A/N: We are finally at the last chapter, and I can mark this story complete. Not all angst is done with, but there is much unashamed fluffiness in this chapter. Enjoy.
For the second time in as many days, Jack found himself standing on the threshold of unfamiliar territory, trying with little success to control his nerves. There were no dangerous criminals to be found through this door, but in many ways Jack found the prospect of what lay beyond infinitely more terrifying. It didn't help that Ianto was in much the same state of unease. Right at that moment, his biggest comfort lay in the way that Ianto was gripping his hand.
Before either man had a chance to gather their courage and ring the bell, the front door opened to reveal a middle-aged woman that Jack was fairly certain was too young to be Ianto's mother.
"Rhiannon…?" Ianto squeaked in alarm. The woman glowered at Ianto.
"You are in so much trouble. How come you never told me you'd gone bender?"
"Rhi!" Ianto burst out, mortified.
"Oh, come here, you silly git."
And Jack watched in amusement as Ianto was dragged into a ferocious hug. When she finally let him go and turned an appraising look on Jack, the immortal man found he had to make a conscious effort not to hide behind his lover.
"Well, I can see where this one would turn your head. You sure he doesn't swing both ways?"
Jack smiled crookedly, and felt a rush of relief when he felt Ianto's hand close around his once more.
"He's all mine," Ianto stated categorically, "and I don't share."
"Possessive, aren't you?" Rhiannon said with a grin. "Come in, both of you. Mam and Tad are in the living room with Johnny. They're all waiting."
Ianto rolled his eyes and led Jack after Rhiannon, and the look on his face suggested to Jack that he was hoping fiercely that she was his only sibling to be there.
A momentary and slightly awkward silence fell when they walked in, but Geraint quickly broke it and crossed the room, firstly to hug his son and then to shake Jack's hand.
"Ianto," Meredith Jones said as she came forward, "won't you introduce your boyfriend properly?"
The ease with which the word 'boyfriend' came out of her mouth had both of them wondering just how long she might have practised saying it in the last twenty-four hours. Ianto smiled at her, grateful for the perceived effort.
"Mam, I'd like to introduce Captain Jack Harkness. Jack, this is my mother, Meredith Jones, my sister Rhiannon and her husband, Johnny. Rhi and Johnny have two kids… Where are David and Misca, by the way?"
"Staying with my parents," Johnny explained. "Don't worry, though. They want to meet Uncle Jack as soon as possible."
Ianto rolled his eyes, and chose not to comment. His introduction was followed by a chorus of 'pleased to meet you', and then the inevitable question about Jack's title.
"Military man?" Geraint wondered, asking the question that he hadn't had a mind to ask the last time he'd seen them.
"Air Force," Jack answered. "I served in Afghanistan and Iraq before receiving an honourable discharge."
It was true, Jack conceded, except take out the 'Afghanistan and Iraq' part, and insert 'World War I' and 'World War II'.
Geraint nodded understandingly, and Jack had a quiet suspicion that his estimation just went up several notches in the other man's eyes. A glance at Ianto confirmed it. The younger man looked intensely relieved not just at that, but also at the simple acceptance of Jack from his mother, sister and brother in-law. It was a relief that Jack shared considerably.
Once formal introductions were out of the way, Meredith bade them all sit, and then brought out eggnog and sweet biscuits from the kitchen.
"How are you both doing?" Geraint asked in a deceptively casual tone once Meredith finally sat. Jack and Ianto exchanged glances, and Jack gave a slight nod.
"We're doing okay," Ianto confirmed, and his careful choice of words assured Jack that he was quietly conscious that Rhiannon and Johnny didn't know any of the details of what had happened, and nor did he care to broadcast it to them. Geraint, for his part, seemed satisfied with the short and somewhat vague answer.
"Good to know," the elder Jones murmured.
"Dinner will be ready in about fifteen minutes," Meredith announced abruptly, changing the subject so abruptly that almost gave them whiplash. "I hope you boys are hungry."
Rhiannon snorted before either Jack or Ianto had a chance to answer.
"Even if you are, you'll still be going home with enough leftovers to last you until Easter."
Jack smiled at Meredith.
"I'd count myself lucky. It smells amazing."
