Ianto left Jack holding a sobbing Owen in his arms, walking past Gwen and Tosh who were watching on with tears in their eyes. His head was spinning and he needed a few minutes alone to get himself in order.
He went up to the workstations and blindly started tidying things that didn’t really need to be tidied. So much had happened in such a short amount of time, he was feeling emotionally burnt out. First, Tosh and Jack had ended up in 1941 and then his clash with Owen over opening the Rift, then Tosh innocently telling him all about Jack and the other Captain Harkness, not realising that he and Jack had been sleeping together for months now. Seeing Lisa and knowing something was very wrong. Then Rhys and Gwen, and taking the team’s side against Jack to open the Rift.
The second Owen had turned the gun on Jack, Ianto had realised too late the mistake he’d made. He should never have betrayed Jack, but it’d been past the point of being able to change his mind, he’d already given them the password by then. And when Owen had shot Jack—
God, he didn’t think he would ever forget that feeling. Because he hadn’t known then that Jack was immortal. Immortal. It was— It was— Bloody hell, he didn’t even know what it meant, his mind hadn’t been able to come to terms with it, and until Jack had appeared at Gwen’s side just now, he hadn’t really believed it.
The past days, as Gwen had stood vigil by Jack’s side, he’d silently, but desperately been hanging on by a thread. He’d felt so guilty over his part in what had happened, then the heartbreak at thinking Jack was gone for good, only overshadowed by the realisation that he’d cared for Jack so much more deeply than he’d ever admitted to himself.
He’d wanted just a few minutes alone with Jack’s body to say his private goodbyes, but Gwen had stubbornly refused to leave Jack's side. And since none of them had known how close he and Jack had become, he’d felt like he didn’t even have the right to his own grief. Because with everything that’d happened in the days prior—Jack with the other Captain Harkness—he’d recognised that he hadn’t meant anything to Jack except a convenient shag. Which shouldn’t have surprised him, it was what they’d originally agreed to, after all. He was the idiot who’d gone and started falling in love.
Except Jack had just kissed him in front of everyone. He hadn’t expected it, especially since he’d convinced himself that Jack hadn’t necessarily cared for him any more deeply than the rest of the team, despite their intimate after-hours activities. In the moment, he’d been completely lost in the relief that Jack was alive and in his arms. But now he wondered what it was going to mean. What the others would say or think about him and Jack.
It was maybe half an hour later, and he’d slowly but surely cleaned his way around the hub, completely lost in his own thoughts, when he realised he’d gotten to Jack’s office. Nothing in here needed cleaning. He’d kept it immaculate, almost obsessively. Still, he ran his finger over the surface of the desk, checking for dust, and then fractionally straightened the coral growing under the lamp.
Jack’s voice behind him made him straighten, especially at the light click of the door closing. He turned stiffly to face Jack, no idea what to say to him, especially with everything that had happened.
“The others have barely given me breathing space since I woke up, but I feel like you’re avoiding me.” Jack crossed his arms, the usual pose he took when a serious conversation was on the cards.
“I—I’m not avoiding you.” So why couldn’t he look directly at him? Emotion was whipping around inside him like a winter squall, and it was all he could do to keep his professional, impassive mask in place.
“No?” Jack came forward, a hint of amusement in his voice. “Is it because of before, because I kissed you in front of the others? I’m sorry, I didn’t think—”
“No,” he cut in quickly. “It’s not that.”
Jack stopped right in front of him, reaching up to cup his shoulder, rubbing his palm in a slow affectionate circle. “Then what is it?”
He took a deep breath, worried he wouldn’t be able to have this conversation without turning into a watery mess. But he’d cried enough in the last few days. He’d bloody cried himself to sleep the first night after Abaddon. He was sick of crying.
“It’s everything. It was all just a bit much. I don’t even know—” His words came out halting and he had to stop to swallow down the tightness in his throat.
“I don’t even know where to start figuring all this out,” he forced out hurriedly.
“So don’t,” Jack replied with a shrug.
He stared at Jack for a long moment, not really understanding.
“Put it behind you and move forward. It’s what I do. It’s kind of necessary, when you’ve lived as long as I have.”
“How long have you lived for?” he asked cautiously, not really knowing if he wanted to know the truth.
Jack gave a short laugh. “Let’s just put me somewhere older than 120.”
“Shit,” he muttered.
“Looking good for my age, aren’t I?” Jack arched a teasing eyebrow at him.
For some reason, that simple gesture—as though nothing had changed between them and they could still have their long established flirty, fun working relationship—was what ended up breaking his resolve.
He dropped his head to stare at his feet so Jack wouldn’t see the tears burning his eyes.
“Jack, I’m so sorry. I betrayed you again. I promised I wouldn’t ever do that again after Lisa—”
Jack’s arms came tight around him as Jack shushed him. He set his forehead on Jack’s shoulder, trying to pull himself back together.
“It’s okay, Ianto. We were all manipulated by Bilis Manger, starting from the moment Tosh and I ended up in 1941.”
“You can forgive me, forgive all of us, just like that?” he whispered, wanting that forgiveness desperately, but not really believing he deserved it. Not when he’d let his feelings overrule his better judgement in turning against Jack.
