And where are we going in such get-up?"

"I reckon we'll have no problems, what with the opera gala being on. Most of the big places will be offering some sort of special supper. But I can worry about that while you're out."

"You sure about this?" Tosh voiced her last qualms, "What if you get an alert or a Weevil sighting?"

"You said yourself the Rift predictions are really quiet, and if there is a sighting; well – I suppose we'd have to change our plans. And come on, Tosh, you're ten minutes away if that. How often have we managed with only one here?"

"Okay, you're right. Why not." She beamed at him.

Together they stood, Owen grabbed the pizza box and Tosh gathered the camera and laptop and they left the boardroom. When they came to their desks Tosh turned a quizzical eye on Owen who said somewhat briskly, "Go on, be gone, I have a supper booking to make."

"Okay, okay, I'm going. I'll check when the opera comes out and make sure I return in time." She snarked in imitation of his usual tones, "Wouldn't want to keep you waiting." Scooping up her bag and her PDA, she said goodbye and left, Owen's laughter following her down the gangway.

When she'd disappeared Owen flopped onto his chair, and brought his hands up to cover his face as he let out a loud exhale. Shortly after, he began to titter with amusement before chortling to himself at his thoughts. "Right then, Harper," he said after a few minutes, "let's make this happen." His laughter echoed off the walls of the Hub as he remarked, "Not quite supper though, Tosh."

With nothing to disturb him, Owen worked quietly on his implementing his plan. Once the arrangements were made, he showered and dressed and found the pair of black shoes that would complete his outfit. Returning to the work area he made for the autopsy bay and pulling some scrubs on over his suit he retrieved a small piece of alien plant life from a propagation chamber and began to examine it.

When Tosh returned he was still occupied so she called to him, "I'm back, Owen, and the opera will be over soon, if their timing is right they'll be out in about ten minutes." She waited for a response, and when none was forthcoming she wandered to the autopsy bay. Noticing that he was performing some delicate grafting work, she waited. When he finally lifted his head, she tried again, and this time was successful.

"Oh great, welcome back. You look terrific." Owen rushed out, the speed of his words suggesting he was slightly nervous.

Accepting the compliment she pointed at the scrubs and with a laugh said, "That's your version of a dinner suit?"

" I'll repeat myself and say very funny, Tosh." He took a breath, and went on, "I just have one small thing to do here. Can you hook into the Centre's CCTV and tell me as soon as it looks like it's over?" On receiving her agreement he returned to his task and began winding it up as Tosh returned to her desk, somewhat puzzled by his nervousness.

Just as Owen had returned the grafted plant to the chamber and begun to clean up he heard an "Okay" echo from the work area. Walking from her desk to lean on the railing above the medical bay Tosh spoke quietly, "Owen, all the ushering staff are returning to the foyer so I imagine the audience will be out in a few minutes, and Jack and Ianto back here a few minutes later."

"Yeah thanks, Tosh, Jack did say they'd come straight back and I'm hoping that is still their plan." He looked up from the task at hand and acknowledged her presence with a nervous nod.

Curious, and suspicious about his nervousness, Tosh asked, "Any particular reason why you wanted to know? There's nothing really to hand over when they get back."

"I wanted to know because we're not going out to supper; we're in fact going out to join them on the Plass. And because there's just one more thing I have to do before we can." Owen replied as he lay down the instruments he was cleaning, took off his surgical gloves and doffed the scrubs. He threw Tosh a smile and asked, "You can hack into the public address system in the Plass, can't you?"

"Sure, easy as pie. Are you going to tell me what it is you're going to do, and why you're abandoning our plans?" she queried him with a grin as he came up the stairs toward her.

"I think you're smart enough to work it out, bright woman that you are," he replied with a laugh. Reaching out he gently turned her and, placing a hand in the small of her back, guided her to her work station. "And you'll be far quicker at organising it than me, I was dreading this bit."

"What are you up to, Owen?"

"Something nice, I assure you. Once you've got into the PA system throw me the link and then watch the CCTV and let me know when you see them come out the doors onto the Plass." Owen teased her with another grin and his refusal to say exactly why he needed such details.

Tosh was not one to give up. "Okay, so let me guess, something nice – going by what you did earlier I'd say you're going to play them some music, but what is it?"

"Didn't I just say you're smart? You've got it in one go, it is more music, and I even have the right piece ready for their walk home." He laughed and smiled broadly at her. "Or maybe that should be for their waltz home!"

"You're kidding, a waltz? You're playing them a waltz! How wonderful, do you think they will dance home?"