It did, too. Jack had caught the tantalising aromas even before entering the house, and now he resorted to sipping the eggnog in order to hide the fact that his mouth was watering.
"When was the last time you had a home-cooked meal, Jack?" Meredith asked. To his quiet mortification, Jack realised that was a question that he couldn't answer. Meredith shot Ianto a sharp look.
"You're not looking after yourself, and you're not looking after your man. You know how to cook, Ianto Jones. I taught you myself."
Ianto felt fairly sure that his face couldn't possibly get any redder, but then this was his mother. Anything was possible. On the other hand, the sight of Jack staring at his mother with borderline hero-worship made any degree of discomfort worth tolerating.
"Our work doesn't often allow for home-cooked meals, Mrs Jones," Jack offered in defence of his lover, but the formidable woman was having none of it.
"Nonsense. If you boys won't make the time to cook proper meals for yourself, then I'll just have to do it for you. I'm happy to cook in bulk, and you can just store the food in your freezer."
"Mam, my freezer isn't big enough for that…" Ianto protested, only to be cut off by Jack.
"We'll get a bigger one. Thankyou, Mrs Jones. The truth is, we've gotten a little used to take-away."
"Then you can get unused to it." She stood up. "Jack, would you care to help me in the kitchen?"
Jack was on his feet in an instant, following Meredith out of the room. Ianto watched them go, and turned back just in time to catch his father, sister and brother in-law erupting in good-natured laughter.
"It isn't funny," Ianto said snippily. Johnny bellowed with laughter.
"Yeah, it is. The look on your face! It's priceless!"
"Mind you," Rhiannon added, "I'm still going to have a piece of you later. Did you seriously think any of us were going to disown you, just because you're with a bloke? You silly git, like it's any of our business what you do in your own bedroom!"
"Wait until you have to explain it to Misca and David," Ianto retorted, but Rhiannon only snorted in derision.
"Don't be daft. Misca's best friend has two mums. They're not going to care that Uncle Ianto has a boyfriend instead of a girlfriend."
"And suddenly, I feel like a complete twat all over again," Ianto muttered, and winced when Rhiannon thumped him on the arm.
"So you should." She paused, her expression sobering. "Mind you, you might want to be careful around Alwyn for a while. He wasn't so receptive. No matter, though. So tell us about Jack. How'd you meet him?"
Slowly, the knot in Ianto's stomach began to undo itself. He could handle one potentially unreceptive sibling, knowing that the rest of his family supported him.
"I met him after Lisa died." It was technically true. He'd long since accepted that the woman he'd loved had died at Canary Wharf. "He was there for me. He helped me through it when no one else seemed to want anything to do with me." That was literally true. Tosh, Owen and Gwen had all stayed well away from him during his suspension, but Jack had spent time with him every day, helping him to work through his anger and grief. He'd gotten through Ianto's defences simply by caring.
"You need each other."
The simple statement came from Geraint, and Ianto didn't hesitate to answer with a nod.
"Yes, we do. Thank you for trying to understand that. Thank you for helping Mam to understand."
"Do you really think I have any influence over what your mother thinks? When I got home that night and told her, she wanted me to take her straight back to your place so that she could make you understand that she didn't care. She had a piece of me for thinking that she might! We both underestimated her, son, and I pity the first person at church who makes a derogatory joke or comment about gays where she can hear them. Honestly, Ianto, she loves you. She just wants you to be happy."
"And now I feel worse," Ianto muttered.
"Don't, Ianto," Geraint warned him lightly. "Don't waste time on self-pity. We forgive you, and unless I'm mistaken, so does Jack. Accept it, and move on."
Meredith called out, then, summoning them to the dining room and giving Ianto no time to dwell. He followed his family, his father's words lingering in his mind.
"I admit, I had an ulterior motive in asking you to help me, Jack," Meredith said as she led Jack into the kitchen. The immortal faltered, and when Meredith looked back, the expression on his face was one step shy of panic. Realising how her words might have been interpreted, she stepped over and gently grasped his hands.
"Calm down, sweetheart. I don't mean that in a bad way. I'm happy that you and my little boy have found each other, I really am. I would never ask you to leave him, or vice versa."
Slowly, the fright faded from Jack's eyes.
