Part Two - Jack
Jack stared at the file before him, his breath stuck in his throat. He'd returned to Cardiff that morning, and after a tense team meeting, he had retreated to his office alone to recover, where he spent several hours reviewing the team's cases from when he'd been away. They'd all started to blur together, one into another. Until this one. This one made him stop and sit up. This one made him scared and angry and proud and relieved all at the same time. Once his hands stopped shaking, he went to the door and glanced around the Hub for the subject of the report.
"Ianto?" he called, embarrassed to hear his voice crack. Everyone glanced up at him, as if they all knew exactly what he was going to ask about. Because then they all turned to look at Ianto with various expressions of support. "My office, please?"
Ianto simply nodded and saved whatever he was working on at his computer. Jack thought that Owen might have mouthed 'Good luck, mate,' as Ianto walked by. He was pretty sure Gwen offered a watery smile, and positive that Tosh reached out and brushed her fingers along Ianto's arm.
Ianto, for his part, looked as composed as he always did, though Jack thought the other man's eyes betrayed the slightest hint of trepidation. Ianto clearly knew what report Jack had read and was probably expecting the worst. Given the situation and the numerous factors for which Jack blamed himself, he knew he couldn't be hard on Ianto. If he were honest, he was too relieved to be angry. The others might be expecting him to tear Ianto a new one for what was in that report, but all he really wanted to do was to take the Welshman downstairs and never let him go.
"You've caught up, then," Ianto started, standing before Jack's desk with hands tucked behind his back.
"And you left the best for last," Jack replied. He motioned Ianto to sit down, hating that Ianto looked so stiff and formal. Glancing out the window, he saw the others watching them and moved to close the blinds. They could think what they wanted.
Ianto watched him with a small sad smile. "Going to be that bad, huh?" he asked, and Jack shook his head.
"That depends. I'd like to hear it from you directly, not read a half dozen reports from other people." He sat down and gestured at the folder in front of him. "I can't figure out if the official version makes it sounds better or worse than it actually was."
"I'm still trying to figure that out for myself, sir," Ianto murmured.
"Drop the sir," said Jack, not wanting to hide behind formality. "It's just us."
"It's official Torchwood business," Ianto pointed out. Jack let his head fall.
"It's me worried about you, and not as an employee. Please. Tell me what happened."
Ianto appeared to be studying him, as if weighing his options and carefully planning what he wanted to say. To Jack's relief, Ianto finally nodded and sat back, taking a deep breath. His first words were not quite what Jack expected.
"You left us again, Jack."
Jack tried not to flinch, but accepted it and nodded. "I had to. I left a message. And I stayed in contact." Which was all true. He'd left after being framed for the murder of George Wilson. He'd gone to the man intending to question him about his knowledge of the Committee. Instead he'd found out that Wilson had made it all up…at the subtle urging of the Committee themselves, who had then killed both him and Jack. He'd not yet told the team everything about that night, not even Ianto, but he knew he had to, and soon. Keeping secrets had fractured them too many times already.
"You did and we were glad for that at least. Tosh was able to figure out you'd been framed fairly quickly, you know." Ianto seemed distant, as if he were holding onto his resentment even though he didn't want to.
"I know," Jack said. "And I'm sorry I stayed away. But I was following leads and I didn't want to—"
Ianto waved him off. "It's fine, Jack. You did what you had to do. Just like we did what we had to do."
"You mean you did what you had to do," Jack said softly, starting to understand. Ianto had been alone on the Skypuncher, and Jack couldn't blame the other man for being upset with Jack, for feeling abandoned.
"I did and I won't apologize for it," Ianto snapped uncharacteristically. He stood and started pacing, also uncharacteristic, a clear sign of agitation. Jack thought he saw the slightest limp from Ianto's leg injury, something that he hadn't noticed earlier. "You left us in the dark again, Jack. You'd barely told the team about this great conspiracy of yours before you disappeared right into the thick of it."
"I was being framed for murder!" Jack exclaimed. "I was trying to protect the rest of you." He knew he shouldn't feel defensive, but he couldn't help it. It had not been an easy six weeks.
