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Worrisome Heart

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I need a hand with my worrisome heart
I would be lucky to find me a man
Who could love me the way that I am
With this here worrisome heart

melody gardot - worrisome heart

It was becoming increasingly clear that his life was not turning out the way he had intended. Not that he had ever had much of a direction for his life, but he surely had never thought he would end up here.

Ianto Jones was a bus boy.

It was 1922, and Ianto thought he would have found something better to do by now. He was only 23, but clearing tables for eight hours a day wasn’t his idea of a lucrative career. But, he had a job. That was something – or so he kept telling himself.

“Jones,” the owner, Owen Harper, yelled from behind the counter. Ianto tore his eyes from the window, where the New York City street bustled with life. A much more interesting life than he had.

Owen pointed to the two empty tables. “Do you think I’m paying you to stare out the window? If you don’t get those tables cleaned, you’re gonna end up out there with them.”

Ianto murmured a “yes, sir” before quickly clearing the tables. It was not his ideal job, but he didn’t want to lose it yet. He’d only been there a few weeks.

To make up for his misstep that morning, Ianto made sure to do everything exact and perfect the rest of the day. He even took it upon himself to start the coffee when the dinner crowd started arriving. Owen noticed this, took a sip, and told him he’d done a good job. Ianto smiled.

“Excuse me,” an older gentleman grabbed Ianto’s arm as he walked by, “could you tell Mr. Harper someone’s here to see him.” Ianto looked at the man warily, then glanced at the counter, but Owen wasn’t there. Ianto nodded and walked into the back of the restaurant. He set his armful of dishes on a counter and looked around. Owen was nowhere in sight.

He went further into the back, towards Owen’s private office. A soft light was shining from the cracked door. Ianto approached it tentatively, not sure what to do. He knocked on the door and waited.

“Come in.” Ianto pushed the door open and saw Owen bent over a desk. He looked up quickly. “Whatcha need, Jones?”

“There’s a man out there, sir,” he started. “He told me to tell you that someone’s here to see you.”

“Oh yes.” Owen opened a drawer, reached in, and pulled out an envelope. “Give this to him.”

“Yes, sir.” With that, Ianto left. He looked down at the envelope in his hand; nondescript, plain, unimportant. Ianto wondered what it was, but realized he was probably better off not knowing. But still, the intrigue was there.

Ianto delivered the envelope to the man and watched him from the other side of the restaurant as he opened it. He pulled out a small slip of paper, read it, then set it aside. Ianto, still confused, started clearing a few other tables. He had too much work to do to worry about whatever that was. It was probably nothing.

After the man left, Ianto cleared the table and noticed the piece of paper, lying crumpled beside his empty plate. Ianto glanced around for Owen, who was still in back, and quickly shoved the piece of paper in his pocket.

Later that night, he was walking home from work when he remembered the piece of paper. He pulled it from his pocket; it was a small strip of paper with an address scribbled on it, the word brown plaid, and Owen’s initials. Ianto wasn’t familiar with the address, but he was going to go find it.

He walked around a few blocks, got lost a couple times, but finally found the correct street, only two away from the diner. As he watched the street numbers, he grew closer to a movie theater. That building was the destination on the slip of paper.

The theater, called The Electro, was plain and nondescript. Posters advertised various films, and a lit marquee listed the movie options. He walked up to the ticket window, unsure what to do next. A young, attractive girl was inside the booth. “Good evening.” Ianto smiled, unsure, and looked at the piece of paper again. She noticed and slipped something through the window. “Theater number 4.” She smiled, like nothing out of the ordinary had just happened. Ianto took the ticket and entered the theater.

The theater was large and bright. Couches and chairs lined the walls, all covered in rich hues of red and gold velvet. Posters for films and silent film stars hung on the walls. Four closed doors led off from the hall, reading Theaters 1-4 above them, and a few other unmarked doors were also closed on the hall. Some people ambled along the hallway, a few scattered among the couches and chairs. Everyone was dressed beautifully – women in shiny evening dresses with their hair up and jewels adorning their wrists and necks, men in perfectly tailored suits, wing-tipped shoes, and fedoras. Ianto looked down at his own shirt and trousers and felt extremely underdressed.

Continuing down the hallway, he looked for theater 4. It was the last door on the right, situated away from everything. It advertised a silent movie Ianto had never heard of, but he went in anyway. The movie was playing, with only two people watching. He had no clue what was going on. Slinking away into a dark corner, he waited.

After a few minutes, he felt extremely silly. Why was he hiding in a dark corner of a near-empty movie theater, not even watching whatever movie was playing? The least he could do was watch the bloody movie.

He was about to go sit down to watch – or leave completely and pretend this never happened – when the door opened and he heard a woman’s laughter and a man’s quiet voice. He pressed himself as flat against the wall as he could, praying he wouldn’t be detected. The couple didn’t seem to notice him, so he watched as they walked down the aisle, then through the exit door. Ianto immediately followed.

He still heard the faint trace of their voices as he stepped through the door. It was dark, a small hallway that he guessed led outside. He hurried along the short distance and came to a dead end. One door was the exit door leading outside, and the other was a service closet. He listened, could hear faint noises. He opened the exit door and stuck his head out. An empty alley. Probably didn’t go that way. But a service closet? He put his ear to the door and heard more of the noise, so he opened the door. It opened into, well, a service closet. Ianto, thoroughly confused, stepped inside and looked around. Right when he was about to leave, his eye caught sight of something in a corner. He crossed towards it and realized there was a door, albeit a well-hidden door. Light was coming from underneath.

He pushed on it and it opened with ease. He stepped through and found another hallway, this one dark with stairs. As he descended the stairs, he still could hear faint noises, sounds of music and people’s voices.

When he got to the bottom of the stairs, he could vaguely see another door at the end of the long, dark tunnel, which he guessed was the source of the music and voices. As he carefully walked, he guessed that he was probably walking somewhere under the theater, unless he’d somehow gotten turned around. Upon approaching the door, he pressed his ear to the wood. Yep, this was where the noise was. He lifted his hand and knocked.

A small opening covered by grillwork wire bars opened. It was just wide enough for Ianto to see the rather large face of a man. Ianto was suddenly terrified. What in the hell had he gotten himself into?

Ianto held up the ticket for the man to see uncertainly and the man studied it, then studied Ianto. “Who sent you?”

Ianto stared at him, not sure what to say. The door opened and a burly man emerged, looking none too friendly.

“I asked who sent you? Where’d you get this ticket?”

When Ianto still didn’t answer, the guy grabbed Ianto by the collar and pulled him away from the door. He shoved him up against the wall, Ianto’s chest and cheek digging into the rough stone, and the man pulled out a gun, pressing it against Ianto’s temple. Ianto wasn’t sure whether to run, cry, or pass out.

“Who are you? Who sent you? How’d you find out about this place?”

“I…Shit…Get off me,” Ianto said, trying to wiggle out of the man’s grip. He just tightened his hands. “I work for Mr. Harper.”

“You work for Mr. Harper,” the man repeated, derision clear in his voice. “A likely story. You come walking up here like you’ve just wandered off the corn field, and you expect me to believe this cock-and-bull story? You stupid sonofabitch. You’re lucky I don’t put a bullet in your head right here.”

“It’s true,” Ianto said, voice rising as his heartbeat accelerated. “I do work for him.”

“What’s the commotion?” Someone interrupted. Ianto shot his eyes towards the door and was relieved to see Owen walking towards then.

“This wanker says he works for you. Tried to come in, has a ticket and everything. No password and no clue what he was doing. Seems a bit shady to me.”

“Easy, Rhys,” Owen said, stepping beside the man. Owen’s eyes went wide when he saw Ianto, then he rolled them. “What in the hell are you doing here, Jones?” Rhys pressed Ianto even rougher, knocking him against the stone wall again.

“I…um…I…” Ianto didn’t know what to say. So he decided to go with the truth. “I found the address on that piece of paper I delivered for you.”

“You opened that envelope?” Owen yelled. Rhys dug the barrel of the gun deeper into Ianto’s temple.

“No! Shit, no!” Ianto panicked. “The man left it on the table. I found it when I was busing it. It was crumpled by his plate. See?” With some effort, Ianto reached into his pocket and produced the piece of paper. He extended his hand and Owen snatched it.

“Fuck,” Owen breathed. “That rat bastard left this lying on the table? Your gun would be better served in his temple than Jones’s.” Owen put a hand on Rhys’s shoulder. “You can let him go, Rhys. He’s okay. Stupid, but okay.”

Rhys let Ianto go, but didn’t reholster his gun. Ianto shook out his arms and neck, feeling the soreness already starting in his chest and head.

“Rhys, this is Ianto Jones. He’s a bus boy at the restaurant. And a pain in the neck.” Owen turned to Ianto. “This is Rhys Williams, doorman and bouncer. No one gets through until Rhys says it’s okay.” Owen started towards the door. “Come on, Ianto, I might as well show you around.”

Ianto wanted to ask him what exactly he was showing him around, but didn’t dare.

“Welcome to The Hub,” Owen said as they stepped across the threshold. “One of New York’s finest speakeasies.”

Finally, it all clicked into place for Ianto. The message, the slip of paper, the theater as a front, the hidden doors. Of course, it all made perfect sense.

The Hub was brightly lit, a glow of gold and browns and reds. It was ornately decorated from the perfectly topped tables to the gilded ceiling. Tables crowded the outside of the room, booths aligned one wall, against the opposite wall a group of plush sofas and chaise lounges. A few small private rooms broke off from both sides of the main room, and in the very center of the back wall was a large stage. Right in front of the stage was a wide dance floor full of couples currently doing the Charleston. Right next to the door was a long, mahogany bar.

Ianto looked around in wonder. He’d never seen anything like it in his life. The music was loud, floating over the entire room and into his very pores. A cloud of heavy smoke hung in the air. The band was lively and very good. The couples dancing looked amazing, like a synchronized dance number they had practiced together. And everyone was so beautiful. Elegant women in beautiful gowns, more beautiful than women he’d ever seen, and men dressed in expensive suits. He was definitely not dressed appropriately.

Owen led Ianto to the bar, walking around the back of it as Ianto gaped.

“What’s your poison?” Owen asked.

“I…don’t know. What do you have?” Ianto asked.

“Liquor. No wine or beer here; too hard to get. Liquor’s where it’s at.”

Ianto nodded. “What do you suggest?”

“Gin Fizz.” Owen grabbed a teacup from behind him, set it on the counter, then started mixing things from different unmarked bottles. He gave it a quick stir and handed it over. “Welcome to a life of crime, Ianto Jones.”

“I’m definitely no stranger to that,” Ianto said, taking the drink and lifting it to Owen. “Bottom’s up.” He gulped it down. It was harsh and sweet and perfect. “Oh, sweet, perfect crime.”

Owen grinned. He turned and started fixing drinks for other customers. When he was finished, he returned to Ianto and waved over someone in the crowd. A freckle-faced brunette girl in an extremely short red fringed dress. She had a band around her head made of sparkling silver stones, and carried a cigarette case around her neck.

“Yeah?”

“I want you to meet someone. Ianto, this is Gwen. She’s our girl.”

“Cigarettes, dancing, bartending, waitressing, and a good kick in the ass or two,” she said, smiling widely. “I do it all.”

“Ianto is joining us,” Owen explained. “He took it upon himself to find his way into this joint, so now I either have to hire him or kill him. And I’m really not in the mood to kill anyone today.”

Gwen turned and looked at Ianto. “You’re lucky. He usually doesn’t think twice about it.” She leaned closer, studying the side of his face. “I see you’ve met Rhys.”

Ianto touched the side of his face where a small bruise was forming. “Unfortunately.”

“Oi,” Gwen exclaimed, “watch your mouth. That’s my man you’re talking about.”

“Oh,” Ianto said. “You and Rhys?” He rubbed his temple again. “Well, he’s bloody good at his job.”

She grinned. “I know. He’s the bee’s knees. This place wouldn’t be here without him. He keeps out the undesirables.”

“But couldn’t keep this one out,” Owen said.

“It was time you hired someone new,” Gwen said.

Ianto stayed at the bar, watching and taking it all in. It was kind of overwhelming, going from busboy with no life to sitting inside a speakeasy. Gwen came back over to talk to him when she wasn’t selling cigarettes or flirting with customers. That also seemed to be part of her job.

Then suddenly, she muttered an “I’ll be back” and ran behind the bar and started fixing a drink. Ianto watched as she carried the cup over to a tall man in a long coat, military-issue from the looks of it. She spoke and laughed with him for a few moments, then returned as he took a seat at an empty booth.

“Who was that?” Ianto asked when she sat beside him.

“You don’t know who that was?” Gwen asked incredulously.

“You really are new around here,” Owen piped from behind them.

“That’s Captain Jack Harkness,” Gwen explained. “He’s a bootlegger. He owns this place, and supplies it, along with quite a few extremely rich patrons, with liquor.”

“He could supply anyone in the city, but sticks exclusively to this club. Keeps the Mob happy that he’s not toeing their territory, and makes me happy that I don’t have to compete with anyone for his liquor.” Owen seemed very pleased with himself.

Ianto looked at Jack closely. He was tall, good build, bright smile. He looked too young to be some kind of liquor mogul. A young woman went up to him, and Jack grabbed her hand, pulling her into his lap. He kissed her, then laughed.

“They call him the Immortal,” Gwen continued.

“Why? He can’t die?”

“Don’t be stupid,” she said. “Apparently, he was in the war and survived everything – explosions, air raids, enemy attacks – things that even his units didn’t. And the units that did survive were because of him. He has all kinds of medals and decorations.”

“He’s your boss now,” Owen said.

“I thought you were my boss,” Ianto said, confused.

“I am.”

“So, he’s your boss?”

“No,” Owen snapped. Gwen snickered. “We’re two different parts of this operation. He gets the liquor, I run the establishment. Partners really.”

“Like Jack would ever have a partner,” Gwen muttered, still snickering.

“Hey, you. Shut it. We both own this joint, whether Jack likes having a partner or not.”

For the rest of the night, Ianto barely moved off the barstool. Gwen and Owen tried to get him to go and dance a few times, but dancing was the last thing that Ianto wanted to do. At one point, a beautiful Asian woman took the stage and started singing. The entire audience was quiet and rapt, no one dancing or moving about save the occasional drink run. She was spectacular; the lights reflecting off the white sparkles of her dress, a furry white mink shrug around her shoulders, her soft, husky voice captivating the entire place. Ianto felt she sang like a dream.

When he asked Owen who she was during one of her breaks, he explained she was Toshiko, their regular jazz singer. She was some sort of celebrity on the underground circuit, and Owen once again was proud that his joint was the only one she’d sing at.

“Jones,” Owen said as the crowd had mostly disappeared. “How would you like to expand your job description?”

They were interrupted briefly as Jack, followed closely by the same woman from earlier, walked towards the door, her laughter loud and filling the empty room. Jack waved, said goodnight, then disappeared with her hanging onto his arm.

“Okay,” Ianto answered. He wasn’t sure if he had much of a choice at this point. He was scared to say no, just in case Owen suddenly felt like killing.

“Tomorrow night, you’re gonna take tickets.” Owen spent the next half-hour explaining how to take tickets to the actual theater and ones to the speakeasy. “Don’t worry about showing up at the diner tomorrow. This is your new job.” Ianto nodded, relieved. He wasn’t exactly sure what time it was, but it was late and he had not been looking forward to waking early for work. As he started to leave, Owen spoke again. “Oh, and Jones?” Ianto turned around. “Try and dress the part.”

On his way home, he ambled along the deserted streets, hands stuffed in his pockets. This new development was interesting. He could go with it, deeper into a life of crime – again – but he wasn’t sure. He’d been down that road before, and it had led to too many run-ins with the police and then the army and memories he didn’t really want to revisit. But what was the alternative? Being a busboy from Wales for the rest of his life?

The speakeasy offered money, glamour, intrigue. That was most definitely worth any of the risks.

*

Ianto could barely sleep. He was positively vibrating with energy and excitement. His body was exhausted; he’d been up for way too long, but every time he shut his eyes and tried to sleep, his mind whirled with thoughts.

After a few hours of much needed sleep, he got up and tried to figure out the clothes dilemma. He had nothing that would, as Owen put it, let him dress the part. He only had a few pairs of working trousers and worn shirts, and no ticket-taker, front doorman, do-boy, whatever-he-was at the Hub should be wearing anything lacking class. But unfortunately, Ianto’s wardrobe lacked class. And he wasn’t sure how to remedy that.

He fixed a cup of coffee and sat by the window of his flat, facing the street. He barely had enough money to pay rent and keep food in his belly, and surely didn’t have enough money to buy the kind of suit he needed. Maybe it was a sign: turn back while you can. An obstacle keeping him from what he really wanted to do.

Then it hit Ianto. Of course, the answer was staring at him from down below. The crowded streets, people pushing past one another on their way to work and meetings and lunch. A pickpocket’s dream. And pickpocketing was something Ianto could definitely do. Seems this wasn’t just leading him into a life of crime, but yanking him right back into the thick of it. He hadn’t stolen anything in over a year, not since he’d finally started having a steady income; he’d tried to make a new start when he’d moved to New York, after he’d gotten caught and shipped off to boot camp and the war, and when he scraped out of the war alive, he’d promised himself he’d never do it again. And he’d only done it when he had to – when he’d been so hungry he ached. But seemed the time had arrived again when it was necessary. He had less than twelve hours to find a suit, or more appropriately, the money for a suit, and that was definitely something a skilled pickpocket like himself could do.

He quickly got dressed in his blandest clothes and pulled on a flat cap to make himself that much more invisible. Then, he left his apartment and disappeared into the crowd.

His heart was beating fast, his palms sweaty, hands shaking. It had been so long since he’d done this, and as he looked around at the people passing him, he wondered if he still remembered how. He knew that the consequences would be a lot more severe if he got caught this time. No more bootcamp and second chances and war; this time it’d be jail and maybe worse.

He moved among the people, acclimating himself. If he’d tried to steal anything right then, he may have passed out. Things started to become familiar: the brushing of shoulders, the feel of wool and tweed jackets, the oblivious way everyone stared right past him, the gentle thrum of energy coursing through his veins. He started to feel comfortable, started to feel alive.

He figured the best way to do this was to just go right in and do it. Waiting around wasn’t getting him any closer to his goal. So, with the quick fluid motion of a practiced hand, Ianto reached inside the coat pocket of a man in front of him, and almost like a ghost, nicked the wallet and slid it into his own pocket. Then, with a casual glance around, he crossed the street, dodging roadsters and taxis, and went down a less-crowded side street. He opened the wallet, pulled out the cash – not enough, but a good start – and tossed the wallet on the ground. He returned to the street.

Adrenaline coursed through his veins. He’d forgotten what a high this could be, the addiction to the rush as he slipped his hand inside a pocket, grabbed a wallet, then slinked away like he’d never been there. It was almost enough to start up his thievery again, but Ianto hoped that better things were coming for him.

He finally amassed enough money. Pockets heavier and spirits lighter, he walked towards a nearby shopping district. He passed by a few upscale shops, nearly drooling over the suits in the windows. He didn’t have near enough money for those, but knew one day he would. And he’d buy himself the best tailored suit money could buy.

He ended up in a cheap shop with decent looking suits. The man was very helpful, and found him a rather nice three-piece pinstriped suit with two shirts and matching ties. If he matched them right, that would be at least a week’s worth of outfits. After paying, he went to a shoe store, bought a cheap pair of wing tipped shoes, then topped all that off with a fedora.

Later that night, suit neatly and perfectly pressed, he dressed himself, black pinstripes over red shirt and tie. He topped it all off with the black fedora.

He was ready.

*

“Nice going, Jones,” Owen said when Ianto walked into the theater. “You cleanup nicely.” Ianto took that as a compliment.

The ticket booth wasn’t as bad as he’d imagined. He sold tickets to the movies actually playing, and gave tickets to those who either had slips of paper like the one he’d had the previous night or knew the password. It wasn’t glamorous or exciting, but at least it was better than waiting tables.

On a break, he was on his way back from the loo when he noticed Jack walking down the hall with a woman – a different woman than the night before. He held her close, his hand resting brazenly on her ass. He disappeared with her into one of the unmarked doors.

Ianto quickly fell into routine. He wanted to do everything perfect for Owen, and went out of his way to do small other things that weren’t asked of him: getting the mail, cleaning up at the end of the night, making coffee. Gwen warmed to him immediately, and it didn’t take long for Owen to either.

During his first week, he smiled and greeted a woman who rolled her eyes. “You’re the new boy,” she said, her voice lazily annoyed. “The new toy, I’m guessing.”

“Excuse me?” Ianto was taken aback – he wasn’t sure how to respond. The woman was tall, thin, with dark skin and looked stunningly fashionable in a bright yellow dress, matching feathers in her hair and wrapped around her neck.

“What happened to Mary?” she asked.

“Who?”

“Oh lord, you don’t even know that.” She laughed, but there was no mirth. “She had your job before you. I’m Suzie, Suzie Costello. I fuck Owen, in case you were wondering.”

Ianto blinked at her, shocked. He had not, in fact, been wondering.

“I’m Ianto,” he managed to get out before giving her the ticket. She took it, looked at it and laughed.

“I don’t need this, honey.” She handed it back at him. “So much to learn.” And with that, she left. He found out later that night that Suzie was one of three women Owen saw regularly, and from his short run-in with her, he didn’t want get to know her anymore.

After work that night, he was taking the trash out for Owen and opened the door to the back alley. The dumpster was right beside the door, so he turned to toss the bag in when he heard something. Looking behind him, he saw Jack and a guy on his knees in front of him. Ianto hurried back inside before Jack could see him, the bag of trash left by the door.

Ianto quickly realized just how freeing the underground club was for people. Women came alone, showed more skin than he’d ever dreamed, alcohol flowed freely between men and women, and most surprising, it wasn’t anything to see two men or two women together. It was an underground culture where anything goes, and Ianto was still trying to wrap his head around it all.

He usually closed the ticket booth around eleven. Owen said it would look suspicious if anyone was seen buying movie tickets any later, so if they wanted to get into the Hub, they had to come before then. After closing the booth, he would go downstairs and enjoy a little bit of free time and help out where he could.

One night during his second week, he was enjoying a martini cocktail when a commotion started near the dance floor. Two men, apparently fighting over a woman, started punching each other, disrupting not only the couples dancing but a few nearby tables. Even Tosh and her band, who were on stage performing, had stopped.

Rhys got between the two men, pulling them off each other and shouting. He grabbed one man, started to carry him away when the other drew back to punch Rhys. Ianto was immediately on his feet.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” he said, calmly coming up to the man. The man, hand still poised, looked at Ianto like he was crazy. “Wouldn’t seem quite sane to punch a man, especially one as large and scary as Rhys.”

“Who in the bloody hell do you think you are?” the man shouted. “You better move, you little nobody, before I knock out your lights.”

“Oh, I know I’m little, and I’m definitely a nobody, but I’m not sure you could knock me out.”

“Oh?” the man turned all his attention to Ianto. The whole room, Ianto realized, had also turned their attention on him. “Is that a challenge then?”

“Not in the slightest.” Ianto shook his head, laughing. “You’re quite a bit larger than me, and no doubt stronger – I mean, look at those arms – but see, I’m quick, and I’m not drunk. You’re corked.”

“I’m not drunk! I can hold my liquor,” the man yelled.

“I’m sure you can, a big strapping man like you,” Ianto continued. “But I’m not sure a sober man would fight in a place like this, and over a woman. Sure, she’s an absolute sheba, but there are plenty of lovely girls here who’d love to dance with you. But instead, you make a complete ass out of yourself and it’s just downhill from there.”

The man stared at Ianto like he was insane, but lowered his fist. Rhys quickly grabbed him and escorted him out. The band started playing again, and everyone returned to their drinks. Ianto took a deep breath and returned to the bar.

“That was the cat’s pajamas!” Gwen ran up to him and hit his arm affectionately. She was dressed that night in a pink loose dress with ornate embroidery all over it, and a matching pink band around her head. She lit up a cigarette and took Ianto’s drink and finished it. “I thought that guy was going to hit Rhys right in the back of the head!”

“I thought so, too.” Ianto stared at the bar, surprised at his own actions. “I can’t believe I did that.”

“I’m sure Rhys thanks you, though.” Gwen laughed. “Maybe you could be a bouncer along with him.”

“Doubt it, doll,” Owen said from behind him, producing two drinks for them. “Jones’d make a poor excuse for a bouncer.”

“Thanks,” Ianto said sarcastically, then sipped his drink.

“Have to call ‘em like I see ‘em, and you’d get your ass kicked. But that was some pretty good talking you did out there.” Owen kept talking, but Ianto noticed Jack leading a woman out onto the dance floor, a pretty redhead with small features. Ianto returned his attention back to the conversation, realizing this was at least the fourth or fifth person he’d seen Jack with.

After everyone had left, Ianto was drying cups, Owen already gone with Suzie and Gwen with Rhys. He had a few more things to finish and then he too was leaving.

He didn’t realize anyone had approached until he saw a large, grey coat drop onto the bar. He didn’t even look up, just kept toweling the cup.

“Ianto Jones,” a confident American accent said. Ianto flicked his gaze upwards, and stared into Jack’s blue eyes. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”

Jack leaned against the bar. The top two buttons of his blue shirt were undone, cuffs rolled up and braces holding his trousers. Ianto looked back down at his cup.

“You have, have you?” Ianto said. “All good I hope.”

“Very good.”

Ianto nodded, but said nothing.

“I saw what you did tonight.”

“I believe everyone saw what I did tonight, sir.”

Jack laughed. “I do believe you are correct.” Jack stuck out his hand. “I’m Captain Jack Harkness.”

Ianto shook his hand. “Nice to meet you, sir.”

“How do you like our little establishment?” Jack asked, motioning around the room.

“It’s nice.”

“Nice?” Jack said, incredulous. “It’s absolutely fantastic.”

“I suppose,” Ianto started, “but I can’t really comment. I haven’t been to many gin mills.”

Jack sat on a stool and studied him for a moment. “No, I guess you wouldn’t. I’m sure you’ll see your share before it’s all done with.”

Ianto went back to his work. He turned away from the bar, away from Jack, and started gathering some bottles and putting them in the secret compartment in the wall where they kept them.

“How would you like to work for me?” Jack asked his back. Ianto looked up, stared at Jack’s reflection in the mirror in front of him.

“I thought I did, sir.”

“A bit more of an active role. My personal assistant. Doing things I can’t do myself.” Ianto turned and looked at him. “I need someone who I can trust to do things for me.”

“You don’t know me.”

“Owen trusts you. That’s enough for me. Besides,” Jack said, grinning widely. Ianto noticed how nice his smile was. “How can a face that pretty not be trustworthy?” Ianto felt himself flush, but didn’t look away.

“What about my job here?”

Jack waved his hand. “You can do both. Mine would be on a need-basis. Run messages, pick up things. Nothing too dangerous, but things where discretion is crucial.” Jack waited while Ianto mulled it over. “What do you say?”

“Yeah, sure.” Ianto nodded. Jack clapped his hands and smiled.

“Great.” Jack got up to leave, but remained standing in front of Ianto. “It was nice to finally meet you, Ianto Jones. I look forward to getting to know you better.”

Ianto nodded matter-of-factly. “You too, sir.”

Jack smiled again, grabbed his coat, and as he shrugged it on said, “Nice suit, by the way.”

Ianto stared at his retreating back until he was well out of the door. He swallowed and exhaled slowly. He was now directly working for Jack.

He wiped his palms on his trousers and quickly finished his work.

*

It was a week before Jack contacted him. He was mixing drinks behind the bar and turned around to find Jack sitting on a barstool. He covered his surprise quickly. He’d begun to wonder if Jack was ever going to ask him to do anything – he hadn’t spoken to Ianto since the night he offered him the job. He had seen him in the bar, escorting different women (and even disappearing with a few men), but Jack made no effort to even acknowledge Ianto, and Ianto returned the favor.

Now Jack was sitting across from him on a barstool, smiling widely.

“What can I get you to drink, sir?”

“Surprise me,” Jack said.

