Title: "Back Stage: Enter Stage Left, Act I"
Rating: M for later adult content.
Spoilers/Disclaimers : Torchwood, belongs to the BBC and RTD, I’m just borrowing the characters- I own nothing here, nor do I make any money! So please don't prosecute! It’s an AU story, so I’m pretty sure that it shouldn’t spoil anyone’s enjoyment of Torchwood itself.
Summary: Torchwood characters in a story set in the contemporary world of UK theatre/entertainment.
A/N: Trust me! Please!
Chapter list: http://wanda1969.livejournal.com/23796.html
Avoiding Jack Harkness the next day had been easy. With all the hustle and bustle of the final two shows, keeping away from him hadn’t been that difficult at all. The problem was the Last Night Party. There would be no evading the actor.
As the last show dragged on beyond its usual running time with back stage gags and finale ‘thanks’ to the audience and all involved in the production, Ianto found himself for once thanking the crew and cast for the hold-ups. Anything that delayed the end of the Panto, and thus the start of the party and the inevitable meeting with Jack, was just fine with him - a restless night had only increased his embarrassment at his actions the previous night.
Entering the Anthony Hopkins Suite, which was, rather unimaginatively, the venue for the last night party, as it was for the First Night Party, Ianto’s heart immediately fell. Amongst the other guests, there was Jack, holding court with several of the other turns.
Quickly turning his attention back to his companion, Owen, as they walked to the bar, Ianto asked, “A beer then?” He received an enthusiastic nod in response as they made their way over to order what would be their first free drink from the bar.
Eyes straying away from his fellow members of Hartman productions, Jack saw Ianto and Owen enter the room. Ianto wore tailored dark jeans and a deep purple shirt, topped off with a black waistcoat. He looked stunning, even more so when Jack remembered how perfect- for a few moments- it had felt when they had kissed. The thought was quickly dismissed; Jack had noted that Ianto appeared to be avoiding him all day, and he had to admit that he didn’t blame the young man; his behaviour the night before had been unforgivable. Ianto had been vulnerable, and at a low point, and he’d exploited that. This thought had led to the actor having just as restless a night as the Technician. As sleep escaped him, he had tossed and turned, feelings of guilt- and shame that he’d let his baser instincts concerning Ianto take over- filled his head; when he finally slept, his slumber was far from calming and he had been plagued by dreams which replayed his actions. He awoke several times. Each time he found himself again drifting into unconsciousness, those visions returned, although on occasion the scenarios ended differently. In one, Ianto had returned his affections freely, only for a horrified woman, who turned out to be Lisa, to arrive as they kissed. In another, Ianto had actually violently repelled him. All of this added to his unease. He knew he should probably just try to forget about the episode and leave the Technician be, but he also knew that he wouldn’t be able to leave Cardiff without trying to make his peace with him.
There had been a rather more lavish buffet than that of several weeks earlier- the Management clearly felt that they needed to show their gratitude to the cast and crew for what had been one of the Theatre’s most successful Christmas seasons- and an open bar for an hour. When everyone had eaten and drunk their fill there had been a prolonged speech from Adam, including thanks to everyone involved and a tongue in cheek ‘awards’ ceremony complete with token prizes in categories such as ‘Best Technical Cock-Up’, ‘Best Corpsing Moment’, ‘Best Gag’ and so on. Rob had actually won for his ‘performance’ inside Aladdin’s cave’s treasure chest, and Jack had been nominated in the run for ‘Best Corpsing Moment’- he had, after all, found it difficult to get his lines out after Rob’s triumphal victory, and there’d been a lengthy pause where he composed himself for his Act I closing number.
Ianto had spent most of the evening in the company of his colleagues, so when Jack saw him rise and head for the door, he quickly excused himself from the conversation with his fellow actors. Knowing Ianto, there were only two options: either Ianto was heading for the Gents- and he certainly wouldn’t pursue him there if he was trying to make a good impression – or he was heading outside for a cigarette. He decided to take the risk and follow him out of the room, planning to take his cue from the direction that Ianto’s steps took.
Jack saw Ianto make his way, alone, towards the stairway which led to the back stage entrance- and outside. The young man was clearly headed out for a nicotine fix- not, perhaps, Jack’s most favourite vice, but one that he realised that he just didn’t care about when it was Ianto’s occasional habit.
It was good to get away from the crowds and have some time to himself. Ianto had managed to make his getaway at a time when the few other guests who smoked were not outside, and it suited him just fine. His lack of sleep was beginning to tell, and the packed room inside had been starting to get overwhelming. He decided against lighting up; the cold night air was just what he needed to sweep the cobwebs away. He wasn’t sure how long he’d been stood there when he was shaken from his reverie/thoughts by a small cough, followed by the words, spoken quietly and hesitantly, “Hey, how’s it going?”
Ianto didn’t even have to look to know that the speaker was Jack Harkness- the American accent told him that much. Eventually he turned, “Hi, Jack… OK. Look… I…”
He was quickly interrupted. “Don’t… Ianto, I can’t tell you how sorry I am about last night. I don’t know what came over me… What the hell did Angharad put in that punch?” Jack gave a small, self deprecating laugh. “Believe me, I didn’t mean to… to do anything that made you feel uncomfortable.”