"I know that!" said Ianto. "But to be honest, it didn't look good. It didn't look good at all."
Jack was quiet, the implication clear and sickening. "You didn't think…you didn't think I'd killed him? That I'd killed him and run, did you?"
"I didn't," said Ianto, stopping to face Jack with his hands on his hips. "And I managed to convince anyone who asked that you were innocent. As for the others…I think the team believed in you, but they couldn't believe in the conspiracy. It was too much and you gave them too little. They were confused."
"I—" Jack wasn't sure what to say, and stayed silent. Ianto continued.
"They kept the faith, Jack, but it was sorely tested. You can't keep secrets and continue running off and still expect us to fall into step behind you, following blindly. We worked hard while you were gone before, and we've had to adjust to you being back, still keeping secrets. We can't keep doing that, over and over. We need to know things, to understand, if we're going to maintain our integrity and effectiveness as a team."
Jack stared at him in astonishment. Ianto had long been speaking his mind to Jack, particularly in private, but this was something completely different. This was a man who was confidently standing up for himself and for the team, unerringly pinpointing Jack's mistakes and calling him on it. Jack had been gone with the Doctor for months and had returned to find Ianto had changed. This time it had only been six weeks, and yet the change seemed even greater.
"I…I don't know what to say," he said quietly. "I'm sorry. I guess I didn't think it through. I wanted to protect the rest of you, and going underground seemed the best way to do that as well as investigate off the radar. I didn't think I'd be making it worse."
"You usually don't think about those things," Ianto murmured, shaking his head with what Jack hoped was exasperation tinged with the faintest hint of fondness. "And it wasn't worse, not really. I'm only telling you what's not in the reports. It was hard to watch you run again, even if we knew why this time."
"I'm sorry," Jack whispered again. Ianto sighed and sat down again.
"It was rubbish timing, too. Sending Tommy back was like poking the Rift with a big stick, and we were running around for weeks. I think between the perceived lack of trust and the sudden influx of Weevils and Rift junk, the rest of the team were simply not willing to buy into the conspiracy case. They didn't feel it was important enough, and since you'd run off to handle it, they figured you'd handle it."
"So when the threat to the SkyPuncher came to your attention, they didn't listen as well as they should have?" asked Jack. Ianto blew out a breath and nodded.
"They didn't listen much at all," he said quietly. "They…well, they said a lot of things I'd rather not repeat. It all came down to focusing on what was going on here and now in Cardiff, not some invisible threat that you had decided to chase down on your own."
Jack stood and came around to the desk to stand in front of Ianto. He held out his hand and was relieved when Ianto took it. Jack led them to the small sofa in his office, sitting down next to Ianto and turning toward him. He hated having the desk between them when he wanted to reach out and physically support the other man. He suspected he'd be drawing support from Ianto as well.
"I'm sorry," he said yet again. "I wish they had listened to you. They should have believed you."
"Sometimes I'm still just the teaboy," Ianto replied bitterly. "Good for coffee and filing."
Jack placed his hand on Ianto's leg and squeezed tight. "No, that's not true and you know it. Look at what you did up there. You survived. You saved lives. That's far more than coffee and filing."
Ianto groaned and let his head fall back against the sofa, almost hitting it on the wall. "I messed up, Jack. From the very beginning."
Jack sat up straighter and took on a more formal tone, hoping to help Ianto analyze it rationally and see that he hadn't failed at all. "How so?"
Ianto shrugged. "I could have told them more—about George Wilson's daughter, about the Committee. But I didn't. I didn't want to betray your confidence, and I wasn't sure it would matter anyway. I figured they'd give me a hard time for knowing. They did give me a hard time for knowing."
"What do you mean?" asked Jack. "How?"
"Owen decided it was all pillow talk," Ianto answered, refusing to look at Jack. Jack knew the doctor had given Ianto a hard time about his relationship with Jack before, and he wondered if he'd need to have words with Owen before Ianto shot the doctor again.