Ianto nodded and poured him a Gin Fizz. Not necessarily creative, but a safe choice. He slid the glass in front of Jack, then turned to another patron. After serving a few people, he noticed Jack was still sitting at the bar, staring at him. Ianto walked back over and looked at him levelly. “Do you need something else, sir?”

“Yeah. Follow me.” Jack gestured with his head toward the door. Ianto followed Jack out, past Rhys who nodded at Jack and raised an eyebrow at Ianto, then through the long, dark hallways and up the stairs, through the cinema theater, which was showing its usual film. When they passed into the lobby, Jack turned and went to a door Ianto was unfamiliar with. It opened to a set of stairs. At the top of the stairs was another hallway and a line of doors. Jack entered an office at the end of the hall. Ianto figured this is where Jack did…all the things that Jack did.

“Have a seat,” Jack said, pointing to a plain, wooden chair across from a large desk as he sat behind it. He reached into a drawer, pulled out an envelope, looked inside, then folded it back. “This is your first job,” he said, tossing the envelope across the desk. It landed heavily in front of Ianto. Ianto stared at it, but didn’t say anything or pick it up. “There’s a significant sum of money in that envelope. You’re going to acquire a deed for me.”

“A deed?” Ianto looked at.

“Real estate is my legitimate business, what everyone – including the Feds – thinks I do. I acquire and sell land, buildings, things like that. It’s a good front, and keeps the money rolling in.” Jack waited, gauged Ianto’s reaction. Ianto nodded and picked up the envelope. “What I want you to do is be my middle man, of sorts. I have purchased a property from a businessman named Andy. Tomorrow, you will meet Andy for lunch and make the sale. Get the deed and pay the man. Then bring me the deed tomorrow night. Simple as that.”

“May I ask you a question?” Ianto ventured rather hesitantly.

“Of course.”

“Why don’t you make the sale yourself? Why get someone else to do it?”

Jack nodded and leaned forward, elbows on the desk. “I like to keep a low profile. I don’t show my face around too often, let other people make exchanges and things like that for me. For instance, Andy has never seen my face, the same for many of the other men I do business with. It’s harder to identify a ghost, if you understand my meaning.”

Ianto nodded, understanding completely. “It will be done, sir.”

Jack clapped his hands. “Excellent. I’m counting on you, Ianto.” And with that, Jack pulled out a notebook and started writing. Ianto knew this meant he was dismissed, so he placed the envelope securely inside his jacket and returned downstairs.

When he returned, Gwen grabbed his arm the moment he stepped through the door. “Come with me!” She pulled him through the crowd, her hand gripping him tightly.

“What’s wrong?”

“Oh, drama! You won’t believe what’s happened! I don’t believe what’s happened!” She looked distressed as she pulled him backstage. Owen paced by the wall, hand running over his face. Tosh was perched on a seat in front of her dressing table, decked out in a gorgeous blue gown, her hair covered in what looked like diamonds. She looked like she was trying not to cry.

“What are we going to do?” Tosh muttered to herself. She picked up a brush, turned it over in her hands, and set it back down. “Poor Dave.”

“What happened to Dave?” Ianto hadn’t known the piano player very well, but he’d accompanied Tosh since he’d started working there.

“He’s been murdered,” Gwen explained. Ianto stared at the others in horror.

“What? How?” He’d only known people who’d been killed on the battlefield, not murdered on a normal day.

“Shot in an alley.” Tosh was clearly shaken up by the situation. She was shivering and couldn’t keep her hands still.

“Owen,” Gwen started uncertainly. She looked around to make sure they were alone, then took a step closer to him. Ianto took a couple steps closer so he could hear. “Um, do you think…” She trailed off, bit her lip.

“Do you even have to ask that question?” Owen sighed. Ianto looked at all three of them. They all looked like they understood what Gwen had implied, but Ianto was completely lost.

“Um, what question?” Everyone looked at him in disbelief. He rolled his eyes. “New guy, remember?”

“Jack,” Tosh muttered, staring at her dressing table.

“Huh?” Ianto stared at them, mouth slightly open. “Jack killed the piano guy?”

“Shh!” Gwen glanced around like she expected someone to burst through the door at that moment. Everyone took a step closer to Tosh, who was not going to be moving for at least another twenty minutes.

“Do you know what happens when people run their mouths about this place?” Owen asked Ianto. He shook his head; he didn’t know, but he sure as hell could imagine. “Well, Dave was running his mouth, telling people that he knew about this place, could get them in, things like that. We choose who comes here very carefully. You never know who is a rat. And our guess, which we’re pretty damn sure is the truth, is that Jack had him killed as a warning.”

“A warning of what?” Ianto asked. He felt really naïve, but he wanted to know.

“What happens when you screw with Jack. If you go off running your mouth. Jack is a pretty great guy most of the time, but if you screw him over, he’s going to get you.”

“Poor Dave,” Tosh said.

“Dave was an idiot,” Owen said.

“Don’t speak ill of the dead!” Gwen hit his arm.

“There is only one rule – don’t talk about the place. Dave knew better than anyone because he worked here. I don’t know what he was thinking, going on like that.”

“Does it really require killing someone though?” Ianto asked.

“You’ll learn quickly that these people don’t screw around. The threat of exposure and jail keeps people tight-lipped. It’s a warning to everyone what will happen if you blab.”

“How will people know that it was Jack?”

“They won’t know for sure, but the rumors will spread. People will be extra careful, which is exactly what Jack wants.”

“I can’t go on tonight,” Tosh said. She looked up at them, eyes red from tears.

“Of course not,” Gwen said, going over to her and wrapping her arms around Tosh’s shoulders. “You need to go home and rest.”

“Yeah, I guess that’s okay,” Owen said. “Not much we can do tonight. We’ll figure things out tomorrow. I’ll have to try to find a piano player at the last minute. It’s not going to be easy.”

“I might can help,” Ianto said.

“Do you know someone?”

“No, but I can play.”

“Perfect!” Gwen exclaimed.

“Hmm…that’ll work for now, Jones,” Owen said. “Come in early tomorrow so I can make sure you can actually play the piano.”

*

The next morning, he crossed the city in his suit, tie, and fedora to meet Andy for lunch. The envelope was safely inside his jacket, in a place where he would feel it if any thief tried to rob him.

He was nervous. This was his first job for Jack Harkness, and if he screwed up, he wasn’t sure what would happen. He’d most definitely lose his job at the speakeasy, and he was scared to think of what else might happen. After finding out the night before that Jack more than likely had Dave killed, Ianto actually felt frightened. Jack seemed so harmless, so suave, so handsome…not that Ianto had noticed much. It was hard to imagine him as this evil gangster who had people bumped off. But then again, Ianto knew this was a world he was unfamiliar with. Anything was possible.

But he couldn’t think about that right now. First he had to do this job.

He arrived at the restaurant at noon. He walked to the table that Jack had written down and found a thin, blonde man sitting there.

“Andy?” The man turned around.

“That’s me.”

“I’m Ianto Jones. I’m here on behalf of Mr. Harkness.”

“Of course, of course!” Andy indicated the seat across from him. Ianto sat down, ordered a water. “I don’t get to meet Mr. Harkness then?”

Ianto shook his head. “Not today,” he said politely. “Mr. Harkness is unfortunately on holiday,” Ianto lied. “He sent me in his stead.” Ianto smiled.

“Must be nice to be that rich, don’t you think? Able to go on vacation whenever you please.” Andy laughed. “I have the deed if you have the money.”

Ianto reached into his jacket and produced the envelope. “It’s all there if you’d like to count it.”

“I trust Mr. Harkness,” Andy said, laying a folded piece of paper on the table before taking the envelope. “You don’t become a legend like he is by shorting your business associates.”

“Indeed.” Ianto picked up the deed, glanced at it quickly, the slipped it inside his jacket.

“What’s it like working for Mr. Harkness?”

“Very good,” Ianto answered. “He is very gracious with his employees.” The ones who don’t run their mouths, he thought wryly.

“I bet.” Andy looked around and leaned forward, lowering his voice. “I’ve heard he’s good to a lot of people.”

“He’s good to many people. He’s bought and sold real estate for many people in this area.”

Andy shook his head. “That’s not what I mean. I hear Jack Harkness can, you know, get you things, even if they are illegal. Like alcohol. And that if you get close enough, he’ll let you into his speakeasy.”

“What speakeasy?” Ianto asked, keeping his face calm.

“The one he runs.”

“I think you are mistaken.”

“Really?” Andy looked like he didn’t believe Ianto. “I figured you might could get me in, you know.”

Ianto shook his head. “That’s impossible because there is nothing to get into. He does, however, own a pretty good restaurant uptown. I’m sure I can get you a reservation there.”

Andy leaned back, clearly disappointed. “That would be nice.” He laughed. “I guess I have to be less gullible with the things I hear.”

Ianto smiled. “We all believe things that our friends and acquaintances tell us.” Ianto took a large gulp of water and stood up. “It was very nice to meet you, Andy.”

“A pleasure doing business with you,” Andy said, shaking Ianto’s hand.

On the way home, Ianto let his cool façade fall and his nerves got the best of him. He had completely been thrown for a loop when Andy started talking about Jack’s illegal businesses. He was nervous enough because he was kind of scared for his life, but that had added too much. He should have been prepared for something like that, but he hadn’t truly thought that someone would have asked him flat out about that kind of thing. He hoped that he did a good job lying, but he wasn’t confident. The last thing he wanted to do was get killed over this.

*

Going to work was difficult. He usually enjoyed being at work, but today he dreaded it. And not just because he had to go in early because Owen wanted to hear him play piano. What happened if Jack was upset with him? The Hub was probably not the first place Jack would shoot him, but then again, he didn’t actually know where people would shoot anyone.

A few hours after he got there, Gwen flitted over to him. Her head was surrounded by large feathers sprouting from a sparkly headband that matched her dress. “Jack wants you,” she said, pointing to the corner booth. Ianto nodded, swallowed hard. He quickly crossed through the throng of people on the dance floor, and couldn’t stop his mouth from dropping open when he reached the table.

Sitting right beside Jack was Andy.

“Ianto!” Jack kicked a chair away from the table for him. “Please join us. I believe you know Andy.”

“Sir,” he started, sitting down slowly, “I don’t understand.”

Jack smiled. “This is Andy, my, ah, liaison of sorts in the police department.” Ianto looked between the two men, clearly bewildered. “The job you did for me today, delivering the deed, was a test.”

“Test?”

“Yes. I wasn’t sure I could trust you. I thought I could, but I had to make sure.”

“You could have just asked,” Ianto said through clenched teeth. Jack seemed to be enjoying this; Ianto was furious. He had been afraid he was going to be shot in an alley all day, and it was nothing but some silly test?

“I could have, but I needed my own proof. And you passed with flying colors, by the way.”

“You were great,” Andy said. “Didn’t give anything away. Your face never lost its mask of stoic businessman. When I asked about this place, you truly looked like you had no clue what I was talking about. And not one dollar was missing from the envelope.”

Ianto, though a bit mollified at the praise, was still annoyed. “I’m glad I passed your test, sir,” he said, snarkier than he had intended. “Is there anything else?”

Jack studied him carefully. “Don’t be sore, Ianto. It’s procedure!” He flashed that smile again. This time, Ianto didn’t find it nearly as enticing as he had before. “Have a drink with us.” A decanter of dark liquid appeared out of nowhere.

“I must decline, sir,” Ianto said. “I have a job to do at the bar.”

“I’m sure Owen can manage without you!” Jack poured a glass of scotch, slid it towards Ianto. Ianto glanced at it, then stood up.

“Sir, Andy.” He nodded his head at each man. “It was nice meeting you again. Have a nice night, sir.”

Ianto turned around and started to walk away. “Ianto,” Jack called. He turned around, dread gripping his heart. He was out of line, had been a jerk and insubordinate to his boss. He was probably going to get gunned down after work. He looked down at Jack. Jack’s eyes were piercing, engulfing his as he looked up. “I do thank you for a fantastic job.” Ianto nodded curtly and strode back towards the bar.

His pulse was racing, his hand shaking as he grabbed a glass and set it on the bar. He poured himself a shot of whiskey and downed it in one large gulp.

“What was that about?” Gwen asked quietly. Ianto wasn’t sure when she had appeared beside him.

“Jack gave me some stupid test today,” Ianto answered, voice low. “Thought it was a real job, but no, a test. I’ve thought all day I was going to be shot in a fucking alley!” He poured himself another shot and downed it.

“Might want to slow down there, partner,” Gwen said, gently taking the bottle from his hands. “Getting canned won’t do anything for you.” She led him over to a stool on the very end of the bar, away from almost everyone. Owen watched them in between serving customers. “Don’t be mad at Jack. He has to be thorough. In this kind of business, you can’t be too careful. Especially after Dave,” Gwen barely said his name aloud. She patted him on the shoulder and stood up. “You’re going to be fine. You fit in perfectly here.”

And with that, she disappeared into the crowd.

“Tosh is going on in about twenty minutes,” Owen said. “You gonna sit there like an asshole or are you going to go play the piano?”

“Shit!” Ianto yelped, jumping off the barstool. “I completely forgot!” He quickly slipped through dancing couples and people in various states of inebriation. At the backstage door, a young guy a bit taller than Ianto was talking to the guard by the door. Ianto nodded at the guard, who stepped aside and let Ianto through.

“Tell Tosh Adam says hi!” he heard as the door shut behind him. He walked into Tosh’s small dressing room. She was putting the finishing touches on her hair, adding bright pink flowers to her pinned coif.

“I was wondering if you were going to stand me up.” She grinned at him in the mirror. “Are you going to wear that?”

He glanced down at his clothes. His usual suit. “What’s wrong with it?”

She spun around on her stool and pointed to a small wardrobe. “There’s a tux in there. Should be your size.”

Ianto opened the wardrobe door and found a black tux and white shirt at the end of a line of elegant evening gowns. “Thanks!” He pulled it out and looked around helplessly.

“I’ll close my eyes,” she said, shielding her eyes with gloved hands.

He laughed nervously but quickly began pulling off his trousers. When he had the tux slacks on, he told Tosh she could look again.

“Some guy named Adam said to tell you hi,” he said, shrugging off his shirt and picking up the fresh one. “Boyfriend?”

“My biggest fan,” she said, then gasped. Ianto cringed and turned around to face her. “Your back!”

“Explosion,” he answered, feeling the usual embarrassment. He hadn’t been thinking; she wasn’t supposed to see his scars. He kept them hidden.

“How?” she asked, amazed.

“The war. Got caught on the edge of an explosion. No permanent damage, just hurt like hell and left me with this for a back.” He pulled on his shirt and started buttoning it.

“Why did you enlist? You don’t strike me as the military type.”

“Had to. It was that or jail.”

She studied him, her eyes calculating. “Why jail?”

“Theft. I was a pickpocket through most of my adolescence.”

“I wouldn’t have pegged you as a thief.”

“Those days are past, but I’ll let you in on a secret – I didn’t get the money for my suit from working at Owen’s diner.” He sighed, tucked in his shirt and picked up the bowtie. “I’m not proud of the things I’ve done, but when you’ve gone days without anything to eat but some old, moldy pieces of food from a trashcan, you’ll do almost anything for food.”

“You poor thing.”

He shook his head. “That’s life. But I would appreciate you not telling everyone. I don’t particularly want people knowing those things that I’m not proud of.” He sighed. “I’m not even sure why I told you.”

“Your secret is safe with me.” She stood up, crossed the room, and quickly fixed his tie. “You look very handsome.” She grabbed the tuxedo jacket and handed it to him. “Ready to go be a star?”

“You’re the star. I’ll just be a blip in the background.”

She kissed him quickly on the lips and floated out of the dressing room.

He turned to the mirror and looked at himself, impressed with his reflection. He cleaned up rather well, he thought. He shrugged on his tuxedo jacket, ran a hand through his hair, adjusted his shirt, and walked out towards the stage.

The stage was dark, the bar a steady din of voices. He quickly found his way to the piano, then scanned the audience. He could see Owen at the bar, Rhys by the door, Gwen wandering among the tables, but didn’t see Jack. He wasn’t where he was earlier. He was annoyed to find that he was disappointed that Jack would miss his stage debut.

Hearing the count, he began playing. He was surprised at how it sounded to be accompanying the band, the bass, the trumpets, and trombones loud and merging with his own piano chords. When he’d played for Owen earlier, it’d been just him and the piano. Then Tosh stepped from backstage, the stage lit as couples started dancing on the floor. It was surreal. Tosh started singing and Ianto felt like he was part of something great; he felt happy and alive.

Song after song they played, the rhythm of each song increasing his energy. He never wanted to stop. His fingers glided across the keys with ease, the music coursing through his veins. He was lost in a sea of sound and feeling. When he scanned the crowd later, he caught sight of Jack. Jack was dancing with a lovely brunette, but he wasn’t paying attention to her – he was watching Ianto. In his shock, Ianto almost missed a note, but he kept it together, playing as he held Jack’s gaze. Jack’s eyes burned into him, causing a ripple of heat down his spine. Jack smiled and Ianto finally looked away.

After they finished, people came up to Ianto and praised him. It felt odd to be so exposed, instead of the nobody behind the bar. He wasn’t sure which one he liked better. He was accustomed to anonymity, and oddly, he liked it that way. Every time someone gave him a compliment, he deflected it by praising Tosh and her talent. She sat at a table with a few of her admirers, including Adam, who had spoken to Ianto earlier.

“Not bad, Jones,” Owen said when Ianto joined him behind the bar.

“Were you too short-handed?” Ianto asked, immediately grabbing glasses and filling them.

“Nah, it was fine.” They handed out drinks in silence for a few moments. Then Owen wiped his hands on a towel and turned to Ianto. “You were actually really good. Care to make that more of a permanent arrangement?”

“Are you serious?” He stared at Owen in shock.

“If you’d like. Save me the trouble of finding another piano player.”

“Of course I’ll do it,” Ianto answered, smiling. “Thank you!”

“Welcome,” Owen said. “But don’t let it go to your head.”

Ianto spent the rest of the night in a constant state of near euphoria. He was happy at the way things were turning out. He wasn’t even sore anymore that Jack had tricked him as a test. Although he liked being anonymous, he was also excited to have something else to do.

After everyone had left, he was finishing cleaning when Jack approached the bar.

“I thought you had gone, sir,” Ianto said. “Want a drink?”

“Sure.” Ianto pulled down a bottle of scotch and poured a bit into a glass. He slid it across the bar. Jack ignored it. “Will you have that drink with me now?” he asked.

Ianto looked at him, remembering the way he had stared at him while he was on stage – and more importantly, remembering the way it made him feel. He knew this could be dangerous, but he couldn’t resist.

He grabbed another glass and set it on the counter.

“Good man.” Jack smiled, picking up his scotch and eyeing Ianto over the rim as he sipped. Ianto stood on the other side of the bar. “Come sit over here. No need for you to stand like that.”

He obeyed and walked around the bar, claiming the stool beside Jack.

“You were wonderful tonight,” Jack said. The compliment took Ianto by surprise.

“Thank you, sir.”

Jack waved his hand dismissively. “None of that sir stuff. Just call me Jack. It’s afterhours.”

“Thank you, Jack.”

“Owen made a good decision by hiring you. You’re turning out to be useful in many ways.”

Ianto didn’t quite know how to respond, so he just sipped his scotch.

“I want to apologize for earlier,” Jack continued. “When you’ve been around here long enough, you’ll start to realize how careful we have to be. As much as Owen, Gwen, Rhys, or I like you, I had to make sure. A man in my position can’t afford to make mistakes.” He smiled, but it was sad. “It’s not a pretty business, but it is what it is.”

Ianto nodded. “I understand. I apologize for my reaction. It was out of line.”

Jack shook his head, finishing off his drink. He got off the stool and walked around the counter. “You reacted as I expected. Actually, you were a lot nicer than I expected.” He poured himself another glass, then set the bottle beside Ianto. “Rhys nearly punched me when I did the same thing to him.” Jack took his seat again, lifted the glass to his lips.

They sat in silence, the only sounds their breathing and the clink of the glasses against the dark wood.

Jack drained the last of his scotch, then stood to leave. Ianto was surprised at how disappointed he felt. As Jack passed behind him, he reached out and touched the sleeve of Ianto’s dress shirt, let his fingers slide up and across his shoulders.

“The tux suits you,” Jack said as he headed for the door. He shrugged on his coat. “Good night, Ianto.”

Ianto sat at the bar, staring into his glass. He could still feel heat where Jack’s fingertips had been.

*

Suddenly, Ianto was in an inundated state. During the days, he ran errands for Jack, like picking up camouflaged shipments of liquor straight off the ships from Canada from rumrunners on Jack’s payroll. He visited an underground distillery owned by someone in Jack’s network who made their own liquor while fronting as a furniture shop. He ran messages, arranged meetings, collected money, and even evaluated the making of bathtub gin from some of the speakeasy’s patrons. At night, he still played the piano and helped Owen tend bar. Somewhere in between all that, he attempted to sleep.

The Hub was quickly becoming his home. He felt comfortable there, comfortable with the people there, even though there was a constant fear that they could be raided. Most everyone warmed up to him nicely, except of course Suzie. The first night she saw him play the piano, she said, “You play the piano like a midget I saw once at a child’s circus,” and the next night she just rolled her eyes as she pulled Owen out towards the theater. Generally, Ianto just tried to ignore her.

Through all of this, Ianto couldn’t stop thinking about Jack. Ever since that night after hours, the night they drank - the night Jack’s fingers left marks on Ianto’s skin - he was consumed with thoughts about Jack. He knew it was a dangerous thing to be thinking. And something completely foreign – Jack was a man, for god’s sake, but he didn’t care. Everything about this job was dangerous, so really, what was one more thing on the list?

He hadn’t been alone with Jack since that night. If Jack needed him for business, it was quick and perfunctory, and after hours Jack always disappeared with someone. Most of the time, Ianto was so preoccupied with other things that it didn’t bother him, Jack a pleasant thought in the back of his mind. A fantasy. But sometimes, when he was alone in his small apartment after work, too exhausted to sleep, it just got too much. He wanted to quit; he wanted to beg Jack to fuck him in the theater like the other whores. Those were the times when he found his cock in his hand, Jack’s face inside closed eyelids, his arm remembering ghost touches from weeks ago. He came in a bare, lonely room that amplified the hollowness inside.

Sometimes, he felt like a walking contradiction. He was happy; he had found an unconventional family in Gwen, Rhys, Owen, and Tosh. He was making money, had even bought himself a couple of other suits with his own money. It was the force of Jack Harkness that left him feeling confused and needing more.

*

Business had been slow for a few days. They hadn’t needed two people behind the bar, so both Owen and Ianto were able to take some time off. During the three days Ianto had off, he didn’t know what to do with himself. The speakeasy had become such a part of his life that he didn’t know what to do when he wasn’t there. He ended up catching up on some sleep, reading, and walking around the city. He tried not to think about Jack, but that had not been successful. When he wasn’t busy, when he sat in a chair by his bedroom window looking down on the streets below, he thought of him. And he hated himself for it.

When he finally came back to work, he was thankful for the distraction. Owen was now on his mini-vacation, and Ianto was the only one behind the bar. Even though the crowd had thinned, it was enough to keep his mind occupied.

That night they closed up early. Tosh had only sung a few numbers, minus a piano player, and most of the people who were there weren’t interested in doing the Charleston on the dance floor. When everyone had gone, Ianto turned on the radio and hummed along to familiar tunes as he cleaned. He was putting liquor bottles in secret compartments when he heard footsteps. Without turning around, every cell in his body knew who was behind him.

“Fancy a drink?” Jack asked. Ianto took the bottle he was stashing and grabbed two teacups. He filled them both and slid one over to Jack. He was trying not to look at Jack more than was necessary, but it was turning into avoiding looking up.

“Slow night,” Ianto said, lifting the teacup as he finally met Jack’s eyes.

“Yeah.” Jack sipped and glanced behind him at the empty room. “Word of raids have people scared. Waves like this happen sometimes.” He shrugged. “I’m not really worried about it.”

“You’re not?”

“Nope.”

“I’d be terrified.”

“Are you terrified now? At any moment a cop could come bursting through that door and arrest you.”

“Sometimes,” Ianto answered honestly. “Sometimes I’m terrified.”

“Shouldn’t be,” Jack said. “I protect my own. Besides,” he said, waving a hand dismissively and taking a sip. “I pay Andy to keep things like they are. He helps keep the police from raiding us.”

“All this is…” Ianto trailed off. He took a large gulp of his liquor.

“All of it is what?” Jack asked. Ianto found it annoying how easy it was to talk to him.

“Overwhelming sometimes. I don’t know how you do it.”

Jack laughed. “Sometimes, even I get overwhelmed.” Jack finished his drink and stood up. He walked over to the radio, browsed through the stations before he found what he wanted. A slow song. He turned up the volume and held out his hand. “Come here,” he said, voice a little lower than usual.

Ianto stood behind the bar, staring at him in shock. This is what he wanted – wasn’t it? Jack was standing there, hand outstretched, backing towards the dance floor. He had a second to decide, and a second later he was crossing the floor to join him.

He put his hand in Jack’s waiting one, and he led Ianto onto the empty dance floor. The lights were off except for the ones by the bar, so the only light was the bit that had crept from the edge of the room. This was all easier in the dark. Jack pulled him close, lifting their hands shoulder high and wrapping his arm around Ianto’s waist. Ianto hesitantly laid his hand on Jack’s shoulder. With a soft step to the side, they were dancing.

They fell into a slow rhythm, their bodies pressed close and warm, Jack’s hand strong and sure in Ianto’s. Jack’s face was so close to his own that he could feel the hairs from his head brush against his skin, hear the quiet exhalations of his breath. Ianto wasn’t a good dancer, but it didn’t matter. Their bodies swayed together, side to side, the slow pianos, trumpets, and percussion guiding them along.

The song changed, and Jack dropped the hand from Ianto’s back. Ianto felt disappointed that it was already over, but Jack surprised him by moving his arm, leading Ianto back at arm’s length. He lifted his arm, smiling at Ianto in the dim light, hand urging him in a circle. Ianto laughed at the silliness of it all, him twirling underneath Jack’s uplifted arm, but he was content. When he was facing Jack again, he started spinning, curling himself into Jack’s embrace until his back was pressed against Jack, Jack’s arm wrapped around him tight. They stayed like that for a few beats, Jack’s free hand settling on Ianto’s hip, his hot breath against Ianto’s ear. Jack tugged at Ianto’s hand, spinning him back out then pulling him towards him again, their bodies pressed closer than before. Jack leaned his head against Ianto’s, their cheeks together. He could feel when Jack swallowed.

The song ended, and this time Jack let him go. Disappointment mixed with bliss inside Ianto’s chest. Jack bowed, then returned to the bar. Ianto slowly followed him, his pulse racing. Jack shrugged on his coat and turned towards him as Ianto walked back behind the bar.

Their eyes met, and Jack smiled, a different smile, smaller, more intimate than his usual cheek-splitting grin. “Thanks for the dance,” he said, voice softer. He turned and walked out of the door, leaving Ianto realizing there was absolutely no going back now.

*

The next day, Ianto was getting the bar ready to open when Tosh walked in. Ianto looked up, nodded, but continued working.

“You seem happy,” she observed.

Ianto nodded. “I guess I am.”

“Good for you.” She smiled, then walked towards the stage. “I’m going to be back here working on some costumes for my new set tonight, okay?” She disappeared backstage and Ianto went back to his work.

A familiar tune came on the radio. He turned up the volume and started singing. He hadn’t sung in some time, but since he was alone, he let go.

Tosh was right; he was happy. He had barely slept from thinking about his dance with Jack, and today was no different. He wasn’t sure if it had meant anything to Jack – he had seen Jack dance with lots of people – but something was different. Alone, so close, in the dark, Ianto felt like they had shared something more intimate than the Charleston in a speakeasy. If that was all Ianto was allowed to have, he was going to take it. A dance could last him.

“Oh my goodness.” Tosh rushed out, crossing the dance floor half-dressed. She was wearing a slip, a bushy, bright blue lace and feather skirt, and a matching ornate sequin and feather headpiece. She looked ridiculous, like a half-plucked peacock, Ianto thought.

“What’s wrong?”

“You.”

Ianto looked around. “Nothing’s wrong with me. I’m fine.”

