Title: Savoir Faire
Rating: R (Mostly for bad swears)
Spoilers: Torchwood COE, thru Day One
Pairing: Jack/Ianto, Sue/Howie (OCs)
Characters: Sue, Howie, Jack, Ianto
Summary: Sue learns some interesting gossip during her anniversary dinner at a new French restaurant in town
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
A/N: Thank you for the big fat beta fu toares132006 and blue_fjords—this one definitely needed some tweaking!! You ladies rock. Savoir Faire means "to respond appropriately to any situation" in French.
Sue Baker, neé Mann, twirled in the full length mirror in her bedroom, pleased with the view. She had justified the impulse purchase to herself, seeing as she found it on extreme markdown at Debenhams. Although the print had looked a little busy on the sale’s rack, once she tried it on, she found that the cut accentuated her assets and downplayed her flaws in exactly the way she had hoped. Perfect for dinner at Garcon!, a fancy new French restaurant that had just opened on Cardiff Bay. She knew, (all too well), that the place was out of their price range, but Howie had finally convinced her that 10th anniversaries only came around just the once.
“You ready?” Howie poked his head into the bedroom, whistling low when he saw her. “Aren’t you posh?” He was dressed in his best suit, gray slate jacket and dark navy pants, paired with the tie the boys had gotten him for Father’s Day last. She spun once for his benefit, and giggled, delighted with his reaction. He waggled his eyebrows suggestively, but then glanced at his watch and frowned. “We’d better head out. Don’t know what parking will be like.”
She leaned over, grabbing up her good earrings, and put them on by feel. “Go on, then. I’ll be right down. Tell Jo the boys need to be in bed no later than 9!” She spritzed Shalimar and walked through the mist, closing her eyes. She took one last look in the mirror, lightly running a finger over her lips to even her gloss, smiling at her reflection and shrugging. As good as it gets.
She skipped down the stairs, briefly glowering at the scene in front of her. “Jacob, let Gavin have the controls, or you won’t get another go.” At his defiant scowl, she tilted her head, letting him know she meant business, and he shoved the Wii controller in his brother’s direction, clearly displeased. “Thirty more minutes, and then the telly gets shut off.” She ignored their moans of discontent, and nodded towards Jo. “Don’t listen to them, no matter what they say. Off it goes.” She glanced at Howie, who nodded at her and opened the door in a shall we? gesture, and she followed him out, calling over her shoulder. “No bad reports!”
The drive down to the Bay took all of thirty minutes. Howie was telling her a tale of Aled from work who was caught en flagrante with the office secretary by his wife, coming home early from the shops. She’d feel bad for the wife, but Wendy always was such a cow. She smiled and ran her thumb over her diamond, remembering that once Wendy had called her engagement ring a “darling little thing”. Slag. She turned towards her husband, taking his right hand from the steering wheel, and lacing her fingers with his. “You ever think we’d make it this far?”
He grinned at her. “Nope.” Neither did she, if she were being truly honest with herself.
“Eloping? You’re only 19 years old!” Her mam’s words still rang in her ears, even after all this time. They’d grown up on the same estate together, been dating since they were 14. Typical recipe for disaster. But, to everyone’s surprise, (even their own), whilst other couples around them seemed to dissolve, they were still going strong. Sure, it hadn’t been easy, and money was always a struggle, but against all odds, they’d made it thus far.
Howie pulled into a car park that was not too far a walk to the restaurant. When they got out of the car, the breeze from the Bay seemed to wrap a chill around her, so she pulled her shawl around her shoulders, letting the rich black silk run between her fingers. She remembered the day Howie had bought it for her in Camden Market on the last real holiday they’d had: a long weekend in London. Over eight years ago. Well before the kids. Howie held out his elbow like a gentleman, and she giggled at the silliness of it all, taking his arm. The lights over the Bay sparkled in just the perfect romantic way, and she leant into him, taking comfort in his solid bulk beside her. She gasped when they came upon the restaurant, at the way the lights glittered over the water, at the uniformed man waiting to open the door. When she walked in, she was stunned into silence by the casual opulence and rich tones that surrounded her. Howie gave their name to the maître de, and they were led towards a small table near the center of the dining room. She knew she was gawking but couldn’t help herself, craning her neck to get a better view of the chandelier and gorgeously high ceiling. She glanced around the room, pulling her shawl tightly around her, suddenly very aware of her £24 dress, but just then Howie leaned in and whispered in her ear: “Our quid spends here just as good as the next bloke’s”, and she fell a bit more in love with him, relaxing for the first time and finally enjoying herself.