"He's said it himself, he's a twat sometimes," said Jack. He paused, wondering if he should ask the next question or leave it alone. Yet as both Ianto's boss and his partner, Jack wanted to understand Ianto's motivations and actions. "Why else didn't you tell them?"
Ianto offered a twisted smile, bitter and sad. "I wanted them to believe me, and not because I'm sleeping with you. To trust me. To like me." He was whispering by the end, until he slumped forward with his elbows to his knees, avoiding Jack's sorrowful gaze.
It had been almost a year since they had discovered Ianto's cybernized girlfriend in the basement of the Hub, and yet her ghost still haunted everything aspect of Ianto's life. Ianto may have found some type of peace in Jack's bed, may have even agreed to more for reasons Jack would never completely understand, yet he still carried the heartbreak and loss of Lisa's death on his shoulders, along with the guilt of betraying Jack and the rest of the team. It had taken time for them all to heal, but Jack had thought they'd moved past it long ago. Particularly when he'd been gone with the Doctor; it was Jack's understanding that Ianto had stepped up, not only running the administrative side of Torchwood from behind the scenes, but going out on the front lines as a field agent more and more. He'd grown stronger, more confident, integral to both Jack and Torchwood Three, yet now it seemed as if things had regressed, all because of this conspiracy Jack had dragged him into.
Which meant that once again it was Jack's fault. He took a deep breath and resisted the urge to pull Ianto into a bone crushing embrace.
"You said it yourself, it was more to do with me than you," Jack said. Ianto glanced up at him, his eyes hooded. "They didn't believe in me because I didn't give them anything to believe in. It's not your fault they didn't believe you, then. It had nothing to do with you."
Ianto watched him a bit longer before sitting back again. "It doesn't matter," he said in that way that clearly meant it did but that they were done talking about it and he was ready to move on. Jack didn't want to move on, but this had been Ianto's experience, so he decided to let the Welshman continue. He had little doubt it would come up again, however.
"I knew it was you, by the way," Ianto said, offering a wry smile. "That got the information to me. I've got some good contacts and connections, but none like Sienna."
Jack smirked. "She's a stunner, all right."
Ianto laughed for the first time. "Brilliant and clever, too. We should think about recruiting her."
A strange alarm went off in Jack's mind. He didn't want anyone else on his team, he liked them as they were. He certainly didn't want someone as gorgeous as his alien contact to compete with. And it was clear from the look on Ianto's face that he'd found Sienna more than stunning and brilliant. No, Jack would have to watch how he managed his contacts from now on; he'd put Ianto in contact with Martyn instead.
"So when the others didn't take the information she gave you seriously, that's when you decided to act on your own?"
"I looked into by myself, yeah. I was certain Ephraim Salt knew something about the Committee, and if there was going to be some sort of attack on the SkyPuncher, I figured I could kill two birds with the same stone, proverbially speaking, by getting on board. Find out what he knew and try to stop anything from happening. All in theory, of course."
"Did he know anything?" Jack asked. "I never spoke with him about it, and I sensed a lot of self redacting in your write up."
Ianto smirked and pulled a data stick from his inside pocket. "Good eye, sir. We didn't have long to talk, but he did give me this." He handed it to Jack and seemed to breath a sigh of relief, as if glad to be able to share it, or pass it on.
"Have you looked at it?" asked Jack. Ianto shook his head, somehow managing to look both sheepish and frustrated.
"It's heavily encrypted. I've never seen anything like it and the mainframe couldn't break it on her own."
"Did you ask Tosh?"
"No," said Ianto. "I wasn't sure how much you wanted the others involved. When you didn't share what you'd told me, I thought that perhaps it was like Flat Holm. For administrative eyes and ears only."
Jack frowned. Sometimes Ianto's sense of loyalty was too much for Jack; he didn't deserve it. Then again, he had told Ianto in confidence, and he could understand why Ianto would keep that confidence. Yet he had shared his thoughts with Ianto not only as the administrator of Torchwood Three, but as Jack's friend and lover. Jack trusted Ianto as his employee but also as his partner outside of work. There was such a blurred line between the two, however, that sometimes it was hard to know which was which.
