Jack recognized the clack of leather soles against the grating but not the speedy rhythm of it. He cocked his head to listen just as Ianto dashed into his office.
"Jack," said Ianto. "You're in Topshop."
Jack froze, hand half-way to his holster. "I—what?"
Ianto hurried over to the desk, face shiny from his run up the stairs. He wasn't wearing a suit—Jack had noticed that before he noticed the look of panic on Ianto's face, to be embarrassingly honest—and his t-shirt was crinkled at the collar.
"You're at Topshop this very moment, looking at 5-pocket jeans in stone-washed denim," Ianto said breathlessly.
"Woah—slow down," Jack said. "I'm very clearly in the Hub, looking at paperwork. Are you feeling disoriented and confused? Do we need to play Doctor again?"
Ianto rolled his eyes but otherwise didn't respond to the innuendo. "Your hair is darker, and you didn't recognize me. You were very clearly present in Topshop and equally clearly—" he gestured at the half-written paperwork and scummy dregs of coffee on Jack's desk "—present here. That's a problem." He stuck his hands on his hips. "Unless this is a practical joke." His voice lilted up hopefully at the end.
"Well, maybe the me in Topshop wasn't really me, just a random guy who looks a lot like me," Jack offered, also sounding hopeful.
"Definitely you," said Ianto.
"Do you know that for sure?" asked Jack, tapping his index finger earnestly on the desk. "I mean, what sort of proof did you get?"
Ianto sucked in his bottom lip. It was familiar Ianto Signal which meant that he was not going to elaborate, not even if Jack said please.
Jack, his proper recognition of the Ianto Signal delayed a moment due to the swollen, pink nature of the lip being sucked, looked at Ianto's collar again. It was stretched and wrinkled like someone had gripped it in their fist and then pulled, as if to—
"Oh," he said.
"Yes," said Ianto.
Jack wrinkled his brow. "I can't figure out if I'm supposed to be jealous," he said.
"I think there's a different issue which is a tad more pressing," Ianto pointed out.
"Not really," said Jack.
Ianto's eyes went wide and a tiny bit crazy.
"I used to be a Time Agent," Jack said quickly. He put his hands up, just to point at his wrist-strap and not at all in a defensive manner. "The first rule of time travel is not to cross your personal timeline, but it happens, obviously. The Jack Harkness you met in Topshop was just a younger or older version of me, harmlessly doing some shopping. The best thing we can do is stay here."
"It's definitely a younger version," Ianto said.
"I could have just been pretending not to recognize you," Jack said, "Especially if I wasn't sure what date it was."
Ianto's eyes flickered to the side a bit. Another well-documented, but not yet thoroughly understood Ianto Signal. "It's not that," he said. "You didn't have any grey hair."
"I don't have any grey hair now," Jack said.
"A few strands around the temples," Ianto corrected. "And you were a bit—" He patted the underside of his chin. "—tighter in the jawline."
Jack looked very troubled. "I don't remember meeting you in Topshop when I was younger," he said slowly.
"I don't remember giving my mobile number to Kristen Epworth at a Uni party, but she still calls me," Ianto replied.
Jack narrowed his eyes at Ianto's flippant tone. "Maybe you're playing a practical joke on me," he said.
"We can check the security cameras if you like," said Ianto. "Tosh installed a quick-hack system to give us access to most public establishments in the perimeter of the Rift."
"She finished it?"
"Mostly," said Ianto. "Still tweaking. She doesn't want to do the big reveal to the Boss Man until it's perfect."
"Ah," said Jack. He grinned. "Boss Man?"
"Back to the point, Jack," said Ianto.
"Right," said Jack, getting up. "If there's a glitch," he said warningly, "that conveniently destroys any evidence of the alleged Topshop encounter...."
"If this were a practical joke," Ianto said, "I would have insured the system were working perfectly."
"And I have no doubt in your freakish abilities to do so," said Jack, "which leaves me with no assurance that this isn't a joke." He folded his arms across his chest. "Answer that one for me."
