“This is it, kids!”
Jack pushed open the door of the taxi and out climbed the slightly battered and beaten members of Torchwood 3. Jack fished some cash from his wallet and paid the cab driver before exiting the car himself. St David’s Hotel – class personified. And a 10-minute walk from the hub, but they weren’t planning on leaving so there was so worry about bumping into their past selves. Jack had called ahead in the taxi so waiting for them in full were 5 luxury rooms complete with plush double beds, glorious en suites, and enough spa treatments to have them relaxed into next month.
While Jack walked to the front desk and collected their keys, the rest of the team looking around with half smiles. They looked a mess, Owen especially. He was covered in blood and still holding a bandage to his side. They were all dusty from the explosion as the bomb had entered the rift and Tosh’s face was bruised and stained with dried blood. The staff eyed them as Jack handed out the keys and instructed them all to go clean up. There was a gift shop where they could buy some fresh clothes – “Something nice, we’re having dinner later” - and everyone disappeared to their rooms. Everyone but Jack and Ianto.
Jack looked him up and down, a sad smile across his face. Ianto tilted his head at Jack, unsure what to say. Before he could decide, Jack found his voice.
“Go get ready. Have a shower, buy a new suit from the shop. Whatever you want. Tonight’s on me.”
Ianto chuckled and adjusted his shirt cuffs under his jacket. It was a nervous habit he’d never been able to shake, not since he was a kid. “On Torchwood, you mean.”
“No, on me. I don’t even think you could hide this much expense in the budget.”
“You underestimate me…” Ianto had meant it as a joke, but Jack’s head snapped up from where he was studying the floor. His mouth hung open and Ianto could practically see him trying to find the perfect words to say. He shook his head instead and dropped his eyes to the ground.
“You should go up. We’ll meet at 10 for food.”
Sensing Jack’s mood, Ianto inclined his head then moved to step past him towards the lift. Jack caught his wrist though, and pulled him to stop. Ianto turned his head slightly, enough to see Jack’s face, his blue eyes full of emotion. Ianto hadn’t seen Jack this up close since his dramatic return. He looked sad, and older somehow.
“You know I would never, right?” Jack practically whispered. Ianto was confused, and his face must have shown it because Jack continued. “Underestimate you, that is. I hope you know how much I... How much I respect you.”
They held eyes for what felt like a million years. Jack’s were filling with water, a sight Ianto was not used to. So, he did was Joneses did best, and carefully extracted himself from the situation. He nodded at Jack, used his free hand to squeeze the older man’s shoulder in what he hoped was a comforting gesture, then turned towards the lift. He heard a sniff behind him and tried to file that interaction away with the rest of his Jack-related-mildly-confusing-situations.
Jack had made sure the table they had for dinner was perfect. They were sat by the biggest window in the dining hall, with a beautiful night time view of the bay and in the distance, the water tower. The team arrived slowly, first the girls in brand new dresses looking absolutely stunning and relaxed. They told Jack about the powerful showers in their rooms and the tempting array of spa treatments they planned to take full advantage of. Owen arrived next in similar if cleaner clothes. He’d rebandaged himself and taken a few more painkillers, which didn’t stop him ordering a double scotch for dinner, though it probably should have. While they waited for Ianto to arrive, the 4 of them perused the menu, choosing things they liked the look of, things they couldn’t imagine being nice, and already scouting desserts. However, Jack’s mind wasn’t on food, every few seconds he glanced up at the entry way, hoping to see the familiar frame of Ianto Jones wandering through. Owen was just starting to comment on how ‘of course the teaboy is taking the longest, he’s more high maintenance than both the girls put together’ when Ianto walked in.
Jack’s breath caught in his throat. Ianto was wearing the same suit as earlier, but it was free from explosion dust and had definitely been pressed. He’d exchanged his wrinkled pink shirt for a crisp white one and a sharp black tie. He looked great and Jack couldn’t tear away his eyes. Before he knew it, Ianto was at the table, settling into the chair next to Tosh and opposite Jack, and apologising for his tardiness.
“-And the showers here are amazing, I could have stayed in there all night.” Jack caught the end of his sentence to Tosh, too busy staring at the younger man to pay attention to the rest. Ianto opened his menu and settled back into his chair. “What’s everyone having?”
Owen laughed from the head of the table and patted Ianto on the shoulder. “You’re so used to catering for us, mate. Turn it off, you don’t have to take our orders here.” Ianto blushed slightly as the 4 of them chuckled. Tosh patted his arm gently and picked her menu back up.
“I’m thinking fish. The breaded scampi looks nice. Gwen?”
