Ianto Jones had only told four people he loved them. And that was more than enough for him.
It became a ritual.
Each night, Ianto would kiss Lisa on the forehead, telling her he loved her, before pulling her into his arms and allowing sleep to wash over him.
Every night, and every night without fail Lisa would say it back.
Except one night. They had had an argument, over something stupid which, to this day, Ianto can't even remember. Lisa took the bed, so he lay on the sofa. He tossed and turned throughout the night, itching to sneak in to the bedroom and complete their nightly routine.
The cyber men came the next day, taking Lisa, and his last chance to tell her he loved her, with them. Ianto vowed, that from that day on, he would always complete rituals, no matter how trivial, because they were about the only thing in his life he had control over.
He was always what you would call a 'Mummy's Boy'. His father was never one for affection, telling Ianto to stop being such a girl when he came seeking cuddles.
So, Ianto stuck to his mum like clue, constantly looking for hugs and kisses and telling her he loved her, each night when she read him bedtime stories. He was only young, so he didn't really know what 'I love you' meant, but it made his mum smile, and when she said it back, it made him feel good, so he kept telling her.
And then she was taken away.
He visits frequently. His mum doesn't know who he is, but she is content to sit and listen to his stories. Stories of aliens and time travel - she knows they are too far fetched to be true, but she loves the way his face lights up when she responds to his tales.
He always tells her he loves her before he leaves. She always responds with, "That's nice, dear."
And Ianto always breaks down in his car before heading back to the Hub to save the world, re-enact the stories he told his mother.
She was his best friend, confidant, shoulder to cry on and, when needed, his drinking partner.
When Jack left, Tosh was always there. A new plan every week to cheer Ianto up, take his mind off Jack.
The plans almost always consisted on a bottle of vodka, and Ianto listing the reasons Jack was a bastard, slurring his words as he giggled the night away, stretched out of Tosh's sofa, his head on her shoulder as they passed the bottle back and forth.
So, he returned the favour.
Coffee, chocolate, alcohol, bad chick flicks. All necessities on those occasions when Owen was the bastard and Tosh was the one who needed a shoulder the cry on. He often ended up staying at her flat, too drunk to drive home, and both secure enough in their strictly platonic relationship to cuddle up under Tosh's silk sheets without any awkwardness the next morning.
He told her he loved her one morning, over coffee and Danish pastries in her kitchen. She blushed and told him she loved him too.
Her death hit him the hardest. He could have handled the destruction and Jack's distant eyes, if he could hold Tosh, inhale her sweet shampoo and subtle perfume, hear her tell him everything would be fine.
Instead, he had to settle for holding her lifeless hand as he kissed her cheek, telling her he loved her one last time. Then Jack shut the door on her, the heavy wood clicking in to place loudly, and Ianto broke down in his arms.
The only man Ianto has ever said those three little, life altering words to.
Okay, so Jack never says it back, but words aren't really needed when he smiles like that, his eyes lighting up like they so rarely do, as his fingers splay over Ianto's cheek, and he tilts his head to meet Ianto's lips in a tender, dizzying kiss.
It may be cliché to say actions speak louder than words, but in this case, Ianto thinks it's actually rather fitting.