Ianto had laughed along with Jack at the comment about the punch- it had been truly lethal. “I know what you mean- I had a bit of a woolly head this morning…” He paused thinking through what he could say next. “It was just as much my fault… I can’t believe I behaved like that. It’s been a bit of a… stressful… time at home. I’d be grateful if you could just forget all about it. I like to think of you as a friend, just as much as a workmate- I’d hate to think that I screwed that up.”
“If it’s any consolation, I feel the same. Let’s just say we’re both to blame. You’ve been a good mate to me, and I guess I’ve been kinda lonely what with being away from home at Christmas… add in that damned punch…” he trailed off. He hoped that Ianto didn’t notice the slight sad tone in his voice; whilst he sincerely regretted his actions, a tiny part of him had wished that Ianto felt the same as him. For him, the kiss had been damned near perfect, exceeding his fantasies and expectations.
“It’s OK. Agreed, yeah? We were both a bit out of it, and behaved a bit… stupidly. I mean, I know the show’s over but you never know where you end up in this job. I wouldn’t like to think that we’d be working together again and it would be awkward.” Ianto doubted that their paths would cross again. Although many of the same old faces turned up time after time on shows and gigs, Jack was clearly on the up. A new TV show on the back of Doctor Who, based around him as the heroic lead could hardly fail- his days of Panto and entertainment shows were surely numbered.
“Agreed.” Jack nodded before giving what he hoped was a disarmingly theatrical flourish in an effort to break the tension. “My lips are sealed, and anyway, it’s already forgotten about… What were you saying?”
A relieved Ianto let out a breath and laughed. “No idea! Was it something to do with the awards ceremony earlier? You did pretty well with your corpsing nomination.”
“Well, I defy anyone to keep a straight face with Rob making suggestive gestures at you like that. It’s bad enough when he does it from the wings, never mind onstage, when I wasn’t expecting it! I still didn’t beat Rose, though- I lost to a worthy opponent. I have to admit that that was a very inventive bit of porn that Owen managed to fix to the front of the monitors…”
Ianto shuddered. “Luckily I didn’t see it…please tell me that one of the protagonists wasn’t Owen… That might give me the type of nightmares I really don’t need.”
“Rest assured- there was no Owen. There’s no need to lose sleep!”
“Thank God for that…”
With a nod, Jack joined him in his relief. “You going back inside?” he asked, starting to feel the first drops of an icy cold drizzle.
“It’s a bit wet, isn’t it?” Ianto suddenly pushed himself away from the wall and shivered as he realised just how chilly the night was.
The rest of the evening went well. Ianto might not feel totally at ease, but his conversation with Jack had gone far in soothing his worries. The entertainer was just as embarrassed as he was by last night- and just as eager to forget about it and put it well behind him. He weaved between the tables and chairs and back to his seat after leaving Jack to be mobbed by an entire troupe of dancers, some of them tearful at leaving the show, but each of them impatient to have their programme signed by everyone involved in the production. He dropped into the seat next to Tosh, who was absentmindedly watching Jack Harkness trying to control the surrounding group.
“Well, another year over… a new one just begun,” she smirked.
“After all those bloody weeks of those Christmas CDs for House music, I really don’t need you quoting Slade at me.” He shook his head and affected a horrified look. “Really, darling, that was truly dreadful.”
“’Welcome to the magic of my world’,” she laughed, quoting Vusi’s line as the Genie of the Lamp. “I’ve had to sit there playing that for six weeks- every show. How do you think I feel?”
“Fair enough,” he admitted. “But are you actually trying to push me over the edge? And I just know that it’s going to be the same CD next year… don’t you just love Christmas?”
“You know the answer to that!” Christmas was a magical time of year if you weren’t immersed in it for weeks on end as they were. “You’ve got to feel a bit sorry though- you get to know people so… well, so quickly… and then they’re gone. It’s not like a one nighter, or a week’s run.”
“Well, yeah, but I’m going to be pretty happy to see the back of it all- get some sleep and a bit of a rest. I’m thinking of booking a week away with Lisa- we both need some time to relax.”
“That’s a good idea- to tell you the truth, I think we all deserve it. Thinking about anywhere in particular?”
“Not really…” he replied. “I’d be happy with anywhere, even Barry Island, so long as we’re getting away from Cardiff and work, but I know Lisa would like something a bit more exotic, warmer. I’ve seen a couple of last minute cheap deals to Tunisia…”
“Oh, nice…” Tosh said with a hint of jealousy in her voice. She’d like some time away herself, but she wasn’t seeing anyone at the moment, and holidays were always more enjoyable with a partner or friends. “I hope you two work it all out…”
“Well!” Owen sat down heavily next to Ianto, inadvertently slamming his glass onto the table. “What, six weeks? And I’ve still got no further with Rose.”
“I guess you win some, you lose some, Owen,” Ianto said, smirking and raising an eyebrow. “And you’ve won a lot in your time… I ‘spose it was time for a failure!”
“Cheers, mate. I thank you for your insight,” the Stage Manager responded sarcastically.