"Sorry," he murmured. "It's just, after everything Ianto said, and after what Mr Jones said when Ianto told him the truth..."
Meredith huffed in annoyance.
"I'm afraid the men in this family tend to lack basic common sense. When Geraint told me how he'd reacted, and what he'd said to you in particular, I wanted to slap him. He had no business saying we'd disown Ianto if you didn't leave him. Absolute rubbish. As for Ianto, he should know better than to presume to know my personal thoughts. I have never at any time told him that I won't accept gay men. If he'd bothered to ask, I would have told him one of the men in my reading group is gay, and has been with his partner for nearly ten years now. I have an invitation to their anniversary party, for heaven's sake! Now be a dear, and hold this dish for me so that I can get the vegetables out of the oven."
"I never blamed Ianto, Mrs Jones," Jack said, only to find himself cringing under her speculative gaze.
"You never blamed him for what, Jack? For leading you to believe that he didn't love you, or for what happened to you on Christmas Eve?"
Jack flinched again, this time for an entirely different reason. Regret filled Meredith's face.
"I'm sorry, sweetheart. I didn't mean to say that quite so bluntly. Yes, I do know the basics of what happened to you, going by what you and Ianto told Geraint. I suppose you know it's been on the local news, too?"
Jack nodded numbly, wondering how long it was going to stay in people's memories. The thought of going out in public and wondering whether a person knew the truth every time they looked at him was enough to turn his stomach. All of a sudden, self-enforced seclusion seemed like an extremely attractive idea. Not forever, of course, but maybe the next few decades...
"I wouldn't be too concerned about that, love," Meredith reassured him. "Most people don't remember what they saw on the news a week down the track. Always some new bit of gossip or scandal to focus on. My point, though, is that I can understand that you might feel angry towards Ianto. He does love you, though, and I think that you love him. Am I right?"
"Yes, Mrs Jones," Jack answered meekly. She glared at him in mock annoyance.
"Jack, honey, you can call me Meredith. You can call me Mam. I don't mind which, but stop calling me Mrs Jones!"
A wry smile filled Jack's face.
She smiled in return.
"Much better. Now, take those vegetables through and put them on the warming plate next to the meat, and then we'll call the others for dinner."
Jack barely knew where to begin. The last time that he'd been treated to such a feast had been before he'd met the Doctor and Rose.
He sat with his head politely bowed as Meredith said grace, and felt his throat constrict when she added a brief and sincere prayer 'for Jack, the newest member of the family'.
The Captain was still trying to decide where to start when a flash of bright red and green entered his line of sight. Confused, he turned to find Meredith holding a cracker towards him.
"Take the end," she instructed, unfazed by his confusion. "We both pull, and whoever ends up with the main part of the cracker wins. Go on."
Mildly embarrassed by his own ignorance – of course he knew what crackers were, he'd just never had the pleasure of breaking one open – Jack took the end that was extended towards him.
"Hold it near the base," Ianto told him. "It'll give you a better grip. I remember one year I pulled a cracker with Alwyn, and he only held the very end of it. His grip slipped and he toppled over backwards and cracked his head on the sideboard."
Mildly alarmed, Jack followed Ianto's advice and adjusted his grip, and when the cracker broke open, the greater half went to Jack.
"There you go, my love," Meredith enthused as a blue paper party hat tumbled out, followed by a small, colourfully wrapped, oddly shaped gift. Jack glanced at Ianto, who nodded with a warm smile.
"You won it, fair and square. Go ahead and open it. And don't worry. Next person you break a cracker with, just let them win, or give them the prize if you win."
Nodding his understanding, Jack opened the gift. Inside was a little magnifying glass. It wasn't a cheap one, either, Jack guessed, judging by the unexpected weight and the delicate yet strong metal frame. He looked up at Meredith and smiled.
"Thank you. You have no idea how useful this will actually be."
"Pure luck, sweetheart," Meredith said dismissively. "Be thankful you didn't get the cracker with the perfume in it."
"No, that will probably be me."
Laughter filled the room, and continued on as the rest of the crackers were broken open. Despite his previous comment, Ianto didn't get the perfume. Johnny was the unfortunate recipient there, and he gladly traded Meredith for a pocket knife.
