A/N: I know, I know. I keep saying I'm going to finish Three's a Crowd & then posting something new :(
Heres the thing. I got halfway through the last chapter and then suddenly started having mixed feelings about the ending. That just made me run out of inspiration until suddenly this idea popped into my head and wouldn't go away...
So yeah, in the end I gave in and put it into words and I hope you like the results. I swear I havn't given up on Three's a Crowd (for anyone that is still reading it after all this time :P) , I'm just taking a break to write something new and get my inspiration back :)
Ianto Jones would be the first to admit that he wasn't really one for living in the moment, never had been, never would be. His life had always been full of longing, apologies and regrets, constantly questioning the past and looking to the future, but never quite living in the now.
Ianto used to think this was a good way to be, that it would somehow make him less prone to making mistakes. That was until it became clear to him that he'd made more mistakes in his twenty five years on earth than most people did in a lifetime.
And one of those many mistakes, he soon realised, was deciding to attend this bloody party.
This was the third office party he'd been to since starting at the company two years back and it was always the same. He'd turn up; mingle with the crowd for a grand total of four minutes before ending up stood awkwardly on his own in the corner, sipping on a lukewarm beer and trying not to draw any attention to himself.
It wasn't a hard task really; he was so used to blending in at work, making himself invisible to the people around him, after a while it just became instinct. Hopefully he could keep up the invisible act until everyone was too drunk to notice him slip away. He'd been planning a quiet evening at home curled up on the sofa with Myfanwy and a bottle of wine; maybe watch a few QI repeats on Dave. That plan had gone to shit as soon as his boss cornered him at work and practically black mailed him into 'getting out the office' and 'having some fun'. Apparently that fun meant attending the Valentine's Day office do and unfortunately Ianto had never been good at just saying no to people, especially when those people were his boss...
He tapped lightly on the side of his beer bottle and glanced down at his watch for the twentieth time that night. Seven fifteen, probably still a little early to leave without getting caught. He risked a quick glance around the room and his eyes soon drifted towards the food table on the opposite side. He raised an eyebrow and bit his lip, maybe if he moved quickly around the crowds he could make it without being spotted. Not that there was one thing besides the breadsticks he'd be willing to put in his mouth, but it would hopefully provide a distraction for another half hour before he could make his secret exit.
Draining the last of his beer, he placed the bottle on the side and casually made his way over, careful not to make eye contact with anyone in his department. As he neared the table he sped up a little, squeezing past a group of younger girls till he found a clear spot away from the social crowd. Letting out a sigh of relief, he pulled a breadstick from the pot and began to nibble on the top, keeping his back to the room. He was sure he'd gotten away with it until he heard footsteps approaching from behind and an all too familiar voice booming his name over the noise of the party.
Ianto closed his eyes and bit back a groan of frustration. If there was one person who could make this night worse than it was already, it was Owen Harper. He dropped the breadstick back on the table and spun around to face him, slipping his hands into his suit trousers and his face into work mode.
"Evening Owen," he said with a slight nod, mentally preparing himself for any snide comments the other man was likely to throw his way. "Good night?"
Owen snorted and gestured towards a pair of young blondes hovering by the door, both dressed in some tacky school girl garb. Right up Owens street, Ianto thought, resisting the urge to roll his eyes.
"Getting better," said Owen with a wink in the girl's direction. The shorter of the two caught his eye and giggled, turning to whisper in her friend's ear while Owen just grinned. Ianto shook his head and reached for another breadstick, taking a large bite off the top to try and avoid conversation.
No such luck...
"I've gotta say," Owen went on, "I was surprised to see you here mate, didn't think this was really your scene."
Ianto swallowed the last of his breadstick and shrugged, "Boss' orders." As soon as the words left his mouth he was mentally kicking himself, Owen was bound to come up with some sharp retort to that.
"Well, it's not like you to let the boss down is it?"
Ianto sighed. Yep, there it was...
"I wouldn't feel bad about it mate," Owen continued. "We've all gone to extreme lengths to please the boss at some point, some more than others," he gave a short laugh and raised an eyebrow, "but I'm sure you know all about that..."
