The house was in Whitchurch, a few blocks down from the psychiatric hospital. Finding it had been easy once Jack had gotten up the courage to look- Torchwood kept track of all its former members, dead and alive. He was a little surprised to find an address in suburban Cardiff, but then Ianto had family in the area, and all the Retcon in the world wouldn’t make him forget family obligations.
The building was small but nice-looking, with a tidy little garden in front. It was on a cheerful street full of similar houses, but in Jack’s opinion none of them looked quite as well-kept. He’d done a discreet bit of checking up before going in for the direct approach; Ianto was well-liked by his neighbours, which was hardly a surprise. The elderly lady next door had chattered on for nearly an hour at the mere mention of his name, all the while plying Jack with an endless supply of tea and biscuits. Half of the latter were stolen by a small, foppish dog, but as there were more than one human could eat, he didn’t mind. She seemed like a sweet old lady, and he had to admit he drank up every word about his ex-lover, even as it tore at his heart.
And now here he was at Ianto’s door, and his heart was pounding loud enough to knock for itself. It had been almost a year and a half since Ianto had left Torchwood, and Jack had missed him every day- and every night- since. He wasn’t sure what he expected this visit to accomplish. He couldn’t beg for forgiveness or ask Ianto to come back- he’d been Retconned, he wouldn’t even know who Jack was. All he knew was that he had to see him. He took a few deep breaths, put on his best ‘dealing with the clueless public’ face, and rang the bell.
For a moment he feared Ianto wouldn’t answer, but then the door swung open to reveal the same impeccably dressed Welshman he saw in his dreams every night. He hadn’t changed at all- Jack thought he even recognised the tie he was wearing. It had been one of his favourites. Struggling to maintain his composure, he realised the other man had spoken while he was standing there drooling.
“I’m sorry?” he said, resisting the urge to make it a genuine plea.
“I said, can I help you?” Ianto repeated patiently.
“Oh. Yes.” Jack cleared his throat, patted his coat for a business card and handed it over. “My name is Jim Harper, with the Cardiff Consumers’ Board. We’re conducting a survey on residents’ buying habits. Do you have a few minutes to answer some questions?”
“Of course,” Ianto said smoothly. “I’ve been expecting you. Please come in.”
“You were expecting me?” he asked, surprised.
“Mrs. Davies next door said someone came by yesterday to ask about her shopping. ‘Handsome American chap’ she said, so she must’ve meant you.”
Jack thought he saw a twinkle in the Welshman’s eyes as he relayed the compliment. Was this his Ianto, flirting with, as far as he was concerned, a perfect stranger? He felt a brief flutter in his stomach, but checked himself. What did he actually think could happen? That he could have a casual fling with the man he’d loved for two years? A man who was lucky he remembered his own name, let alone Jack’s, or their history together? He couldn’t even pretend that was a possibility, as delicious as his ex-lover looked in that slate-grey suit. The mere thought of kissing him ripped Jack’s heart to confetti.
He followed Ianto into a small parlour. The furniture was simple but comfortable, and of course there wasn’t a speck of dust. He thought wistfully of his office back at the Hub, which had been in utter chaos since Ianto left. Then he thought about what had happened in that office to cause him to leave, and he winced.
“Please, have a seat,” Ianto gestured politely to an armchair. “Would you like some tea or coffee? You must get tired walking about all day.”
There was nothing in the world Jack wanted right then more than a cup of Ianto’s coffee. Well, nothing that was on offer, anyway. That was something the whole team had missed, and Owen and Tosh had given him no end of grief about it.
“Coffee would be fantastic. Black, please,” he replied.
“I’ve just finished making some; won’t be a moment.” The Welshman disappeared into the kitchen and came back in a few minutes with a large blue and white mug full of caffeinated heaven.
Jack took the mug from him and inhaled deeply. Ianto settled in the armchair opposite him and rested his chin on one hand. Jack’s heart throbbed.
“So, what did you want to know?” he asked.
Are you still my Ianto? Does any part of you still love me? If you could remember, would you ever forgive me for what I did to you? Jack thought. But he pulled a clipboard out of the bag he’d brought and laid it on one knee, pen at the ready.
“Right. Well, first, what is your occupation?”
“I work at a solicitor’s office as an administrative assistant- filing, keeping the unwashed hordes away, making coffee. Mostly making coffee. I guess you could say I’m a glorified tea-boy,” he said with a self-mocking smile.
Jack managed to tear his eyes off Ianto long enough to pretend to make a few notes. He kept his gaze carefully trained on the clipboard as he continued.
