Tosh had gone and Jack had given Owen permission to go after her. Gwen had taken that as a hint that the work-day was wrapping up early and giving Jack a 'Yes? No? Yes?' look. Jack just nodded and she'd left as quickly as she could without looking like she was fleeing a weevil.
Everyone felt off. Jack knew that. Ianto had been back to his more subdued, calmer self than he'd been recently. The constant barrage of smart comments and goofy faces had slowed back to a pace Jack considered more normal for him. Jack found himself glad of that. Ianto'd been a little bipolar lately, and Jack was grateful that while he wasn't as depressed as he'd been before he'd had left with the Doctor, the swing the other direction had been just as disturbing.
Jack slouched in his seat and put his feet on his desk. He grabbed the now open temporal-sealed box and spun it between his fingers. It was like an old-fashioned biscuit tin. And almost one hundred years of Torchwood staff had wrestled with it until Jack had realized why it wouldn't open.
He toyed with it for a few seconds before looking up and noticing Ianto working at the computer. "Hey, Ianto! What are you still doing here?" he called through the door.
Ianto punched a couple more buttons and Jack could see him scan the data on the screen and frown. A minute later Ianto got up and came to the door of Jack's office and leaned on the jamb the way Jack often did. "I wanted to see if…" He shook his head ruefully. "Just…"
Jack frowned at him. "Just what, Ianto?"
"It's quite fanciful I know, but I thought maybe that knowing Tosh, being in love with her… I thought maybe he'd get through his next tour without deserting. Maybe history would have changed… just a little" Ianto shrugged, knowing it was a ridiculous thought.
"It doesn't work like that. In the history we read yesterday, he'd already known Tosh and gone back and –"
"I understand," Ianto cut him off. "I'd just hoped… He was shell shocked and yet they sent him back into the same hell that damaged him." Ianto's posture tightened and he got a far away look in his eyes.
"Come here," Jack said, holding out his hand and putting his feet on the floor. "Come on," he said when Ianto didn't move.
Ianto stood, moving as if the weight of the world was on his shoulders. He sat on Jack's desk like he had the night before.
"How are you doing?"
"I'm fine," Ianto answered quickly, frowning at the unexpected question.
"Not seeing shades of… you know… you in this situation? Gwen said you were kind of down after reading about Harriet."
Ianto ran his fingers through his hair. "I came here - to Torchwood Three. I asked you to let me work here after London. It's hardly the same, is it?"
Jack shrugged and leaned back in his chair again studying Ianto. "I don't know. Bad experience, PTSD – shell shock by another name – and then ending up right back in the same situation… expecting to die from it." The more he articulated the little niggling thought in the back of his head, the more he really started to worry.
"I'm okay, Jack," Ianto said quickly seeing the look on Jack's face.
"Would you tell me if you weren't?" Jack asked, leaning forward, letting Ianto know he expected an honest answer.
"I would now, yes," Ianto said, looking Jack in the eye. "Before…" Ianto waved one hand uncertainly. "Before you left with your Doctor, probably not. But things have been different now, haven't they?"
Jack smiled slightly. "Yeah, they have. And I'm glad. This is a lot better than before."
Ianto nodded and gave Jack a shy smile.
Jack held out a hand, "Come here."
Ianto shrugged. "I'm right here. Any closer and I'd have to be in your lap."
Jack tugged on Ianto's hand until Ianto lost his perch on the edge of the desk and half-stood, half-fell to his feet. Jack used his momentum to turn him and pull him down again. "Exactly what I had in mind."
Ianto shook his head as Jack wrapped an arm around his hips, holding him sideways on his lap. Ianto let himself melt into Jack as Jack pulled his head down and gave him a soft kiss. "I didn't expect you to admit that you'd miss me if I went away."
Ianto shrugged, his head against Jack's shoulder. "I would. Should I have lied?"
Jack's hand had come up between Ianto's jacket and shirt, his thumb was rubbing gently over Ianto's ribs through the cotton. "No."
"And if we're admitting to being surprised about confessions made last night," Ianto said as he rearranged himself to be comfortable on Jack's lap. And for a second he had to just stop and consider that. They were just sitting and talking in Jack's office… snuggling with him on Jack's lap. It wasn't something he'd ever have expected from the man he'd had brief encounters with that were more about relief than companionship. But this Jack was different. This Jack wanted him to be close even when they were both dressed and was willing to pull Ianto onto his lap for it. It briefly occurred to him to be amazed that the chair hadn't broken under their combined weights. It was silly, but it was also brilliant.
"I meant what I said. I wouldn't give this – give you – up to go back there." There was a pause but Ianto knew Jack wasn't done. He sat patiently and waited for Jack to work his way around whatever was on his mind.
A few long moments later Jack pulled him into another soft but passionate kiss. "And I know I was… talking around it before, but I meant the other thing I said. I do love you. I… I tried not to," Jack admitted with a wry smile. "I tried to keep myself separate from people here for so long, because I couldn't tell anyone the truth, because I'd have to leave sooner rather than later when they realized that either something that should have killed me didn't or that I'm not exactly aging at a normal rate…"
Jack's eyes grew a little glassy and Ianto suddenly understood. "Estelle."
Jack nodded. "That was the last time I really and truly let myself get involved with someone."
Ianto caressed Jack's face. "You can tell me anything. You don't ever have to hide anything from me."
"I know. And honestly, it's taking me some time to get used to that. I've literally spent more than a hundred years not saying certain things, learning to tap dance around certain questions… I'm not used to giving straight answers." Jack took Ianto's hand and threaded his fingers through Ianto's. "So be patient with me, okay?"
"I suppose if you can put up with my neuroses, I can put up with yours," Ianto said with a smile.
"We're quite a pair, you and me," Jack said laughing.
"I daresay Owen and Gwen think we deserve each other."
Jack kissed Ianto again. "Maybe they're right."
Ianto looked up at Jack with a sly smile. "Maybe." Ianto leaned in and gave Jack a slow, lingering kiss that left them both breathless, panting against each other's cheeks when they finally broke apart. Ianto shifted a little as he realized that his butt was getting a bit numb. He wondered if Jack's legs were having the same problem. "You know, you did manage to send everyone home early." He looped his hands around Jack's neck. "It'd be a shame to waste the time alone."
Jack grinned. "Yeah?" They kissed again, Jack's hands sliding up under Ianto's jacket and sliding against the cotton, up and down his spine. "And maybe after we could go see that movie you were talking about the other day?"
"Mm… and get some dinner at some point."
Jack stood, carefully dislodging Ianto from his lap, but keeping him in close contact. "I love it. A date that runs completely backwards. Sounds about right for Torchwood."