"All right," said Jack. "Let's bring her in on it. She can keep it to herself while she tries to crack it. And she'll have our back."
Ianto raised an eyebrow. "She'll have our back if…" He trailed off with an unasked question.
"If something happens," Jack replied, hating to be evasive, but there were so many things that could go wrong, it was almost better that he kept it general.
"You mean, if you leave again," Ianto replied. He let his eyes slip shut and laid his head down again. "I don't know if I can keep doing this," he whispered.
"I'm not planning on going anywhere," Jack told him, reaching out for his hand and squeezing it. "But if I happen to get shot and framed for murder again then I might have to. And I will let you know, like I did this time. I promise."
"That's not what I meant," Ianto replied, sitting up. "But that's good to know. I think the others would appreciate hearing it as well. Was there anything else you wanted to know about the report?"
Jack frowned, confused. "Yes, but it can wait. What did you mean, that you can't keep doing this?" Ianto didn't answer, so Jack continued. "If it's the investigation, I understand. I know you hate keeping secrets. I can bring Tosh in all the way if—"
"No," said Ianto sharply, shaking his head. "Don't put her in danger. Not because of me."
"Not because of you?" asked Jack. "I don't understand."
"And I don't want to talk about it. Let's just…just forget I said anything, that it ever happened, any of it. Let's go back to the way things were, before you left."
Jack studied Ianto's face…the set of his jaw, the look of hurt and disappointment in his eyes, the tension in his shoulders radiating out to clenched fists. And suddenly he understood. "Oh. You mean…"
Ianto stood and walked away from the sofa.
"You mean us," Jack said quietly. "You mean the way things were before I left with the Doctor."
Ianto turned and leaned against Jack's desk, arms crossed over his chest. He'd put distance between them and closed himself off physically, the meaning clear. "It might be for the best, all things considered."
"All things considered?" Jack demanded, standing up and moving toward him. "Like what, this case? I don't want this case get in the way of us!"
"Well, it is," snapped Ianto. "And I don't see it going away."
"So you really want to go back to…to what…" Jack stuttered. "I wouldn't even know how to go back to what we were."
"That's because we weren't anything, Jack," said Ianto. "We had a good time in bed that took the edge off lonely nights. Maybe that's all we're supposed to be."
"But I…I thought…" Jack trailed off, trying to think of what had gone wrong. Had his unexpected trip really caused such a problem that Ianto didn't want anything to do with him anymore, aside from a hot shag now and then? It didn't seem in character for the Welshman, and it definitely wasn't what Jack wanted. Jack wasn't good at talking about things like feelings and relationships, but he could when he had to, and he knew he had to say something or he'd lose everything.
"I know you still don't believe me when I said I came back for you," Jack started. "But I came back for you more than anyone else. I thought about you while I was gone more than anyone else. I want to be with you more than anyone else. And not only quick shags around the Hub on lonely nights. I asked you on a date because that's what I want. Going out together, having dinner together, spending time with each other and getting to know one another." Jack took a deep breath to finish his speech. "And I thought you wanted that too. You said yes. I had a great time on our first date, and our second, and even the third with that Weevil. I thought things were going well."
Ianto was staring at his shoes. "They were, Jack," he said, sounding weary. "And then you swanned off again. How much am I supposed to take? How many times can I watch you run before…before you don't come back? How long do I wait next time?"
"I would never keep doing that to you," Jack whispered fiercely, stepping close and reaching out to Ianto. "Please believe me. I will always come back. I don't want to hurt you."
"I know you don't want to, Jack," said Ianto. "That doesn't mean you won't."
"But isn't that what life is all about?" Jack asked. "Making connections and finding that special person and taking the risk? Ianto, I know I'll get hurt someday. I've lived for over a hundred years, always losing the people I care about, but I still don't want to be alone. I want to be with you."
Ianto shook his head slowly. "No one wants to be alone, Jack."
