He couldn’t believe this was happening.
It seemed as if he had been waiting for so long for this one night. It was almost unreal. He must be dreaming. After so long, there is no other explanation. He pinched himself. He winced and subtly rubbed the spot that was already reddening. He stood awkwardly at the cog door. The Hub was empty, the others having long since left for the evening (on Jack’s orders) while only Jack and Ianto stayed behind.
Because they had a date.
He glanced up at the door of Jack’s office, saw the door open. He turned quickly to face the main exit. Nervously, he tugged on the ends of his coat, fixing the perfect hemline and brushing away imaginary lint.
“Hey,” Jack greeted breathlessly, smiling widely at the much younger Welshman, “Sorry for keeping you waiting.”
“It’s not a problem,” Ianto assured, forcing a smile to hide the fact he was freaking out on the inside.
He dropped his arms, finished straightening his great coat. “So, ready to go?”
It had been a nice evening, dry with a cool breeze, so the two men had decided to walk. Jack had declared that the restaurant he had booked a table at, was a few minutes along the pier and besides, the SUV would attract too much attention on the street. They walked close together, hands brushing as their arms swung with their strides. Neither really said much but it was a comfortable silence, just relishing each others company.
The moon broke through the clouds and reflected in the water. Ianto watched the scene, musing over the fact that working at Torchwood made you realise how short life can be and to appreciate the little beauties of the world. He glanced towards Jack and flushed when he met the man’s blue eyes. He smiled shyly and Jack grinned warmly. Ianto’s fingers stroked and curled momentarily over the warm limbs. Jack subtly reached out so their pinkies lacked. He couldn’t help the flutter when the Welshman tightened his grip around his little finger.
Of course, things had to go wrong. Neither of them noticed until it was too late, both too wrapped up in the anticipation of their first date and trying not to show their excitement for the night ahead. Maybe if they had paid more attention to the people on the Bay that evening, it could have been avoided.
The man in question tensed automatically at the sound of the voice – that oh so familiar had desperately wanted to never hear again. He closed his eyes briefly and debated speeding up, pretending he hadn’t heard. Before he could execute his plan, a withered and older version of his old friends appeared in front of them.
Ianto had a rebellious adolescence, more so than what Jack had discovered by looking at his criminal record. He had joined a gang at thirteen and that’s where he had met Derek Cohen and Gavin Owens. They still looked the same, a lot older, but it was definitely them with no mistake.
Derek had been one of the oldest; the one that acted as the big brother figure. He still had the same long wiry blond hair, hidden under a scruffy beanie, and was kitted out in grey jogging bottoms. Gavin was a year older than him and, as a teenager, had been absolutely gorgeous. Everyone had wanted him; gay, straight or undecided. Now, his skin was pale, instead of that bronzy colour, and dark, heavy bags surrounded his eyes. Ianto wondered if the man was a drug addicted, or just hadn’t slept in a long time.
Suddenly, he felt nervous. He didn’t want Jack to associate him with these people. He didn’t want him to think any less of him; especially after all he had done to gain his respect after the Lisa incident.
“Bloody hell, it is! Ianto fucking Jones!” Gavin exclaimed.
Ianto strained a smile. “Gavin…Derek…it’s been years.”
“Fuck Ianto, what happened? Proper little city boy now, aren’t you?” Derek sneered, running a scrutinizing gaze over the man.
Ianto shifted in his designer shoes. His nervous habit kicked in and he stuffed his hands inside his coat pocket. “Yeah, well, something’s change and, um, I had to for my Mam and my job.”
“Job? You have a job?” Gavin barked out his laughter of amusement.
Ianto hummed in answer. “Uh, yeah, a civil servant job actually…”
He put on a look of disgust. “You work for the government? Holy fuck man, what happened to you?”
Jack watched the three men talk amongst themselves, feeling just a little out of place and confused. It was obvious Ianto knew these people (although he wasn’t sure how the suit loving man did). He had been hurt when Ianto released their fleeting touch, thinking the man didn’t want him to be introduced to his friends up until he had slide his hands into his pockets. It was a nervous habit – he doubted Ianto even knew he did it – and Jack was an expert in all things related to his tea-boy. Whoever these people were, however they knew Ianto, the Welshman didn’t want them to hang around much longer.
He debated whether or not he should make up an excuse to leave. Before he could make a decision, he realised one of them – the older one he guessed – was giving him a strange look. It was suspicious, uncomfortable and curious all at once. His face remained expressionless except for the one arch of his eyebrow.
“So whose this then?” he interrupted, a tone of distaste.
Ianto tensed at the question. He knew it was inevitable but he didn’t know how he was he suppose to answer that question. Boss was the easiest answer, obviously, but that wasn’t all they were and he wasn’t ashamed of that fact. He would have happily told anyone that Jack was his date…but he hadn’t seen Derek or Gavin in years, he didn’t know how they would react. They knew too many stories about him – he didn’t want the two halves of his life to meet, ever. He didn’t want Jack to be ashamed of him…
Sensing Ianto’s discomfort, Jack forced a smile and held out his hand. “Captain Jack Harkness and you are?”
