If anyone asked him, Jack would patiently tell them that it wasn’t a competition, just a game. Ianto knew better though. Jack had a competitive streak a mile wide and he hated to lose, which was probably why he’d honed his cheating techniques to such a fine edge.
What Jack didn’t know about cheating wasn’t worth knowing, and his innate talent for it made their games of Naked Hide and Seek something of a foregone conclusion. If it weren’t for the rewards, there’d be no point in Ianto playing since he never had a hope in hell of winning anyway.
“Ha! I win again!” Jack crowed with delight when he found Ianto hiding in the small, cramped cupboard where he kept his cleaning supplies.
Ianto rolled his eyes. “So how did you do it this time? By watching on the CCTV to see where I hid? Nope, can’t be that because I disabled it before we started. Must remember to turn that back on again. Perhaps you checked for body heat signatures in the Hub?”
“You’re a really sore loser, you know that?” Jack huffed, hands on bare hips.
“Well, not sore yet, but I’m sure I will be after you claim your prize.” Ianto stepped out of the cupboard and smiled at Jack. “First you have to catch me though!” and he took of running. Technically, keeping his shoes on could have been considered cheating, but since Jack never played fair anyway, Ianto thought he was entitled.
“Wait, what?” Jack yelled after him as Ianto scampered towards the stairs to the archives. “That’s not in the rules!”
“It is now!” Ianto yelled back. He might not be able to beat Jack outright, but that didn’t mean he had to make things easy for him.
Jack blinked in disbelief. How dare Ianto make up new rules without telling him! But then as he watched that pale but enticing arse disappear through the doorway leading to the lower levels, he pulled himself together. Ianto wouldn’t get away with this. He set off in hot pursuit, wincing a bit as his bare feet slapped the cold concrete, briefly wondering if he should go back for his boots but deciding against it. Ianto already had a head start; if Jack didn’t hurry, he might lose his lover in the maze of archive chambers.
One of the few strictly adhered to rules in their games was that the archives were off limits for Naked Hide and Seek, and only the topmost level was permitted for Catch Me If You Can, because it was too easy to get lost otherwise. For Jack, that is, not for Ianto, who knew every corridor and room in the Hub like the back of his hand. Jack didn’t like giving Ianto what he considered an unfair advantage.
He might tell other people that it was just a game, but Jack had no intention of giving his cunning opponent an opportunity to beat him. It took all of his skill, not to mention ever more inventive cheating, to keep his winning streak going against Ianto’s ingenuity when it came to hiding places. It was a matter of pride that after forty-nine games, Jack still remained unbeaten at Naked Hide and Seek. Yes, he did indeed keep a record of his victories; after all, you can’t know who’s winning if nobody’s keeping score. Well, Jack could, he supposed, because he always won, no matter what game they played, but that was beside the point. Today’s game had technically made it a round fifty wins in a row, except that Ianto had made that underhand last-second rule change, meaning that now Jack had to chase his lover before he could actually, physically, grab Ianto and declare himself the winner.
Jack knew he should have made a quick grab as soon as he’d opened the door to Ianto’s hiding place. That was one of the most basic rules; once you find your opponent and touch them, it’s game over. But this time, Jack had been so busy gloating over his victory that he’d waited too long and given Ianto a chance to escape. Just went to show that you couldn’t trust sneaky Welshmen, no matter how pretty they were..
All this was going through Jack’s mind as he dodged in and out of interconnecting rooms, opening and closing doors, looking left and right as he moved between seemingly endless ranks of shelves, checking nooks and crannies, and drawing a blank. Finding Ianto down here after he’d got a head start was harder than Jack had anticipated, but he wasn’t about to give up. This might be Ianto’s home turf, so to speak, but they’d played down here often enough that Jack knew his way around almost as well as Ianto did.
Sadly for Jack, ‘almost’ proved not to be quite good enough. As he came around the end of one particular bank of shelves, a hand suddenly grabbed him around the ankle. Jack would forever deny that there was anything even remotely girly about his subsequent scream.
“Gotcha!” Just like Jack’s scream, Ianto’s cry of triumph echoed throughout the archives, rebounding off distant natural stone walls as well as the man-made brick and cement ones. Ianto slithered out of his hiding place under the shelves and stood up, dusting himself off. “That’s one in the win column for me against your forty-nine. Not a very impressive score on my part, I’ll grant you, but at least I’ve succeeded in closing the gap slightly.” At Jack’s injured expression, he added, “No, Jack, you’re not the only one who’s been keeping score. Why do you think I was so determined to win one?”
“You cheated,” Jack complained with a pout that would have done a two-year-old proud.
“Yes I did,” Ianto admitted, “but you cheat all the time, no matter what game we play. It’s about time you knew how losing feels. Now, are you coming with me back up to the Hub so I can claim my prize in the relative comfort of your bunker, or are you going to stay down here on your own and sulk?”
Jack thought it over for almost five seconds. “I suppose I can live with being the prize this time. Let’s go.” Grabbing Ianto by the hand, he set off again in the direction of the nearest staircase, knowing there were still plenty of good things waiting ahead for him. When it came to Naked Hide and Seek, no matter who won there was never really a loser.