“How many pounds a month would you say you spend on toiletry products?”
Ianto’s reply was drowned out by a bloodcurdling shriek outside. Jack switched into Torchwood mode immediately, rushing out without a second thought, gun drawn. Ianto came up breathlessly behind him, holding a cricket bat.
“That’s Mrs. Davies!” He leapt over the low stone wall and was up her walk in less than a second. He pulled open the door, but Jack was pleased to see that he paused to check his corners before entering. “I keep telling her to lock her doors,” he muttered, his voice more full of concern than exasperation.
Another shriek cut the air.
“It’s coming from the back garden,” Ianto said, and this time he did charge ahead, straight through the house.
The elderly woman was trapped between her back garden wall and what looked like a giant mutant rat. She was fending it off bravely with a garden trowel, all the while continuing to scream at the top of her lungs.
Before Jack had a chance to fire his gun, Ianto delivered two solid whacks with his cricket bat. The bat broke in half with a loud crack, and the giant rat twitched and collapsed. Mrs. Davies, crisis averted, wisely chose to faint into her flower bed. Ianto bent down to check her pulse, while Jack kicked the rodent to make sure it was dead.
“Her pulse is steady. She’ll be fine,” the younger man said, standing to brush the dirt from his trousers.
“Nice job, Ianto,” Jack said without thinking.
“Thank you, Sir.”
They both froze. Then, just as Jack was opening his mouth to say something, Ianto whipped around and punched him square in the face, knocking him down.
“You shagged Gwen!” he shouted, eyes full of fire.
“Mrmph!” Jack protested, holding his nose.
“You shagged her in your office. You didn’t even bother to erase the bloody CCTV! You had to know I would see it! Or was that the whole point?” he raged, kicking dirt on him. Jack counted himself lucky the cricket bat wasn’t still in play- he felt about as low as the rat just then.
Tears were streaming down Ianto’s face as he sank to the ground, heedless of the dirt and grass stains on his trousers. Jack began to seriously worry. The Ianto he knew would never sit down on the dirt in a good suit.
“Ianto, I…” he reached out to touch the sobbing man’s leg.
A weak groan came from the flower bed. Ianto immediately wiped his tears and did one of the complete about-faces that had always terrified Jack. He’d looked exactly the same way when he calmly informed his boss that he felt it was time to resign from Torchwood. The very picture of a solicitous young neighbour, Ianto helped Mrs. Davies to her feet.
An hour later, the old lady had been calmed, given tea, and tucked in for a nap. Jack didn’t think Retcon was necessary, since Mrs. Davies seemed quite content to believe that ordinary rodents could easily reach such an unusual size. They packed up the body for an autopsy and carried it back next door, as surreptitiously as possible.
They remained silent until they were back in the parlour, where Jack sat like a child waiting to be scolded. Ianto poured them tea. He kept his mouth shut while the other man sipped his beverage, sensing that anything he could say would probably make things worse.
“You shagged Gwen,” he repeated quietly, but without the eerie calm of his earlier transformation. “It could have been anyone else, you know. Tosh, Owen, even a total stranger, and I could have looked past it. But Gwen…” He took a ragged breath. “I know how you feel about her. I knew if you could have her, you wouldn’t need me.” He searched Jack’s face with pain-filled eyes.
Jack set his tea aside.
“It wasn’t like that, Yan. She was a wreck over what happened to Rhys. I was trying to comfort her, and things just… got away from us.”
Ianto looked away, and Jack took a chance and grabbed his hand.
“But it never meant that I didn’t need you! I care about Gwen, but I don’t love her the way that I love you.” He lifted Ianto’s chin and met his gaze, willing him to feel how much he meant it. “I love you, Ianto.”
He leaned forward, and Ianto responded by channeling all the rage, pain and grief of the past eighteen months into a crushing kiss that melted to an aching sweetness. When it was done, Ianto slid off his chair and laid his head on his lover’s lap, the tension drained from his body for the first time in years. They stayed that way as the sun began to sink behind the curtains, Jack stroking his hair and murmuring loving nonsense.
Finally Ianto rose and began clearing away the cold tea, his expression peaceful.
“Will you come back to Torchwood?” Jack asked him gently.
Ianto paused, choosing his reply carefully.
“No, Jack. I’ve built a life here, and I can’t go back. I don’t want to.”
“So… What does that mean for us?”
“I don’t know. I was thinking, maybe… Dinner, a movie?”
“Are you asking me out on a date?”