She shook her head. “No, silly. Your singing.”

He blushed. “Oh sorry. I get carried away sometimes. I’ll try and keep it down.” He went to turn down the radio, but she grabbed his hand.

“You misunderstand me,” she explained. “Your voice is quite good.”

He blinked. “You’re serious?”

“Yes!” She clapped her hands together. “This is wonderful. You, Ianto Jones, are my new opening act.”

His mouth dropped open as he stared at her. “I think you’re insane. No.”

“Psh,” she said, waving a dismissive hand. “You can’t say no. You are too good. It’s perfect. You can sing two or three songs before I go on. A warm-up act, if you will.” She clapped her hands again, twirling in a circle excitedly. “I’m so excited.”

“What if I don’t want to do it?”

“Why would you not? A chance to perform in front of people? And to showcase your talent?” She shot him a pouty look, lip jutting just a smidge. “Besides, would you want to disappoint me?” She pushed her lip out farther and batted her eyes.

After a minute, he couldn’t take it anymore. “Fine! I’ll sing!” She squealed. “But I want it to be known that I do this against my will.”

“Oh, you’ll love it! I’ll run everything by Owen tonight.” She turned and basically ran back to the stage.

Ianto stood there, stunned at the turn of events. First he thought bartending was too much, then piano playing, but now he was a jazz act. He didn’t quite know what to think of everything.

*

“Absolutely not!” Owen shouted. Tosh had her hands on her hips, glaring at him fiercely. Ianto realized at that moment how scary Tosh could be when she wanted.

“Why not, Owen? He’s fabulous. As much as I hate to say it, I think the routine is getting just a bit boring. We need to shake things up. Perhaps it’ll help bring in more crowds since it’s been a near ghost town of late.”

“First a piano player, now an opening act? What next? Manager? Owner? Just kick Jack out of the way and let Jones take over.”

“For God’s sake, Owen, you’re being ridiculous,” Gwen said. “If Tosh is okay with it, you should be, too. It’s basically her show.”

“Oh, it is, is it? Then what do I do here?”

“Absolutely nothing,” Gwen replied.

“Gwen!” Tosh exclaimed.

“He doesn’t, when it comes to the entertainment. It’s Tosh’s show and she wants Ianto. And I can’t bloody well blame her.”

“You haven’t even heard me sing yet,” Ianto pointed out.

Gwen waved her hand dismissively. “That’s no matter. I’m sure you’re the bee’s knees.”

“Rhys?” Owen looked at him, searching for help.

“Oh no,” Rhys shook his head. “I know better than to get involved in this. If you need me to toss someone out, then I’ll jump in.”

“You can’t tell me you’re scared of her.” Owen pointed to Gwen.

“Oh yes I am. She’s frightening. You should see her at home.” He shuddered, but then smiled and winked at Gwen.

“For fuck’s sake, fine. Show me what you got, Jones. I seem to be outnumbered.”

Ianto felt all the color drain from his face. “Right now?” He glanced at each of them in terror.

“Do you have a better time?”

“But…”

“Oh, Ianto. You’ll be wonderful!” Tosh said encouragingly.

Ianto gulped and walked up on stage. Tosh sat at the piano behind him; he didn’t even know she played, but he guessed that made sense. He leaned closer to Tosh, whispered “After You’ve Gone”, and she started playing the simple melody.

His voice shook on the first few bars, his nerves getting the best of him. He leaned away from the microphone and cleared his throat, took a deep breath and told himself to get a grip. He started singing again, his voice stronger and surer. Gwen smiled encouragingly, Owen looked like he always did, and Rhys looked like he was enjoying himself. This gave him a bit of confidence, and he relaxed.

He closed his eyes for a moment, the music coursing through him, and then he opened them, swept over the crowd, and was glad he wasn’t singing the moment his eyes landed on Jack. Jack was standing in the back corner, swathed in shadow, watching him. His eyes held an intensity he had never seen before. He felt his entire body warm. It took every ounce of self-control he had to tear his eyes away from Jack and continue singing like he wasn’t being watched. He didn’t look at Jack through the rest of the song, and when he finished, breathless, he stole a glance to the back corner. It was empty.

“That was fabulous!” Gwen twittered as she ran towards the stage. “Wasn’t he just the cat’s meow, Owen?”

“He’ll do,” Owen muttered.

*

Business picked up a bit. The crowds weren’t as large as Ianto had seen, but enough people danced so Tosh felt like she was actually singing for a reason. Ianto had been practicing on stage for a few days, Gwen, Tosh, and Rhys helping him get his act together while Owen pretended not to care in between giving his own opinions and pointers. Ianto was beginning to feel a bit more secure about getting in front of everyone and singing, but he knew that singing in front of a bunch of strangers – in front of Jack – would be a completely different experience. Tosh told him his debut would be a wonderful thing for the upcoming weekend.

Ianto was pouring a mint julep when he heard a commotion near the door. One of the regular patrons was drunk, shouting, and beginning to cause a ruckus. Rhys was talking to him, but obviously the man wasn’t listening. Ianto gave his customer her drink and walked towards the door.

“Need some help, Rhys?” Ianto asked. He turned towards the man, who now glared at Rhys with balled fists. “What’s going on, Mark? Why are you about to punch Rhys? Did he insult your girl?”

Mark, confused, looked at Ianto. “What girl? I don’t have a girl.”

Ianto shook his head. “Well, you aren’t going to get a girl being this drunk, now are you?” Mark blinked a few times, then shook his head as he looked at the floor.

“Plus, you’d really hate yourself in the morning if you punched me, wouldn’t you?” Rhys asked, laughing. Mark laughed, too. “Come on, Mark. You need to go lay down for a bit before you go home.” Rhys led Mark towards a small supply closet while Ianto went back over to the bar. He glanced at the clock; about half an hour before he had to play the piano for Tosh. During a lull at the bar, he searched the crowd for Jack. He hadn’t seen him much the last few days. He was starting to feel a bit paranoid, wondering if Jack was avoiding him after their dance. He thought that probably wasn’t Jack’s style, that Jack wouldn’t avoid anyone. That would be more like something he’d do.

A few minutes later, the telephone hidden beneath the bar rang. Ianto answered.

“Hello?”

Eugene, the guy who now manned the ticket counter, said one word. “Raid.” The phone clicked.

Ianto immediately hit the button under the bar. A series of red lights lit up, and suddenly the whole place was a madhouse. People were screaming and running around searching for the emergency exits. Rhys and Gwen hid teacups and glasses while a reinforced door slid shut across the entrance. Ianto threw bottles of liquor into secret compartments – behind cabinets, in hidden drawers, and underneath tables – while Owen opened up a large hidden trap door in the floor. “Jones,” Owen shouted over the din as he descended the stairs, his head sticking up through the floor, “hand me those crates. Hurry!” Ianto handed Owen a crate, which Owen dropped as Ianto grabbed the other and handed it to him. Ianto heard glass break as he scooped up armfuls of bottles. “Down here!” Owen yelled, and Ianto threw them into the large hole in the floor. He turned back and double-checked around the bar and found a few other bottles on a shelf and tossed them in a secret compartment.

Most of the patrons had already gone, Owen had disappeared while Ianto was stashing bottles, most likely down into the floor since that door was now closed and hidden. Ianto looked around desperately for the way out. Should have figured that out during the first week, he thought wryly.

Suddenly, he felt someone grab his hand. “This way. Hurry,” Jack said against his ear. Ianto didn’t have time to feel anything; he gripped Jack’s hand tightly and followed him the opposite way everyone else went, towards the reinforced door and the normal entrance. But right before they reached the door, Jack kicked the lower part of the wall with his foot and pushed through a door not usually visible. It immediately clicked shut after they were inside and they were alone in a narrow, dark corridor.

“Stay close to me,” Jack said, voice quiet. He gripped Ianto’s hand tighter. They wound through the pathway, so narrow that Ianto’s shoulders brushed the walls. He could hear voices and footsteps in the distance, but they sounded like they were miles away. The passage felt secluded and safe.

“Why didn’t everyone use this?” Ianto asked.

“Employees only,” Jack replied. Ianto could picture the grin he heard in his voice.

After a few maze-like turns and a set of stairs leading up, they emerged into a room that looked like an ordinary office. Ianto blinked a few times, eyes adjusting to the light.

“Where are we?”

“An office on the second floor.” Jack let go of Ianto’s hand and walked over to the window. He pulled back the curtain and glanced down into the street.

“How many ways out of the Hub are there?”

“Three go out underneath the adjacent buildings and lead into alleys near the river. Makes for an easy getaway for the customers. I reserve two other passages just for employees. The one we used is the most secret passage. You’re the first person I’ve ever brought through it.”

“Why?”

“I can’t afford to get caught, and there’s always a risk, no matter how many passages and precautions we take. I hate the idea of any of my customers getting arrested, but they have a lot less to lose than I do. It may seem callous, but it’s the truth.”

Ianto shook his head. “It’s practical.” They stood in silence. “Why did you take me with you?”

Jack turned away from the window briefly, held Ianto’s gaze, then looked back out. “You got left behind when Owen left because you were making sure everything was hidden. I couldn’t leave you there to take the fall, could I?” He stepped away from the window, the curtain falling back into place.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

Jack walked to the door, opened it, and disappeared into the hall. He returned a moment later.

“This doesn’t make any sense.”

“What doesn’t?”

“There are no cops. Nothing.” He looked out of the curtain again. “Come on.” Ianto followed Jack out of the office and downstairs to the ticket booth. Eugene sat there like nothing had happened, and a few of the people who were actually there to see a movie were coming out of one that had just ended. Ianto followed Jack to the ticket office.

“Are they gone?” Jack asked quietly.

“Yes, sir.”

“Close up the ticket window and meet me in my office,” Jack said, then went back upstairs towards his office. Ianto followed, unsure of what to do. When Jack entered his office, Ianto stood in the doorway uncomfortably.

“I can wait outside if it’s –“

Jack quieted him with a wave of his hand. “I want you here.”

Ianto nodded and took a seat in front of Jack’s desk. A few minutes later, Eugene entered and shut the door behind him.

“What happened, Eugene?” Jack asked. His voice was even and strong, all business and no emotion. He didn’t sound angry or upset, and it had completely lost the softer, lighter quality it had when he spoke to Ianto.

“Three cops came in asking for you. I told them you weren’t here. They didn’t believe me and said they would look around for themselves. They walked into the theater, hands on their guns. I immediately called downstairs.”

“When did the cops leave?”

“They looked around for about twenty minutes or so. They kept looking at me, but they never said anything. I just kept selling movie tickets. I only had three people come for Theater 4. I told them the next showing was cancelled, they understood my meaning, and they left. Five of our regulars were watching the entrance movie, so it shouldn’t have raised any suspicion.”

“Good work, Eugene.” Eugene beamed under Jack’s approval. “Expect an extra surprise in this week’s paycheck.”

“Thank you, Mr. Harkness.” He stood, dismissed.

“Do a sweep before you leave and report back if you see anything odd. Otherwise, have a good night.”

“Night.” Eugene nodded farewell to them both and left.

“That’s good news,” Jack said, half to himself. He stood in thought, then glanced at Ianto. “Let’s go downstairs and check everything.” Ianto stood and headed for the door. “Ianto, this way.” Ianto turned around and saw Jack standing by another secret passage in the wall.

“Is there any room in this place that isn’t connected to something?”

Jack flashed him a grin. “I guess you’ll have to find out.” The pathway was as narrow and dark as the previous. After the door shut behind him, Jack grabbed Ianto’s hand and guided them through the twists and down a flight of stairs to the bottom. This time, without the pulse of adrenaline, Ianto paid more attention to Jack’s warm, calloused hand in his own. Jack held him firmly, his thumb moving softly against the back of his hand. Ianto tried to ignore the tingling sensation that radiated from his hand. He really hoped his hand wasn’t sweaty and his slightly quickened breath unnoticeable in the dark. The passage came out in Tosh’s dressing room. As soon as they emerged, they heard a woman scream. Jack jumped forward, jerking Ianto with him, and almost knocked down Tosh.

“Applesauce!” she shouted. “You almost scared me to death! I thought you were a policeman.”

“What are you doing here?” Jack asked. The passageway door clicked shut behind them and he let go of Ianto’s hand.

“On my way home, I circled back around past the theater. When I didn’t see anything happening, I returned.”

“That was dangerous, Tosh. I would hate for anything to happen to you.” Jack gave her a hug and placed a light kiss on the top of her head. “I’m glad you’re okay.”

“I’m glad everything is okay.”

“We were lucky,” Jack said as they walked out of the dressing room. The stage was dark, the entire room pitch black. Jack flipped a light switch and a soft glow flooded the room. “Everything seems to be intact.” Jack crossed the empty floor and walked around the bar. He opened one of the secret compartments, grabbed a bottle, and pulled three teacups from a cabinet. He set them on the counter and poured as they heard a noise. They froze until Owen, Gwen, and Rhys stepped through one of the secret passages. “What in the hell are you three doing back here?”

“I could ask you three the same thing,” Owen replied. Jack smiled and turned around, pulling three more cups out of the cabinet. He filled all six cups, set the bottle on the counter as the others reached forward, and then swallowed his whiskey in one gulp. He sighed and ran a hand through his hair.

“Each of you could have been arrested coming back here.”

“We knew you’d be here,” Owen said.

“We made sure the patrons escaped, Rhys scoped out the theater for us, and when we realized it was probably safe, we came back,” Gwen explained.

“What would I have done if you three had gotten pinched?”

“Probably bribed Andy to let us out,” Owen answered. They laughed and looked around. Jack sighed.

“This was too close. I need to talk to Andy tomorrow. We were lucky this time; next time it may play out very differently.”

“But for now, everything’s copasetic, Jack,” Gwen said, placing a hand over his. “You need some rest. We all do.”

“You’re right. We should all go home, get some rest, and I’ll learn what I can tomorrow.” Ianto gathered up the empty teacups and set them in the sink while Jack replaced the bottle of alcohol.

“What about tomorrow?” Tosh asked.

“We’ll stay closed the next two days. We’ll reopen Friday night. That should be plenty of time to lay low, get the word out, and see if I can find out anything.”

“Two days off,” Gwen said. “Whatever shall I do?”

“I have a few ideas, doll,” Rhys said, wrapping an arm around her waist and pulling her close. He dipped her back and kissed her. She giggled and Owen groaned.

“I think I’m going to be sick.” Gwen punched Owen in the arm.

They followed Jack back through the passageway in Tosh’s dressing room and into Jack’s office. Owen left through the front door, locking up the theater for the night in case any policemen were watching nearby. Gwen and Rhys left through the side door, and Tosh and Ianto left out of the back. Jack remained in his office, and Ianto wondered if Jack even had a home other than the theater.

*

Two days off made Ianto realize one very important thing: he had no life outside of The Hub. He had decided to use the time off to catch up on a few errands. He popped to the market, bought a new suit, tidied his flat; that only took two hours.

He tried reading, but his mind just wouldn’t concentrate on the words. He tried sleeping, but he kept having nightmares that were a mixture of battles and raids, exploding landmines of alcohol and trenches oozing whiskey from the mud, so finally, he gave up and sat perched in the worn armchair by the window. The people below scurried from one place to the next, and his mind wandered. As much as he tried to stop it, his mind always, almost of its own accord, settled on Jack.

It was futile to try and figure Jack out – he was an enigma of his own kind – but Ianto still couldn’t forget the dance, his hand in Jack’s as they ran through the dark. It was enough to drive him mad.

Around midday on his first day off, a soft knock landed on the door. Surprised, Ianto cautiously crossed his tiny flat. No one knew where he lived, and no one would want to get in touch with him. Opening the door just an inch, he spied a message boy holding an envelope.

“Ianto Jones?”

“Yes,” he answered slowly, staring down at the boy with the envelope. Without a word, the boy held out the message, and Ianto opened the crack in the door enough to reach through and grab it. The boy turned and disappeared down the hall, and Ianto stared down at his scripted name on otherwise blank paper. Closing the door behind him, Ianto went back to the armchair, dropped into it, and opened the envelope. A note from Jack.

Your assistance is required today. Meet me at my office at 3 p.m. sharp.

Jack

Ianto turned the paper over in his hands, looking for more of the message, but there was none. That was it. No explanation, not even an personal address. So much for two days off, he thought with a mixture of frustration and pleasure.

The clock read 1:25. After bathing, dressing, and eating at the sandwich shop on the corner, Ianto walked to the theater, entering at 2:56. Right on time.

When Ianto entered the office, Jack was neutral and all business. He ignored the pang of disappointment settling in his chest and focused on the work Jack described. For the next two days, Ianto ran correspondence between Jack and a few clients, accompanied Jack multiple times to the docks to check out shipments of alcohol being smuggled in from Canada, and even placed bets and attended a boxing match in Jack’s stead where Jack won huge.

The most annoying thing he did was accompany Jack to the barber shop while he was shaved, then received a haircut. Then after that, they walked down the street where Jack got a shoe shine. Ianto did nothing but stand around and watch silently.

The most interesting thing that happened during those two days was at the end of the first day. Jack sat at his desk, pouring over some papers, while Ianto waited patiently to be dismissed. Jack had been ignoring him, but finally he looked up.

“Here,” he said, handing Ianto a leather bound volume.

Ianto took it. “And who shall I take it to, sir?”

Jack shook his head. “It’s for you.” Ianto looked at it, confused. “It’s the ledgers for my affairs. I want you to keep up with the numbers, all the numbers, the legitimate ones and the ones off the books. I have another book,” he pulled a similar leather volume from a drawer and held it up, “that appears completely legitimate.” He pointed at the book lying in Ianto’s lap. “Everything is in there. No one gets to see that book, except for me and you.”

“I don’t understand, sir. Why would you give this to me?”

“I had an accountant once who handled all of that information. He didn’t work out.” Ianto tried not to envision what that meant. “I need someone I can trust to deal with it. I have too much to do,” he explained, waving a hand gracefully across the littered desk. “I trust you, and you are more than capable.”

“Yes, sir.” Ianto gave Jack a clipped nod. He really wanted to tell Jack this was a bad idea and ask what if he screwed up, but he knew he couldn’t say that. He opened the book and glanced at the first page. His mouth dropped open in shock.

“Is this correct, sir?” He stared at the numbers in disbelief.

“Yes, everything is correct.”

“This can’t really be the amount of money it takes to operate the speakeasy every month. Does this include the diner and the theater?”

“It’s just the Hub,” Jack answered without looking up.

“But $1400? That’s more than a year’s salary every month.”

Jack looked at Ianto. “I pay you, Owen, and Gwen thirty dollars a week,” he started, counting off on his fingers, “Tosh and Rhys fifty since they don’t get tips. That’s seven hundred sixty. Add another four hundred for the other employees at ten to twenty dollars a week. I pay Andy forty dollars a month for protection and ten bucks for the fire captain. The rent on the building is cheaper than most because I own the building, and even though I share the utilities with the theater, half still comes from speakeasy profits. The rest goes to paying off Federal agents and other informants through the city on an as-needed basis.”

“What about the alcohol?”

“The alcohol pays for itself and more.”

“How? The prices of alcohol are ridiculous,” Ianto stated.

“A case of scotch costs fifty-nine dollars, which makes each bottle worth $4.91. Each bottle makes thirteen drinks, thirty three cents apiece. We charge seventy five cents most of the time, occasionally giving drink specials at fifty cents. That’s $9.75 a bottle, which gives us a $58 profit on one case of scotch. That’s basically twice what I paid up front. Gin costs thirty-six dollars a case; fifty cents a drink means $6.50, giving us a forty two dollar profit on each case, over twice what I paid.”

“Wow,” Ianto said.

“Plus,” Jack said with a grin, “I’m my own bootlegger. Cuts out the middle man.” He stood up and took the book from Ianto. “This stays in the safe.” He walked over to a bookcase, moved a few books and revealed a safe. He entered the combination and the door swung open. Envelopes, two books, three small boxes, a stack of cash, and a gun sat inside the small safe. “Tomorrow, you’ll familiarize yourself with the book and take over dealing with it.”

The next day, when he and Jack weren’t out on business, Ianto sat with Jack in the quiet office, pouring through pages of figures. Jack had dinner brought up for them, which they ate while they worked, and later, Jack disappeared for awhile and came back with a coffee for Ianto. He set it near Ianto’s elbow, fingers brushing his bare forearm before walking around his side of the desk.

*

Friday, Ianto arrived at the bar early. He wanted to make sure everything was clean and ready for customers. He was organizing teacups when he heard someone else enter. He glanced into the mirror and saw Tosh walking from the stage.

“Hey!” he called, turning around and smiling. His face fell when he saw Tosh’s face. “What’s wrong?”

She sniffed. “I’m sick!” She came closer and Ianto could see that her eyes were puffy and her nose red. “Listen.” She tried to sing a note, but it came out quiet and scratchy. “I can’t go on! What are we going to do?” She began sobbing and sat on a stool.

“We’ll figure something out. You have to take care of your voice.”

“I don’t know if Owen will think the same way.”

Tosh was still sobbing, so Ianto pulled down a teacup, found a box of tea underneath the counter, and brewed her a cup. Before handing it to her, he added a touch of honey and lemon. “Here.”

“What’s this?” she asked, eyeing it carefully.

“My mum always gave it to us when we were sick. Always made us feel better.”

She smiled for the first time. “Thanks. You’re amazing, do you know that?”

Ianto couldn’t stop himself from blushing.

When Owen arrived, Tosh disappeared upstairs into his office. Twenty minutes later, they reentered the Hub, and Owen stalked over to the bar.

“You’re singing tonight.”

“I’m opening?”

“No, you’re the whole bloody act. God help this place,” Owen muttered, stomping back upstairs towards his office.

Ianto turned towards Tosh, terrified. She, however, beamed.

“This is so exciting!” she clapped her hands and ran towards him. “Your first headlining show!”

“I haven’t even opened for you yet. I’m not ready for this, Tosh.”

Tosh waved her hand dismissively.”You underestimate yourself. You’re brilliant. Sing what you know! I’ll help you. Come on.” Tosh flitted away towards her dressing room, and Ianto reluctantly followed.

*

The spotlight was bright and burning. He was sweating, his hands shaking as he reached for the microphone. He should not have been up on that stage.

Tosh smartly dressed him in a black pinstripe suit with matching vest, white shirt, and black tie. It wasn’t as fancy as the tuxedo he wore playing the piano, but there was more personality, more style. Tosh said if she didn’t know him, she’d want to shag him. Ianto balked at that.

She left before the Hub opened, and he felt alone. With her there, at least he would have felt like he had an ally, but with her gone, from his perch on the stage, the dark club felt like an unfriendly vortex.

The opening piano notes pierced the air, accompanied by soft percussion and horns. Ianto took a deep breath, stepped towards the microphone, and began singing.

The rhythm was slow and sensual, his voice husky and low. Wrapping his fingers around the slender pole, he leaned closer to the circular mike, his lips nearly touching it. His body swayed with the tempo as the words poured from somewhere inside of him immune to fear and self-consciousness. People below began dancing, holding their partners close as Ianto sang the melody of their passion. When the words stopped and the band played an instrumental refrain, Ianto pushed the mike stand one way and leaned the other, his body still moving gently, running the fingers from his free hand through his hair.

The song ended to a roar of applause, and Ianto tried to contain the elation he felt. His eyes swept over the audience, couples clapping and whistling and smiling – all because of him. In the back corner, just visible in the low light, he spotted Jack. He sat in a booth with a beautiful redhead who was wearing an elegant, low-cut dress. Although the redhead was talking to him, he wasn’t paying attention – his eyes were glued to Ianto.

Ianto quickly looked away and gripped the microphone for support. He couldn’t get distracted by Jack right now. Everyone was watching him, and more importantly, Tosh was counting on him. He couldn’t let her down.

The band began the next song, and Ianto completely immersed himself in the smooth sounds. Three lines in and his gaze drifted to Jack again; Jack still had his eyes focused intently on Ianto, and as soon as he looked directly into Jack’s eyes, he knew that Jack was staring only at him, the rest of the band and stage forgotten. Instead of unnerving him, Ianto felt a surge of power and confidence, an intimacy and passion he hadn’t felt before. Although his mind screamed not to, Ianto held Jack’s gaze. It was almost as if the entire club dissolved around them and they were the only two people left on earth, and Ianto was singing only to him.

He held the silver pole with both his hands, his body swaying seductively as he sang with more emotion than he had before. He didn’t notice one song end and the next begin as they blurred together in a sea of swells and ebbs. He was trapped inside the music with Jack.

The redhead did everything to get Jack’s attention – she talked to him, touched him coyly, kissed her way from his ear across his cheek to his mouth, then dropped her hand beneath the table. Nothing she did distracted Jack from him. Ianto didn’t notice she had gone until he saw in his peripheral vision that side of the booth was empty.

His set flew by. When Ianto dragged his eyes away from Jack long enough to survey the crowd, they seemed to be enjoying themselves. As the last song ended and the spotlight shut off, leaving his eyes adjusting as the crowd roared in applause, he felt disappointed. He didn’t want it to be over just yet, didn’t want the spell with Jack to be broken. As he walked off stage, a few regulars came up and shook his hand, raving about how wonderful he was. He politely spoke to each of them, and tried to quickly get away so he could find Jack’s booth. When he finally spied it, it was empty.

*

Changed into his normal clothes, Ianto went to work behind the bar helping Owen.

“Jones?” Owen called when the crowd died a bit and they got a free moment, “You weren’t half bad.” Coming from Owen, that was the best compliment he could have received.

“I told you,” Rhys yelled so loudly that Ianto heard it over the din, “she’s not here.” Ianto craned his neck towards the door where Rhys was talking to a familiar face, but Ianto couldn’t remember who it was. He had met and talked to so many of the regulars that he had trouble keeping them all straight.

Disgruntled, the man came over to the bar and ordered a drink from Owen. As he walked away, he stopped in front of Ianto and said, “Great job tonight.”

“Thank you,” Ianto said, and remembered he was Tosh’s fan. It pleased Ianto that he had impressed even Tosh’s biggest fan.

The night had obviously been a success.

*

The Hub was empty. The few stragglers had finally left, which meant Rhys and Gwen could finally leave, too. Owen had gone home with Suzie hours ago, but not before Suzie sneered at Ianto and told him how he shouldn’t give up bartending for singing just yet. Now he was alone, the room silent and the only light coming from a small lamp beside the bar.

He had grown to love the time afterhours when the bar had transformed from a living mass of energy and noise into just a square room with brown walls and no voice. These were the times Ianto felt most at peace.

Suddenly, music cut through the silence, slow strings swelling from the darkness, startling Ianto. He spun around quickly, his eyes straining to find the source in the dark room. A lamp came on near a group of tables in the middle of the room. Glowing in the lamplight against the darkness was Jack.

“You startled me, sir,” Ianto said, his heart racing inside his chest.

“You were fantastic tonight,” Jack said, voice low and husky as he walked slowly through the club towards him. “You seem to be a man of many talents.” Ianto felt himself blush furiously, and was glad in that moment the club was so dark.

Jack came around the edge of the bar, took Ianto’s hand, and led him to the middle of the dance floor. It was very similar to the first time they danced – dark except the soft light from the lamp, afterhours, all alone. But as soon as Jack pulled Ianto towards him and started dancing, everything felt different. There was no hesitancy in their movements. Jack held him close with the intimacy of a familiar lover, their bodies so close that Ianto could feel the warmth from Jack radiating against his skin, Jack’s heartbeat beating a different rhythm than his own. Jack wrapped his arm tightly around Ianto’s waist, his other hand intertwining their fingers near their shoulders. With his free hand, Ianto clutched Jack’s arm, fingers curling into fabric.

They swayed in time to the music floating from the vitrola, bodies touching every place they were able. Ianto’s mind buzzed with sensation: the smell of Jack’s cologne, the pressure of his fingers mingled with his own, the sound of Jack’s breathing close to his ear, his hips pressed so closely, the feel of Jack’s body against his own. He wanted to memorize everything; he never wanted it to end.