Ianto stared at him. "I confess," he said. "I cloned you, planted the clone in Topshop in a tight pair of jeans, and then made out with him. Not even Torchwood's precocious technological facilities have quite got the hang of cloning, but I figured a few good laughs were worth the potential for explosive equipment failure."
"You know," Jack mused, "as long as it's on tape, I don't care either way."
Ianto bowed his head and ushered Jack out the door.
A few moments later, Jack was sitting at Tosh's workstation with Ianto leaning over the back of his chair. They both watched the grey-scale flicker of surveillance footage intently.
"That definitely looks like me," Jack said, shaking his head. "But what am I doing looking at stonewashed denim? Get out of there! It'll make you look dated!" he yelled at the screen.
Ianto glanced down at Jack's braces and button-up shirt and decided not to comment. "If I may shed some light on the situation," he said, reaching over to fiddle with a few buttons. "That wall is within view of the shirt section, which held some items of interest." The camera angle changed.
"Oh, there's you!" Jack cried out, pointing.
"Yep," said Ianto. "And a few racks away is a strikingly blonde young man—a bit of a chav—with whom I assume to be his girlfriend."
"Please tell me she's a redhead," said Jack.
"Rather on the fiery side," Ianto confirmed.
Jack let out a low whistle. "That's a trifecta," he said. "So the stonewashed denim was just a ploy. Very clever of me! I'm remaining inconspicuous, lying in wait for the perfect opportunity...." He prodded the console into showing another camera angle and zoomed in. "Look at that great ass," he said.
"Several times daily," Ianto replied. "Up into the dozens if it's a late night, or if you've lost something under your desk."
"Don't I usually make you look for stuff under my desk?" Jack asked.
"I've started to catch on to that," said Ianto.
"And I was being so subtle, too," Jack said mournfully.
Ianto's answering smirk was a clearly defined and well-understood Ianto signal, no matter how politely he hid it being Jack's shoulder.
"Perhaps we should scan forward a bit," he said, and leaned around Jack to reach the keyboard.
"Perhaps we should have Casual Fridays," Jack murmured.
"Pardon?" Ianto was watching the screen, and didn't react when Jack slid away in the chair.
"I'm thinking of doing Casual Fridays," Jack repeated, with his fist to his chin in the universal pose of Pondering Deeply. A straight-on angle would be most informative, he decided, and pressed two fingers into Ianto's hip. "A bit to the left, if you could?" he asked.
Ianto's head whipped around and he nearly bolted away altogether, but Jack was a clever man and had both hands out already, firmly holding Ianto's arse in place. "Definitely Casual Fridays," he drawled, thumbpads rubbing at the metal divots on the corner of each pocket.
"I'll be sure to circulate a memo," Ianto said, eyes glittering over his shoulder. "If we could return our attention to the potential temporal catastrophe?"
Jack grinned slow and tight, enjoying the way that Ianto's eyelids fluttered. "Sure," he said. "Why don't you have a seat?"
Ianto cottoned on in a second and scrabbled desperately for the table edge, the keyboard, anything to anchor him, but Jack had a chair on wheels and two hands curled around the crests of Ianto's hips.
"Isn't this cozy?" Jack asked, once Ianto was firmly seated on his lap and had stopped squirming for fear of falling off.
"Don't think I really fit," Ianto muttered, tugging helplessly at the arms clamped around his waist. He wasn't much smaller than Jack; an inch in height, maybe, and slimmer all the way down. Jack had performed comprehensive comparative studies. "I feel silly," Ianto admitted.
"Nonsense," said Jack, and pressed his face into the back of Ianto's neck. It smelled like soap and—surprisingly, yet at the same time not—a cologne Jack used to wear. He still didn't know where he should be on the jealousy issue. The important thing right now was that the neck was bare. "You're not wearing a suit," he pulled back long enough to say. "I'm allowed to assault your dignity if you're not wearing a suit."
"You're not making a good case for Casual Fridays," Ianto pointed out, carefully hooking his legs around Jack's for balance.