"I'm pretty sure Jack will want to, not too sure about Ianto though. It might stretch his comfort zone a bit, dancing with Jack in public. But he'll enjoy all the other couples who'll dance, I do know that."

Tosh considered this and then suggested, "You're right about other couples dancing, especially after the glamour of an opera gala. I'm not so sure you're right about Ianto though, and Jack's such a romantic he'll find it hard to resist. We'll see, I suppose."

"I'm sure we will," Owen's countenance was radiant, "and it's all just a bit of fun to cap off a great day."

"Come on, Owen, it's much more than just a bit of fun – Gwen will be sorry to have missed it, I'll have to keep the CCTV for her."

"Well," Owen replied drolly but with a hint of delight, "if she read the messages I sent while you were out, she and Rhys should already be up there on the Plass."

Tosh clapped her hands together with pleasure at his surprise. "But that's wonderful, how thoughtful of you ...it's gorgeous, the whole team dressed up and dancing on the Plass. You really are a sentimental softie, Owen, you know that, don't you?" She winked at him. "And I think it's lovely."

"Please, Tosh, don't go all fan-girl on me, one god is enough for this place, thanks very much."

The absence of Owen's usual snarky tone, and its replacement with one of sincere amusement, gave Tosh the courage to continue speaking. She said, somewhat coyly, "I promise not to worship you, but I can't promise not to adore you a little more for this." Conscious her remarks were open to several different interpretations; she focused on her monitors, and hurried on to cover the moment. She asked, "What have you chosen, is it the waltz from La Traviata?"

"Nah, that would have been great but it doesn't last long enough. I did however remember something else, something Katie and I danced to at her grandparents' ruby wedding anniversary. It's old but I'll bet Jack will know it – hell, he probably danced to it first time around."

"It will be perfect then. How long do you think we have?" Her eyes widening in surprise at an idea, Tosh's hands began rapidly flying across her keyboard and she began muttering, "I wonder …if I can just …yes, they have…fantastic …I can …there …done, and just in time because the audience is coming out. You ready?"

Owen threw her a puzzled look and somewhat hesitantly replied, "Yep, all ready to rock and roll, well not that exactly, but you know what I mean. But what have you been up to that caused such a flurry?"

"Tell you on the way out," Tosh responded with excitement, "because I can see them, they're in the foyer and heading for the doors, and it won't be long. Okay, getting closer …and counting down …in three ...two …one …they're on the Plass!"

"Well then, it's show-time," Owen announced as he theatrically hit a key, "and playing now!"

Moving quickly across the space he joined Tosh at her monitors and together they watched as the crowds spilling out from the Millennium Centre foyers appeared to stop for an instant in surprise, and then, as one, begin to smile and chatter.

"Oh, Owen, look; people are beginning to dance, and some are actually waltzing. It's wonderful, look!"

"I can see. And it would appear you were right and I don't know Ianto as well as you do; see there, Ianto's asking Jack to dance." He turned to Tosh, and with a touch of nervousness as he held out his hand, he went on, "And that might just be our cue – Ms Sato, would you care to join me on the Plass for a dance?"

"Why, Dr Harper, thank you, I'd be delighted."

While they made their way to the lift, Owen asked, "Exactly what were you doing in that flurry?"

Tosh replied with delight, "I hooked us into the lights on the Plass, and they'll now dance along with your music. The program was already there on their system, some festival or other, I just patched across." Stepping onto the lift she laughed at an astonished Owen, "Well come on, let's go have some fun."

He stepped onto the stone and they began to rise.

Holding onto each other as the lift made its journey Tosh chuckled and she said, "I think you might have been wrong, Owen. The team dancing by moonlight on the Plass – maybe sometimes Torchwood can do Disney!"

"Couldn't agree more," he responded with a laugh as they disappeared into the roof space. Their departure left the Hub in near silence, the only sound the whirring of the computers and the gentle rustle of Myfanwy asleep again in her nest.


Additional Note 1: If you'd like to hear the aria from the Pearl Fishers that Owen played search for a video clip of The Pearl Fishers, Philadelphia National Opera and Nathan Gunn. If you can drag your eyes away from two handsome muscular bare chested men singing a (b)romantic duet, then close them and imagine Jack and Ianto leaving the Hub. The section Owen plays starts at around 1.29 or 1.30 on that clip.

Additional note 2: Coming up in Chapter 5 - while dancing on the Plass Ianto has delightful conversation with someone unexpected, and Jack's is taken on a trip down memory lane, much to everyone's surprise.