Jack turned his head towards Ianto and dragged his nose across Ianto’s hair; Ianto’s eyes drifted shut as Jack’s stubble scraped across his neck. His skin tingled, spreading from his neck downwards to all parts of his body. Jack leaned back, pulling his body away slightly, and Ianto stared at him hazily, feeling empty where he had been until Jack leaned forward and gently touched his lips. Surprised, he didn’t move until Jack kissed him again with more pressure, then he returned the kiss eagerly and Jack tightened his arm around Ianto’s waist, pulling him as close as possible. When Jack’s tongue slipped across his lips, Ianto got weak in the knees and may have sagged a bit if not for Jack’s grip.

Jack’s tongue was warm and soft, gentle despite his urgency. Ianto’s entire face was burning, his lips, cheeks, even ears tingling. Letting go of his fingers, Jack’s hand snaked around Ianto’s neck, curling into the flesh at the nape.

Ianto could barely breathe as he kissed Jack. Jack had seeped into every pore of his body, consuming him from the inside out. No one he had ever kissed had affected him this way; just the touch of Jack’s lips against his cheek, his fingers on his neck sent shivers straight below, and Ianto vaguely wondered if it was possible to come just from a kiss.

When Jack finally pulled away, still holding onto him tightly, Ianto felt dazed. Jack’s labored breathing mirrored his own. Jack kissed him a final time, then let go and stepped away. Ianto stumbled slightly, and was glad Jack’s back was turned when it happened. His body felt empty and full at the same time, and he wanted nothing more than to run and fall back into Jack’s arms. Instead, he tugged on his vest and straightened his tie.

Jack shut off the vitrola, then walked towards the doorway to the secret passage. “Good night, Ianto,” he said before slipping through the door and disappearing. As soon as he left, Ianto grabbed his jacket and hurried out of the bar, barely remembering to lock up behind him.

He rushed through the streets, body and mind still consumed by Jack. He couldn’t believe what had just happened. Although he had been obsessed with the thought for weeks, it was the last thing he actually expected to happen. What was Jack doing with him? And more importantly, what was Ianto doing? Jack was a man for christ’s sake. But Ianto couldn’t focus on the implications, not with the memory still so fresh.

When he got to his apartment, he slammed the door behind him, dropped onto the bed, and toed off his shoes. He rubbed his eyes and tried to relax, images of Jack and his lips a moving picture behind them. He relived each moment, from the first moments of the dance, to their bodies pressed together, to Jack’s tongue inside him mouth. His breathing slowed again, the earlier sensations pooling low in stomach. His hand drifted downwards of its own accord, the heel of his hand pressing against his hardening cock. He let out a satisfied sigh as he rubbed against himself, the feel of Jack’s fingers gripping his own inside his mind.

Unbuttoning the fly of his trousers, he pulled his cock free, thick and warm in his hand. He wrapped his fingers around it – Jack’s hand roughly gripping his back – slid his hand up and down – stubble scraping across his neck – squeezed tighter, thumb across the leaking tip – moist breath against his ear – pumped his fist more quickly – wet tongue against his own – twisted his fist around the tip of his cock – lips open and willing and wanting – pumped his fist harder, squeezing, his balls tightening – Jack’s hips pressed flush against his own – a final tug and he came across his hand and shirt, Jack’s lips ghosting against his own.

*

When Ianto awoke, he was surprised at how bright the sun was outside his window. He rolled over and checked his watch. It was after 3 p.m. He panicked for a moment, but then realized he still had a few hours before he had to be at work. Instead of getting up, he lay in bed for a couple of hours. He thought about Jack, tried to reason out his feelings. He thought he should be concerned that Jack was a man, and that he apparently didn’t care that he was a man. But whatever was happening with Jack – even if it was just fooling around – Ianto didn’t give a damn that Jack was male. He also worried about singing again. If Tosh wasn’t better, he would probably have to perform a second time, and while last night had been amazing, he wasn’t sure if he could sustain it two nights in a row.

When he got to the bar, Gwen was already there.

“Hey there, star,” she said with a grin. “How does it feel to be famous?”

“That’s a bit of hyperbole, isn’t it?” He laughed.

“Not by much. You should have heard what people were saying about you last night. They loved you. Of course, they still love Tosh, but you’re new and exciting. They want more. And you’ll give it to them tonight.”

“Excuse me?” Dread started settling in his stomach.

“You’re singing again tonight. Tosh is home in bed. I went by and checked on her this morning, and she looks worse than yesterday. I think our customers will be pleased to have a second performance.”

“Last night was a fluke,” Ianto stated. “I can’t possibly do as well tonight as I did last night.”

Gwen waved her hand dismissively. “Really, Ianto. Have a bit of confidence! You’re the bee’s knees! You’re gorgeous, you’ve got a great voice, and for some reason, when you get on stage you come alive! Down here you’re all control and propriety and business, but up there…it’s like magic.” She sighed dreamily, and he blushed.

“Better not let Rhys hear you talking that way,” he joked.

She hooked her arm through his. “Oh, he knows. I told him all about it last night,” she said, throwing her head back and laughing. Ianto looked at her strangely, but shook his head and smiled.

So, he was singing again. Part of him was elated, the other part was terrified. Should he do the same set as last night? Try something different? He sat in Tosh’s dressing room for over an hour stressing out before deciding to do a mixture of songs from the night before and new ones. Since he had nothing else to wear, he put the clothes from last night on again, but this time added a matching fedora. Change it up just a bit.

As he stepped out on stage, the crowd erupted in applause and shouts. It took a minute for it to sink in for Ianto…they were shouting for him. The band began playing, percussion and soft horns, and Ianto tipped his fedora forward on his head and leaned towards the circular mike.

Letting go of all his reservations, he sang with abandon. Half-way through his set, he scanned the crowd for signs of Jack. The booth he sat in the previous night was occupied by strangers, and there was no trace of him anywhere else in the club. Ianto pushed his disappointment aside for now, knowing he could indulge in it later, but now he had to focus. Where last night he had sang with passion, tonight he channeled all his emotions into each note and sang his disappointment and longing.

When his set finished, he uncurled his fingers from the silver stand and stepped away shakily. The noise of the crowd was deafening, and he took a bow and stepped off stage. He headed straight for the bar, where Owen was talking to Suzie. Ianto sat on an empty stool and sighed. He felt completely drained, physically and emotionally.

“God Owen,” Suzie said, loud enough so Ianto could hear, “this place is really going to the dogs. Second rate entertainment. It’s a good thing everyone is so drunk they can’t tell the difference.”

“Be nice, doll,” Owen said, voice hard.

“You must be deaf, too. That’s the only explanation.” Suzie glanced at Ianto and sneered.

“I’m not above throwing you out of here,” Owen said. “That mouth is much, even for you.”

Suzie rolled her eyes and shifted the fur around her shoulders. “Please, Owen. But I think I will leave. This is pathetic. No wonder Jack didn’t show up tonight.” She spun around and strode towards the door, her long dress trailing behind her, black hair glinting in the light.

“Don’t listen to her,” Owen said, pushing a shot of whiskey across the dark wooden counter. “You were actually good. And that’s not why Jack isn’t here.”

“Why then?”

Owen shrugged. “Who knows. The man is an enigma.”

Ianto nodded then knocked back the shot. “I’ll go get changed and then help you.”

Owen nodded and Ianto disappeared through the crowd. He actually welcomed the distraction of tending bar. While he could definitely sit on this barstool for awhile and feel sorry for himself, it was better to do something productive.

Over the next half hour, Ianto served drinks to an array of people who wanted to shake his hand and compliment him on his exquisite performance. For the first time in his life, he had women throwing themselves at him, extending all sorts of offers that were actually pretty tempting. But Ianto just smiled and flirted, and continued serving drinks to the next person.

As the crowd started dying down, Tosh’s fan sat down at the bar.

“Another great show!” the man said, grinning at Ianto. He extended a hand and Ianto shook it. “I’m Adam.”

“Thanks, Adam! Nice to meet you.” He smiled. “I didn’t know if I could take Tosh’s place, but apparently everyone is pleased.” Ianto reached into a compartment below and pulled out a teacup. “What can I get you?”

“Two gin fizzs. One for you, and one for me.”

Ianto shook his head. “No, I’m working, but thank you.”

“Aw, come on!” Adam pleaded. “Have a drink with me. It won’t kill you.”

Ianto looked around; at this late hour, the bar was settling down for the night. Owen sat at a nearby table talking to a couple of people Ianto didn’t recognize, Gwen stood with Rhys by the door, and most couples were on the dance floor or huddled in the booths. “Fine! One drink.” He mixed their drinks, and Adam lifted his cup in a toast. “Cheers.” Ianto lifted his cup slightly and took a large gulp. It burned going down.

Adam made small talk and bought Ianto more drinks. He knew he really shouldn’t be drinking on the job, but while he stood there talking to Adam, no one came up to the bar for a drink and Gwen put in orders for only three tables.

“You’re joking?” Adam said, leaning forward and sloshing some of his drink out of his cup. “You don’t like football?”

Ianto laughed. “You do? You can’t even give the tickets away. Mr. Harkness gets tickets and we can never find anyone who wants to go. Baseball is the hot ticket. But I’m not much of a fan of that either.”

Adam’s face was slack with surprise. “That’s sacrilege. You don’t like baseball? How can you not! Babe Ruth is only the best sports player ever. Last year, he hit 59 home runs. 59! If he wouldn’t have gotten injured in Game 2 of the World Series, the Yankees would have won. Damn shame.” Adam shook his head and took a drink.

“Rugby is the only sport,” Ianto said. He leaned his elbows onto the counter. “Makes all these other sports moot.”

Adam leaned closer, their faces only inches apart. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” Then he grinned. Ianto laughed, the alcohol making everything funnier than it would have been otherwise. He felt more relaxed and content than he had the rest of the night. He dropped his head, eyes scanning the dark wood of the counter. Something touched his hand and he looked up to find Adam’s fingers playing lightly against his own. Adam was watching him carefully, and Ianto’s head was spinning. Damn all the bloody alcohol!

“What time do you get off?” Adam said, voice lower. Ianto tried to work through it all in his mind. Adam was hitting on him. His first reaction was a resounding no, but then he realized it didn’t matter. He wasn’t attached to anyone – definitely not Jack, who wasn’t even there, he reminded himself for the millionth time that night.

“I don’t know. It always depends.”

“Well,” Adam said, digging into his pants and pulling out a pen. He grabbed a napkin from a nearby stack. “Whenever you get off, here’s my address.” He slid the napkin across the bar and stood up. “Night, Ianto.”

“Night,” he said. “Thanks for the drinks.” Adam winked and left.

Ianto stared at the address for a couple of minutes, trying to decide what to do. It had been so long – so long - since he had been with anyone. His body screamed for him to go, but was it a good idea? The guy came to the speakeasy all the time. And then there was Jack. For some reason, Ianto couldn’t stand the idea of Jack knowing he’d been with someone else. And furthermore, Adam was a guy. Jack was one thing because he was Jack. Ianto wasn’t sure he was interested in a guy – or anyone really – if it wasn’t Jack.

With that, he crumpled up the napkin and tossed it in the trashcan. Then, he poured himself a shot. Apparently, his goal instead was to get completely drunk.

“This is new,” Gwen said, sitting across from him on the stool Adam had occupied earlier. “You never drink.”

“’m celebratin.” Ianto lifted the cup for emphasis. Celebrating…or commiserating. She didn’t need to know the difference.

“You deserve it,” Gwen said. “You were terrific.” He nodded his head in thanks. “I see Tosh’s admirer has gotten an eye for you.”

Ianto looked at her dubiously. “I don’t think so. He was just being nice.”

“And buying you drinks.” Gwen raised her eyebrow. “I think he has a little crush.”

Ianto shrugged. “He might. Good for him. I am quite a catch,” he deadpanned.

“You won’t do, Ianto Jones.” Gwen laughed. “You can go home. I’ve got this.” She swept her hand back across the dwindling crowd behind them.

“I think I want to get drunker,” he said, pouring another shot.

“Pour me one then, my friend. No sense in drinking alone.”

“That’s the spirit!” he said, grabbing another teacup and filling it with whiskey.

“To you, Ianto Jones. Our new superstar.” She clinked her cup against his with a giggle, and they both downed the shot. “One more for the road!” she said, holding her cup out expectantly. He obeyed, filling them both up, his brain becoming fuzzier with each second, then upended the shot. “Wonderful.” She stretched across the bar and placed a chaste kiss on his lips. “Don’t take it personally that he’s not here,” she whispered against his mouth. “With Jack, you have to take it as it comes.” She sat back on the stool and gave him an understanding smile.

He wanted to deny everything, but instead he asked, “Does everyone…?”

She shook her head. “Nope. I’m just observant. And I know Jack. The way he is with you…you’re different.” She jumped off the stool and started making rounds to her tables. His alcohol-laden brain tried to figure out what she had meant, but nothing was making sense. He took one final shot, then started cleaning up behind the bar. His limbs wouldn’t quite obey his brain, his vision was fuzzy, he’d lost track of how much alcohol he’d consumed, and he almost dropped three teacups before calling it quits. He just wanted to piss and fall asleep. And perhaps fuck a stranger into a wall, but the first two were top priorities.

He left out of the back through the door closest to Tosh’s dressing room. Strolling out onto the main street through the front door piss-drunk probably wasn’t the smartest idea. So instead, he stepped into the dark alley behind the theater. It smelled of stale garbage, but he just wrinkled his nose as he unzipped his trousers and relieved himself against the wall. Then he started walking down the narrow alley, stumbling slightly. He was quite a bit drunker than he had realized. Maybe that last shot – or the few before that – had been a bad idea. The street ahead look very far away, and he thought he would never make it. He reached out and gripped the brick wall for support, catching his breath before making the extremely long trek to the street. The world was spinning around him and he was really hoping he wouldn’t throw up. He was stronger than that. He was a bartender at a speakeasy for Pete’s sake! He inspected illegal alcohol shipments with Jack bloody Harkness. And he was an ex-soldier who’d sat in trenches and not gotten sick at the smell of rotting flesh. A few too many shots would not defeat him.

Taking a few deep breaths, he steadied himself and was about to start walking again when he heard a noise behind him. He turned around and squinted into the darkness, but everything was fuzzy and dark and he couldn’t make out anything. Figuring it was just an alley cat, he started walking again, and this time knew the sound he heard was footsteps. As he glanced over his shoulder, something large and hard slammed against the side of his skull. Pain exploded inside his head as brightness burst behind his eyelids.

He crumpled to the ground, the breath knocked out of him. He groaned and tried to move, but his head was pounding too badly. The sound of footsteps echoed off the pavement, and he tried to open his eyes, but the vision in his right eye was obscured by something. Ianto raised a hand to his eye and his fingers slid in something warm and liquid. Blood, he guessed. He tried to wipe it away while his good eye strained to see. A man’s shoe came into focus right before a swift blow struck him in the stomach. Eye forgotten, he grunted and crossed his arms to shield the blows, but that just put his arms in the way of the man’s foot. A foot then landed against his chin, knocking his head back and catching his tongue between his teeth. He tasted metallic warmth in his mouth as another blow landed to his stomach, then to his groin. Ianto howled in pain, everything in his body on fire, as he tried to roll onto his stomach. Another blow, this one to his back, and his head dropped slightly to the side as he threw up. Sick slid down his cheek and pooled beneath his head, his body heaving again.

The blows came quickly now, backheadgroinbellyhead, and the stench of garbage, vomit, and blood surrounded him. He tried curling into a ball as much as he could. Suddenly, he was back in the trenches, the sounds of gunfire and bombs everywhere. Then the bomb exploded and his back was gone, replaced with nothing but blood, sinew, and fiery pain. But no, that had already happened, and that bomb hadn’t killed him, but he was going to die right here on the asphalt surrounded by garbage. His back wasn’t melted away by a bomb; his entire body was being destroyed with each blow.

He thought of his mother and sister back in Wales, and how he hadn’t spoken to them in years; he thought of Lisa, her smiling face in the canteen in her VAD uniform before the bomb had obliterated the canteen and everyone in it; Owen, Rhys, Gwen, and Tosh, laughing around an open bottle of gin; and finally Jack, his body and his lips and his voice and his smile. He steeled himself against the pain, trying to accept that he was about to die.

He braced himself for the next blow, but it never came. He tried to open up his eyes, but blood was running in them and he could barely see. He thought he heard muffled voices, raised and angry. He tilted his head and pain shot through his body, but he ignored it. Wiping his eyes best he could, he tried to peer through the darkness. Confused, he attempted to call out, but instead he choked on his own blood, coughed, and vomited again. He rolled onto his back, away from the sick, and tried to look around. The world was spinning, quickly growing black. As if in the distance, he heard a deafening sound, like a gunshot, and he thought briefly that he had seen a flash. As he closed his eyes, he knew he was hallucinating.

The last thing he saw, leaning over him, was Jack.

*

Jack was in a trench. Ianto saw the bomb hurtling towards him and he tried to yell, wave his arms around to warn him, but Jack just kept smiling at him. Then the bomb hit and exploded so loudly that Ianto’s ears began bleeding, debris raining down around him. He looked to the side and saw Jack’s arm, but nothing else. Then Lisa walked towards him, her insides spilling out around her as she walked.

Ianto screamed.

*

He jerked awake, a scream dying on his lips. He was drenched in sweat, and when he moved, dull pain coursed through his entire body. “Lisa?” he murmured. He wasn’t sure where he was. An explosion was all he remembered. The army hospital was quiet, which was all wrong. He shifted again, images in his mind morphing, and he remembered that the explosion had happened years ago. Singing. And alcohol. He remembered leaving the Hub, and then nothing but pain. “What happened?” he muttered to himself, rubbing his eyes and opening them.

He almost jumped when he glanced across the room and saw Jack sitting in a corner chair, holding a book, watching him. Now he was really confused.

“Lisa is a lucky lady,” Jack said. “She must be rather special. You’ve said her name multiple times.” He snapped the book closed, and then set it on the table.

“She’s dead,” Ianto whispered. Jack stood up and Ianto dropped his head onto the pillow, closing his eyes. A wave of nausea hit him and he inhaled slowly.

“I figured as much,” Jack said. Ianto’s eyes flew open when Jack pulled the blanket back, uncovering him.

“What are you doing?” Ianto asked, swiftly grabbing for the blanket and instantly regretting it. His side and arm were on fire. His brain was like fluff. Nothing made any sense. His eyes quickly scanned the room, and he realized for the first time he was not in his room. “Where am I?”

Jack leaned down and checked a bandage attached to Ianto’s side, then the one around his head. “I am assessing the state of your wounds again. They’re healing nicely, by the way. You have quite a few nasty abrasions, a cracked rib, luckily nothing broken. The doctor was surprised by that one, as was I. You took quite a beating.” Jack looked at Ianto, an expression in his eyes that Ianto had never seen. “You were very close to dying.”

“Wouldn’t be the first time,” Ianto muttered. Instead of feeling grateful, he felt angry. He felt like he was still in a drunken state because everything was so disoriented. He didn’t remember what had happened, didn’t know where he was, and why Jack of all people was taking care of him. He felt like he had fallen down the rabbit hole and ended up in some bizarre ante-world.

“The scars,” Jack observed, nodding in comprehension. Ianto stared at him in embarrassment and revulsion. He couldn’t believe that Jack had seen them. “They were hard to miss while I was tending your wounds.” He sat down on the side of the bed. “Is it impertinent to ask what happened?”

Ianto glanced at the rain tapping against the window. “Air attack. Bomb hit our camp. I was one of the lucky ones they said.” He turned towards Jack; he didn’t look at him with the same pity that others had after it happened. Despite his reluctance, Ianto continued. “I spent months in the hospital before they released me. I was discharged from the army, and I came to New York.”

“Why did you come all the way here?”

“Lisa wasn’t one of the lucky ones,” Ianto explained. He realized it was the first time he had talked about Lisa’s death with anyone. “She was a nurse. We met and were going to get married after the war. But then the bomb hit, and the building Lisa was in was destroyed so badly they couldn’t find all of the bodies.”

“I’m sorry.”

“That was another life,” he said. “You still haven’t told me where I am.”

Jack chuckled. “The theater. This is my home.” He spread his arms wide and waved them around in a flourish.

“How long have I been here?”

“Four days.”

Ianto shot straight up and again regretted it. “Four days? FOUR DAYS?” Ianto’s head was spinning and another wave of nausea overcame him.

“Whoa, lay down.” Jack gently pushed Ianto back. “You have a bit of a head injury. No sudden movements.”

“Four days?” Ianto asked again, rubbing his temples.

“The doctor has been in to see you multiple times a day, and you’ve been given morphine for the pain.”

“It’s not doing any good.”

“Are you in pain? Should I ring for the doctor?”

Ianto started to shake his head, thought the better of it, and held up his hand. “I’m fine. I just feel disoriented. And I am in pain.”

Jack studied him for a few moments, then stood up. “Let me get you some food. I know you have to be starving.”

“I’m trying not to vomit actually.”

Jack ran a hand over Ianto’s hair, and Ianto felt himself flush. “I’ll be right back.” He disappeared out of the door, leaving Ianto alone. What in the hell was going on? Why was Jack taking care of him? Ianto knew that worrying about that after all that had happened was backwards. But pain and tragedy was familiar; Jack tending him and looking at him with that look in his eyes was not. He wondered if he was still asleep, perhaps dreaming. He closed his eyes and realized he’d drifted off to sleep when Jack gently touched his shoulder. Ianto jumped.

“Are you always this apprehensive?” Jack set the tray on the bedside table, helped Ianto sit up, and then pulled a chair over beside the bed. Ianto tried to get comfortable, but everything hurt, so he found the position that was the least offensive. Jack waited until after Ianto had settled, then set the tray in his lap.

“It may be due to just having the shit beat out of me,” Ianto half-joked.

“Don’t worry,” Jack said, grinning broadly. “You’re safe with me.” Even though Jack’s expression was light, there was a hardness in his eyes that frightened Ianto.

*

The next few days passed in a blur of pain and morphine. Ianto was glad that the doctor gave him enough medicine to make him fall asleep, because consciousness was not pleasant. The doctor said his wounds were healing nicely, but that didn’t mean the pain was any more bearable.

Jack was around more than Ianto expected, but since he was only awake a few minutes each day, Jack could have been in the room for only 15 minutes and it would have felt like a lot. When Jack was around, he told Ianto about what was happening downstairs. Tosh was singing again, Gwen had designed a new outfit with a wild hat, and the theater had started showing a new movie. Ianto didn’t speak much, just listened to the sound of Jack’s voice. It helped numb the pain.

One night, Ianto woke up and glanced at the small bedside clock, which read just after 3 a.m. Carefully, he touched his head, which now sported a smaller bandage, then sat up and moved around; his body didn’t hurt as much as it had. He smiled in relief.

“You feel better.” Ianto jumped in surprise, then laughed. Jack was in the corner chair reading, music quietly playing from the vitrola. “I don’t like that I frighten you.”

“It’s not you, it’s me. Believe me, it’s me.” Ianto ran a hand over his face. “Why are you up?”

“Couldn’t sleep. Just reading.” Jack stood and walked over to sit beside Ianto. “You look better.”

“I actually feel better.” Ianto twisted and stretched, moved his legs and touched his side. “I almost feel like a human.” He tried to stand up, but that was too much. He sat back down quickly, head spinning.

“You okay?” Jack touched Ianto’s arm lightly.

“That was a bit too much.”

“One thing at a time?” Jack smiled.

“What are you reading?” Ianto asked as he laid back down, trying to calm his head.

“Of Human Bondage.”

“I’ve never heard of it.”

“Do you need anything?” Jack stood up.

“No, thank you.”

Jack returned to the corner chair and Ianto tried to go back to sleep. He tossed and turned, but he was wide awake. The more he moved, the more his body started to hurt and the more frustrated he got. Finally, he rolled to his back and sighed.

“Can’t fall asleep?” Jack asked.

“Am I disturbing you?”

“Not at all.” Ianto lay there a few minutes before Jack spoke again. “Would you like me to read to you?”

Shocked, Ianto nodded. Jack sat in the chair beside the bed, opened the book, and started reading. Ianto watched him, face open and unguarded. His body was relaxed, his voice rolling pleasantly over the sentences. Ianto closed his eyes, listening to the rise and fall of Jack’s words. This was a side of Jack he hadn’t seen. This wasn’t Mr. Harkness, or even Jack Harkness, bootlegger and speakeasy proprietor. This was just Jack.

And it was just for Ianto.

It didn’t take long to fall asleep.

*

The next day, Jack came into the apartment around lunchtime. He was dressed for work, large droplets in his hair and his coat damp from the rain. Ianto was lying in bed, reading the newspaper.

“I brought you lunch.” Jack handed Ianto a sack. “Feel like some company?”

“I’d love it,” Ianto answered. Jack shrugged out of his coat and dropped into the chair. “What’s this for?”

“Lunch? I thought you’d like to eat something other than my terrible cooking.” They laughed as Ianto handed Jack a sandwich.

“Thank you. It’s wonderful. Though your cooking isn’t as bad as you claim.”

“You’re too kind.”

“How’s work today?”

Jack shrugged. “A new shipment of liquor from Canada just came in. Unfortunately, my usual associate wasn’t able to handle the details, so I had to go to the docks myself.”

“I’m sorry,” Ianto said suddenly. He hadn’t thought about what his convalescence meant for Jack’s business. “I’m sorry I’m not able to carry out my usual duties.”

Jack’s face turned serious. “Don’t you ever apologize. It’s not your fault,” he added quietly.

They ate in silence for a few minutes. Ianto turned and looked out the window, at the rain splattering against the glass, the grey sky and the dark outline of the buildings.

“Are you tired of being in this room?” Jack asked. He was staring at Ianto, studying him. It made Ianto feel extremely uncomfortable, and he flushed deeply.

“It’s better than my flat.”

“In what kind of place do you live?”

“You don’t want to know.” He looked away, embarrassed. “It’s nothing special.”

“Why?”

“It was all I could afford.” Ianto looked at Jack again.

“What did you do before you started working for me?”

“The army.”

“After that. Between now and then.”

“Why do you want to know?”

“You interest me.” When Ianto didn’t answer, he added, “You have nothing to be ashamed of. Nothing you have done could shock me.”

“I was a pickpocket. The suit I wore to work when I first began was bought because I stole the money for it.” He ran a hand through his hair and decided there was no use in pretending with Jack. And a part of him wanted to tell Jack everything, tell him things he had never told anyone else. “But it didn’t start when I got to New York. I was a pickpocket by the age of thirteen. My father died when I was very young, so my mother had to work, take in embroidery and needlework, so we could eat. There were times her fingers were so bloody she couldn’t hold the needle. As soon as I was able, I went out to the streets so my mother didn’t have to work as much. I told her I was an apprentice at a shop, and she believed me. My sister was able to stay in school and remain a child longer than I could. It worked wonderfully for awhile. But then…one day I wasn’t so lucky, the police caught me, and they shipped me off to the war. I was seventeen. I swore I would never fall back into that life again, but when I got to New York, it was that or starve.” Ianto lifted his chin. He waited under Jack’s stare.

Jack smiled softly. “I expected worse from your face,” he said. “I thought you may have been the next Jack the Ripper.”

“It was bad enough.”

“Why are you always so hard on yourself?” Jack wiped his hands on a napkin. “Besides, I already knew about your arrest.” When he saw Ianto’s shocked face, he continued, “I had you thoroughly researched before I hired you. Compared to some other of my employees, you are a saint. When you kill a man, that is when you will begin to compete with them.”

“How many men have you killed, Jack?”

Jack looked at him evenly while Ianto marveled at his boldness. “More than I wish I had.”

“When I was being beaten, right before I passed out, I had the most peculiar hallucination. I saw you and imagined that I heard a gunshot. Funny, isn’t it, that that is what I imagined?”

“I would kill him again without hesitation.” The vehemence in Jack’s voice made Ianto’s stomach clench. He didn’t know what to say.

Ianto shifted in bed. “Thank you for lunch.”

“Anytime.”

“Can I ask you a question?” Ianto asked hesitantly.

“Of course.”

“Why did you kill the piano player? The one who played before me?” He tentatively looked at Jack, who was clearly surprised by the question.

“The others didn’t speculate?” Jack asked with a hard smile.

“They did. They assumed it was because he talked too much, but I’m not interested in speculation.”

