Present Tense

On the twelfth day after Christmas Ianto found himself silently appraising Toshiko's arse as she gingerly used a piece of broken wood to push boxes into the heart of the Hub's incinerator. As pretty as it was it didn't quite cover the irritation of trying to sneak a visit to the room undetected and finding himself in a queue.

He was just about to tiptoe away when she turned and flashed a momentary smile at him. "Won't be long." Two slender fingers depressed a pair of buttons. The reflection of the flames danced over her face from the observation window, casting a yellow glow over an expression which may have been smugness.

"Having a one-woman game of Happy Arsonist?" Ianto asked, batting a tendril of acrid smoke away that had had the temerity to escape the seal. "Careful you don't set the Hub alarms off."

"I disabled them." Toshiko was still staring at the leaping streaks. "Not asking what I'm burning?"

He shuffled his feet awkwardly but didn't reply.

She glanced back at him, expression softening. "Told you it wasn't such a clever idea."

***

"Then we all put our suggestions into the hat, mix them up." Jack said to Gwen, sounding like a schoolboy who'd just found his first nude photograph, "and pull one out each. So whatever someone pulls out we each buy them a Christmas present around that theme."

"Simples," said Owen.

***

Gwen peered eagerly over his shoulder as Ianto gingerly unfurled the green slip. "What did you get?"

"'Culture'" Ianto replied. "'Broaden your horizons.'" No guessing who had written that as Jack gave him a big wink. "You?"

"'Music and Dance.'" She moved over to peer at the contents of Toshiko's hands. "Something interesting?"

Tosh looked long and hard at the paper. "'Safety'".

"Didn't you get that last year?" Ianto asked.

She looked up at him from beneath a hooded brow. "I get that every year…" She sighed as she dropped it onto her desk and moved to get on with her work. "It's not important."

***

"What did you do with the handcuffs?" asked Ianto, mesmerised by the fireworks inside the furnace.

"Dropped them off at the Oxfam shop on Albany Road." She shrugged. "Just hope they didn't have a serial number traceable to Gwen."

A sudden pop from inside the hatch made them both jump as a pair of large red objects burst.

***

"I don't get it," Gwen whispered to Owen. "Why did he give her boxing gloves? What's safe about boxing?"

The doctor rolled his eyes in mock despair. "She's supposed to wear them in bed. Stops her frigging in her sleep."

"Oh," said Gwen, giggling slightly to hide her blushes. "And the car first aid kit?"

"That was from Ianto. Boring fucker."

"'From Owen with love and tongues," Toshiko read out from the label as she carefully peeled back the sticky tape from the parcel. "Thank you Owen. Just what I needed." She held up the book for all to see. "The Lesbian S&M Safety Manual."

Ignoring the cruel snigger behind her Gwen advanced holding out a heavy box. "You haven't opened mine yet."

***

"Make Your Own Yoghurt Set" Ianto said happily holding the container up so they could see the photograph on the front. "Thank you Toshiko."

"Culture Yoghurt," she said uncertainly, as if they were children.

Owen stomped over and squinted at the picture of six little pots. "I'm testing those for the presence of semen before I try anything out of there."

"That's revolting Owen." Gwen screwed up her nose in disgust. "Only you could think of that."

"Actually," Ianto said slowly, looking over at Jack's face. "I don't think that's strictly true."

***

"…sex doll disinfecting fluid, a copy of Fist of Fun…" With more than a little satisfaction in his voice Ianto pushed the DVD into the back of the furnace.

"I did think that was about boxing," Toshiko admitted sheepishly. "I should have known Jack better."

"And of course Gwen's Mexican Folk Classics."

Toshiko's hand stopped him as he was about to place the CD inside. "Keep that. It could be useful."

"Really? Can't think what for. Jack always says nothing kills an erection faster than Mariachi music."

"I always used Chinese Opera." She laughed. "You can't date a doctor and get away with the old 'headache' routine. Owen always kept a packet of ultra-fast acting analgesics somewhere."

"Okay. Keepsies on the bandit banjos." He slammed the door shut. "Remind me why we do this every year."

"Suzie said it was a good team-building exercise."

They looked at each other for a moment.

"She always was a manipulative bitch," Tosh said. She placed a finger on one of the buttons. "Go?"

"Go," said Ianto emphatically as he pushed on the second control.

"Fire in the hold."

 

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