At one point, Ianto feared he might need to get Jack out of the room when Johnny opened the knife out and held it up so that the light glinted off the blade. Before it got to that point, though, Geraint gruffly told him to put it away before he did himself an injury.
The grin on Jack's face at the banter was more than enough to ease Ianto's worries, and encourage him to finally relax.
"Looks like Mam was right about the home-cooked meals," Rhiannon said with a laugh as Jack reached for a third helping. "You'd think you never get fed!"
Jack faltered, suddenly self-conscious, and Ianto shot a death glare at his sister.
"Leave him alone, Rhi. I seem to remember you getting sick last Christmas after four helpings of plum pudding."
Rhiannon stuck her tongue out at Ianto, prompting a similar response from him.
"Ignore the children, Jack," Geraint told him with an amused grin. "If you want more, don't be shy about it. Just make sure you save room for pudding."
Genuine delight lit up Jack's face.
"Of course," Meredith confirmed. "And then after we've had pudding, we'll have carols in the living room. Do you sing, Jack?"
"Just in the shower," Jack murmured.
"He does sing," Ianto put in, at the same time closing his hand over Jack's in reassurance. "He has a beautiful singing voice."
"Good," Meredith enthused. "We'll look forward to hearing it."
Jack shot a half-serious glare at Ianto, but it thinly masked a deeper affection and gratitude. Ianto smiled back, silently grateful for his parents' open acceptance of Jack.
By the time the meal was over, even Jack was full and it proved to be a rather slow progression to the living room.
"Good thing that Tosh, Owen and Gwen are looking after things tonight and tomorrow," Ianto teased lightly as they settled together on the couch not yet occupied. "You're not going to be running after weevils for at least the next twenty-four hours."
Jack smiled contentedly.
"So maybe I overindulged a little. Your mum is just such a damned good cook. We are definitely getting a bigger freezer."
When Ianto laughed, Jack pouted adorably.
"What? Now I won't have to feel jealous when Gwen brags about all the home-cooked meals she gets from Rhys."
"No," Ianto agreed. "You won't."
Throwing all remnants of caution to the wind, Ianto slipped his arms around Jack's waist and leaned in with intent to kiss. Jack pulled back a little, concern in his eyes and acutely conscious of multiple pairs of eyes watching them.
"Are you sure? I mean..."
"Jack, look up," Ianto murmured. Jack did so, and promptly uttered a short bark of laughter at the sight of a sprig of mistletoe hanging innocently above their heads.
"I think we've been set up," Ianto said with a low chuckle. A glance at the other two couples confirmed it. While Geraint and Johnny looked on with amused exasperation, there was a distinct gleam of anticipation in the women's eyes.
"Well, then," Jack said with a touch of sauciness that had long been missing from his voice, "we don't want to disappoint them, do we?"
He still hesitated, though, unsure whether Ianto was truly willing to indulge in any show of physical affection with his family looking on. His worries were assuaged when Ianto closed the distance between them, and their lips met in a prolonged and tender kiss.
"And about time, too!" Rhiannon declared. Meredith said nothing, but the indulgent and satisfied smile on her face spoke volumes.
"All right," Geraint said gruffly, though his eyes showed his amusement. "I think you've embarrassed them enough. Johnny, pass me that gift under the tree?"
Johnny snagged a very large, brightly wrapped parcel from under the Christmas tree. Geraint took it from him and turned to Jack.
"The original plan was to give you a bottle of whiskey. Standard gift for guests. Meredith and I talked about it, though, and you're not a guest, Jack. You're part of the family now, and your gift should reflect that. So with that in mind, Happy Christmas, lad."
Speechless but for a murmured thank you, Jack took the gift and promptly nearly dropped it at the unexpected weight.
"Heavy," he remarked with a nervous laugh.
"Well, you'll find a few things in there," Meredith confessed. When Jack made no move to open it, Ianto nudged him lightly.
"Go on, open it."
Jack began to pick at the taped edges, deliberately putting a hold on his enthusiasm in his determination to put his best behaviour on show for Ianto and his family. It wasn't easy nor, apparently, was it necessary.