“I would never have a man killed because he talked,” Jack explained. “I want to make that clear. I’d rough him up a bit, yes, but that’s all. Talk can be dangerous, but mostly it’s harmless. Dave and a few other gentlemen tried to steal one of our liquor shipments. Thankfully, my men are very good and nothing was stolen, but one of my men was killed in the process. I am a lot of things, Ianto, but I don’t kill randomly. Only when it is necessary.”

“And it was necessary?”

“He killed one of my men. He was a good man, too. He didn’t deserve to be gunned down for no reason.” Jack ran a hand across his face. “I’m content with my business. I have no ambitions for expanding or treading on the territory of others. Let them all kill each other in pissing contests for power, money, and control. I have plenty of all three to last me lifetimes.”

Ianto nodded, and they sat in tense silence for a few moments until he asked, “What do you have planned for the afternoon?”

“There’s that new shipment to put into inventory. I owe a few clients a cut of the shipment. What about you?”

Ianto grinned. “I thought about going for a nice stroll downtown.”

“I got a new book.”

“Which one?”

“A Hercule Poirot mystery by Agatha Christie entitled The Mysterious Affair at Styles.” Jack pulled it from his coat pocket and toed off his shoes. “I heard it is wonderful. Perhaps I shall read it this afternoon. What do you think?”

“It is a nasty day out. I’d have to take my umbrella. You’d get your coat even wetter.”

Jack stood up. “Scoot over.” Surprised, Ianto moved towards the wall and Jack stretched out beside him. He opened the book and started reading.

*

Later that night, Ianto tried to regain control over his emotions. The last few days with Jack confused him greatly. Jack had revealed a side of himself that Ianto had never seen during their interactions at the Hub. Even the nights they danced and kissed, Jack had been closed and guarded. But that all had changed.

As Jack read earlier, Ianto studied him. His face was expressive and animated, his eyes twinkling, the smile deeper than facial muscles. He had looked years younger, almost like a different person. The man who sat beside him, his voice affected in silly accents with each change of character, wasn’t a feared bootlegger who operated in a kill-or-be-killed world. He wasn’t a man whose life and reputation depended on the persona he presented to the world. He was a man without cares, a man enjoying himself, a man with no reservations or self-consciousness as he spoke as an elderly British lady (in a terrible accent, Ianto noted).

But the longer Ianto sat alone, missing Jack and the warmth of his body pressed against his side, the more he wondered if he’d made everything up. Why would Jack act that way around him? Another question would be why he spent the better part of the last twenty-four hours reading to Ianto, but that didn’t concern Ianto as much as his transformation.

And the longer he stayed in this room, the more he fell for Jack. And that, he knew, was an extremely bad idea. He had to leave, get away from Jack, back to his own space, his normal routine. Restore balance to his life.

With great effort since his body was stiff and still sore, he got out of bed. Walking was proving to be more difficult than he had originally anticipated. If he was to get very far, he needed the aid of a walking stick. There wasn’t one anywhere in the room. Slowly, he took a few deliberate steps before he was out of breath and in pain. His side, where the bandage was still attached, burned, his head throbbed where the bandage had just been removed, and his back hurt. But pain was temporary, and he was a soldier and used to discomfort. Steeling his mind and body, he walked on.

He made it into the outer room before Jack returned.

“What are you doing?” Jack asked, surprised. “Are you crazy? You’re still hurt.”

“I’m fine, sir,” Ianto lied.

“You’re either dumber than I thought or the stubbornest son-of-a-bitch I’ve ever met.” He stepped closer to Ianto. “Pain is written all over your face. You could barely get out of those three words, and your jaw is clamped so tight your teeth may shatter.” He tried to grab Ianto’s arm, but Ianto moved it just in time. “Ianto.”

“You’ve done enough, sir. It’s time that I return to my own place.”

“Absolutely not. You’re to remain here.” Jack grabbed Ianto’s arm before he had a chance to move again and gingerly draped it over his shoulder. “And stop with the ‘sir’ nonsense. I’ve told you. When we’re not at work, it’s Jack.”

“You needn’t bother with taking care of me, Jack” Ianto explained as he let Jack lead him back to the room. “I am perfectly able.”

“Oh, I know that,” Jack said, laughing. “But I don’t want you to leave until I’m satisfied.”

“I’m not going to win this, am I?” Ianto asked, defeated.

Jack shook his head, grinning. “Nope.”

“Then can I at least bathe? I don’t believe that is too strenuous. I feel disgusting.”

“Are you sure that you are up to it?” Jack looked at him with concern, which didn’t help Ianto quell his feelings for him. But Ianto glared at Jack, and Jack shrugged. “Fine. I’ll get you a towel.”

When Ianto finished his bath, he felt completely refreshed. The warm water helped his aching body and loosened his stiff muscles. To his surprise, he noticed that Jack had changed his sheets and set a glass of water beside the table while he was in the bathroom. He looked around, didn’t see Jack, so he stretched out on the bed. He’d never admit it, but trying to leave the apartment and taking a bath had completely worn him out.

“Feel better?” Ianto opened his eyes and saw Jack standing above him.

“Much.” Ianto struggled to sit up. “Thank you for the sheets and water. You really didn’t have to. You shouldn’t be tending to me.”

Jack waved his hand dismissively. “Don’t worry about it.” He picked up the novel from the bedside table. “Care to finish the mystery?”

“Yes. I’d like to find out who did it.”

Jack stretched out beside Ianto again. After his warm bath, the room felt damp and cold. Jack’s body was warm, and Ianto involuntarily leaned closer as Jack read. Ianto leaned his head back against the headboard and looked down at their bodies so close together. Jack’s hands held the book, the back of his closest arm resting against Ianto’s chest. One of Jack’s knees was bent, causing it to lie on Ianto’s leg. There was no space between the two of them.

When Jack finished the chapter, he looked down at Ianto. “Who do you think committed the murder?”

“I’m not sure, but I don’t believe Alfred did.”

Jack nodded, dropped the book to his lap, and leaned down to kiss Ianto. He sat stunned for a few beats before enthusiastically returning the kiss. Jack’s tongue was soft and warm in his mouth, his fingers curling softly in his hair.

When Jack pulled away and started reading again, one of his hands dropped onto Ianto’s leg. As he read, his fingers drew circles against the fabric of Ianto’s pajama pants. Ianto tried to concentrate on the plot of the novel, on the clues Hercule Poirot uncovered, but Jack’s voice became a pleasant background to the sensations of his fingers and memory of his lips against Ianto’s.

“I’m bored with this now,” Jack said a few minutes later (he could have finished the novel for all Ianto knew). He tossed the book on the floor beside him and rolled onto his side, kissing Ianto again. Ianto eagerly wrapped his arms around Jack’s neck, pulling him closer. Although his mouth was firm and rough, Jack was constantly aware of Ianto as to not cause him pain.

“I hope,” Jack said, kissing a line from Ianto’s mouth to his ear, “that you don’t mind,” kiss against his neck, “that we stopped our reading for now.” He punctuated the sentence by scraping his teeth against Ianto’s skin.

“While the book is interesting, and your voices are superb, this is also acceptable.”

Jack raised up on his elbows and looked down at him. His face was flush, his lips swollen. “What’s wrong with my voices?”

“Your British accent is terrible.”

“So critical,” Jack said, pressing his mouth roughly against Ianto’s again.

The longer they kissed, the more insistent Jack’s hands became. Ianto found early on that he couldn’t move much, but that didn’t seem to bother Jack; he made up for Ianto’s immobility by exploring his face and neck with his mouth, his chest and arms with his hands.

Ianto was lost in the sensation of Jack’s warm tongue sliding inside his mouth when he felt cold fingers against his skin. He jerked, breaking the kiss, and gasped.

“Cold hands,” he murmured against Jack’s ear, pulling the lobe between his teeth.

“You’re so hot,” Jack whispered, pressing his hands closer against Ianto’s skin. “Warm me up.” Ianto turned his head, catching Jack’s mouth again as his hands moved lightly along Ianto’s sides, sending shivers throughout his entire body. With each movement lower, Ianto’s body grew increasingly more sensitive, heat pooling low in his belly. And when Jack’s fingers slid underneath the band of his pajamas, he gasped.

The fingers danced teasingly along his hips, tantalizing him with each touch. Involuntarily, his hips bucked slightly, then as if encouraged by his reaction, Jack wrapped his fingers around Ianto’s cock. He groaned, biting his lip to keep from crying out. Jack placed a kiss against Ianto’s neck as his hand slid up the shaft, thumb swiping across the head.

Ianto shifted and moved until he had his hands on the fly of Jack’s breeches, then with some difficulty opened them. He was trying to concentrate on touching Jack, but Jack’s hand was moving swiftly along his cock, causing all coherent thought to disappear. His hips lifted off the bed, seeking to find more skin of Jack’s to touch, and then he momentarily got his wits about him and shifted to grasp Jack’s cock. The angle, however, caused a jolt of pain to shoot through his body, causing him to shout.

Jack halted and looked down at Ianto, worried. “Are you okay? Did I hurt you?”

“No,” Ianto said, reluctantly pulling his hand back. “I hurt myself.”

“Be careful,” Jack said quietly, lightly kissing Ianto’s lips. “This is supposed to make you feel better, not hurt you.”

“I can’t move; I’m an invalid. Can’t even do this.”

Jack thought for a moment, then rolled onto his back. He shoved his pants down, and Ianto could do nothing but stare at Jack’s hard cock as he pushed Ianto’s pajamas down on his own hips. A strong wave of desire rolled over him, causing his cock to harden even more than it already had.

“Fuck,” he whispered underneath his breath. Jack shot him a crooked grin before kissing him.

It took a few moments of experimental movements, but eventually Jack got situated with a comfortable angle and started slipping his hand along Ianto’s cock again, and Ianto almost cheered from relief that Jack was touching him again. Then, Jack wrapped the fingers of his other hand around his own cock. Ianto almost came right then.

It was awkward and slow, but Jack slid his hands along both cocks. Although Ianto’s entire brain was filled with the warm glide and firm grip of Jack’s hand on his cock, his eyes couldn’t stop staring as Jack touched himself. His left hand was slightly awkward and unsure, but his grip was firm around the shaft and his thumb circling the tip to a different rhythm than the one on Ianto’s cock.

As a soft sound escaped Jack’s lips and his hips jerked involuntarily, Ianto couldn’t hold himself back anymore and he came, Jack’s hand gripping him tightly and speeding up. Sated, Ianto watched as Jack grabbed his cock with his right hand and, using Ianto’s come as a lubricant, made quick work of his own orgasm. Ianto almost came again just watching.

While Ianto cleaned himself up, Jack stood up and shed his clothes. In just his underwear, he crawled under the blankets next to Ianto. He slid an arm around Ianto, smiled, and kissed him.

“Is this uncomfortable? Do you have enough room?” Jack asked.

“This is fine.” Ianto really wanted to beg him not to go. He wanted nothing more than to be next to Jack, as close as he could be.

“I’m not sure I could take another night sleeping in that chair.” Lying against Jack, Ianto felt the slow rise and fall of Jack’s chest, heard the constant beat of his heart. Jack kissed the side of Ianto’s head.

“Jack?” Ianto asked quietly.

“Hmm?”

“Can I ask you a question?”

“Of course.”

“Who did this to me?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Yes, it does. I just want to know.”

Jack sighed and ran a hand across his face. “Adam.”

“Tosh’s fan?” Ianto couldn’t believe it. Adam? “Of course. Now it makes sense. Hitting on me, getting me drunk…”

“All part of his plan.”

“Why were you there?”

“Honestly? Gwen told me you left and that you were really drunk. I wanted to make sure nothing happened to you.”

“Thank you. For saving me.”

Jack didn’t answer, just kissed Ianto again. As his eyes drifted shut, his mind tried desperately to gain control over his emotions. He wanted to think about everything, figure something out, but he was so relaxed, so warm, so comfortable curled up next to Jack that it didn’t take long for him to fall asleep.

But right before he drifted off, he realized one thing.

He had fallen in love with Jack Harkness.

*

The smell of the trenches surrounded him. Rotting corpses littered the ground, the stink seeping into his pores. He crawled through the mud, his back on fire, his body in more pain than he’d ever felt before. He couldn’t find anyone from his unit. He was alone among the dead.

Then he saw someone moving ahead. He heard the muffled boom of cannons far away, too far away to be a threat to him. He struggled as he crawled ahead, towards the other person. When he reached him, he saw it was Jack, dancing the Charleston, splatters of mud caked onto his coat as his feet rose and fell in an inch of muck. He looked at Ianto and smiled; Jack’s teeth fell out in a river a blood, blood pouring out of his eyes, ears, and nose.

Ianto jerked awake so violently he felt pain all over his body. “Jack!” he yelled into the silent room. A curtain of blood rained behind his eyelids and he tried to sit up, but couldn’t quite make it until a pair of strong hands helped.

“I’m right here. Are you okay?” Jack asked, voice laced with concern. Ianto opened his eyes, unable to see in the darkness of the apartment. “Do you need anything?”

“Bad dream.”

“Tell me about it.” He grabbed Ianto’s hand, intertwined their fingers, and gave him an encouraging squeeze.

“I was back in the trenches, my body aching, and you were dancing the Charleston in the mud.”

“I’ve danced in a lot of places, but I never danced in a trench. Perhaps I should have.” Ianto could hear the forced levity in Jack’s voice.

“You were dancing on the bodies of corpses, and then blood starting spewing from your body.”

“Oh, Ianto.” Jack brought Ianto’s hand to his mouth and kissed it.

“I’m sorry I woke you,” Ianto said, pulling his hand away and laying with his back towards Jack. “I shouldn’t have told you about the dream.”

“Nonsense,” Jack said as he forced Ianto over onto his back. He placed his hands on both sides of Ianto’s head and stared down into his face. “I wanted you to tell me. I want to know what goes on inside your head. Hearing you yell my name is never an inconvenience, Ianto, though I wish it would have been for a different reason.”

“Okay.”

After kissing him, Jack shifted until Ianto was comfortable in his arms.

“No more bad dreams, Ianto Jones,” Jack whispered against his hair as Ianto began to nod off. “No more bad dreams.”

*

“Horsefeathers! You’re alive! You’re alive!” Gwen squealed loudly and nearly pushed him over as she threw her arms around him. He heard her sniffle and turned to see red eyes.

“Why are you crying?”

“I thought you were dead.”

“Didn’t Jack tell you – “

“Yes,” Owen said, frustrated, “but Gwen has been going around heralding your demise for weeks now. No matter how much Jack assured her, she just knew you were a goner.” He rolled his eyes, turned his back to them, and started unloading a case of liquor into the cabinet. Ianto felt reassured that nothing had changed.

“Owen exaggerates,” Gwen said, wiping her eyes with a handkerchief.

“No he doesn’t, dollface,” Rhys said as he shook Ianto’s hand. “Nice to have you back.”

“Good to be back,” Ianto said. He looked around the empty Hub and realized how much he missed the place. It was home.

He helped Owen by finishing stocking the cabinets while Owen carried the extra cases down the door in the floor to the underground storage space. He moved a bit slower and more carefully than usual. He still wasn’t hitting on all sixes, but he was on the mend. Thankfully, Owen didn’t say anything and took up some of the slack.

After arranging the new bottles in the cabinets, fixing a broken stool, and cutting the night’s lemons and limes, he wandered towards the back. He hadn’t seen Tosh yet, and he wanted to talk to her. Last he saw her, she was sick. He found her sitting before her vanity, half-dressed, applying powder to her face.

“Hey there.”

She looked at him in the mirror without smiling. “Hi.”

“What is it?”

“I can’t believe you’re actually speaking to me.”

“Why wouldn’t I?” He moved further into the room.

“Oh, Ianto. I’m so sorry.” She buried her face in her hands. Her shoulders shook with her sobs.

“Why is everyone crying because I’m back? Perhaps I should be offended.”

“It’s not that, silly bird. It’s all my fault.”

“What is?” He sat on the stool beside her, but she still wouldn’t look at him.

“What happened to you.” Finally, she looked up, staring at him in the mirror. The tears smudged the kohl around her eyes. “If I hadn’t gotten sick…Adam…” She sniffed, and his chest tightened at the name.

“Jack told you?” She nodded. “Do the others know?” She nodded again.

“If you hate me, I would understand.”

“Oh Tosh,” Ianto said, grabbing her hand. When she wouldn’t look at him, he gently touched her chin and turned her face. “It’s not your fault.” She opened her mouth to protest, and he continued. “He was crazy,” Ianto continued, unable to say his name yet. “I prefer it happened to me. I would hate to think what he may have done to you.” Her eyes widened in fright and he squeezed her hand. “Please don’t blame yourself. You had nothing to do with it. You’re wonderful.” He brought her hand to his lips and kissed it softly.

“Oh, Ianto.” She wrapped her arms around him tightly. “I’m so glad you’re okay. I don’t know what I would do without you.”

“Or I you.” She let him go and he reached for a cloth. “Now, you’ve gone and ruined your make up.” He dabbed at her eyes. “You have to look beautiful when you go on tonight.”

“Will you go on with me?” He sat back uncomfortably. “As my piano player? At least that?”

Reluctantly, he nodded. “Of course.”

She clapped her hands excitedly. “Wonderful!” She turned back to the mirror and started touching up her eyes. “I heard you were wonderful when you sang.” Ianto saw his reflection blush. “I regret not seeing it. I do hope you will sing again for me. Be my opening act? No sense Owen hiding a talent like yours behind the bar.”

“Okay. When I am completely recovered, I will sing for you.”

Tosh beamed.

*

The others hadn’t been gone long when Ianto finished wiping down the counter. He was about to start closing up the empty bar when Jack appeared from the shadows. “Good night back?”

“Yes. Owen wasn’t too hard on me, though I believe he got annoyed during a few of the rushes when I couldn’t move as quickly as usual.” Ianto looked at the counter, shame-faced. “I’m sorry.”

Jack shrugged as he sat on a stool across from him. “Who cares? Owen is too curmudgeonly for his own good. Don’t pay him any mind.”

“Easy for you to say. You’re the boss.”

“And you are the boss’s favorite,” Jack said with a devilish grin.

Ianto looked at him seriously. “Do the others know about us?”

“Are you always all business?”

“It’s part of my charm, sir.” Jack reached across the bar and grabbed Ianto’s tie, pulling him in close for a kiss.

A door suddenly burst open in the back. Instantly, Jack pulled a revolver and pointed it at the door, but when he saw Rhys step through, he slipped it back inside his holster. Rhys struggled as he walked, and the reason soon became apparent. Owen sagged between Rhys and Gwen, his arms around their shoulders.

“Call the doctor,” Rhys yelled. “Owen’s been shot!”

“What?” Jack shouted, quickly crossing the empty dance floor. “What happened?”

“Lay him down gently,” Rhys instructed, and Gwen nodded.

“Careful,” Owen spat between clenched teeth, “my leg fucking hurts.”

“We’re trying!” Gwen yelled. She helped lower Owen to the floor and pulled away with trembling hands.

“Rhys, Owen, what happened?” Jack snapped as he sunk to his knees beside Owen. Owen was pale and shaking, a thin sheen of sweat across his body. His denims had a large, dark, saturated hole in them.

“Gwen, go call the doctor,” Rhys instructed.

“We don’t need a bloody doctor,” Owen shouted. “I can do it.”

“Will someone tell me what fucking happened?” Jack shouted. Everyone fell silent and looked at him. He stared at them with hard, angry eyes.

“Some fucking piker shot me as I was walking home,” Owen got out. “I’d just left the theater and rounded the corner when a car drove by and started shooting.” Owen paused and caught his breath. “I noticed the car and saw the barrel of the tommy gun just in time to drop to the ground and roll behind a parked car. Fucker got my leg.”

“Thank the stars,” Jack said, leaning closer to Owen’s leg.

“Don’t thank any fucking stars,” Owen yelled. “I got bloody shot!”

“But you’re alive. You could be dead.”

“That doesn’t change the fact that I have a fucking hole in my leg!”

“Should I call the doctor?” Gwen asked. She was ghost white and still trembling.

“Shouldn’t we take him to hospital?” Ianto asked, confused and disoriented. Everything was happening extremely fast, and he didn’t know what to do other than stand out of the way.

“Can’t,” Rhys said. “They have to report gunshot wounds.”

“Don’t you want to notify the police so they can find the shooter?” Ianto asked. Four pairs of eyes looked at him in disbelief. “Apparently not.”

“The less police, the better,” Jack said. “No reason to draw unwanted attention.”

“I told you I can do it myself. It’s not that deep,” Owen said.

“You can’t operate on yourself,” Jack said.

“I can talk one of you through it.” He rose up on his elbows and looked at the crowd around him. “Jones.”

“Me?” Ianto asked in disbelief, pointing to himself.

“Him?” Rhys echoed.

“Well, who else in this sad lot is going to do it? You’re too hamfisted and Gwen’s shaking so bad she’d probably amputate my leg. Jack could probably do it, but I think Jones’s is steady enough to do it.” Owen wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand.

“Are you sure? I’m sure Jack would be much better. I’ve never done anything like this.”

Jack stood up and clapped Ianto on the shoulder. “I think you will do fine.”

“Great, we’ve all established Jones is the right man for the job and shared a heartwarming, tender moment,” Owen said. “Now will someone get this fucking bullet out of my leg!”

“What do we do, Owen?” Gwen asked.

“Get some hot water, alcohol, and towels,” Owen instructed, lying back against the floor. He was paler than before, his forehead covered in a fresh layer of sweat. “You need something to get the bullet out with, pliers or something similar.”

As Gwen, Rhys, and Ianto went behind the bar and tried to find the requested materials, Owen tried to explain the procedure to Ianto, but not much of it was sinking in. Jack disappeared into one of the secret passages, returning minutes later holding pliers.

“Will these work?” he asked Owen. Owen nodded as Ianto dropped beside him. He offered him an unmarked bottle.

“Thought this might help,” Ianto said.

“Bless you, Jones.” Gwen helped Owen sit up so he could drink. After Owen took three large swigs, he lay back down and closed his eyes. “I’m ready. Rhys, Jack, hold me down while Jones digs out the bullet. Hand me a towel, Gwen. I need something to bite down on.”

Rhys held Owen’s shoulders while Jack held his legs and Gwen wiped down his forehead. Jack faced Ianto, close enough that when Ianto leaned over Owen’s leg his shoulder brushed Jack’s arm. Ianto poured vodka over the wound with hands steadier than his insides, and Owen groaned loudly. Ianto handed the bottle to Gwen so she could drench the pliers.

“You can do this, Ianto,” Jack said quietly.

“I don’t know if I can.”

“I’m right here,” Jack whispered. Ianto looked up at Jack, who gave him an encouraging smile, and then he took a deep breath and leaned over Owen’s leg.

As soon as Ianto touched the pliers to Owen’s flesh, Owen flinched away. Ianto pulled them away, cleared his mind like he used to do while in the army, and leaned over again. He stuck the pliers in the open flesh, the squelching sound of blood and muscle loud in the silent room. Owen was struggling, his screams muffled by the towel. Ianto wasn’t sure what he was supposed to find, but then he felt it, and after two failed tries, grabbed the small bullet with his pliers and pulled it out, and then found the fragments left behind. He dropped them and the pliers into the napkin Gwen held, then poured more vodka over the wound. He paused as Gwen took over, wiping blood away from the wound. Rhys handed him the threaded needle, and Ianto took another deep breath. Carefully, he sewed up the hole. He leaned back shakily as Gwen applied salve and wrapped it tightly.

After they finished, they left Owen in the floor resting. He was breathing heavily, his eyes closed, his entire body clammy. Ianto really hoped he didn’t pass out.

Gwen sat down at a nearby table, and Rhys sat down beside her. For lack of something better to do, Ianto went behind the bar and pulled out four teacups. As he filled them with whiskey, Jack joined him behind the bar. Gwen and Rhys were huddled together, their backs towards the bar.

“You did good,” Jack said, voice low, then wrapped an arm around Ianto’s shoulder and quickly kissed his forehead. All of Ianto’s previous bravado evaporated at Jack’s touch, and he began shaking so hard the cups clinked. He laid both his palms against the bar and pressed back, head down. Jack rubbed comforting circles on his back.

“What if I caused nerve damage?” Ianto said quietly. “What if I – “

“Ianto, you did fine. Owen was right – you were the perfect person for the job.” Ianto straightened up and ran a hand through his hair, and when he dropped his hand, Jack grabbed it and squeezed it. “Now stop worrying. He’ll be fine.” He kissed Ianto’s cheek and then walked over to join Gwen and Rhys.

Ianto took a few steadying breaths, trying to calm his nerves. When his hands stopped shaking, he carefully carried the cups and bottle on a tray to the nearby table. Rhys downed his whiskey in one shot, Gwen distractedly sipped hers, and Jack took one long, thoughtful drink.

“This may be an inopportune time, but may I ask a dumb question?” Ianto held the teacup in his hand and watched Owen on the floor. Gwen and Rhys looked at him, waiting, and Jack stared off into the darkness. “How exactly does Owen know how to operate?”

Gwen choked out a laugh, then broke into hysterics. “Ianto, you always ask the strangest questions.” She sobered a bit, and answered, “Owen’s a doctor.”

“Hey!” Owen shouted from behind them.

“A doctor?”

“In the army,” Gwen continued. “A damn good one, too.”

“Until he decided to be a criminal,” Rhys joked half-heartedly, “and ended up with Jack.”

“Why would you give up being a doctor?” Ianto asked, looking around the empty bar, down at the blood.

“He – “

“Oi!” Owen yelled. “I am still here, thank you. I’d appreciate you didn’t air all my business for everyone.”

“It’s just Ianto,” Gwen stated.

“I don’t care. He knows I was a doctor. That’s more than he should know.”

“Fine.” Gwen sat back and crossed her arms. An uncomfortable silence descended over them. Ianto sipped from his cup.

“Who could have done this?” Gwen finally asked.

“I don’t like this at all,” Jack said almost to himself as he stared at a spot across the room. “How did you two find him?”

“We’d just left,” Gwen said.

“We pass down the same street on our way home,” Rhys explained. “We saw Owen on the sidewalk bleeding when we walked by. He’d be there for around five minutes when got there.”

“I’m thankful for that,” Jack said quietly.

“Sir, I think you need to see something.” Rhys walked over and grabbed something from the floor beside Owen. He brought it to the table and held it out to Jack. It was Owen’s long, grey wool coat, a bullet hole near the bottom.

“Oh,” Jack murmured. “That makes more sense.”

“What does?” Ianto asked as Owen groaned and shouted, “Fuck.”

“They thought I was Jack,” Owen said.

“Think about it. Dark alley, near closing time, same coat, hair that would appear similar in the dark, especially if the shooter wasn’t familiar enough to tell the difference from afar.”

“But why would you be walking away from the bar late at night?” Ianto asked.

“It’s not unheard of,” Jack explained. “Some nights I’m returning at that hour, others I’m stepping out for a meeting or quick stroll. They wouldn’t have done it in the daylight or earlier in the night for fear of drawing attention. It was the best way.”

“But who?” Gwen asked again.

“That’s a good question, Gwen,” Jack said. “I don’t know. But I can guarantee you this – whenever I find out who was behind this, they won’t get away with it.”

*

Jack didn’t go upstairs until the sun was coming up. Ianto had planned on going back to his apartment, but he was afraid of leaving Jack alone in his current state. After much debate, Jack reluctantly let Rhys and Gwen take Owen home. Jack wanted Owen to stay at the theater on a spare bed so as not to cause him pain, but Owen wouldn’t have it. He wanted to sleep in his own bed.

When they finally retired, Jack sat heavily on the edge of the bed, his shoulders sagging. He opened the drawer in the bedside table and pulled out a clear bottle filled with scotch and poured himself a glass. He had taken off his dress shirt, his braces pulled down and laying at his sides, but as he sat there drinking in his undershirt, trousers, and socks, his eyes a million miles away, he didn’t appear to have the energy to do anything else. Ianto sidled up behind him, wrapped his arms around his shoulders, and kissed the back of his neck.

“Are you okay?”

Jack covered one of Ianto’s hands with his own. “Not really.” He sighed. “First Dave, the attempted raid, what happened to you, and now Owen?”