"That's why we're perfect for each other!" Jack took another step and was relieved when Ianto let him wrap his arms around Ianto's waist. "I won't leave again. But if I have to, maybe you should come with me. It might keep you from sneaking on board doomed spaceships."
"I don't plan on doing that again anytime soon," Ianto murmured, with a small laugh through his nose.
Jack reached up to brush his thumb across Ianto's jaw. "I'm glad," he said softly. "You took an awful risk going up there on your own."
"I had to," Ianto replied, immediately growing tense and defensive. Jack kissed him, quick and light, hoping to soothe him.
"I know. I understand now." He took a chance and laid his forehead against Ianto's, treasuring the closeness he'd missed after so many weeks away. "When I first saw the file, I was angry, because I was so scared. Now… I'm so proud of you, Ianto. Thank you."
Ianto gave him a skeptical look. "For what? Almost getting killed?"
"For believing in me," said Jack. "And for doing something even when the others wouldn't. I suppose in a way that's why I told you. Because I trust you. I believe in you."
"Jack…" Ianto started, and Jack stopped him with a kiss, longer this time.
"If this case is really too much, I understand," Jack told him. "But the other things…don't…I…" He blew out a breath in frustration. "We can work it out. Please let me try."
Ianto gazed into his eyes for so long, Jack wondered if the other man was trying to think of how to let him down easily. Jack feared the worst until the smallest of nods from Ianto made his shoulders sag in relief. He surged forward to kiss the life from the man before him, but Ianto pulled back with a small smile.
"We're at work, you know," he pointed out, the slightest hint of teasing in his voice. Jack shrugged.
"They think you're getting a bollocking," Jack replied. "Not this." He leaned forward until his lips connected with Ianto, who returned the kiss until Jack stepped back, leaving them both slightly breathless.
"See, not so bad, right?"
Ianto appeared to think about it. "Not so bad, no. Could be better." Jack pretended to be hurt.
"Let me take you to dinner tonight, and dessert will be better than you can possibly imagine."
"I'll hold you to it," Ianto murmured as he pushed off the desk and started toward the door. "And the new tapas restaurant in Roath Park is rumored to be good."
"There's a a new tapas restaurant in Roath Park?" asked Jack.
"Opened while you were gone," Ianto replied casually. "Thought about checking it out with Sienna."
Jack growled and Ianto smirked. "I'll call them right now," Jack said, turning toward the phone on his desk. "Er, what's it called?"
"I'll take care of it," Ianto replied with a laugh that lightened Jack's heart. "You make sure you're ready. Seven o'clock all right?"
Jack nodded. "If it's quiet, maybe we can get a drink before hand, yeah? Talk some more?"
Before he left, Jack had one more question. Well, he had a hundred questions, but one that really mattered right then. "Ianto?"
Jack swallowed, still thrown by Ianto's ability to switch from casual to formal in the space of mere seconds. "How are you? And no bullshit answer this time."
Ianto opened and closed his mouth, then sighed. "I'm all right, Jack. Really, I am."
"Your leg?" Jack asked.
"Stiff, sore, easily tired. Nothing that won't heal, except a nice scar."
"What about…" Jack tapped his temple, and Ianto rolled his eyes.
"You almost died," Jack pointed out.
"Been there, done that," Ianto parried back. "Now I can add 'parachuted out of a falling spaceship' to my CV."
"This was different."
Ianto shook his head with a laugh. "Not really. And…well, I wasn't alone. I think that made it easier. I still wake up and feel like I'm falling some nights. I don't think I'll want to watch any zombie movies in the near future. And I'm not sure I'll rush to book tickets on the next commercial spaceflight in spite of the amazing view."
"But...?" asked Jack, sensing there was more.
"But nothing. That's all. It is what it is. We deal with it and move on."
"And what about the woman who helped you? Have you been in touch with her?" Jack was very curious about the call center representative who had stayed on the line with Ianto for so long. He wanted to thank her personally, for one, but he was also concerned about the potential security threat. The file indicated an extremely intelligent woman who had made connections that could be potentially problematic.