“Any time, Owen, any time.”
“It’s been a pretty restrained year; the only crew who’ve pulled- that I know about- are Chris and Rob. So it’s not like I’m alone.”
“Welcome to the sensible world of adulthood, Owen,” Ianto stated.
“Tosh is a sensible … You’re just boring and settled,” Owen retorted good naturedly as Toshiko quietly huffed at being called ‘sensible’.
Ianto smiled weakly and hoped it was convincing. Owen wasn’t party to the details of his home life; Ianto felt far from ‘settled’ at the moment. Luckily, his act had the desired effect and Owen was happily carrying on with reminiscences of some of the funnier moments on stage during the show, stories which rarely failed to amuse Tosh and Ianto. HIdden away at the back of the Hall, or in the Lighting Box, they were unable to see most of the action, and Owen and his crew’s highly embellished and exaggerated tales were frequently as close as they got to the action.
It was after 2am and the party was beginning to wind down. The younger dancers had gone, tearful as they left, and any of the out of towners who were driving back home, or setting off first thing in the morning, had left soon after. Some of the older twirlies and younger Techies had left an hour earlier to hit the Cardiff clubs. Only about fifteen of the partygoers were left and they had gravitated to the bar area and were all downing their final drinks as the bar staff pulled the shutters down.
Over to his side Ianto could see Jack saying his goodbyes to the remaining turns, Angharad and Melvyn. He continued chatting to Toshiko and Owen, but he couldn’t help the strange and gnawing feeling that he was going to miss the actor’s presence. As he finished his pint and placed it on the now narrow strip of the bar, he felt his stomach churn with embarrassment; Jack was advancing on him and his team mates. He and Jack may well have made their peace and sorted out their ‘misunderstanding’, as Ianto had started to call it in his head, but he wasn’t sure that he was up to a public farewell.
“Well, guys, I’m leaving tomorrow and I gotta say that it’s been a pleasure,” Jack greeted the remaining three Crew members with a wide and toothy smile, the kind that ought to have had toothpaste manufacturers and advertisers fighting for his endorsements. “It’s been one of the smoothest running shows I’ve worked on anywhere, Owen,” he reached out and vigourously shook Owen’s hand.
“Cheers- that means a lot to me. And, for turns,” Owen smirked, “You lot have been pretty OK to work with.”
“You’re not that bad yourself- for a Techie,” he replied with an amused twinkle in his eyes
He turned to Toshiko as he let go of the Technician who was still muttering his thanks at the praise. “As for you, the beautiful Miss Sato, I never knew I could sound that good. And it’s down to you. I’d work with you again in a shot.”
“Well, I can tell you that you can’t make a bad voice sound good- I had something pretty impressive to work with in the first place,” Toshiko replied, smiling as she blushed slightly at Jack’s compliment.
“Thanks, Tosh. But I think you’re doing yourself- and your skills- down. And you can fiddle with my radio mic pack any time,” he winked.
Tosh’s blush intensified as the actor grinned, and then looked to Ianto. “And Ianto Jones- a man wasted on Panto…. Just like the rest of you,” he added.
The Welshman was filled with relief as both Owen and Toshiko started to ask about Jack’s latest TV venture, and he didn’t have to engage in an awkward response or dialogue. As Harkness regaled an excited Toshiko with details of when the new sci-fi show was likely to be aired, he watched the older man. His blue eyes sparkled as he talked enthusiastically about the opportunity that he’d been given- and which he was going to wholeheartedly take advantage of.
The farewells drew to an end and Jack glanced at his wristwatch. “I’d best get going- I’m catching the train in the afternoon, but I’ve still not packed everything yet. Martha’s meeting me at Paddington, and she’ll kill me if I get a later train!” He looked lost for words for a second before speaking again. “Seriously, guys, it’s been great- I don’t often say I’ll miss a show, but I’d be back here in a shot, given the chance.” He quickly enveloped Owen in a manly hug, and Ianto watched as a surprised and slightly uncomfortable looking Stage Manager returned the embrace. Toshiko followed, with Jack stooping slightly to wrap his arms around her. As he released her, Ianto braced himself; it would seem odd for him not to hug him, too, especially as Owen and Tosh were well aware that the two men had become friendly.
Jack placed an arm gently around his shoulder and Ianto felt his heartbeat increase in speed and his skin warm. He quickly brushed off the reaction as unease at the other man’s touch. At least the others had no inkling of his indiscretion. Thank God- Owen would take the piss for the next year. The arm was quickly withdrawn.
“It’s been nice working with you all. See you.” Jack said cheerily and then he was striding out of the room, and out of the Cardiff Grand, and along with relief that he wouldn’t be put into any more unsettling situations with the actor, Ianto felt an inexplicable sense of loss.
To Be Continued…
Corpse (verb)- an actor laughing on stage inappropriately, or forgetting their lines due to onstage gags or distractions.
Monitors- speakers set at the front of stage, facing on stage, that give the turns/actors the correct musical mix/ relay of the show.
House music- music played before or after a show, as the audience come in, or at the interval. Often not played at ‘serious’ theatrical performances.
One nighter- as in ‘For One Night Only!’.