“There you were, being chased throughout space and time by a hyper-intelligent beast which ritualistically eats human anomalies to bolster its powers. You spotted the pub, recognized it, and thought you’d maybe pop in and see if I happened to be having lunch? Does that sum it up?”
Jack sat back in the booth, eyes darting between Ianto and the door. His heart was still pounding, but it was less about the chase and more about Ianto now- the odds of Jack landing randomly in 2007 London, the sight of him so calm and cool in weekend casual; dark jeans, chic black shirt, leather jacket folded by his left hip.
"Seems a bit... ill advised. Risking the creation of a time loop, simply because you missed someone."
He looked supremely unimpressed by the fact that Jack was visibly ecstatic to see him. How could he be impressed, though? They hadn’t met yet.
“I know. In my defense, I did think twice before coming in,” Jack played with the corner of the newspaper folded on the table, paused while the waiter delivered Ianto’s scotch egg and coffee. “But I’d only evaded that murderous thing by a few seconds and I needed somewhere to hide.”
“Mind if I….?” Ianto pointed at his plate, picking up his fork and knife when Jack shook his head.
“Besides, you told me you only used to come here every third dayish back then… back, uh, now, with your Torchwood destroyed and you busy job hunting. So… I guesstimated that between your stated frequency and the time of day... there was only a twenty seven percent chance you’d actually be sitting here.”
He didn’t say how he’d contemplated turning and going when he did spot him. Instead he’d bolted over and taken a seat, uninvited, spilling his guts and his heart out – telling a stunned and silent Ianto everything in under 90 seconds; how Ianto would think about looking for a safer gig in London, how he’d discard that idea and research Torchwoods Two and Three, the way he’d track Jack down, badger him into hiring him.
He even got in the part about how Ianto would die and that it was his fault, all his fault, forgive me, please. How he’d never even said ‘I love you’ back, but would move mountains to do it differently, warn him….to save him.
“So, because I died in your arms- it effectively prevents you from going back to the scene of the fatal incident that you won’t describe to me in any great detail and saving me then? Preserving my memories of you, our friends, our work? You’d have to cross timelines and meet yourself,” Ianto had taken it so calmly. “I’m not sure who that’s more awful for, you or me? I’m going to go with me, if you don’t mind me being greedy.”
“I tried so hard. I kept pushing you away, telling you to go have a different life but you wouldn’t.”
“You can’t seem to win with me, can you? I’m glad it’s just happenstance you’re here, then…” Ianto cut him off. “You won’t need to be disappointed that I’m going to retcon myself and wipe this entire conversation out.”
He would have saved some retcon pills, his sweet, well-organized boy.
“Why?” Jack saw the tiny smirk on that face as he deflated a bit. “Why would you do that?”
“I should think it’s obvious. What if, saving me, you muck up the entire planet? I might botch a future job and ten major cities fall. Or perhaps it’s nothing that dramatic, but… well… the factors of me being straight and not knowing you aside, you are very easy on the eyes. You seem to really care about me. Dying young in your arms versus getting the stuffing kicked out of me for another couple of decades? Perhaps being flayed to death by aliens over the course of a couple of weeks? That would be a bad ending. I’d be cursing your name every second they drained the life out of me, wouldn’t I?”
Ianto’s face stayed even, but there was a tightness to his voice. Jack reached and set his hand over the one Ianto had flat on the table and Ianto didn’t object so he left it there.
“I hadn’t thought…”
“Obviously,” Ianto pushed his plate away. “I really do fall madly for you?”
“I don’t know about madly, but, well…yes.”
“We’d better go,” Ianto reached for his wallet, nodded for the waiter. “Separately, I mean. This will only get more complicated and difficult and those pills make me woozy the rest of the damn day. I have things to do this weekend....”
Jack got up and would have headed straight for the door but his boots seemed to be glued to the floorboards. He watched Ianto hand the waiter some cash and pat the seat next to him.
“Come here, first.”
Ianto’s eyes ran up and down him twice as he sat. It was close in the booth, neither one of them small men, but it was so good to be near him. Ianto turned a touch to face him more.
“There’s no reason the entire day has to be a waste; I think you should take the opportunity to say a proper goodbye to me. When you were pouring your heart out … it sounded like you really regret that you didn’t.”
That word, ‘goodbye;’ Jack felt himself slump, his elbow going to the table top and his forehead to the palm of his own hand, the room blurring through sudden tears.
“You told me you loved me," Jack said. "I should have returned it, but instead I… God, Ianto, I said ‘don’t.’ I told you not to. How awful is that?”
“I didn’t say you should re-live it,” Ianto had to be the one to lean in, to brush his lips against Jack’s. “I said re-do it.”
Jack didn’t need a third invitation; he pulled him close and kissed him deep, tasted the spice from the curried mayo on his mouth, felt the familiar sensations of that tongue sliding over and around his. Ianto might not love him, not yet, but he had it in his heart to slide an arm under his coat and around Jack, to splay a hand warm against his back, to reach and get his other fingers in Jack’s hair, to tug and kiss him back long and sweet.
Determined to give as good as he got, just like always.
“Um, yeah…” Ianto looked a little shaky when it finally ended, eyes distant. “You’re good. Very good. Lucky…future me.”
“I do love you,” Jack kissed his forehead, dipped down to find the spot at the nape of his neck and breathed deep. “And I promise, I …told you I won’t forget you, and I won’t.”
They’d sat silently for a minute, Ianto finding a clean napkin for Jack’s eyes.
“I don't know that anyone's ever cried over me, so... well, thank you for that. And... we don’t seem to be able to shake each other entirely,” he’d told Jack before Jack left. “You finding me here this way…maybe it’s not the last time we’ll meet?”
It would be, though; he never saw Ianto again.
Several hundred years later someone set a plate with scotch egg in front of Jack at an official function a very long distance from Earth; he had to get up, leave the room and compose himself.
The sensation of Ianto – with him, around him? It took weeks to fade again. Every single time he remembered him.