"Several times," answered Ianto, a genuine smile on his face. Jack knew strong bonds were often formed in life and death situations and sensed this was one of them. "She's doing well. I think UNIT is keeping an eye on her to make sure she's safe. She did help foil a dastardly plot to blow up part of Ephraim Salt's empire, after all."
"Is she?" asked Jack. "Safe?"
"She's safe, yes. And she was credited with saving everyone in the building by pulling the fire alarm for evacuation. She's a local hero."
Jack agreed. The woman had reacted quickly in pulling the fire alarm, and had done even better in throwing her headset into the sand pit. He hated to bring it up, as he was fairly certain Ianto would have considered it already, but Jack wanted to hear it for himself, to be sure.
"Is she a security threat? She knows quite a lot about us now."
"No," said Ianto, his conviction clear. "She's not a threat. She's far too aware of the danger to her family if she were to become one." Ianto paused in that way that Jack knew there was more.
"What aren't you saying?"
"We're monitoring her, as best as we can from the other side of the world," Ianto replied. "Phones, email, everything. I hate it, but I understand the necessity. Which was part of the reason why…" he trailed off, letting his eyes slip closed with a small smile. "I made sure her family was taken care of. Financially. And I've got extra people watching her for now."
Jack nodded, not surprised whatsoever. Ianto had a compassionate, loyal heart, and it was only natural that he would want to take care of the woman who had helped save his life. She probably wouldn't have to work for the rest of her life, and Jack suspected that her children would be well off as well. He only hoped that Zeynep and her family were indeed safe from both the government and the Committee.
"Understandable," Jack said. "I'm glad. I'm…thankful she stayed on the phone, that she knew what she did, that she helped you survive up there…" He trailed off, almost overcome by emotion at the thought of Ianto going through it all alone. Fortunately, Ianto did not appear to notice.
"It was the least I could do for her. I asked her to die, and she was willing to give up her life, all because of me. She's a remarkable woman with a lovely family. They deserve it."
Jack smiled. "It sounds like it. Maybe I'll get to meet her someday."
Ianto's face hardened almost imperceptively. "Jack, I'd really rather you didn't contact her. I don't want her put in danger again." He paused. "And I don't want her Retconned. It's not necessary."
"Of course not!" Jack exclaimed, trying not to feel hurt that Ianto would believe him capable of such a thing. But of course Ianto would so. It had been in the back of Jack's mind since the moment he'd finished the report. He had dismissed the thought almost immediately, however. Jack didn't want to do that to Ianto, and he sensed that if Zeynep lost her memories now, it would look too suspicious and perhaps put her in more danger. "I wouldn't do that to her or you. But I would like to thank her, if I ever get the chance."
"Right." Ianto seemed skeptical, but nodded. "Was there anything else?"
Jack thought about it and grinned. "Can I massage your leg for you later?"
Ianto's face was both surprised and grateful. "That would be brilliant. Thanks, Jack."
"It'll be my pleasure," Jack said, trying not to leer too much.
Ianto rolled his eyes and moved to leave without answering the innuendo, then turned back. "Jack? Will you tell me what happened while you were gone?" He gestured toward the stack of files on the desk behind Jack. "You know what we did, what I did. I'd like to know what you were doing as well."
"Ianto, I—" Jack started, but Ianto stopped him.
"I know, I know. You can't tell us everything. You never can. But this is different. This is here and now, not some mysterious future you're protecting, and I'd like to know why the Committee tried to frame you, how you found out about Ephraim Salt, and…" He trailed off with a raised eyebrow. "And what exactly a research firm by the name of Harkness Industries is doing in an office block in Izmir. Since I helped save it from being obliterated and all."
Jack shook his head, amazed at Ianto's perceptiveness, and yet why was he surprised at all? Of course Ianto would cut right to it and demand answers. And Jack would give them to him this time. He'd learned the hard way that keeping secrets didn't always work out for the best. And he'd gathered quite a bit of information about the conspiracy during his six weeks underground. He didn't want to put Ianto in any more danger by revealing everything he'd found out, but then again, Ianto was probably already in danger after what he'd gone through on the SkyPuncher.