“Of course. I’ll always forgive you, Ianto. And I’ll always come back, that’s one promise I can make with all certainty.”
He pulled back to look at Jack, seeing nothing but open affection in his eyes. “It was worse though, what I did, it was more personal.”
“It was,” Jack nodded slowly. “But that’s why I can forgive you more quickly than I could with the others. Gwen might have been standing next to me when I woke up, but Ianto, you were the first thing I thought about.”
“Really?” he whispered, heart beginning to pound against the inside of his chest.
“Really,” Jack repeated in a firm tone. “After I came back from 1941, I started thinking about things—about us. About what we are to one another. But it wasn’t until Abaddon started sucking the life out of me that I realised. I started thinking that this time, I really was going to die. And all I could think of was you, that I was going to miss you. The way you smile, the way you’ve always got some kind of witty comeback that keeps me on my toes. Your gorgeous blue eyes, and the way you’d look at me sometimes like you were thinking about what we were going to do when we were alone later. I told myself that what we had was nothing more than casual sex. That it didn’t mean anything. That I didn’t have anyone, not really. I’d worked so hard to convince myself I was alone that I completely missed the fact you’d slowly but surely made sure it wasn’t true any longer. You know me, understand me in a way no one else does. Clearly I’m an idiot. A handsome idiot, but an idiot nonetheless. Because it took me believing that I was dying for real before I saw it all. That’s why I kissed you as soon as I saw you. Because I couldn’t do anything else. You mean more to me than a convenient body, Ianto. I think—I think I need you.”
He stared at Jack, completely speechless. It wasn’t enough that he’d been contending with his own emotions, now he was feeling completely overwhelmed by everything Jack had just told him. So much more than he’d ever expected to get from this man.
“Tosh told me,” he blurted out, because for some reason, it was the first thing that made sense in his mind. “She told me about the other Captain Harkness, that you and he—”
“We had a moment,” Jack confirmed, actually a little abashed.
“That’s why I took their side in the end when the others wanted to open the rift. I’d seen Lisa and she told me we needed to open the rift, but it didn’t work, not really. It hurt to see her, but not enough for me to want to betray you. It was Gwen, in the end that pushed me over the edge. I was sick of everything hurting, and seeing what Rhys’ death had done to her, I couldn’t handle it.”
Jack’s smile was sad but affectionate. “Your own pain couldn’t break you, but someone else’s did. Sounds about right.”
“Don’t make it sound so noble, because it wasn’t.”
Jack reached up and cupped his cheek, palm warm against his skin. “None of that matters now, okay? I’m back. I can’t promise that I won’t have to leave again, but I’ll always come back to you, Ianto Jones.”
He released an unsteady breath, Jack’s promise a balm on his fractured emotions, working so much better than was probably healthy. But he latched on to the vow and the unspoken words between the lines, that he was important to Jack. That he meant something to Jack.
“I know we don’t usually—not during work hours. But I really need to kiss you again right now,” Jack murmured, even as he gently tilted his face up and closed the short distance between them.
Ianto had been too shocked and surprised to really take in the kiss from before when Jack had first come back, but now, the feel of Jack’s mouth against his was rippling through his entire body on a wave of warm relief.
He found Jack’s hips and pulled him closer, until Jack was pressed flush against him. And suddenly he couldn’t wait until the others went home later, when he and Jack had the Hub to themselves and could climb down into Jack’s bunker and spend the night naked and tangled together.
Jack deepened the kiss, his tongue sliding sensuously over his lower lip in a way that always left him moaning. He could feel the tension in Jack’s body, felt the way Jack shifted restlessly against him and got the feeling he wasn’t the only one thinking about later.
“Bloody hell, is this what I have to worry about seeing every time I walk in here now?”
At the sound of Owen’s indignant words, Jack grinned briefly against his lips, but didn’t relinquish his hold. And Ianto was still feeling so raw from missing Jack the past few days that he simply didn’t care. Jack finished kissing him when he was good and ready, and when he finally pulled back, Ianto released a dazed sigh and slouched back on the desk. He looked up to see Owen frowning with his arms crossed and Gwen biting her lip over a grin.
“We need coffee,” Owen announced peevishly.
“Of course,” Ianto replied automatically, standing and straightening his tie.
“Nah, teaboy, we’ve all been through the wringer. I don’t expect you to make it. Thought we might go out to that coffee shop you like, get some fresh air.”
“Actually, that sounds like an idea.” He looked at Jack, who was still looking a little pale, with dark circles under his eyes. “Might be an idea for you to stay here. I’ll bring you back the usual?”
Jack nodded, the smile he sent him nothing short of intimate. “Thanks, Ianto.”
“The rest of you go,” Gwen said as she came forward. “I’ll keep an eye on Jack.”
She patted Ianto on the arm with some kind of conspiratorial smile—like she was silently congratulating him?—before going over to stand by Jack.
“Okay, then, we’ll be back shortly. Don’t go anywhere,” he told Jack with what was probably a silly smile.
Jack didn’t say anything, but the glint in his eye said he was probably still thinking about the later they were going to spend together. As he followed Owen out of Jack’s office, Ianto finally felt closer to normal. All he needed was coffee and Jack. If he had coffee and Jack, then everything would always be fine.