“What happened to me was a freak accident,” Ianto said quietly. He rested his chin on Jack’s shoulder. “And I’m fine.”

“I know,” Jack said, then took a slow sip. “These other things though…just too many coincidences. What happened to Owen tonight was not an accident. It was deliberate, and meant for me.” Ianto felt Jack’s shoulders tense. “I will find who did this, Ianto. I don’t want to think about what could have happened to Owen. No one hurts my family.”

Ianto didn’t know what to say, so he just kissed Jack’s neck again. Pain was evident in Jack’s voice, and Ianto knew for a fact that whoever had ordered the attack had just made a huge mistake.

*

The next night was difficult. Tosh was beside herself when she found out what happened to Owen and performed a short set so she could rush to his apartment to check on him. Since Owen was at home, Ianto tended bar alone, and because he still was not completely healed, it was slow going. But the patrons were patient as long as they got their liquor.

By the end of the night though, Ianto was exhausted. His feet were tired and his entire body ached. As he put away the broom and mop, Jack walked to the bar.

“How’s Owen?” Ianto asked.

“He’s recovering. The bullet wound could have been a lot worse, but you know Owen, he’s just complaining.” Jack smiled. “You seemed to fare pretty well tonight.”

“It was all an act.” Ianto leaned back against the counter. “I’m exhausted.”

“It doesn’t show.”

“I’m a stellar actor, sir.”

“What did I tell you about calling me sir?”

“I don’t quite recollect. I have suffered a recent head injury, you know.”

“I hope there aren’t other things you have trouble remembering,” Jack said as he walked around the bar.

Ianto shrugged. “It’s very hazy. I seem to recall a man, but his face is unclear. He may have been tall, sort of handsome – “

“Sort of?” Jack exclaimed.

“Just a bit. But not too much.”

“Not too much.” Jack laughed as he leaned closer, his face so close to Ianto’s that he could feel his breath on his lips. “Perhaps I need to help you with your memory loss. I seem to remember certain things very clearly.” He slid his arms around Ianto’s waist and kissed him.

“This is quite scandalous, is it not? What would the patrons think?”

“Fuck the patrons. This is my bar, and I’ll do whatever and whoever I want in it.” He grinned before vehemently kissing Ianto. They swayed on their feet, hands sliding over hair, necks, and shoulders, before they bumped sideways into the rear counter. Ianto pushed Jack back against the counter and roughly tugged Jack’s shirt from his trousers. Jack placed his hands flat against Ianto’s chest and pushed him across the short distance to the main counter. Ianto’s elbow slipped where he had wiped it off just minutes prior, and he struggled to brace himself as Jack unbuttoned his shirt and kissed down his chest. When Jack got to the band of his pants, Ianto watched pink tongue as he licked a circle around his bellybutton before unclasping them. Shoving them down a bit, Jack pressed a kiss to the bulge in Ianto’s shorts. Ianto let his eyes drift shut as his head fell backwards and he waited. Ianto had never had someone’s mouth down there, and his cock twitched in anticipation. But Jack wasn’t touching him yet, and the waiting was excruciating. Then Jack lifted the band of Ianto’s shorts and slid them away, freeing his cock. He looked down just in time to watch Jack’s mouth disappear around his shaft.

“Fuck,” Ianto barked as his legs almost gave way; he roughly gripped Jack’s hair for support. Jack’s mouth was warm and wet around his cock, his tongue dancing its own rhythm as soft lips slid back and forth at a steady pace. The new sensation of a mouth – Jack’s mouth - around his cock was perhaps the best feeling he’d ever experienced, and he was pretty sure he going to die right there on that spot.

Jack added a hand at the base of his cock, the tight grip trailing the path of his mouth, and Ianto sagged heavily against the counter. He was glad it was there to support him.

“Jack…I’m going to…” Ianto trailed off as Jack stopped and sucked solely on the head of his cock, his tongue drawing a lazy pattern on the underside. Then Jack slipped a hand underneath and gently squeezed his balls, and with a burst of light behind his lids, Ianto dug his other hand into Jack’s shoulder and thrust deeper into Jack’s mouth and came. Jack’s mouth was still around his soft cock when Ianto finally got a bit of his wits about him, and slowly, he made his way to the floor, his cock still sensitive and slightly twitching.

He sat disheveled on the floor, trying to regain his breath. His chest was covered with a thin sheen of sweat and heaved with each deep inhale, and his exhaling did nothing to clear his head. Jack sat down beside him (with quite a bit more grace, Ianto noted). Leaning over, he placed a hand on Ianto’s cheek and kissed him slowly. Jack’s lips were soft and tender, his tongue lazily dipping into his mouth, tasting like Ianto. Ianto’s brain was buzzing, his heartbeat throbbing loudly in his ears, chest, even his gums. Jack’s hands were light as they traced the contours of his face, each fingertip followed by a tingling that spread across Ianto’s skin.

After a few minutes, Ianto slowly kissed southward, from lips to chin to a throbbing pulse point on Jack’s neck. While he lazily worried that tender spot, his hand made work of unbuttoning Jack’s trousers. He could feel Jack’s hard cock against his wrist as he clumsily fussed with the clasps, all finesse forgotten as his tongue tasted the salt on Jack’s collarbone. The uneven rasping of Jack’s breathing was the only sound in the quiet room.

His hand finally unhooked the buttons as his lips brushed one of Jack’s nipples, causing Jack to make a rather sexy sound. Ianto wanted to hear it again, so he flicked the small nub with his tongue, then bit down. Jack moaned quietly, his cock jumping against Ianto’s hand. Ianto wrapped his fingers around the length, pumping his wrist languidly as he reluctantly pulled his mouth from Jack’s chest. With hazy eyes, he looked down and used his unused hand to maneuver Jack’s pants far enough down to free his cock.

Ianto looked at Jack’s cock hesitantly. He wanted to wrap his lips around it - oh how he wanted to - but he had never done anything like this before, and suddenly, he was nervous that he would be bad at it. Jack put an encouraging hand on the back of his neck and gently guided Ianto’s head towards his cock, his fingers massaging soothing circles into the tight chords of Ianto’s neck.

Surrounded by the heavy scent of musk, Ianto tentatively slid his lips around Jack. Jack’s sharp intake of breath caused a momentary halt, but then Ianto finished sliding as far as he could go. He sat there for a moment, just getting used to the feel of Jack’s cock inside his mouth. He was warm, heavy against his tongue, flesh filling his mouth. With an encouraging squeeze from Jack, he began moving his head up and down, trying to replicate a hand or Jack’s mouth earlier. At first, the whole experience felt like an experiment, with Ianto trying things and gauging Jack’s reaction, then after he got more comfortable, he noticed he was actually enjoying himself. It was gratifying to listen to Jack’s subtle reactions, and Ianto felt himself getting turned on the more Jack moaned and gripped his hair.

Jack’s hips bucked up lightly, and he tried to pull Ianto’s head away, but Ianto wrapped a hand around the shaft and tightened his lips and sped up. “God, Ianto…” Jack breathed, his fingers completely lost in Ianto’s hair. With a few short jerks of his hips, Jack came against Ianto’s throat, Ianto trying hard to swallow it all.

As Ianto straightened up, he raised up on his knees and grabbed the towel from the counter. He wiped his face and hands, then started trying to tidy Jack and himself up. Jack tossed the rag to the side and kissed Ianto, pushing him backwards so they shifted until Ianto was lying comfortably on the floor.

“I don’t want to think about the fact that we’re lying in the floor of a bar,” Jack observed, looking around at the small space behind the counter.

“Hey!” Ianto exclaimed, insulted. He cuffed Jack playfully on the shoulder. “I mopped this floor twice tonight. It’s extremely clean, thank you very much. Though after this, I probably need to clean it again.”

Jack laughed. As Jack kissed him again, his hand lazily glided to Ianto’s cock.

“Again?” Jack said, breaking the kiss. He shot him an amused look, then wrapped his hand around his cock and squeezed hard. Ianto felt himself blush. “Are you blushing?” Jack kissed both his cheeks. “Oh, to be young and virile again.”

“Sir,” Ianto started, but quickly said, “Jack” after seeing the obvious annoyance on Jack’s face, “You’re not that much older than me.”

Jack chuckled. “Oh Ianto, I’m quite a bit older than you.” He covered Ianto’s mouth again as his hand slowly slid up and down the shaft. Ianto was getting close to coming again when they heard a door slam. Momentarily, they froze, then in a flash Jack jumped up, pulling Ianto with him. Jack darted towards the wall still clutching Ianto’s hand, and Ianto tripped as he tried to rush with his trousers slipping down his legs. Jack turned a wall-mounted candleholder to the right and a small door immediately opened in the wall. Jack stepped through and pulled Ianto in behind him, then reached around Ianto’s body to quietly shut the door.

The hiding space was tiny, barely enough room for two grown men to fit. There was no light, so Ianto strained his ears to listen outside. Their bodies were pressed close against one another. Ianto could feel Jack’s breath against his ear, his arm around his waist. Jack reached past Ianto and slowly slid a tiny door to the side, opening a long, thin gap just big enough to peak out into the main room.

Nothing looked amiss in the Hub; no one had entered. Ianto wondered if they had overreacted. He realized it had to be around 4 a.m. As they waited, Jack started kissing Ianto’s neck and nibbling on his ear. Then they both froze when they heard soft footsteps on the other side of the door. They leaned forward, trying for a better look. Somehow, Jack was even closer to Ianto.

Then from the front door, Suzie walked into the main room, followed by a man Ianto didn’t recognize. Immediately, he felt Jack’s body tense, the relaxed composure completely gone. Suzie and the man talked in low tones, too low for Ianto to hear enclosed in this small space.

Suzie led him around, pointed to a few spots, once towards Tosh’s dressing room and then towards the other end of the stage. Then, they stood huddled together, talking for a few moments. Just as quietly as they came in, they left the same way.

After they disappeared, Ianto and Jack waited silently for about fifteen minutes before emerging from their hiding place. Without a word, they fixed their clothes, and then Jack stood in the exact spot Suzie and her companion had. As he studied where she had pointed, Ianto went to clean up any mess they left behind the bar. When he finished, Jack was still standing in the same spot.

Unsure what to do, Ianto started for the back exit.

“Leaving without saying goodbye?” Jack called after him.

Ianto turned. “I didn’t want to disturb you.” Jack seemed to snap out of his trance and ran a hand through his hair. “Goodnight, Jack.”

“Why don’t you stay here tonight?”

“In the Hub?”

“No, with me. Dawn’s in a few hours. There’s no sense in you going home at this hour.”

Ianto shifted from one foot to the other. “Um…”

Jack turned his head to the side and looked at Ianto intently. “Do you not want to stay with me?” Ianto didn’t know what to say. “You’ve slept in my bed for the past few weeks.”

“That was different, s – Jack.”

“Because now you aren’t injured.”

“Yes.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Jack stated. Ianto was affronted. “Ianto, I would very much like it if you spent the night with me. However, if it makes you uncomfortable, then I understand.”

Although Ianto really wanted to stay with Jack, he was afraid of getting too familiar. He knew that for Jack, this was nothing but temporary fun. The fact that for him it was something else entirely made it more difficult. But he was exhausted, body sore from the day’s activities, and honestly, he didn’t have the conviction to leave Jack tonight.

“Of course I’ll stay.”

Jack grinned widely.

*

Later, Ianto woke up and rolled over. Jack was in the same spot he’d been earlier, so Ianto lifted his head, glanced at the clock, then Jack. It was around 6, and Jack was wide awake, staring at the ceiling.

“What’s wrong?” Ianto asked.

“Can’t sleep.”

Ianto scooted closer, placing a kiss on Jack’s bare chest, then laid his head on Jack’s shoulder. “Suzie sent the hitman,” he surmised. “And tipped off the cops.”

“It appears that way.” Jack began drawing lazy circles on Ianto’s arm. “This is an unfortunate situation.”

“Unfortunate?”

“Yes.”

Ianto waited, but Jack didn’t say anything else.

*

When Ianto woke up, the first thing he realized was that Jack was missing. The bed beside him was cold. He stretched, rolled over, and saw it was around noon. In the army, it was early to bed and then awake by 5. Now, he was lucky if he was in bed by then. His life had changed quite a bit in the last few months.

He sat up and was about to get out of bed when he noticed an envelope on the night stand. His name was scrawled across the front in Jack’s elegant script. Swinging his legs over the side of the bed, he grabbed it and opened it. It read:

Ianto –

I have some business I need to attend to pertaining to last night’s developments. I will return in a few days. Until then, say nothing about what we saw.

You will have to see to the liquor shipment coming from Canada in my absence. There should be no problems.

Jack

PS – You look really cute when you sleep.

Ianto rubbed his eyes and tossed the letter on the bed beside him. He wasn’t sure how he was supposed to act naturally if Suzie came into the bar. He wasn’t exactly sure what her part in everything was, but he decided that her behavior the night before made her the number one suspect for the raids. And if she had been the one who wanted Jack dead, there was no telling what else she would be willing to do or who she’d be willing to hurt. Even more than that, Ianto considered her a generally unpleasant person.

After bathing, Ianto realized he only had the previous day’s suit with him, and he did not want to wear it again, especially after rolling around on the floor with Jack. Instead, he borrowed a few of Jack’s clean clothes and took a taxi to his flat.

It had been ages since he’d been to his apartment, before he had gotten hurt. Looking around, he wondered if he should feel a sense of home by his return, but the small, dingy room looked alien to him. He much preferred the Hub and Jack’s quarters. He wondered if there was a small storage room Jack would let him clean out and use for his own living space. But forgetting that for now, he pulled a clean suit from his closet, but then grabbed a couple more to have as backups at the Hub. Just in case. Not because he was hoping he would continue spending the night with Jack.

After he returned to the theater, he changed into his suit and then went upstairs into Jack’s office. He was sitting behind the desk, looking at a shipping manifest when he heard footsteps in the hall. He looked up just as Suzie passed by. She stopped and leaned against the door frame, shooting Ianto a complacent grin. Pale pink satin slid across her skin like liquid.

“Does Jack know you are in his office?” she sneered.

“Does he know you are?” Ianto returned.

“What are you doing?”

“I could ask you the same question.”

“I need to speak with Jack,” she said, straightening. “I don’t make it habit to converse with errand boys and fuck toys.”

“Jack isn’t here,” Ianto said, ignoring her jabs. “He won’t be back for a couple of days.”

“Oh.” Ianto watched her face closely, but it was unreadable. “Going through the big boy papers while daddy is away?”

“Is there anything else you need? Or are you just going to continue not conversing with the errand boy and fuck toy?”

Squaring her shoulders, she glared at Ianto and spun around on her heel. He could hear the click of her heels as she stormed down the hall.

Pushing her aside in his mind momentarily, he looked at the clock and saw he had a few hours before the rail shipment of liquor from Canada was due at the rail yard. He needed someone to accompany him to watch his back as he inspected the cargo. He sent a message to Rhys and told him he needed him to come in as soon as possible.

While he waited for Rhys, Ianto went over the ledgers carefully, reread the shipping manifest, and then after putting the manifest away in his pocket, locked everything back up in the safe. Then he sat down in Jack’s chair, troubled.

Suzie showing up there had been no coincidence. He believed her story about needing to see Jack as much as he believed she would save him if he was on fire. Just like the night before, she was skulking around where she didn’t belong when she thought no one was around. But what was her endgame? And then Ianto suddenly realized that he had made a serious error. He told her that Jack was away for a few days.

How could he be so stupid? Jack was going to kill him if something happened in his absence. Although Jack had only put him in charge of the shipments, Ianto felt as his go-to man that it was his responsibility to keep the Hub from completely falling apart. Plus, he didn’t want to disappoint Jack.

By the time Rhys arrived, Ianto had a plan. Well, sort of a plan.

“Hey, Ianto. What do you need me to do?”

“Close the door.” Rhys looked at him quizzically, but complied. He sat down in the chair across the desk. With Rhys staring at him expectantly while he sat in Jack’s seat, Ianto felt uncomfortable. He moved to the other side of the desk, to the chair beside Rhys. That was more familiar. “I need your help. It’s of the utmost importance, and absolutely crucial that you keep it secret.”

“I can’t do anything that will jeopardize Gwen, Jack, or the Hub,” Rhys said seriously.

Ianto rolled his eyes. “Do you really think that I’m going to do anything to harm Jack? Or Gwen or the Hub?”

“Just making sure, Ianto. You can’t always trust your friends.” Rhys’s words stung, and that disturbed him. Did he care what these people thought of him, that they trusted him? Apparently, he did. However, he knew that Rhys spoke the truth.

“I understand. That is why I came to you.” Rhys looked pleased. “First, I need you to accompany me to the rail yard as we intercept a shipment of liquor.”

“Why me?”

“Because I need a strong, trustworthy man to watch my back.”

“Where’s Jack?”

“Away for a few days. Which leads me to my second request.” Ianto hesitated, realizing that if he continued he’d be going against Jack’s command. But he couldn’t deal with Suzie alone. “It pertains to the welfare of the Hub. This is the part that has to remain secret. You cannot even tell Gwen until we figure everything out, which may be a few days. Can you handle that? If not, I understand. Your loyalty is of course first to your wife.”

Rhys slumped back in the chair and stared out the window on the far wall as he thought. Ianto waited patiently. “Fine. I accept. Anything I can do to protect the Hub.”

Relief washed over him. “Good.” Ianto leaned forward and recapped what he and Jack had seen the night before (though leaving out why exactly they had also been in the Hub, but from Rhys’s face, Ianto was pretty sure he guessed), their suspicions about the hit, and then told him about the encounter just a few hours before. After he finished, Rhys’s brow furrowed deeply.

“This is insanity,” he said, shaking his head. “I’m no fan of hers, but do you really think she is working with the police and trying to kill Jack?”

Ianto shrugged. “I’m not sure. Right now we only have these hunches to go on, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“Watch her closely, but make sure that she doesn’t suspect anything. Jack has gone…somewhere…trying to figure this whole thing out. I don’t know where he’s gone or who he’s talking to, but until he returns, we’re going to do everything we can to make sure his absence doesn’t give her the prime time to mess anything up.”

*

Ianto tried to look nonchalant all evening. But he felt like a wreck. His insides felt like a pit of snakes coiling and uncoiling. No one seemed to notice a difference, though. Times like these he was thankful for a good poker face.

After filling Rhys on his plan (which wasn’t really a plan, but more like evasive action), they met the rumrunners at the train station, inspected the crates of alcohol, then dispersed the cargo to the appropriate places. Those clandestine meetings still made him nervous, and his pulse had been racing, his heart in his throat, until they were miles away from the rail yard. Rhys had made an imposing companion, and Ianto had felt safer with him at his back. Ianto hadn’t known what to expect without Jack with him. No one dared cross Jack, but Ianto was pretty sure he wasn’t much of a threat. But everything had gone off without a hitch, and all the liquor was safely disguised and on its way to various destinations.

Ianto wished he didn’t have to play the piano tonight. He wanted to remain behind the bar, watching and waiting. But it may have looked peculiar if he had chosen not to accompany Tosh tonight, and he didn’t want to arouse Suzie’s suspicions by changing anything.

The night passed without incident. As agreed, Ianto told Rhys within earshot of Suzie that he was needed at the Hub all night to help with the inventory. Ianto knew it was a weak plan, but he hoped it was enough to keep her away for now. Just to be sure, Rhys told Gwen the same story, and she went home alone. Rhys remained in the Hub, hidden out of view, just in case someone returned. Ianto went upstairs to Jack’s rooms, and he watched the rear of the building from a window until dawn.

*

The next night, they had the same plan. But it didn’t quite pan out.

The night started out like usual. A decent crowd, Ianto playing the piano for Tosh, a large group of dancers on the floor, and a few groups of gamblers grouped in the side rooms. Suzie was in the alcove off to the side, where a rather serious high-stakes poker game was going on. Last time Ianto had spied her, she had her arms draped around the shoulders of an older hotel mogul. Owen had returned to work, walking with a cane and sitting on a stool behind the bar. They still hadn’t told him that she was most likely the reason he was shot.

After Tosh’s sets, Ianto was rinsing a sink of dirty teacups when he heard a ruckus explode behind him. In a dash, he sprinted across the crowded floor towards the commotion. Rhys was already there, standing between two of the poker players. Owen hobbled up a few moments after Ianto.

The two men were yelling. A young man accused the hotel mogul of cheating, which caused him to lose a large sum of money. The hotel mogul looked furious.

“Remove this sap!” the older man yelled, spitting at the feet of the younger. “I do not cheat! It’s not my fault he can’t hold his liquor or his money!”

“You fucking piker!”

“Enough!” Rhys bellowed, his deep voice resounding over the din. The men glared at one another, then the younger one pulled something from his pocket.

“Shiv!” Owen yelled, and Rhys moved towards the man just as the hotel mogul drew a gun.

“Bloody hell,” Ianto said as he started towards the mogul. “Hey buddy, put the gun away,” he said, stepping between the two. “Let’s keep this civilized.”

“Nobody calls me a cheater.” He stepped to the side, away from Ianto, and aimed the gun as Ianto dived against the man. Ianto knocked him backwards just as a deafening shot went off. The band stopped playing and a hush fell over the crowd. The man struggled with Ianto. He was larger and stronger, but Ianto was quicker, younger, more sober, and better trained. They scuffled for a few moments, and finally, Ianto drew back his fist and hit the man in the face. Then he did it again…and again. He didn’t stop until someone hooked him under the arms and dragged him away. He was breathing heavy, his knuckles bruised and covered in blood.

“I think he’s had enough,” Owen said quietly in his ear as an unfamiliar man let go of him.

“Fucking asshole,” Ianto shouted. “Get this scum out of here.” A few of the other poker players helped the man up, who had the gall to glare at Ianto. Ianto stormed towards the man, stopping very close to his face. “If I ever see your face around here again, you’ll have more than a bloody nose.” The man stared at Ianto in fear briefly before being pulled away. The man with the shiv was being dragged out by a few regulars.

Ianto wiped his fist on the leg of his pants and stared up at the ceiling. There was a hole slightly bigger than the size of the bullet where the roof had crumbled at the impact. “Dammit,” Ianto said.

A crowd had amassed around the commotion, and after the man was dragged away, the band started up again and people began dancing. Ianto shook his head.

“Are you insane?” Gwen screamed at Rhys. “He had a knife, and the other man had a gun, for pete’s sake! You could have been killed!” Then she spun around on her heel and pointed at Ianto. “And you! Do you have a death wish?” Furious, Gwen stormed away. Tosh sat shakily on a stool, and Owen limped over to comfort her.

“Are you okay?” Ianto asked Rhys. “Did anyone get hurt?”

“Other than the man you almost pummeled to death? No.”

“I can’t believe some piker brought in a gun.” Owen shook his head.

“This place is really going to the dogs,” Suzie said, surveying the scene with a sneer.

“Come off it, Suzie,” Owen barked. “You’re just mad we threw out this week’s sugar daddy.”

Her gaze was pure ice. “Jealousy really doesn’t become you, Owen. But I see you ran to your whore.”

“I’m not above throwing you out, either,” Ianto yelled.

Suzie turned her needle stare on him. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d think this bar belonged to you. But of course, fucking the boss does tend to inflate one’s sense of importance.” And with that, she stormed elegantly towards the door. Ianto was too furious to be embarrassed. He didn’t even notice the shock on the other’s faces. Instead, he went over to Tosh. “Are you okay?” he asked.

Tosh smiled and waved her hand. “I’ve been called much worse by people who meant more to me than her. But thank you for your concern.”

Ianto turned back to Rhys. He pointed to the ceiling. “Is Jack going to be mad?”

“He’ll probably be pleased,” Rhys answered.

“The crazy bastard will probably think it adds character,” Owen said from behind them. “It will probably bring in double business for awhile. People will flock here and hope for yet another shooting.”

Ianto shook his head again. Rhys returned to the door as Owen escorted Tosh back to her dressing room. Ianto grabbed a broom and dustpan from a small utility closet and began sweeping up the mess from the ceiling. Before he was even done, another poker game had started at the table.

*

They closed the Hub earlier than usual. The crowd started thinning around midnight, and by one, only Ianto and Rhys remained in the bar. As Rhys stacked chairs on tables, Ianto took out the garbage. He opened the back door and froze in fear.

Lying on the stoop, bound and gagged, was Gwen.

“Gwen!” Ianto tossed the bag aside as he dropped beside her. She was awake and struggling, her cries muffled by the gag. “Rhys!” Ianto shouted. He leaned back towards the open door. “Rhys!” Turning back to Gwen, he pulled the cloth from her mouth.

“Thank God you came out here,” Gwen said as Ianto made work on the restraints on her wrists. “I was scared I’d be here all night.”

“What’s so damn – oh my god, Gwen!” Rhys ran over to her and touched her randomly, unsure what to do. “What happened?”

“I don’t know,” she said. Ianto couldn’t quite loosen the ropes tied around her wrists. “I was walking home, and the next thing I knew, there was a hand over my mouth and two masked men were tying me up.”

“Did they hurt you?” Rhys cupped her face gently.

“They slapped me, but it wasn’t too bad.”

Rhys looked at her cheek closely, then kissed it. “It’s a bit bruised. Oh baby, I am so sorry. I will kill the fucker who did this to you.”

“Really, it’s okay.”

“Do you have a knife on you? I can’t quite get this knot unraveled.”

Rhys shook his head and Ianto ran inside, quickly found a knife, and returned. He cut the ropes around Gwen’s wrists, and she sat up, rubbing them gingerly. Her skin was open and raw.

“Oh no,” Ianto said, pointing to Gwen’s chest. Attached to her dress was a piece of paper. In plain block letters, the words were written: For Jack Harkness.

“I don’t get it,” Rhys said, ripping it from Gwen.

Ianto looked around nervously, and grabbed Gwen’s arm, helping her up. “Let’s get inside.” Rhys wrapped an arm around Gwen’s waist and led her through the door. Ianto scanned the alley, but saw nothing. He closed the door and locked it.

Rhys walked Gwen to the bar. She sat down on a stool, and he poured her a shot.

“What in the bloody hell is going on? Why did someone tie up my wife and leave her on the doorstep for Jack? What’s the meaning of all this?” Rhys yelled.

Ianto rubbed his eyes. “It’s a message. A warning.” He looked at Gwen, ice rippling through his chest. “Why did they leave you alive?”

“Who bloody cares?” Rhys yelled. “I’m never leaving you alone again.”

“Rhys,” Gwen said. “Calm down.”

“Calm down? Calm DOWN? You were tied up on the doorstep. How am I supposed to calm down?”

“Rhys, you know who’s responsible for this,” Ianto said. “It’s not a coincidence. You saw when she left.”

“She?” Gwen looked between the two men in confusion. “What are you two on about?”

Ianto sighed. “Suzie.” He massaged his temples. “When is Jack coming back? I don’t know what to do.”

“I know what I’m going to do,” Rhys said, pulling his gun from his holster. He popped out the cylinder, spun it around, and snapped it shut. “I’m going to go kill someone.”

“No, you’re not.” Ianto sighed. He just wanted to go to bed. “Wait until Jack gets back. He’ll know what to do.”

“I don’t care what Jack does or does not want to do,” Rhys yelled. “My wife could have been killed tonight.”

“But I wasn’t,” Gwen said. She slumped on the stool and looked exhausted. “Can we just go to bed?”

“I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to leave the Hub,” Ianto stated.

“I don’t want to leave.” Gwen looked at Rhys. “I’m scared. I just want you to hold me, and I want to go to sleep.” He wrapped her in his arms and kissed her head.

“No one’s going to hurt you,” he whispered against her hair. He looked at Ianto over her head. “We’ll stay here tonight, just in case someone tries to break in. I hope they do. I’m in a killing kind of mood.”

Ianto and Rhys gathered pillows, cots, and blankets from rooms upstairs while Gwen remained at the bar. While Gwen fixed their beds, Ianto and Rhys double checked all the doors, and then Ianto finally went upstairs.

He quickly undressed, leaving his suit in a messy heap on the floor. He opened the nightstand table and pulled out the bottle of scotch Jack kept in there. He removed the stopper, then upended it, taking a long swig. He replaced the bottle and then looked around, feeling lonely. He was scared. Moreover, he didn’t know what to do. He thought of Gwen and Rhys downstairs, together, and wished Jack was there. Without Jack around, he didn’t feel nearly as safe, and utterly alone.