The realization hit Jack out of the blue, that Ianto was as surely involved in this now as Jack. And as much as Jack wanted to protect him, keeping things from Ianto would only put him more at risk. Ianto was right, he deserved to know. He needed to know, so he could protect himself, as well as the rest of the team.
"Yeah, I will," Jack nodded as he moved closer to Ianto. "You're as much a part of this as I am now, so maybe knowing everything will help you stay one step ahead. How about after dinner, over coffee and that massage back here?"
Ianto looked so surprised, relieved, and grateful that Jack was sharing something, anything, that Jack felt terrible for every secret he'd kept in the past. He knew his secrets had been necessary, at least in his mind, but he also knew that sometimes his secrets had hurt others, and that he could have prevented so many bad things from happening simply by sharing. It was hard, having held himself closed shut for so many decades, but perhaps now was the time to stop. For a while. For Ianto.
"Or we could go back to mine, perhaps?" Ianto suggested. Jack couldn't help but let his relief shine through, that Ianto had once again forgiven him, taken him back, invited him home.
"That would be even better," he replied with a grin.
"It's a date, then," said Ianto. "Jack, I…" He stopped and shook his head. "Thank you."
"No, thank you," said Jack. "For believing in me, for working it out and going up there alone, for…" He almost choked up, but hid it with a smile as he glanced down and cleared his throat. "For staying alive."
"Be careful," Jack interrupted. "I don't want you to get hurt."
"I'll keep that in mind next time I'm being attacked by the zombie passengers of a doomed airplane."
"Ianto—" This time Jack was interrupted.
"I'll be fine, Jack," said Ianto. "I think I'm learning to hold my own pretty well. I can take care of myself."
"Right," said Jack. "Right. Of course you can. I missed that, you know. I missed you."
"And I'm all the better for having you back, sir," said Ianto with a smirk. Jack burst out laughing as he remembered Ianto's response that first night Jack had come back from traveling with the Doctor. That the Welshman was using it as a joke meant everything would be all right. Ianto winked at him and opened the door. He glanced over his shoulder before leaving, however, and his smile softened. "I missed you, too."
"I'll see you at dinner," Jack replied.
"Oh, I'm sure you'll see me before then. Unless you started making your own coffee while you were away this time."
Jack thought about the long, hard six weeks he'd be gone. "Didn't try it once. Drank lots of tea, though."
Ianto pretended to look scandalized. "Well, I'll bring you a fresh cup, then. And we should probably go over some expense reports from while you were gone."
Jack's eyebrows flew up. "Spent a lot on biros and plasters while I was chasing down extraterrestrial criminals?"
"Not exactly," said Ianto. "But I do have a rather large reimbursement request to submit." He cleared his throat and shrugged. "It was a very expensive phone call."
Jack laughed again and reached out for Ianto's wrist, pulling him back inside the office and shutting the door before the Welshman could leave. He didn't care if it was the middle of the day, and he certainly didn't care what the rest of the team thought was going on. "It was worth every penny," he said softly, holding Ianto close and refusing to let go.
Ianto did not roll his eyes. He didn't pull away, and he didn't protest when Jack's lips found his once more. It was quite some time before Jack got his cup of coffee and saw just how expensive that phone call had been.
Pet insurance for an exotic bird?
It was definitely worth it to have Ianto on the ground and in Jack's arms.
The End! I wrote this after Fall to Earth was released, so I'm sure much of it will be AU as more of the conspiracy is revealed. Some things I left open, like Harkness Industries and whatever Jack was doing while he was gone, and others I made up to fit the story as I see it, like the timeline, Jack staying in touch while he was gone, and his alien contacts tipping off Ianto. I put a good deal of thought into this so if you have any questions about something, please ask! I've been known to send extremely long replies because I love talking about Torchwood any time. For now, these are my thoughts about the conspiracy storyline. Perhaps there will be more as more of it is released! My biggest hope is that someday we get to see this kind of interaction between Jack and Ianto in another Big Finish audio! I also hope you enjoyed this follow-up story. Thank you for reading!