Gwen looked up from her menu and over at Tosh, she seemed positively overwhelmed. “Oh God, I don’t know. Maybe steak? Maybe the carbonara, though that pie does look good…” Jack grinned from next to her, although Ianto noticed it didn’t quite reach his eyes.
“I’m having the burger. Supposed to be quite good here.” Jack took a breath, the kind of breath he took before launching into an unbelievable and probably quite untrue story from his past. But no such story followed. Owen narrowed his eyes, not sure what to make of their suddenly tight-lipped Captain. He looked over at Ianto briefly who was staring at Jack, not with his usual doe-eyed expression, but instead something much more concerned as Jack leaned over to ask Gwen about her food. Ianto seemed to sense Owen looking at him and glanced over. He shrugged and looked back at his menu.
The waitress came over and within minutes their orders were being made up. There was a silence as everyone sipped on their drinks and adjusted in their seats. Jack sensed he needed to say something, start the apologies now, get them over with quicker.
“I-” He’d barely opened his mouth before Owen was waving a hand in front of his face.
“Not now, Jack, okay? We know you’re sorry, we just want to enjoy the meal, then tomorrow you can give us all the details, beg forgiveness and all that bollocks.” Jack looked shocked at Owen’s words, and his insight. He nodded and looked down at his hands. It was great to be back, it really was, it was just a matter of re-adjusting to certain things. Like Owen’s sharp edges, and well as his softness. And Tosh’s calm demeanour, and Gwen’s fire… And Ianto… Sometimes Jack couldn’t believe they were all still here, still with him. It had been a long year…
Gwen filled the silence quickly. “So, Ianto. Did you see the match the other night?”
And just like that, it was like Jack had never left. Ianto’s face lit up.
“Yes! Could you believe how shit we played? I’ve never felt that let down by a Jones.”
Gwen laughed and they launched full into a rugby conversation. Tosh offered small insights, mostly about which players were the most attractive. “Gareth Thomas” Ianto weighed in without missing a beat. Jack’s head whipped round which luckily no one noticed and he styled it out with a sip of his water. Owen sniggered.
When their food came out it was a thing of beauty, all conversation was suspended while they ate. All the noise was soft moans and occasional ‘This is so good’s. Jack ate slowly, savouring every bite. He hadn’t really eaten since getting back to Cardiff, and he hadn’t really eaten over the past year anyway. This food was outstanding, everything he wanted his first meal home to be, with the
person – people – he cared about most. When the plates were clean and their stomachs fit to burst, the 5 agreed dessert was out of the question. They simply couldn’t eat another thing. Jack promised an equally indulgent breakfast and thanked them all for joining him to eat.
They stood slowly and hovered around the table, jackets back in place and key cards ready to head back to their rooms. Jack spoke up.
“Really, thank you for this evening. And I know you made it quite clear you don’t want to hear it now, but I am sorry. I am so sorry for leaving the way I did, and for returning the way I did. I’m sorry I left you all with no explanation and probably a lot of mess to clean up. It was never meant to be that way, and I hope one day you’ll understand my reasons for going, and my reasons for returning…” Jack looked up briefly and caught Ianto’s eye. He continued. “And-” deep breath. “And I hope one day you’ll be able to forgive me.”
There were a few seconds heavy silence before Tosh came around the table and pulled the captain down into a soft embrace. “Already forgiven. We missed you.” She kissed his cheek and stepped back. Gwen gave Jack a one-armed hug, a little unsteady on her feet after a couple of glasses of wine. “Welcome home, Jack.” Gwen’s slightly slurred words warmed Jack’s heart and he smiled as she and Tosh stumbled back towards the entrance to go to their respective rooms. Jack was glad to see them getting on more. He turned back to Owen and Ianto.
“Bar?” Ianto suggested. Which surprised Jack. What surprised Jack even more was Owen’s shaking head.
“Better not. Probably already pushing it with the pain killers. We’ll go down the dockside once I’m off the meds, but I’m hitting the hay.” Owen patted Ianto on the back and turned to Jack. He offered him his hand. “Good to have you back, Captain… And… And I’m sorry again for everything that happened before you left.”
Again, Jack felt himself lean back in surprise. He smiled, shook Owen’s hand and patted his un-injured shoulder.
“All water under a bridge we crossed many, many miles ago. Go get some sleep.”
Owen inclined his head and turned on his heal. Jack and Ianto both watched him go, again finding themselves alone together. Jack turned to Ianto with a half-smile.
“Still fancy a drink?”
Ianto met his eyes, and nodded.
“Sure. Why not.”