"Bloody hell," Johnny bellowed with laughter, "he's worse than my sister! Just rip it open, mate! You'll be here till midnight, otherwise."
Jack glanced at Meredith and she nodded encouragingly. Abandoning decorum, Jack tore the wrapping paper away to reveal the gifts underneath.
"Oh lord, you got one of Mam's knitted specialties," Rhiannon said with a laugh. "You really are part of the family now. She doesn't torture anyone else with those."
Jack lifted a brightly knitted blanket out of the top of the parcel. It was comfortingly thick and heavy in his hands, and he looked up at Meredith gratefully.
"I love it, Mam. Thank you."
Setting the blanket to one side, he delved further into the parcel, and an amused grin lit up his face at the sight of a whiskey bottle. Geraint shrugged unapologetically.
"Didn't see any reason not to give the whiskey. Only difference is, that's not the cheap stuff."
Jack chuckled, but his expression reflected his appreciation.
Nestled in beside the whiskey was a box which, when he opened it, revealed tiny silver airplane cufflinks. Jack's breath caught. His original pair had been lost, a small but personally significant casualty of that year, and he'd not been able to find a replacement pair. He looked at Ianto quizzically, and the younger man smiled sheepishly in return.
"Guilty," he confessed. "Well, me and Da. I told Da, and described them to him, and he found them... just this morning, wasn't it?"
Geraint nodded in confirmation, looking thoroughly pleased with his efforts.
"Right. They came from a little jeweller's shop just outside of Newport."
"Thank you," Jack murmured, touched by the generosity being shown to him. He set the box reverently on top of the blanket and turned to the last item in the parcel – a photo album.
"Now that last one is really for you both," Meredith told them. "Look inside. Go on."
Jack opened the album, and Ianto let out an embarrassed groan at the sight of himself as a newborn.
"Mam, you didn't..."
"I most certainly did," she retorted. "Photos make a home. I've seen your home. Not a single photo in sight. Jack, sweetheart, there are pictures in there to cover Ianto's childhood..."
"Ooh, are there naked bath photos in here?" Jack enthused. Ianto face-palmed himself as laughter erupted around the room. Meredith merely winked at Jack before continuing.
"As I was saying, there are photos in there to cover Ianto's childhood and up until he left home. I think I've managed to fill it a third of the way. The rest is for you boys to fill up." She shot Ianto a look that instantly silenced anything he'd intended to say, and then returned her attention to Jack. "Make your own memories, sweetheart. They help to make us who we are."
Setting the album aside, Jack abandoned the couch and all-but flung himself into Meredith's waiting arms.
"Thank you, Mam. Thank you..."
Meredith glanced at Ianto, slightly puzzled but also touched by Jack's emotional reaction. Something had broken through Jack's defences – whether it was the photo album, the gifts in general, or the fact that they had welcomed him openly into the family, she didn't know. She suspected she might never know the truth, and nor did it really matter.
Jack detached himself of his own volition and returned to Ianto's side, accepting another soft kiss from his lover without a second thought. Meredith smiled indulgently at them, and then made her way to the piano for carols.
Jack sang along with an enthusiasm that he hadn't truly felt since long before that year, and found himself on the brink of tears more than once. It wasn't strictly the words of the songs. He came from a time where all religion, as humans currently knew it, was just a footnote in the ancient history books.
What got to him was the realisation that he'd been welcomed into Ianto's family. Meredith and Rhiannon's delighted smiles in his direction; Johnny's friendly ribbing and Geraint's satisfied smile; Ianto's arm around his waist in a comforting gesture – all of it gave him the sense of belonging that he'd been craving.
It broke his heart, knowing that he would have them in his life for such a short time, but that was not a care that he wanted to burden anyone with right then, let alone himself.
Carols were followed by more eggnog and chocolate cake, until even Jack had to say enough. Rhiannon and Johnny left around midnight, finally leaving Jack and Ianto alone with Geraint and Meredith.
"Now," Meredith said firmly, "there's going to be a family get-together next month. Work permitting, I'll expect to see you boys there."
"Yes, Mam," Ianto agreed with a wry smile. Clearly not satisfied with just one confirmation, she looked at Jack.
"We'll be there," Jack promised. "Work permitting."
Meredith nodded in satisfaction.