Derek raised an eyebrow, ignoring the hand. “Captain?” he repeated. He inclined his head towards Ianto, “What are you doing Jones? Entertaining the men?”
Gavin laughed. “Yeah, have you turned fairy on us?”
Ianto locked his jaw and clenched his fists.
“Fuck, he has…” Gavin’s jaw dropped in disbelief, “Ianto Jones has done a fucking bender…”
“…And what if I have?” Ianto retorted, “Why is it any of your bloody business? We haven’t seen each other or spoken in years, over a decade even. You’re not close friends; you’re not work colleagues, and you’re definitely not my life partner. You’re not family either, so why does it matter to either of you?”
“So it’s true then?” Derek scoffed, “I should have known you’d like to take it up the arse…”
“How’d you know he’s the one who does?” Jack commented coolly. He struggled to keep his face neutral when he saw their ignorant, disgusted, owlish expressions. Instead, he held his hand out towards his date. “Come on Yan. I think it’s time we leave, or we’ll be late for our reservations.”
He grinned brightly when Ianto smiled his amusement and slipped his hand into the slightly larger one.
Jack sipped his orange juice and watched the younger Welshman closely. The man had his head down, probably deep in thought, and was picking at the frayed end of the table cloth as he had been since they had been seated. He had been silent, except for when he had ordered a coke.
Jack gently placed his glass down and rested his chin on clasped hands. “So are you going to tell me what happened back there?”
Ianto glanced upward at him before sighing, “…They’re called Derek and Gavin. I haven’t seen them in nearly a decade. We were, um…” he shifted uncomfortably, “…we were in a gang together. That was how I met them…”
“You were in a gang?”
He nodded bashfully. “Yeah, I’m not proud of it. I didn’t have a brilliant childhood, joined up in my early teens. Derek was like the leader, the oldest, taught us everything about our new life. Gavin, I suppose, was like my second – anything we did, any job, Gavin and I were always together…” he hesitated, “You found my criminal record…but most of it had been wiped. Some by bribed officers; most by me when I joined Torchwood One and had the clearance. I just wanted that part of my life to be over with and forgotten…”
Jack waited patiently for the man across from him to continue.
“…I was sixteen when I left. My Tad had just died and my Mam was ill. I had to take care of her. I…rethought my life decisions. I went to college, university…got recruited to Torchwood One pretty soon after I left education and I never spoke to them again. I had changed, but they were still the same.”
“Then pity them,” Jack advised. At his confused look, he reached over to grasp his hand. “Ianto, the people that don’t realise their mistakes, the ones who never change…they never do anything with themselves. They’re just stationary, frozen in time – I should know. They will never make a good life for themselves, because they never see the errors within them. They’ll never have a proper family or wealth or love; because everything is always someone else fault. They hold themselves in such high esteem, have no responsibility for their actions; they’re selfish people, Ianto, while you….you changed your life to help your family, to have a future, because you knew where you’d end up if you didn’t, so don’t be ashamed of yourself. You got out, Ianto Jones, always remember that.”
Ianto stared unblinkingly at the man across from him for a moment, before squeezing the hand in return and offering him a smile as a signal of peace. Jack grinned, happy with the acceptance of his advice, and focused his attention on the menu.
“Now let’s not let this ruin the night – what do you want to eat?”
“So not bad for a first date, huh?” Jack winked at the younger Welshman, his hands in the pockets of his military coat.
After dinner, Jack had gladly walked Ianto home, across the Bay and around about three blocks. The evening hadn’t changed since they had left the Hub, still calm and breezy, so they had delayed the walk time by strolling across the pavement, just talking about whatever randomness came to mind. Smiles were shared and hands remained clasped firmly, no hint of worry or hesitation at being seen. In fact, they were reluctant to release contact with each other when they finally reached the apartment building (a Georgian house that had been converted into flats during the 20th Century) in which he resigned.
Ianto stood on his doorstep, alone. He gestured towards the building behind him. “Do you want to come in?”
Jack’s eyes lit up excitedly for a moment and he took a step forward before hesitating, the light in his gaze dimming slightly. He shook his head once and offered him a disappointed smile. “…Um, it’s probably better if I don’t…”
“Oh.” Ianto struggled not to sound downhearted, “A-any reason why?”
“…Because if I follow you inside, I won’t be able to stop himself,” Jack answered seriously after a pause, “I don’t want to ruin this, I want to do it right…”
The Archivist tilted his head and smiled in the way that made the Captain stop breathing for a beat. “Who said this isn’t the right way?”
He watched with wide eyes as he fished his keys from his pockets and unlocked the door. He pushed it open and inclined his head, his eyes practically daring, yet begging, him to enter.
Never one to back down from a challenge, Jack swallowed and straightened himself up, before bounding up the concrete steps to his date’s side.