He fell back onto the bed and passed out.

*

Ianto jerked awake when he heard the click. Without hesitation, his fingers closed around the gun beneath his pillow and he twisted in the bed, barrel pointed towards the door. Jack stood in the doorway. He looked startled for only a moment, then an easy smile settled on his lips.

“Next time I’ll say goodbye,” he said as a greeting. Ianto placed the gun on the nightstand and rolled over, rubbing his eyes. “I’ve only been gone two days and I feel like everything has changed. You’re trying to kill me, Rhys and Gwen have moved in downstairs, and someone did a bit of redecorating.”

“I’m glad you’re back,” Ianto said, slumping against the pillow.

“Rough few days?”

“You leave and everything falls apart.”

Jack removed his coat and laid it across the desk. He sat on the edge of the bed and placed a hand on Ianto’s leg. He rubbed his thumb across the bare skin.

“Everything looks fine to me.”

“Someone tied Gwen up and left her by the garbage bins. She had this attached to her.” Ianto handed Jack the piece of paper. Jack’s face was hard, unreadable as he stared at the sheet in his hand.

“Is she hurt?”

“They slapped her pretty hard, and her wrists have rope burn. Otherwise, she’s fine, just a bit shaken up.”

“That’s good.”

“I think Rhys is more upset than she is. He wants to kill someone.”

“Understandable.” Jack turned the paper over. “Did she see or hear anything?”

Ianto shook his head. “She said they wore masks and didn’t say a word.”

Jack set the paper on the nightstand and rubbed his eyes. He silently tugged his braces from his shoulders and unbuttoned his shirt. He tossed it onto the floor. “I should probably go talk to her.”

“You can do it in the morning.” Ianto reached out and rubbed Jack’s arm lightly. “She’s fine. She’s with Rhys, and she’s downstairs if anything happens.”

Jack sighed. “I guess you’re right. Nothing I can do tonight.”

“I can’t figure out why they didn’t kill her.”

“My guess is they wanted to scare me, not piss me off. Killing Gwen would have turned me into a monster; everyone knows I wouldn’t stop until I killed any and everyone who had anything to do with it.”

“They want you dead, not the people who work with you.”

“After mistaking Owen for me, they used Gwen as another example of how vulnerable everyone around me is.” Jack twisted and wrapped a hand around Ianto’s neck, pulling him in for a kiss. He pressed his forehead against Ianto’s and said, “Don’t leave the building unless I’m with you.”

“That’s ridiculous, Jack.”

“Is it?” Ianto could see how blue Jack’s eyes were this close. And how frightened they looked. “I can’t stand the thought of something happening to you.”

“Okay.”

“Okay.” Jack pulled away and toed off his shoes.

“How do you do it?” Ianto asked. “How do you deal with everything?”

Jack shrugged. “Practice. I’ve been doing this a long, long time.” He crawled up beside Ianto. “God, I missed you.” He cupped Ianto’s face gently and kissed him. When Jack pulled away, he rolled onto his back and grabbed the gun from the bedside table. He held it in front of his face, studying it. “Is this yours?”

“Yes.” Jack turned it over, brought it close to his face, and trailed his fingers along a few scuffs. “It’s nothing fancy, old really,” Ianto said.

“It’s a nice piece.” Jack slid out the cylinder, inspected it, then snapped it shut. “And well used. It’s a Webley Mk VI.”

“I’m impressed you know that.”

“Weapons are one of my specialties. I didn’t know they issued these to the infantry.”

“They don’t,” Ianto explained as Jack continued turning the gun over in his hands. “We got rifles.”

“Did you kill an officer?” Jack joked. Ianto took the revolver and held it in his hands.

“I was a trench raider.”

Jack rolled onto his side, propped his hand on his elbow, and gazed down at Ianto. “That sounds interesting.”

“It was hell.” Ianto reached across Jack and set the gun back on the table. Jack took the opportunity to wrap his arm around Ianto’s waist. He placed a kiss on his shoulder. “It was volunteer,” Ianto explained as he settled in Jack’s embrace. “The British government volunteered me for it. They decided that a former thief would make a good stealth soldier. They also hoped I would be able to steal important documents, or with my memory, remember pertinent information. They were right. But it was a very dangerous job. I saw a lot of good men get killed.”

“How many men did you kill, Ianto?” Jack asked quietly. His face was close, so close that Ianto could only see his eyes, and they were wide, curious, and full of compassion.

“More than I should have.” Jack’s fingers tapped a rhythm on his back, and Ianto trailed his fingertips down the soft cotton arm of Jack’s shirt.

Jack abruptly sat up. “I want to show you something.” He walked to his coat and stuck his hands deep within the folds. He brought out a revolver, almost identical to Ianto’s.

Ianto pushed himself up on his elbows. “What’s that?”

“This,” Jack said, holding the gun out to Ianto as he lay back down, “is a Webley Mk IV.”

“Did you kill an officer for this?”

Jack laughed and shook his head. “It’s mine.”

Ianto looked up at him curiously. “I thought you were in the US army.”

“American volunteer. Started out with the French air force, ended up in the RAF.” Jack laced his fingers behind his head while Ianto turned the revolver over in his hands. It was in much better condition than his, but had obvious signs of use.

“You did kill an officer.”

“Really, Ianto?”

Ianto returned the gun. Jack set it on the nightstand beside the other. “Gwen told me you were in the military when I started here, but I’ve never heard you talk about it.”

“You never asked.”

“I’m asking now.”

“I was a captain.”

“Captain Jack Harkness,” Ianto said, almost to himself. “Gwen mentioned that. It does have a nice ring.” Jack slung an arm around Ianto’s waist and kissed his neck. “Why aren’t you still in the military? Why are you…well, you?”

“You mean why do I operate an illegal speakeasy and run liquor across the border instead of being an honorable soldier?”

“Basically.”

Jack sighed. “Do you really want to talk about this now?” He slid his hand down and cupped Ianto’s ass. “I had other things in mind.”

“Yes,” Ianto said, though he felt Jack’s erection against his hip. He was sure Jack felt his own against his leg. “You’re an enigma, Jack.”

Jack sighed again and rolled onto his back, eyes glued to the ceiling. “It was all so pointless, Ianto,” Jack started, his nails scratching lightly across Ianto’s arm. “Do you even know why we fought?”

“Yes, the Archduke – “

“No,” Jack interrupted, shaking his head. “The real reason? Cause I don’t. I saw a lot of good men die, Ianto. Honorable men, men with families, boys who weren’t even men yet. There was no reason for any of it. I saw men blown apart, arms and legs in the branches of a tree and the head yards away. I listened to men brag about sleeping with French whores and then get impaled by a bayonet the next day. We stumbled upon a camp one night that had killed their horses for meat.” He shook his head. “Why should a boy with acne who’s never been fucked die to preserve a world he has never lived in? What was the point of that?”

“There was no point,” Ianto said, his voice thick. Jack’s words were bringing up his own vivid memories, things he tried so hard to forget.

“How do you stand it?” Jack said, dropping his face to the side. “You saw so much more than I did.” Jack slid his arm around Ianto and trailed his fingers across Ianto’s scars.

“I don’t,” Ianto admitted. “I try not to think about it.”

“Then I came home to a country that wouldn’t even let their men drink away their ghosts. Nothing had any point. I left the military, and here I am. If there’s no point, then why not have a bit of fun and get rich while doing it?”

Jack kissed him then, harder and more intensely, and Ianto hated how much he had missed his mouth, his scent, his voice.

“Does that answer your question?” Ianto nodded, his mood heavy. A blackness was settling around him, and he was afraid it would swallow him up. He wanted to keep Jack talking, and maybe that would save him from disappearing. And then Jack kissed him again, and Ianto responded with unintended fervor.

“Can I ask you a question?” Jack asked when he pulled away. Ianto nodded, annoyed that Jack stopped kissing him. “What happened to the ceiling downstairs?”

Ianto confessed telling Rhys about Suzie, but after filling Jack in on recent developments. He then explained about the shooting. When he finished, he waited for Jack to get angry, but instead, Jack laughed.

“I leave and miss all the fun. Owen is right, I think it’s a wonderful addition. I think I’ll leave it that way. I’m upset we haven’t had any bullet holes before now. I must not be doing something right.”

“You are insane,” Ianto said, shaking his head.

“After awhile, you’ll learn not to sweat the little things.” Ianto was about to point out Gwen’s assault wasn’t so little when Jack rolled him over and kissed him again. “Can I ask you another question?” he asked before kissing down Ianto’s chest.

“Sure.”

“The other night, in the bar, that was your first time wasn’t it?” He looked up at Ianto from halfway down his body, his arms draped lazily over his thighs. Jack was still dressed, and Ianto felt quite naked in just his underwear.

“Hey! I’m not a virgin.”

“I wouldn’t care if you were,” Jack said, grin on his face. “But I mean the oral sex.”

“Was it that obvious?” He felt his cheeks go red.

“I love how you always blush.” Jack scooted down further and pulled Ianto’s underwear over his hardening cock. “We’ll just have to give you plenty of practice then.”

As Ianto watched Jack’s head lower, he realized that he hadn’t asked Jack about where he’d been, but when Jack’s mouth wrapped around his cock, he didn’t care anymore.

*

The rapid sputter of gunfire. Shots exploded in bright bursts in the darkness of the Hub, the chandeliers shattering and raining crystal on the crowded dance floor. Dancers dropped as their bodies filled with bullets; Tosh was splayed out on the stage, microphone in hand. Blood pooled beneath her head.

Ianto shouted, but no sound came out. No one seemed to see him waving his arms around in warning. He ran, looking for Jack in his usual booths. He saw Jack in the corner and Suzie’s back as she faced him. Ianto arrived just as Suzie emptied a machine gun barrel into Jack’s core, the blood spraying from the holes like a fountain.

Then Jack exploded, and Ianto screamed.

“Jack!”

“I’m right here,” Jack said quietly into his ear, a comforting hand stroking Ianto’s arm as Ianto jerked awake. “It’s okay, Ianto. You’re safe.”

Ianto sat straight up in bed, his breath ragged, skin covered in a thin sheen of sweat. He felt Jack’s warm hand rubbing circles on his back, and when he brought a hand to his face, he saw he was trembling. Jack placed a kiss on his shoulder.

“Do you want to tell me about it?” Jack whispered against his skin, then dragged his nose and lips across Ianto’s shoulder blade.

Ianto shook his head. “No.”

“I don’t like that you dream these dreams,” Jack whispered.

“I don’t either.” His heart was slowing, his breathing returning to normal. He sagged a bit into Jack’s chest behind him.

“I don’t like that when you have them, you call out my name.” He kissed Ianto’s neck softly and wrapped an arm around his waist. Ianto said nothing. “What do I do in these dreams? What do I do that makes you so sad?”

“You die,” Ianto barely spoke.

Jack reached out and cupped Ianto’s chin, tugging it gently so he faced him. “That’s not going to happen,” Jack said seriously. “I won’t leave you.”

“Don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep.”

“I never do.”

*

Jack wasn’t in bed when Ianto woke. He rubbed his eyes and looked around, his stomach growling. On the nightstand lay another note, and he reached over and opened it.

Ianto –

When you get up, come to my office. We have some business to take care of today. I would have woken you, but you looked so peaceful sleeping that I couldn’t disturb you.

Jack

Ianto quickly got dressed, ate a bite of breakfast, then left Jack’s quarters. When he arrived at the office, the door was open. Jack sat at his desk, engrossed in a paper he was holding.

“Ianto!” Jack grinned widely and looked up as Ianto stepped over the threshold. “Sleeping beauty finally awakes.”

“I apologize, sir. From now on, I shall set an alarm.”

Jack waved his hand. “Nonsense. You don’t get enough sleep with the hours you keep. Perhaps we shall have to make an attempt to get you to sleep earlier.” Ianto blushed, and just nodded. “We’ve got a few things to do today, so we mustn’t delay.”

“How’s Gwen?”

“A bit shaken, but she’s fine. Got a bit of a nasty bruise,” Jack explained. “Gwen’s strong; I don’t think it fazed her much. But Rhys is murderous. It took every bit of power I had to convince him not to kill anyone.”

Then as if on cue, Owen appeared in the open doorway. Jack waved him in, and Owen closed the door behind him. He took the seat across from Jack, propping his cane up against the arm. Ianto stood along the wall, back against the bookcase.

“What’s this about?” Owen said.

“A disturbing development has presented itself,” Jack started. “A matter which I believe you may be of assistance in handling.”

“Yeah, anything.” Owen shifted his leg uncomfortably.

“I have discovered, quite serendipitously actually, the identity of the individual who leaked the information about the speakeasy.” Jack paused, and Owen waited.

“Well, who is it?”

“This might not be easy to hear, Owen.”

Owen straightened, his entire body going rigid. His face hard, he said, “Jack, tell me.”

“Suzie.” Owen sat quietly, face blank. Jack continued. “There’s more. She also the one who arranged to have me shot.” Owen’s expression darkened. “And then last night someone left Gwen bound on our doorstep as a message. It’s safe to guess she had something to do with that, too.”

Owen said, “What must we do?”

Jack’s face softened. When he spoke, his voice was quieter. “Owen, I know you and Suzie have a relationship – “

“Had a relationship,” Owen corrected. “I broke it off a few weeks ago.”

“Plus, you are the one who got shot. If this in any way affects you personally, you may step aside while we deal with the situation. I wouldn’t want to make you do anything that causes you grief.”

Owen shook his head. “No, Jack. I’m fine.”

Jack studied him for a moment, his head tilted slightly as he sized Owen up, then satisfied, he nodded. “Suzie made the unfortunate mistake of sneaking into the Hub late one night while Ianto was still there.”

“Did she see you?” Owen asked, turning to Ianto for the first time since he entered the room.

“No,” Ianto answered.

“Are you positive it was Suzie?”

“Positive.”

“How can you be sure?”

“I was with him,” Jack supplied. Owen turned back to Jack, a moment of surprise flickering across his face. “I saw her, too.” Owen nodded. “Then when I was away, I had a few interesting conversations. I informed Andy of our suspicion, and described the man that accompanied Suzie.”

“She was with someone?” Owen asked.

Jack nodded and described the man. “Do you know him?”

“He doesn’t sound familiar. But he could be anyone.”

“Andy reached out to some contacts, did a little investigating for us. His name is Max. According to Andy, he is an up and coming Prohibition officer. He’s made it his goal to take down as many speakeasies in the city as he can.”

“But how did he get involved with Suzie?”

“Andy had trouble discovering any of this. The operations that raid illegal bars are kept tight-lipped, but Andy was able to bribe a few cops he trusted for the information. From what Andy could discern, Suzie offered him the information on a silver platter. With an insider’s information, Max has made it his goal to bring us down.”

“How did you find out she was behind the shooting?”

“Everyone has their price,” Jack said with a sinister grin. “It didn’t take long for me to ask the right person. I found a few reliable witnesses who had heard of a woman matching Suzie’s description asking about men for hire. I even found out the name of the shooter.”

“None of this makes any sense.”

“No, I didn’t think so either.” Jack sat back in his chair and rested his chin on his fist. “So, I kept reaching out to my contacts. And you’ll never guess what I found out.” Jack looked at Owen, then Ianto. “Max is indeed a prohibition agent, but he has only taken down certain speakeasies. The ones that pose a threat.”

“He’s part of a gang?”

“Yep.” Jack leaned forward again, placing his elbows on the desk. “Max was placed in a federal job so he could have access to information, take down any competition, and protect the ones associated with his gang.”

“But how did Suzie get involved?”

“She’s his girlfriend.”

Ianto watched Owen’s face for any flicker of emotion. His face was a mask; the only tell was the way he gripped the arm of the chair. Ianto felt for him, and added to the long list of reasons to hate Suzie.

“How long?” he asked.

“Awhile,” Jack answered. “More than a few weeks.”

“That fucking quiff,” Owen shouted. “Fuck!”

“Owen, you couldn’t have known.”

“The whole time I was fucking her, she was fucking some other guy. It’s not that I care that she was fucking someone else because it’s not like she was the only woman I was fucking, but she was fucking the enemy. Fucking cunt.” Owen ran a hand over his face. “Jack, there’s no telling what I told her in bed. She’d sometimes ask questions, and I’d ramble about things – nothing too important, but probably enough for her to piece some clues together. Fuck!”

“From what I discovered, I was the target because of the liquor. This gang is new and trying to establish themselves in New York, so they wanted to steal my contacts, take over my routes, my shipments, and even acquire my clients. That’s why Dave tried to intercept that shipment. Suzie had nothing to do with that. I believe Max thought she could get something out of one of us, and when she couldn’t, her mission was to help him take us down from the inside.”

Owen’s eyes narrowed, his jaw rigid. “I’ll do anything I have to do.”

“I’m glad to hear you say that.”

*

That afternoon, Ianto accompanied Jack to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. They dropped off a small shipment of alcohol for one of his private patrons, and then he followed Jack as he strolled leisurely down Fifth Avenue.

“Do you want popcorn?” Jack asked, not waiting for an answer as they stopped at a vendor. He paid the small boy handing out bags and left a generous tip. He took some and popped it into his mouth.

“This is the first time we’ve been out together,” Ianto noted.

“Really?” Jack asked. He offered the bag to Ianto, who grabbed a small handful.

“Every other time we conducted your business or ran errands, then returned to the theater straightaway.”

“We need to get out more,” Jack said. “You’re beginning to turn pale.”

“I’ve always been pale, sir. You just haven’t paid attention to me in the daylight.”

Jack tossed a piece of popcorn at Ianto’s head. “What did I say about the ‘sir’ thing?”

“You didn’t say it would result in a food fight. If you’re not careful, you may incite a riot right here on the street. I daresay you would want to avoid the attention of the cops standing over there.”

Jack just threw another piece at his head.

They walked in silence for a few blocks, until they came to the river. Jack leaned his elbows against the railing, and Ianto stood beside him. He looked out into the bay, the water choppy in the wind. Ianto buttoned his coat all the way and readjusted his scarf. They shared the remaining popcorn, and then Jack tossed it in a nearby bin.

“Are you sorry you began working for me?” Jack asked.

“Not usually,” Ianto answered candidly.

Jack turned to look at him. His hair blew in odd angles around his face, the tail of his coat whipped gently around his legs. “Are you sorry you came to know me?”

“Absolutely not.”

Jack returned his attention to the water. “Do you ever want a different life?”

“I’ve had several lives.”

“That’s not an answer.”

“Yes, I sometimes wish for a different life. But I learned long ago that wishing for something you cannot have is dangerous.”

“What life would you have if you had your pick?”

“Honestly?” He turned to face Jack, who was watching him closely. Jack nodded. “I would live on a small farm, perhaps rear sheep, and grow old with someone.” He felt his face flush under Jack’s gaze. “It’s not exciting, I know.”

Jack shook his head. “It sounds lovely. Where would you want this farm to be?”

“As long as I was with the person I loved, I wouldn’t care.”

“Then why don’t you do that? Why don’t you go and get your sheep farm?”

“I don’t have the means or the time for such a venture. If I live until my next incarnation, perhaps I shall.”

“And indeed there will be time,” Jack recited, “To wonder, ‘Do I dare?’ and, ‘Do I dare?’…And time yet for a hundred indecisions, And for a hundred visions and revisions, before the taking of a toast and tea.”

“That’s beautiful,” Ianto said.

“I can’t take credit. It’s T.S. Eliot.”

“Do you wish for a different life?” Ianto asked after a pause.

Jack shrugged. “I believe every man possesses different lives like you said. Some live more than others. I have lived lifetimes enough to fill centuries.”

“What would you do if you could do anything? What do you want from life?”

“Ianto, I honestly don’t know.”

Ianto stared at the water.

*

The next afternoon, Ianto sat in the armchair in Jack’s room, reading. Jack had been gone when he’d woken up, and his shift didn’t start for hours. Ianto looked up when he heard the apartment door open and close. A few moments later, Jack stepped over the threshold into the bedroom.

“Hello,” Ianto said, closing the book and setting it on the side table. Jack tossed his coat on the bed, then crossed the room and leaned down to kiss Ianto.

“Hello,” he murmured against his lips. “I have something for you,” he said, straightening up. He walked over and reached deep into the folds of his coat, then pulled out a small package. He handed it to Ianto.

“What is it?”

“For you,” Jack said, smiling. “Open it.”

Ianto lifted it and slowly removed the paper. When he uncovered it, he stared down in shock. It was a brand new, brass pocket watch.

He looked up, speechless.

“Do you like it?” Jack asked, unsure.

“It’s beautiful.” He looked back down at it, turned it over in his hands. Etched in small script on the back was the inscription:

And indeed there will be time
Time for you and time for me.

He looked up at Jack, confused.

“It’s T.S. Eliot,” Jack explained.

“It’s beautiful,” Ianto said again. He couldn’t quite wrap his head around it.

“I thought perhaps it could help you keep track of time,” Jack said, grinning. “Since time gets away from you so easily.”

“Thank you,” Ianto said. “It’s the nicest gift I’ve ever received.” He looked at Jack. “Thank you.”

Jack leaned forward and kissed him.

*

After Ianto finished his set, he was shocked to see Suzie sitting at the bar. Although he knew they knew she was double-crossing them, she didn’t know they knew, so why should she not be here? Ianto tried his best to not look at her.

But then she moved to a stool right across from him. He still avoided her eyes, so she leaned forward, her cleavage pushed forward in her low cut dress.

“Fucking Jack will get you anything, won’t it?” she said quietly. “It’s the only explanation as to why you’re still singing.” She wrapped her thin fingers around his wrist, and he looked at her sharply. “Jack fucks everyone. He’ll get bored with you soon, just like he has every other quiff. And then you’ll be nothing but the used up bartender with no talent, and yet another notch on Jack Harkness’s bedpost.”

She let go of his wrist and walked towards the crowd.

“What was that?” Owen asked. He looked murderous as he watched her back disappearing amongst the crowd.

“Fuck if I know,” Ianto lied. He knew the best thing to do with Suzie was to ignore her, but her words were like an itch in the back of his mind he couldn’t scratch.

*

This time, it was Ianto who couldn’t sleep. Jack had been awake and staring at the ceiling when Ianto dozed off. Then he awoke a few hours later, and when he rolled over, Jack was finally sleeping.

Looking at Jack in the dark, his face illuminated slightly in the soft streetlight filtering through the curtains, Ianto couldn’t shut off Suzie’s voice in his head. The idea that he was nothing more than a fuck was something he didn’t want to face. He knew that Jack had been with many lovers over the years, and that didn’t bother him. But he had thought this was different. He’d watched Jack with some of his other paramours in the Hub, watched how he looked at them when he talked, danced, kissed. It was different than how he acted with him.

But then again, maybe Ianto wanted to believe it was that. Maybe he had made this into something more than it was.

Jack’s eyes were moving behind his lids, and Ianto wondered what he was dreaming. What kinds of things could Jack possibly dream about? A man like him – was it violence? Money? Power? Sex?

Maybe it was him. Ianto desperately wanted it to be him.

But there was so much about Jack he didn’t know. Chunks of the day when Jack disappeared and could be anywhere, with anyone, doing anything. Living a whole separate life from Ianto. But then, every night Jack was in bed, and he was in Jack’s bed. That should count for something.

Jack’s bare chest rose and fell in a slow rhythm. His mouth was slightly open, his lips parted, hair messy against his forehead, face angled slightly towards him. One hand rested on Ianto’s side. He reached out and brushed a few strands of hair off Jack’s forehead, noticed how the lines around his face were gone, his face relaxed as he dreamed. He placed the palm of his hand in the center of Jack’s chest, the skin warm underneath it, felt the steady beat of his heart.

Carefully, he reached across Jack’s still body and lifted the pocket watch from the bedside table. He held it in his hand, the metal cold against his skin. Turning it over, he rubbed his thumb across the engraved words, barely visible in the blue light of the room. He reread them yet again – had reread them numerous times since that afternoon – and their meaning made no more sense than they had the moment he first saw them. Maybe Suzie’s words were true, maybe this was nothing for Jack, but looking at those words, the solid weight of the watch in his palm, he yearned for the engraved words to be truer than Suzie’s – that there would be time for the two of them someday, in some life.

Ianto knew that if he meant nothing to Jack, if Jack eventually tossed him aside like garbage, he would never recover. This was different than anything he’d ever experienced - even Lisa, though he felt guilty admitting it. He was in love with Jack like he had never been in love with anyone else. He knew there was no getting over Jack.

He had picked up the pieces before, he’d mended his wounds, and he’d do it again. If the time came, Ianto would pick himself up and drift to the next city, to the next battlefield, just as he always did.

But for now, he curled closer to Jack and listened to the sound of his quiet breathing

*

Although Ianto knew what was going to happen, his brain didn’t want to believe it. Everything still felt like a big game. A game where he and the others were just players who drank and danced and fucked. They stayed out all night and slept all day, and life was nothing but one string of parties.

But as he waited with Jack and Owen in a dark empty field near the railroad depot, he knew the previous weeks had all been a fantasy.

This was reality.

The Jack standing in front of him wasn’t the man he knew. This was Captain Jack Harkness, the man whose name caused fear when whispered. Everything about Jack had taken on a different quality. He held his shoulders straighter, his body more rigid, his face hard and grim. When Ianto caught his eye as he surveyed the land, a chill ran down his spine.

They heard the squeals and moans before they saw them. Rhys, Andy, and two of Jack’s paid runners dragged three bound and struggling bodies behind them, dark hoods over their heads. It was easy to tell them apart. Rhys held the larger of the two, Andy held a smaller man, and one of the runners held the small woman. In the faint light of the crescent moon, Ianto could see the pale white silk of Suzie’s dress against all the darkness.

The men pushed the three captives forward in front of Jack. Ianto could see their hands were bound. First, Rhys pulled the hood from the man, Max, Suzie’s police contact. Jack stepped forward, raised his revolver, and steadily aimed it. The man started screaming, but his mouth was gagged, so the sound was muffled. Without blinking, Jack pulled the trigger, the bullet piercing straight through the man’s temple. His body fell with a heavy thud. Andy pulled the hood from the other man next, a man Ianto didn’t recognize but knew was the shooter. He saw Owen tense out of the corner of his eye. The man barely had time to blink and scream before Jack aimed the gun and quickly pulled the trigger.

Someone removed Suzie’s hood, and she stood there defiantly, eyes burning. Rhys yanked down her gag as Jack stepped towards her, and she spit on him.

“Why?” Jack asked.

“Why not?” she answered, squaring her chin.

Jack raised the revolver again, and she stared at the barrel. Although his entire body was gripped with fear, Ianto dared to look at her, and he noticed that her eyes were wet. Then Jack pulled the trigger, and she crumpled to the ground, blood leaving dark splatters on her white gown.

“Dispose of the bodies,” Jack instructed the two runners. They nodded, hooked the bodies under the arms, and began dragging them away.

“Keep me posted on anything you hear,” Jack told Andy, and then Andy disappeared somewhere in the night.

Then without a word, Jack slipped the revolver back into the holster, and led the way back.

*

As they crossed the dark field in silence, Ianto screamed on the inside.

Reality wasn’t standing in the dark waiting. Reality was Suzie’s crumpled body lying at his feet, her white gown soaked with blood.

Reality was Jack holding the gun between Suzie’s eyes. Reality was Jack pulling the trigger.

The sound of the three shots still rang in his ears, the man’s muffled screams of terror a constant echo. Jack’s hands – hands that had touched him, caressed him, taken care of him – pulling the trigger, killing three people without flinching. Suzie - Suzie for fuck’s sake¬ - sprawled on the ground, her limbs bent at odd angles, her lifeless eyes staring into nothing.

This was the life he had entered; everything else had been a ruse.

When they returned to the train depot, Owen and Rhys took separate taxis home, leaving Jack alone with Ianto. Ianto wasn’t sure what to do. He stood on the middle of the sidewalk, staring straight ahead into the quiet night. He jumped when Jack touched his arm.

