Two More Tales: Another Diptych

For want of a sandwich the battle lines were drawn


1. Behind the Green Door (Gwen)

"You must stop doing this to yourself," Gwen shouted to the closed door. "It’s not good for you." Behind the flaking paint the sound of retching continued.

"It’s something I ate. Stop fussing."

Fussing is exactly what you want us to do, my lad, she thought. "You haven’t eaten anything today." A loud gurgling flush punctuated the conversation. But it was pointless. He’d come out when he wanted to. Probably not until Jack came down to see him. It had been like this since the picnic in the Plas. From that moment onwards Ianto had sulked around in search of a catalyst for his loneliness and paranoia, pouncing on every closing Instant Messenger window as a sign he was being squeezed out of the social order. "He’s not worth it, love," she added for good measure, suspecting that neither of them quite believed that.

It was worse if the Captain was around. Then Ianto would turn his back on them, pull out a duster from a jacket pocket, and meticulously, maniacally, find something at fault with the sheen of a balustrade, a pane of glass, a side of a console, until their boss had departed the scene. It would have been pathetic if Ianto hadn’t been genuinely in distress. He seemed incapable of dealing with the situation rationally.

This was a new phase he’d developed recently. Gwen suspected, from the contents of the garbage bags she’d examined surreptitiously, that he was only eating if Jack took time to lunch with him. He seemed to be surviving primarily on bottled water and a strong sense of injustice. Jack, on the other hand, was a study in mannered stoicism and feigned indifference.

"Come on lad, chin up." She banged her hand on the door again, ignoring the colourful Brythonic diatribe it created. "You can come out to lunch with me tomorrow, if you like. You don’t have to always be waiting on Jack."

A stifled wail came from behind the door followed by some hideously liquid sounds.

Honestly. It was worse than talking people down off roofs. Rwyt ti'n esgys fach pathetic am dyn. The stupid child was making himself ill over nothing: "If you don’t come out soon I’ll break the door down." It was an idle threat but she tried to sound as if she meant it.

Eventually a latch clicked. Ianto emerged, pale and sweating, his eyes broken. There was a yellow stain on his jacket lapel still glistening. Tears were running down his face, his whole body shaking. "Help me, Gwen. I don’t know what to do."

"Aww poppet. Come here." She opened her arms to hug him, trying not to wince at the smell.


2. An Absence of Malice (Toshiko)

"May I come in?"

Jack looked up at the slender knuckle curled to knock on the glass. "Toshiko, you’re always welcome."

The figure smiled tentatively but remained hovering at the threshold. "I wasn’t sure if you were alone."

Ah. Ianto again. Jack blinked slowly. "Definitely alone." Now it appeared it was Tosh’s turn to proffer advice. "Alone, alone, alone…"

She pulled up a chair and sat perched uncomfortably on the corner, smoothing the creases out of her trousers and looking everywhere but the figure behind the desk. Jack gave no quarter but stared back, not in an unfriendly fashion but definitely to keep her off-kilter. He had no intention of making this easy for any of them. He was the boss, the commander, the head honcho. He’d send them out to their deaths on dangerous missions if the situation called for such desperate measures. He would not, under any circumstances, be lectured to on his people skills. Or lack of them.

After a few minutes of fidgeting Toshiko broke the silence. "From my perspective this is a classic application of Game Theory." She still couldn’t look him in the eyes. "A simple decision matrix with three determinants."

"Game theory was systematically refuted half a decade ago as naïvely simplistic."

"Chikusho! I’m trying to be practical." She scowled. It made her look prettier he decided. More animated. "Remove all emotions from the context and look at it logically and rationally."

"You should wear a skirt. It would show off your legs better."

"You have the moral turpitude of a vulture in a nudist colony," Toshiko said disinterestedly. "I know what you’re trying to do and it won’t work. If you don’t listen to me now I’ll merely reprogram the computer systems to play back the message to you on all the terminals in the Hub."

"Komban hima desu ka?"

"No. But Ianto is. What do you intend to do? Let him kill himself out of love? You can’t be a completely cold-hearted bastard. Sir," she added hastily. "This place is falling apart. The memoranda are piling up unanswered. I have requisition notes going back to the beginning of last week for a new cyclical thermoplane to replace the one you poured Ianto’s coffee into. Until I get that there’s no way to send Janet’s neighbour back home. And let’s face it. Even the weevil’s turning lilac from the seepage."

"Nyow nyow shita ku nai?"

"Tameguchi kitten ja ney o! The words came out automatically before she had a chance to stop them. A blush crept over her cheeks but she refused to back down.

Jack beat an impromptu rhythm on the edge of the desk with a pair of cheap red pens. He knew she was right. "What does your beloved game theory program suggest?"

"Either sedate him or shag him. The choice is yours." Toshiko stood up and put two small packages onto the desk. "Owen gave me those."

"What are they?" Jack asked, reaching for the suspicious boxes.

"Tranquillisers." She turned to leave. "And a packet of condoms. Owen said they should be your size" she added sweetly.

"Ike ike."

"Issunboshi," came Tosh’s parting shot with more than a hint of smugness about it.

Jack looked down at the prophylactic the doctor had chosen. "Owen. You bastard."