"Good." She regarded them both seriously, but also with affection. "We know life hasn't been easy for either of you, and that silly mistakes have been made. That's all in the past. This is now, and now we're a family. All of us, together, and family doesn't exclude. Am I making myself clear?"
"Yes, Mam," Jack answered for them both. She stood up and approached them, and leaned down to place a kiss on each of their foreheads.
"Good. I'll have no more mix-ups and misunderstandings. I admit it's going to take us time to fully accept your relationship, and I hope you boys will both forgive us if we say or do the wrong thing. We won't live in denial, though, and we won't reject you."
Ianto clutched Jack's hand in his and looked up at his mother with a grateful smile.
"Thank you, Mam. We won't let you down, either."
They got home shortly after two, exhausted but satisfied. No words were spoken. Jack disappeared into the bedroom with his gifts, and Ianto let him go. He instead retreated to the bathroom, trusting that Jack was okay after what had essentially been a very emotional evening.
Ordinarily, Ianto would have expected Jack to pounce on him the moment they were inside the flat, but not so tonight. He couldn't help but wonder how long it might take before Jack was ready to have sex again. He'd wait. However long it took, Ianto knew he would wait. Even if it meant wanking himself off in private for the next however many months... or even years... then so be it.
Hands alighted on his waist, startling him back to the present, and he blinked in muzzy surprise as Jack's chin came to rest lightly on his shoulder.
"I called out to you four times," Jack murmured. "You were a million miles away."
"Sorry," Ianto murmured. He relished the close contact and was loathed to say anything that might cause Jack to leave his current position.
"I was waiting for you," Jack murmured, planting a soft kiss at the junction of Ianto's neck and shoulder. Ianto shut his eyes but his pleasure was short-lived, changing abruptly to unease when he felt Jack's hands sliding suggestively down his stomach towards his groin.
"Jack, what are you doing?"
Jack's hands stilled their movement, pausing just above the waistband of his jeans.
"You don't want me to...?"
Ianto turned in Jack's arms.
"Yes, I do. Very much so. I just don't want you to try to do anything you're not ready for."
Anxiety flickered across Jack's face, but his hands didn't move from Ianto's abdomen.
"I want to, I swear it..."
Ianto pushed his hips forward slightly, and the motion only confirmed what he already suspected. Jack's cock was flaccid; he couldn't feel even the beginnings of an erection. He also didn't miss the tiny flinch that went through Jack at the suggestive move.
"Jack," Ianto said quietly, "look at me."
Slowly, Jack raised his eyes to meet Ianto's. Ianto kissed him softly, and drew him into a protective hug.
"I want you, too, but I can wait. You're not ready, and we both know it."
Jack shuddered lightly against him, and Ianto felt immense relief when, instead of pulling away, Jack enveloped him in a hug.
"C'mon," Ianto murmured. He ushered Jack back into the bedroom and urged him to sit. "Talk to me, Jack. What was that about? We talked this over already, not even twelve hours ago! I thought we'd sorted it out?"
"It doesn't feel right," Jack admitted miserably. "I don't feel right. I don't feel like me, and I hate it! I ought to be able to strip us both and fuck you right through the goddamn mattress, and I hate it that I can't! I know you said you'd wait, and I love you for that, but part of me can't help thinking that... maybe..."
"That I won't wait?" Ianto asked softly when Jack couldn't finish the sentence. Jack stared at him, suddenly wild-eyed.
"I need you to take me. Just do me, right now."
Ianto looked alarmed as Jack flung himself spread-eagled on the bed.
"Jack, for god's sake..."
"Please," Jack begged. "Do it. Do me! Show me that it can still feel good."
Ianto moved slowly to lie down on the bed beside Jack. He reached out to rest his hand lightly on Jack's stomach, and was unsurprised when Jack flinched violently at the gentle touch. He kept his hand there, but made no other attempt to touch his distraught lover.
"Jack, it doesn't work like that. You can't heal by having sex. If I try to make love to you now, it's only going to make it worse for you, and I think you know that. When the time's right, it will happen, and it'll be good for us both, but not now."