“Hey, our taxi.” Jack pointed to the waiting automobile. Ianto shook his head and started walking down the street. “Where are you going?” Jack called after him. Ianto didn’t answer; he stuffed his hands inside his coat pockets and started walking faster. He heard Jack jogging behind him. Jack grabbed his arm, and he spun around looked into those eyes - Jack’s eyes - and Ianto felt repulsed. He slowed for only a second as he shrugged out of Jack’s grip.

“Don’t touch me,” Ianto barked. “I…just can’t.”

Jack stopped, and Ianto couldn’t take the pain on his face. He turned away and hurried deeper into the city, under the cover of night.

*

Ianto wasn’t sure where he was. He hadn’t looked up in hours. The sky was softening to a light grey, and the streets were waking up. His mind hadn’t cleared from earlier. He couldn’t get the image of Jack shooting Suzie out of his head. The cold control as steady hands gripped the revolver – a revolver that only days ago he’d held in his own hands as they lay side by side in bed. The lack of remorse as fingers squeezed the trigger – fingers that had touched him in places and in ways no one had ever done before.

He didn’t know what he was thinking taking this job. Sooner or later, he knew that he’d have to witness a scene like he did earlier, but somewhere deep down, he never actually thought it would happen.

How naïve. That’s all he was – a naïve ex-thief and soldier from nowhere. This New York life wasn’t for him, he knew that now.

Suzie, Max, and the shooter made five. Five people Jack had killed that he knew of since he’d starting working for him. Ianto only guessed at the people Jack had killed that he didn’t know about.

The streets around him were packed and busy, hoards of people living thousands of different lives. Lives Ianto could only dream about, lives of normalcy where they went to a job and then boarded the ferry again on their way home. People brushed against him as he walked aimlessly, never stopping, his eyes glued to dirty sidewalks. Shuffling feet around him stepping assuredly as they marched towards their destinations. Men wore suits of the metropolis, held their shoulders back with inflated senses of purpose; women strolled in their hats and gloves, dresses to their ankles. Everyone covered in the costume of propriety, society, and convention. How many of them held secrets, secrets like Jack, like Ianto?

Ianto was now a murderer. Although he hadn’t pulled the trigger, he did nothing to stop it. Before, he thought being a thief was detestable. What did that make him now? He could never run away from this. If he left the suffocating borders of the city, the images, the gunshots, would still follow him. No life he could live would shield him from what he’d done and seen.

What was he going to do? This was Jack. His boss. You didn’t just walk away from people like this. And worse than that – he was in love with Jack. In love with a murderer.

He’d been so stupid to let himself get wrapped up in all that was the speakeasy scene, all that was Jack. His mind had been throwing out warnings every step of the way, but he’d ignored them. Jack was so dapper, so charming, and Ianto had been so lonely. How had anyone like Jack ever fancied someone as plain and nondescript as himself? Maybe Suzie had been right – but then reality crashed back down.

It didn’t matter what Suzie thought. Suzie was dead.

Suzie was dead, Adam was dead, Dave the piano player he never knew. Jack saved his life when he killed Adam, but would he end up like Dave soon? What guarantee did he have that the same thing wouldn’t happen to him? Or maybe he’d end up like Owen or Gwen – shot or assaulted because of Jack. Collateral damage.

When he reached his apartment, the sun was high in the sky. He reached into his pocket to look at the time, but the watch just reminded him of Jack. Just the feel of it against his fingers made him ache inside. He left it in his trousers when pulled them off, immediately kicking them into an empty corner in his room far away from him, far away from Jack.

The small apartment felt cold and unfamiliar. His bed was unmade, dishes in the tiny sink, dirty clothes in the floor. The room felt like it belonged to someone else. This wasn’t home; home was the Hub, and he couldn’t fathom stepping foot inside there again. He shrugged out of his shirt and tossed it and the tie on the pile of clothes in the floor and fell to the bed.

No matter how he shifted, the bed felt too empty and the pain inside his chest worsened.

*

He floated through the day in the haze of a tunnel, his eyes focused ahead, but his mind swirling around him out of control. He drifted in and out of fits of sleep, his brain exploding with dreams of Jack and Suzie, permanently burning images into his eyes that he wanted to forget. When he finally gave up sleep, he curled into the armchair by the window. The grey street below reeked of death. Then as the after work rush began, life replaced death as hoards of people appeared on the sidewalks as if out of a magician’s trick. The sight of them sickened Ianto.

Hours before he had to be at work, he dressed in the few clothes left in his apartment and joined the masses on the street. With his hands stuffed into his coat, his collar popped against the wind, the cold still penetrated to his core. He drew up his shoulders and stared at the ground, concentrating on the stinging distraction of cold against his skin. He walked among the hoards of people, feeling the pressure against his skin as bodies brushed past him, knocked him aside in their haste, jostled him as if he were discarded trash being kicked beneath their boots. Each shoulder pushing him away, each voice echoing “excuse me” or “move it” drowned out the tumult swirling inside his brain. If he could stay lost in this sea of chaos, maybe he could escape from his own memory.

When he finally stepped inside the Hub, he couldn’t breathe. The whole place inhaled sharply and exhaled a whisper of Jack. He stood in the doorway and stared at the empty dance floor.

“Jones, a bit later than usual,” Owen shouted from behind the bar. “Catching up on beauty sleep?”

Ianto slowly turned his gaze towards Owen. He didn’t speak, just slowly walked behind the bar and began his work.

When Tosh approached him later about singing before her set, he hoarsely barked a “no”, leaving her stunned. He turned away from her sad eyes, back to the bottles of gin. She left without saying anything else. Gwen annoyingly chatted, her incessant words and giggles a thrum in the background of Ianto’s mind. He didn’t hear a word she said, and didn’t know how long she’d been gone when he finally looked up. He didn’t want to talk to anyone, didn’t want to think about them. Most of all, he didn’t want to think about Jack.

But he couldn’t stop himself. Although Ianto kept his eyes down, glued to the floor, glued to the keys when he was playing, he was hyperaware of Jack’s absence. He desperately wanted to see him waltz in, hear his laugh float over the din, but he also felt terrified that Jack may actually show. He never did.

Owen sent him home when the crowd waned after shooting him peculiar glances all night. He didn’t care. He didn’t care about anything anymore.

When he returned home, he went straight to the chair. The night was black, the nearby buildings and street thrown into harsh relief under the orange of the streetlight, the white dots of skyscrapers far away like distant stars. He didn’t bathe, he didn’t shave. He had no appetite. He sat in that chair until his body ached and his limbs tingled from lack of circulation. He welcomed those distractions. They kept his mind from the immense hole he felt inside his chest. They kept his mind from the pain of Jack not showing up tonight. From how much he hated Jack, and how much he wanted him. His body longed to be near Jack while his mind repulsed at the thought. His body ached to be touched by Jack’s hands, but his mind couldn’t ignore how those hands had so callously pulled the trigger.

The longer Ianto thought about Jack, the more his body betrayed him. His mind ignored the images he’d been obsessing over and settled on more pleasant memories – Jack on his knees, mouth wrapped around his cock. Jack lying beside him in bed fisting his cock. Jack’s hand placed firmly on the small of his back as they swayed gently in the dark Hub. His lips, his eyes, his laugh, his chest as it rose and fell in sleep. With one leg draped over the side of the chair, one heel planted firmly on the floor, he grabbed his hard cock and stroked it, wiping away his come afterwards with a discarded shirt on the floor.

He eventually dozed off in the chair, waking sometime in the daylight. Automatically, he changed into the only other suit at his apartment, then walked to the Hub. Owen, Tosh, and Gwen didn’t try talking to him; Tosh got the backup pianist to accompany her. Ianto welcomed the silence. He didn’t want to hear them.

Midway through the night, Jack arrived. Ianto’s entire body tensed, every hair stood on end. He heard the sound of his laughter, the lilt of his voice over the conversations and the music. His voice became a singularity in the Hub, the point of origin for everything surrounding Ianto. He heard it no matter where Jack went. He watched as Jack walked by the bar, his brown boots and the flourish of his coat, could almost feel the heat from his body. Jack spoke to Owen and Ianto’s heart leapt into his throat and he wanted to vomit, from both desire and revulsion.

Just like Ianto wanted, Jack ignored him. The hole inside Ianto’s chest engulfed him.

Owen left early to walk Tosh home, leaving Ianto in charge of the bar. He mechanically fixed drinks, and remained rooted to the same spot, staring at the scratched varnish on the bar counter, until the last patron left and Gwen and Rhys locked up.

Ianto finally lifted his eyes, stared across the dark dance floor. He saw ghosts gliding across the smooth floor, himself in Jack’s arms, warm secure arms holding him, wet breath against his ear, soft lips against his own. He felt Jack’s fingers against his skin like he was standing behind him, and Ianto looked down to see if there were fingerprints branded into his pale arm. When he looked back up, Jack stood silently in a corner, half in shadow.

He locked eyes with Jack in a rush of tumultuous emotion. Ianto fell into those beautiful blue eyes, saw them clearly in the blue-black darkness of night, shining down at him as Jack covered him in bed, staring coldly across the void as Jack pulled the trigger. Ianto turned and walked out the front door.

He didn’t wear his coat as he walked out of the theater. The cold hit him brusquely, sending shivers down all his limbs. He hoped it would freeze out the image of Jack’s eyes burning into his own. He returned to the chair when he got home and remained there all night. If he could have gotten up from the chair, if he could have left the apartment for any reason other than work, he would have disappeared from the city and never returned. He could easily start again somewhere like Chicago, maybe go south to Atlanta where it was hot, or go west to the fields, or even further to California where it was sunny and warm every day.

But every time he tried to gather the resolve to leave everything behind, he felt like he was suffocating. He couldn’t fathom leaving Tosh, or Rhys and Gwen, or even Owen; worse than that, he couldn’t imagine a life without Jack.

At work the next night, he tried to picture a new life, a new job on a homestead somewhere, a new lover in his bed. He pictured the Hub continuing without him, the pulsing crowd of people continuing in their inane existences as they played cards and danced and smoked and fucked in his absence. He glanced at Owen beside him, sliding a teacup across the bar as he flirted with a woman, and imagined a new bartender standing in his place pouring gin fizzes. He looked at the shiny black baby grand and visualized a new piano player behind Tosh; found Gwen among the tables wearing a short fringed frock and an intricate headpiece, her cigarette case around her neck, and envisioned her laughing with a new confidant. Worse, his eyes found Jack in a booth, a woman draped all over him, his hand lost in her hair, and it wasn’t difficult to imagine him moving on, consorting with a string of new admirers, then taking a new lover into his bed night after night. The thought made Ianto flush with fury and despair. He wasn’t sure he could fathom a life where someone else was with Jack, and that terrified him.

Back in the chair, his mind fought with itself until he passed out from fatigue, then when he awoke, it began all over. The bed would have been much more comfortable, but he hated the idea of crawling into a cold bed alone. He didn’t want to curl up underneath the sheets without Jack’s strong, warm body pressed against him.

He loathed himself. Something had to be wrong with him, but he couldn’t fully commit to hating and leaving Jack. Jack was a monster, and eventually would transform him into one, too.

But the longer he sat in that chair, the longer he thought about everything, the longer he was away from Jack, the less he cared about anything that had happened.

When he couldn’t sit anymore, he finally vacated the chair and walked around the apartment. He knew it was time to make a decision; he couldn’t just remain sitting in limbo. Time to become himself again. He bathed and shaved the thin beard on his face; he ate a bit of food he found in his kitchen.

He lay down on the bed and attempted to get a decent night’s rest.

*

He held a gun in his steady fingers, the cold metal heavy but secure. Jack’s blue eyes bore into his own as he pressed the tip of the barrel against Jack’s temple. He pulled the hammer back with a loud click that echoed in the silent room.

He pulled the trigger, but Jack had disappeared and Ianto was watching from across the room as Adam pushed Jack to his knees, then kicked him in the stomach, then the face. Ianto tried to run to stop Adam, but his feet had melted into the floor and he couldn’t move. He raised the gun and aimed it at Adam, but when he pulled the trigger, the gun wasn’t a gun at all but made of licorice. Jack now lay on the floor, bleeding and moaning, and Adam aimed a gun at his head. As Adam pulled the trigger, Ianto appeared between Jack and the gun, but it didn’t matter. The bullet passed straight through Ianto and into Jack’s temple, the back of his head gone in a mess of blood and skull.

“Jack!” Ianto screamed as he jerked awake, his entire body drenched in sweat. He rolled over, reaching for Jack, and found nothing but an empty bed. The ache in his chest and the emptiness he felt was more than he could handle. He curled into a ball and tried to calm his uneven breathing. It was the first time he’d called out Jack’s name after a nightmare that Jack hadn’t been there.

In that moment, Ianto knew what he had to do.

*

The New York night was freezing. It was a little after four, and the streets were empty. He was trembling from nerves and the cold, and his breathing had still not returned to normal. The walk didn’t take Ianto long as he hurried under the orange glow of the streetlights. When he reached the theater, he let himself in and ran through the halls, taking the stairs two at a time. At the door to Jack’s apartment, he stopped and hesitated. A split second decision – which life to choose? - and then he lifted his hand and banged on the door.

Impatiently, he waited and periodically knocked again. Finally, he heard the lock inside click and his heart leapt into his throat. He hadn’t entertained the notion that perhaps Jack didn’t want him anymore. Maybe the blonde from earlier was lying in his bed, in Ianto’s place. Suddenly, he was scared. Jack opened the door, wearing a white undershirt and wrinkled trousers, his hair messy from sleep. He looked at Ianto in surprise, and the world stopped as they stared at each other across the threshold. Ianto hadn’t been sure if he should have come back, but looking at Jack standing before him, he knew he couldn’t imagine any life without him. Ianto flung himself across the distance between them, wrapping his arms around Jack’s neck and kissing him roughly.

Jack paused for only a second – a second when Ianto’s worst fears began to be realized – then he hungrily returned Ianto’s kiss and kicked the door shut with his bare foot. He pushed Ianto back against the door while Ianto’s hands covered every inch of Jack’s face they could touch. Then Ianto pulled away to breathe and looked at Jack.

“I’m sorry,” he exhaled.

“No, I’m sorry, Ianto,” Jack whispered back, holding Ianto’s face between his hands. “I’m so sorry.”

Ianto caught Jack’s lips again, words failing him. Instead, he tried to bleed every word, every thought, every emotion into Jack through his kiss. Jack seemed to understand; his arms, body, and mouth answered Ianto with every passing second. Ianto wrapped his arms around Jack, pulling him close, and buried his face in Jack’s shoulder. He just wanted to feel Jack’s arms around him, be surrounded by his smell, have Jack’s warmth transfer and spread throughout his own body. Jack held Ianto silently, his embrace strong and sure. Then without a word, Jack took Ianto’s hand and led him to the bed.

Peacefully lulled by the comforting thump of Jack’s heartbeat, Ianto fell asleep before Jack pulled the blankets around them.

*

When Ianto woke, the sun was shining through the curtains. He moved, and to his surprise, an arm was draped across his waist. He looked over and saw Jack still asleep beside him. As carefully as he could, he rolled over to face Jack. It was rare that he woke with Jack still in the apartment, let alone asleep. He took full advantage of the moment.

Jack was on his stomach, his face towards Ianto. His mouth hung open slightly, his hair messy across his forehead, his eyelashes fanning across light skin. Ianto watched as Jack’s shoulders rose and fell ever so lightly with each breath. Jack’s arm across his side was a heavy, solid weight anchoring him to the moment.

After a few minutes, Jack’s eyes slowly began to blink open. “Do you watch me often?” Jack asked, voice heavy with sleep. His fingers slid underneath Ianto’s shirt and scratched gently against his back.

“You’re usually gone when I wake up,” Ianto answered, embarrassed.

“I watch you sometimes,” Jack said. “Especially after you have nightmares.” Jack lifted his head, turned it, and rubbed his eyes with his other hand. “What were you thinking just then?” he asked when he laid his head back onto the pillow.

“Honestly?” Jack nodded. “I was thinking that I couldn’t believe that I was lying in bed with you after everything that had happened.”

“Do you wish you were somewhere else?”

“No,” Ianto said. “Not at all. But for a few days, I thought this was all over. I wanted it to be over. I almost left.”

“Why didn’t you?”

Ianto sighed, then reached a hand out and laid it on Jack’s bare shoulder. He stared at his hand as he rubbed circles with his thumb. “I couldn’t. I wanted to leave you, New York, this life – everything. But something wouldn’t let me. No matter how much I wanted to believe you were a monster for what you’d done, I just couldn’t.”

“I’ve done a lot of things I’m not proud of, Ianto,” Jack started. He pushed and angled himself until he was sitting, and Ianto did the same. “And I’ll do a lot more, I’m sure. This isn’t a pretty life. People come into the Hub with some misguided fantasy that the underground speakeasy scene is all glitz and glamour, something exciting so they can escape from their mundane lives for a few hours. We perpetuate the fantasy,” Jack grinned, “mainly because it’s good for business.” He sighed. “The realities of my life are far less exciting and glamorous.” He ran a hand through Ianto’s hair. “I don’t just kill people because I enjoy it. There are enough people who do that in this city. I don’t want to kill people, but I would keep killing Suzie if I had to. She would have eventually killed me, or worse, one of you. Every time I think of what could have happened to Owen…or what could have happened to Gwen, Tosh, Rhys…you…” He cupped Ianto’s cheek, ran his thumb across his cheekbone. “I am sorry about the other night.”

“Jack, you have nothing to be sorry about.”

“I do. I never should have pulled you into that, cast my sins upon you. My blood is on your hands now.”

“I should never have abandoned you,” Ianto said. “For that, I am sorry.”

“Everyone deals with death and murder in their own way. I expected no less of you. You don’t have to be iron man all the time.” Jack smiled.

“I expect more from myself. I let you down, and I let myself down.”

Jack shook his head. “I don’t care, really.”

Ianto lowered his eyes and picked at a spot on the bedspread. “I saw you with that blonde woman at the Hub. I thought you might never want to see me again, that you might not want me back.”

Jack cupped Ianto’s face gently. “I never let you go,” Jack said quietly. “Haven’t you figured it out yet?”

“What?” Ianto asked, raising his eyes.

“That I love you, Ianto Jones.” Jack smiled. “Don’t look so surprised. I thought it was pretty obvious.”

“Nothing with you is obvious, Jack.”

“You’re one to talk.”

“Then let me be clear,” Ianto said. “I love you, too.”

“Good,” Jack said, leaning in with a grin, “I’m glad we’re both clear.” He kissed Ianto, fully and unhurried. Ianto relaxed as Jack’s tongue explored his mouth, gliding across his teeth, his tongue, a sensitive spot on the inside of his cheek. Slowly, Jack leaned closer to Ianto and pressed him back against the pillow, shifting more and more so that when Ianto was completely down, Jack was on top of him.

Jack began sliding against Ianto, his half-erect cock pressing into Ianto’s groin. Ianto had never wanted Jack as much as he wanted him right that minute, his cock hardening quickly as Jack worried a spot on his neck. His hands threaded into Jack’s messy hair as his legs fell open, Jack shifting his weight between them comfortably. His body was so warm against his own, Jack’s breath sending shivers down his spine as his breath ghosted over the spot his mouth just was. Every place Jack touched tingled, his skin a haphazard pattern of sensation.

“Ianto,” Jack breathed against his skin, deft fingers quickly unbuttoning his shirt, “I want you.”

“I want you, too,” Ianto answered, a bit embarrassed by just how much he wanted Jack. Jack pushed Ianto’s shirt off his shoulders, and Ianto lifted as Jack tugged it off his arms. Ianto caught his mouth before dropping back onto the bed.

“I don’t know if you understand me,” Jack said, pausing as he looked down at Ianto seriously. “I want you. In every possible way. I want to be inside you.”

Ianto’s brain caught up with his body. His eyes widened. “Oh.”

Jack shook his head. “If you’re not comfortable, just forget it. What we’ve been doing is fine – “

Ianto covered Jack’s mouth with his hand. “I want you inside me,” Ianto said. “I’m just a little nervous.”

“Then we’ll go slow.” Jack leaned down and kissed him, then slowly kissed down Ianto’s chest and belly. He began removing Ianto’s trousers, and Ianto wished he’d removed his clothes before falling asleep. But Jack’s hands were deft and swift, and within a few moments, Ianto was lying naked. Ianto looked up at Jack just as his underwear fell to the floor.

Now that they were both naked, Ianto ached with anticipation, but he was also nervous. He wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Jack reached under the bed and pulled out a small container, and then he pushed Ianto’s legs open wider.

“I’m going to go slow,” Jack said again.

“I trust you,” Ianto said, eyes staring at the ceiling. Jack kissed the inside of his thigh.

Ianto felt slippery fingers grip his cock and wrap around it, pumping a few times. Ianto was scared he was going to come before the exciting bits happened, but then Jack removed his hand, and he took a deep breath. Jack pushed his legs even wider, and then Ianto felt a finger slide between his cheeks and touch his opening. His cock twitched in response, and Jack placed a kiss on the tip.

Jack’s finger slowly circled his opening, and just as Ianto got used to the sensation, he slipped one finger inside. Ianto felt a small twinge of pain; it felt odd, but the longer Jack moved his finger around, the more Ianto got used to the sensation and began to enjoy it. Then Jack added another finger, and this time it hurt more, and Ianto drew a sudden breath. But Jack was patient and slow, and Ianto realized it must be excruciating for Jack to take so long. It was excruciating for him even though it was still a bit uncomfortable.

Finally, after he had added yet another finger, Jack removed his fingers and moved up Ianto’s body, kissing him and pressing his hard cock against Ianto’s. Ianto bucked against Jack, the contact of Jack’s hot cock against his own nearly driving him insane. He wanted to feel something, and he suddenly felt the absence of Jack’s fingers and wanted them back inside.

Jack reached between them and grabbed both their cocks, slowly fisting them as his tongue fought for purchase in his mouth.

“Jack,” Ianto mumbled around his tongue, trying desperately to talk without losing contact with Jack’s tongue, “please.”

“Are you sure you’re ready?” Jack asked, kissing across Ianto’s cheek and ear.

“Yes.”

Jack kissed his mouth again before taking one of Ianto’s legs and hooking it over his shoulder. He looked at Ianto, his eyes bright with desire. “Remember to breathe,” he instructed, and Ianto nodded his head. Jack shifted and Ianto felt the tip of Jack’s cock against his entrance, and he was suddenly nervous again. But then he caught Jack’s eyes, and everything but his desire and need for Jack melted away.

Jack pushed forward, slowly pushing against the ring of muscle, and Ianto’s eyes began to water. He blinked and breathed, just like Jack said, and some of the pain subsided. And then Jack was inside him, and sliding deeper with every second, and it burned as Jack stretched him, and he wanted to pull away, but he didn’t want Jack out of him. He breathed and Jack paused, his thumb brushing tenderly against Ianto’s cheek. The longer they waited, the more Ianto’s body adjusted and relaxed.

“You’re lovely like this,” Jack said, “face all flushed, lips swollen, with your ‘fuck-me’ eyes.” Jack’s words went straight to Ianto’s cock and he jerked his hips, causing Jack’s cock to go just a bit deeper. Surprisingly, it didn’t hurt as bad as before.

“Fuck me, Jack,” Ianto said. The look that passed over Jack’s face was indescribable, and Ianto wanted to make that look appear on his face over and over again; Jack slowly and deliberately finished pushing inside Ianto, his entire body shaking as he waited for Ianto to adjust. Jack slid his hand across Ianto’s shoulder, down his arm, and picked up his hand, threading their fingers together. Ianto felt like he was going to explode from the inside out. Jack filled him completely, and although it was painful, it was also giving way to pleasure. He nodded, and Jack slid out and back into him, setting up a slow rhythm. The longer Jack fucked him, the more used to the feeling his body got, and he found himself moving with Jack.

After a few minutes, Jack’s thrusts began to come faster, and soft moans escaped Ianto’s lips. Every pore in his body exploded with pleasure each time Jack thrust into him. His leg slid off Jack’s slick shoulder, and he braced his heels on the bed, while Jack leaned closer and kissed him. He moved their still entwined fingers above Ianto’s head, holding himself up. The angle of Jack’s movements felt different, and his cock was trapped between their bodies. His hand went to grab, but Jack swatted Ianto’s hand away and wrapped the fingers of his free hand around it. Jack’s hand was unable to move much between their bellies, his fingers uncoordinated on his cock, but the sensation combined with Jack inside him was too much. Ianto came, his entire body tensing and releasing as it was consumed by Jack. Ianto’s body sagged into the bed as he began coming down from his orgasm, his breathing quick and body covered in sweat. Jack whispered, “turn over” as he helped Ianto flip over onto his knees. Ianto’s entire body was trembling, and Jack held onto Ianto with an arm around his waist. Although he’d just come, it felt good when Jack thrust his cock back inside. Ianto liked the feel of Jack inside him, and never wanted it to end. Jack placed a kiss to the back of Ianto’s neck and gripped Ianto’s hip roughly, fingers digging deeply into his flesh, and his thrusts came fast and erratic. Then he halted as he came, and they both collapsed on the bed.

They remained like that for a few moments, their breathing slowly returning to normal. Jack placed kisses across Ianto’s neck and shoulders, and Ianto smiled against the pillow.

Later, Ianto lay against Jack’s chest, dozing. Jack’s arm was around Ianto, his fingers absently playing with Ianto’s hair. Jack said something, but Ianto didn’t hear it. He was content, warm, sated, and exhausted. He reluctantly opened his eyes. “Hmm?”

“I think I would make a good sheep farmer,” Jack repeated.

Ianto smiled and snuggled closer to Jack, closing his eyes. “Our next life perhaps.”

“You’ll get that life eventually, Ianto,” Jack whispered. “I promise.”

*

The Hub was packed. The band was in full swing, brass loud against Ianto’s eardrums. Tosh’s vocals could barely be heard over the music. The people on the dance floor didn’t care; seemed every floorflusher in New York was in the speakeasy tonight. The floor had been full since the doors opened.

Owen and Ianto could barely keep up with the drink orders. Owen said if business kept up like it was tonight, they might have to hire another bartender, especially if Ianto one day decided to become a full-time lounge act. Ianto knew that day would never come; he enjoyed tending bar too much. He’d just never tell Owen that.

Gwen danced her way to the bar and set the list of drink orders down. Ianto picked it up and started filling them while she stood and danced. One of the regular patrons came by and started dancing with her. She laughed and easily out danced him.

“Get hot!” Owen yelled, laughing. “Get hot, doll!”

Gwen grabbed the man’s hand and showed him a few dance moves, and by the time Owen and Ianto had fixed all the drinks, the man wasn’t half bad. He kissed her on the cheek and disappeared into the throng.

“You should start charging,” Ianto said as she carefully placed the cups on a tray. “You could make a killing.”

“Don’t give her any ideas, Jones.”

She pondered it. “Not a bad idea, Ianto. Five cents a dance?”

“Five cents to dance with you? That’s highway robbery!” Owen yelled. Gwen tossed an olive at his head, winked at Ianto, and skillfully dodged everything in her path as she moved toward her table.

Over to the side, Ianto heard a commotion. He saw Rhys rush towards a gathering crowd, and since Owen was in the middle of completing an order, Ianto quickly pushed through the onlookers. Two men were yelling. Rhys grabbed one of them under the arms and was dragging him away when the other man pulled out a gun. Ianto was too far away to intervene, but the man was extremely drunk and his shot landed high on the wall a foot above everyone’s head. The music didn’t even slow, but the shock of the crowd allowed Ianto a chance to push through and tackle the man to the ground. Rhys grabbed him and dragged him out by his collar. Ianto thought they were doing pretty good; that made the second bullet hole in the Hub. It actually looked good.

Ianto dusted off his trousers and started dispersing the crowd. When he surveyed the room, he found Jack watching him from a booth near the stage. Jack grinned, his female companion saying something in his ear that he was ignoring. Ianto smiled back, and Jack winked.

The music was loud, the alcohol flowed, a thick cloud of smoke hung in the air. Gwen coyly picked up a dropped cigarette beside a table of young sailors, Tosh’s voice was a pleasant hum in the background, and Owen flirted with a pretty brunette at the bar. Rhys was back at the door, arguing with a young girl trying to get in.

Just another day, Ianto thought.

He walked back behind the bar, pulled out a bottle of gin, and began to pour.

-fin