Their waiter was called Jean Marc, and he rattled off the day’s specials: canard of this, and reduction of that, and fois gras, which her sister, Nerys, had told her was just a fancy word for liver, so most definitely not, and Howie ordered them two glasses of the house white to start. She glanced around the room, skipping her gaze over the faces of Cardiff’s beautiful and powerful, finally landing on the most gorgeous man she had ever seen in real life. He looked like a film star, all chiseled jaw and eyes of the brightest blue. He was dressed for the part, as well, looking like he stepped from the set of a World War II picture, with his braces and shirt that accentuated his eyes. She saw the way he leaned into his companion, sat very close, a young man dressed in a suit that most likely cost more than a month of Howie’s wages. Of course. Always the good ones. When she finally caught a sight of his companion’s face, however, she couldn’t stop the gasp that escaped her lips.
“What is it?” She felt Howie following her gaze, gasping himself as he caught sight of the man’s escort. She saw the confusion and shock on his face as he looked back and forth several times between the two men. “Shit! Isn’t that…Ianto Jones?”
She nodded. “I…I think so.” She watched as the other man leaned in, unashamedly placing his hand on Ianto’s thigh and whispering something that made Ianto blush to the tips of his earlobes. Just then, Ianto’s waiter appeared with a carafe, pouring a bit of wine into the beautiful man’s glass, waiting for his approval. The man smiled, showing his dimples, and the waiter filled both of their glasses. The other man clinked his glass against Ianto’s before taking a sip. She felt a brief pang of grief for his poor father, God rest his soul, who was most likely rolling over in his grave.
“I didn’t know he was a poofter!” She winced a little at Howie’s stage whisper, which drew a glare from a nearby table.
She tried pitching her voice low in response. “Nor me!” She pretended to scan her menu, but surreptitiously continued to watch the pair, staring as Ianto straightened primly and adjusted his napkin, saying something which made his escort throw his head back and laugh with abandon. God. If Nerys could see this now! Sue had never seen the attraction, but her sister had carried a torch for him since way back in sixth form. She always thought Ianto Jones was a weedy, sullen sort, who always seemed a bit too proud, like he was better than the estate they had all grown up on. She had to admit he’d grown into quite the handsome man, but it was not like Nerys, or any other girl for that matter, were getting feet round his table now, no way. She’d seen him Christmas last, when they’d gone to Rhi and Johnny’s party. He seemed like he couldn’t wait to get away fast enough, and Rhi had joked that the reason his visits had been so sparse was that he was secret agent of some sort. Now, the reason he’d been so eager to leave seemed all too clear.
“You’re staring!” Howie hissed at her.
“I can’t help it, can I?” Chagrined, she returned to scanning the menu, but the words just seemed to swim in and out of focus and were all in French anyways. She turned towards Howie in a vain attempt to keep her eyes away from Ianto’s table. “What are you having?”
“Um…” he ran his finger over the menu, clearly as lost as she. “This one.” Steak au Poivre. She’d seen that one on Master Chefs, but she had gone off red meat after seeing that exposé on slaughterhouses in the U.K . “How ‘bout you?”
“Oh…uh…dunno, really.” Just then, Jean Marc returned, and she had to make a snap decision. Coq au vin. She’d actually tried making that one before, and, even if the kids had refused to even try it, she thought it had turned out quite nice. Once the menus were taken away, she lost her shield that had covered her gaping, and she watched again as the other man ate brazenly from off of Ianto’s plate. Howie pinched her leg under the table, and she threw him a defiant look, but just then the bread and salads arrived and they were occupied by something other than catching Ianto Jones on a date with a man.
The food was gorgeous and required their full attention, and Howie kept her entertained by attempting to speak to her in an absolutely awful French accent that made him sound a bit like Pepe Le Pew, effectively distracting her until the bill had been paid. It really was just a bad bit of unfortunate timing that had them all rising from their tables at the same exact moment. Howie helped her into her shawl, turning her in such a way that she couldn’t help but watch Ianto help the other man into his greatcoat before sliding into his own trench coat.
All things considered, the moment couldn’t have lasted more than a few seconds, but the sheer awfulness of his expression, trapped in that singular moment which lingered just a little too long for him to pretend he did not know he was caught, seemed to possess an eternity. She watched as the swirl of emotions flickered across his face, running the whole gamut of shock, shame, anger, indignation, before quickly settling into a neutral mask. He gave her a tight smile and nod of head before his companion reached back and pulled him by the elbow, hand travelling down his arm until fingers entwined. The movement threw him a bit off-balance, and he stumbled, eyes shifting towards her once more as he allowed himself to be led to the door.
God. She couldn’t wait to phone Nerys!
Continued here: Interruption