"I think that's a very good case for Casual Fridays," Jim said. "But it's a moot point, since today is Saturday." He wished he could see if Ianto was smirking or rolling his eyes, but the careful curve of vertebrae placed temptingly in front of him was sufficient compensation. He scraped his teeth along it and didn't need eyes to know that Ianto shivered.
"About that other version of you," Ianto said after the careful clearing of his throat.
"Right," said Jack, and looked at the screen.
"Nothing happens for a bit," Ianto said, reaching out one long, shapely forefinger to stroke at the track ball. Obediently, the CCTV footage began to play at 2x speed.
"I'm obviously checking out the prospects," Jack said. Indeed, his onscreen doppleganger, outed by the double speed, sent regular glances to onscreen Ianto and the chavvy couple. Eventually the red-headed woman (Jack only had Ianto's word that she was a redhead, but from the cant of Other-Jack's shoulders Jack assumed he was telling the truth) wandered over to the denims wall. Ianto wobbled the track ball in time for the flick of her hair to play at normal speed when she tossed her head back and laughed.
"It's good to know I don't lose my charm in the future," said Jack.
"Past," corrected Ianto.
"We haven't proven that yet," Jack countered.
Ianto gave a small smile, the sort of smile one might see on priests or grocery cashiers or on sweet little girls, but on Ianto's face it acquired a slew of dark, squirmy meanings. "I suppose it's possible," he began placidly—Jack learned early not to trust that tone, as it was a Ianto Signal which presaged nefariousness—"that in the future, you don't eat quite so much takeaway."
Jack growled and bit lightly at Ianto's shoulder for that, absentmindedly prodding his tongue against the dry bit of t-shirt. He'd mention that Ianto wasn't exactly faultless in the area of takeaway either, but Ianto got sulky when he did that. Jack didn't understand the 21st century distaste of pudge. A modest layer of fat performed many important functions (padding, insulation, food storage for winter) and besides, there were so many fun activities one could do with things that were squishy. Jack kneaded his fingertips in Ianto's belly and grinned.
"This is, ah, the bit where you talk to the woman," Ianto stammered out. "Not the current you, obviously, as you were, um, right here."
[I forget what was supposed to happen here, but somehow Past!Jack ends up in the Hub and the following conversation occurs:]
Present!Jack: I'm sorry, but I'll have to Retcon you. It's just a little pill, it causes a controlled amount of amnesia. You can't remember this because I don't remember this and, believe me, this is memorable.
Past!Jack: Right. Ok. (pause) You wanna make out before I take this?
Present!Jack: I'm 99.9% sure that would cause the universe to implode.
Past!Jack: No no, look. I've got my wrist strap, and if we just jiggle the sonic resonator here, and then the vortex shields... Voila! It's basically a low-performance paradox machine. It should work just fine for something as limited as this.
Present!Jack: No way. A paradox machine can't fix its own paradox. As soon as my wrist strap comes in contact with your wrist strap—
Past!Jack: Ok, so you take yours off.
Past!Jack: If you take off your wrist strap, I'll take off my shirt. (wink)
Ianto: This is completely unbelievable. Wait, no. This is entirely believable.
Present!Jack: The theory seems sound enough.... let me check this over with some of Tosh's diagnostics.
Past!Jack: Sure thing. Anything of mine is yours.
Ianto: (rolls eyes)
Past!Jack: Say, while he's fiddling around with that.... (waggles eyebrows)
Ianto: ...oh, what the hell.
Present!Jack: (comes back) Hey! Hey hey hey! No starting without me! (cuts in)
Previous!Jack: You know, we could (breathless) do more than make out....
Present!Jack: Am I that egotistical? (ponders)
Previous!Jack: Not egotism, curiosity!
Present!Jack: (sigh) No, I don't want to risk overloading the paradox machine. It's just jury-rigged. We should limit how long we're in contact at a time, as well.
Ianto: I've got that covered. (pulls out stopwatch)
Previous!Jack: (thoughtfully) Maybe Ianto can be a buffer.
(both look at Ianto)
Ianto: That would probably work out well for me.
Present!Jack: That's settled, then. Gentlemen, step right this way.
[And then they done sex. SURPRISE! :D]