In the dim light of the room, Ianto could see the tears rolling unchecked down Jack's face. They'd had such a good time that evening. What on earth had gone wrong between leaving his parent's place, and now? He didn't need to ask, in the end. Jack began to talk without needing to be prompted.
"I didn't have time to think about it before now," Jack admitted hoarsely.
"Think about what? Sex?"
"About that," Jack said. "About us. About everything. But mostly about me. I'm from the fifty-first century, Ianto. Sex is as natural as breathing, but I can't get past this. I want you. I want you so bad that it hurts, but my heart, my head and my body...? They're all saying different things." He laughed suddenly, and Ianto winced at the harsh sound. "I always knew I was kinda screwed up, but this really takes the cake."
"Not screwed up," Ianto argued quietly. "Jack, can you answer me honestly?"
"What really bothers you? Is it the sex? Or is it that you're frightened to give up control?"
Jack went very quiet. Ianto watched him patiently, waiting for a response.
"I lost control that night," Jack said finally, in a tone that suggested he was only just coming to that realisation. "Everything that they did to me, I had no control over any of it. Even when I was on the Valiant, I had some control over it, over what was going on, because it was my choice to stay. They took my control away. I am scared to lose control again, Ianto. I don't want anything to take that away from me again."
Those last words were spoken with a touch of wonder, born of new understanding.
"They won't," Ianto promised. "I won't. Jack, do you remember our first time together? Do you remember how nervous and scared I was?"
A faint smile quirked Jack's lips; not mocking, but of fond remembrance.
"I remember. And considering it was you that propositioned me..."
"There was a big difference between propositioning you, and actually having sex," Ianto said bluntly, and Jack chuckled softly. It was a sound that Ianto welcomed, despite it still sounding a little strained.
"Sorry," Jack apologised.
"Don't be. My point is, do you remember what we did together? Before we tried anything else? Do you remember what you let me do to take away some of that fear that I had?"
From the slow smile that spread over Jack's face, Ianto knew he did remember. Leaning in, Ianto kissed Jack softly and chastely on the mouth.
"You be in control. Do whatever you like, whatever you feel comfortable with. It can be as little or as much as you want. You're in charge."
Jack stared wonderingly at Ianto. The younger man had struck on what he needed with frightening accuracy.
"What did I do to deserve you?" he asked softly. Ianto smiled sadly.
"That question goes both ways, Jack."
With breath that quickened with a mixture of nerves and anticipation, Jack traded places with Ianto. While Jack knelt on the side of the bed, Ianto divested himself of his shirt, jeans and boxers, and lay down. Still clothed himself, Jack reached out with a tentative hand to Ianto's chest. Ianto shut his eyes and lay there in placid compliance, determined that Jack should have complete control.
He was under no illusion that it would go any further than this borderline innocent touching, but it was an encouraging start.
Jack's fingers brushed lightly over his nipples and try as he might, Ianto could not suppress the sigh of pleasure that escaped his lips.
"I let you do this nearly all night," Jack murmured as the memories began to filter back. "You propositioned me, but when it came to it, you were one step short of terrified. So I stripped off and lay there while you explored me. I let you explore me, let you get comfortable with me. We never even came that first night. We ended up just cuddling naked together."
"You never pressured me," Ianto reminded him. "I loved you so much for that. You made it clear right from the start that I could have gotten up and walked away if I'd wanted to, and you wouldn't have tried to stop me." Ianto looked up at Jack with utter sincerity in his gaze. "No pressure, cariad. Don't be afraid that I'll walk away from you just because you're not ready. You didn't do that to me, and I won't do it to you."
Ianto could see the last of the tension and fear bleed out of Jack's body at the sincere promise. He said nothing at first, but quietly stripped himself and climbed into bed with Ianto.
"I'm not ready," he admitted finally as he and Ianto wrapped around each other in a comforting tangle. "I want to, but I'm just not ready."
"Okay, then," Ianto said, grateful that Jack had found the courage to admit it openly. "Let's just cuddle, then, all right?"
"All right," Jack agreed. He buried his face in Ianto's shoulder, placing a soft, chaste kiss on the warm flesh. "Love you. Thank you."
"For being willing to fix your mistake. For letting me be a part of your family. For loving me back. Thank you."
Ianto shut his eyes and settled down to sleep with his lover.