Ianto tried his hardest not to react, reacting would just draw more attention to them and he didn't need that right now. What he needed was to get out of this goddamn party.
"Oh, I don't know," Ianto replied, straight faced. "You seem to know an awful lot more about this than I do," He broke another piece off his breadstick, shooting Owen a small victory grin before popping it in his mouth. Owen scoffed and shook his head.
"Yeah, maybe in your sad wet dreams mate," He moved further into Ianto's personal space as his lips morphed into a half smile. "Maybe save that fantasy for when you're sneaking off for a wank behind the photocopier."
"It wasn't—"Ianto began to defend himself but stopped suddenly, unsure how to finish that sentence. He settled instead for his deadliest glare, gritting his teeth to hold back the anger that was rising rapidly. Owen chuckled and stepped back and it was then Ianto noticed the small group of people watching them, two of the women clearly trying to stifle their giggles. He felt his face heat up like the fucking sun and he mentally cursed himself for allowing Owen to get him worked up like that again. He could handle it at work when it was just the two of them, he couldn't handle it out of the office with his work colleagues for an was still watching him, clearly waiting for some sort of response with that ever present smirk on his face.
Well, Ianto certainly wasn't going to give him one. Instead, he calmly discarded the last of his breadstick on the table and stepped right around the other man, heading straight for the drinks table. He was so busy trying to avoid eye contact with everyone he passed he ended up walking straight into one of the older women from his department, knocking the wine out her hand to seep through his shirt.
"Shit, I'm so sorry!" the woman exclaimed, quickly using her napkin to dab at his now ruined shirt, "Here, let me."
Ianto put his hands up to stop her, shaking his head and apologising profusely. "Its fine, its fine," he stepped back and offered her a tight smile, "I wasn't looking where I was going, it's my fault."
The women smiled and patted his cheek. "Even so, clumsy of me!" She stepped back to eye the mess she'd made of his crisp white shirt and tutted. "Better go change that shirt though love, you'll never get the stain out of white."
Ianto nodded his thanks and made to move around her, pulling his suit jacket across his chest to cover the stain. He'd already drawn far more attention to himself than was necessary, as if Owen needed anymore incentive to piss him off at work on Monday.
He glanced across at the toilets and noticed another group of his colleagues hovering at the door, two of the girls singing along badly to Katy Perry and the other already so drunk she could barely stand.
Well that was a no-go then.
He turned his attention back to the drinks, grabbing another beer from the bucket in front of him. He closed his eyes and downed half the bottle in one go, barely pausing for breath before knocking back the rest. He slammed the bottle back down on the table with a bit more force than was necessary and dug about in his pocket for his pack of Marlboro Gold. Ianto hated the awful habit really, but he'd made a deal with his conscience to quit when he found something better to fill his time. Right now this job was all he had.
The Cardiff night air was bitterly cold as he fought to push the fire exit door shut against the wind. He cringed as he felt his now wine-soaked shirt stick to the bare skin of his stomach and attempted to pull his jacket even tighter across his chest. When that plan failed he ducked his head and moved slowly around the building to find a more shaded area, fishing a lighter out from his pocket.
As he neared the front of the building he came across a small porch where a few of the more 'upper class' gentlemen from his department were huddled together having a smoke. He stood as far away from them as possible and lit his own cigarette with a flick of the thumb, closing his eyes to inhale the first drag. He watched the smoke curl in front of his eyes and smiled. That was what he needed.
He was so wrapped up in his own bliss he barely noticed the familiar footsteps approach him from behind or the man that came to a halt behind him, right in his personal space. In fact, none of this became apparent until he felt hot breath ghost over the back of his neck...
"Put that cigarette out, Mr Jones," a deep, husky voice half whispered in his ear and Ianto would've jumped out his skin had the other man not been standing so close. As it was, Ianto just let his eyes drift shut and cursed softly under his breath. This could not be happening...
"I'm glad you could make it," the voice spoke again, "I wasn't expecting you to show y'know."
It took Ianto a moment to register those words as the other man was still standing a lot closer than was really professional for boss and employee. Although when he thought about it, nothing was really professional about Jack Harkness.
Chucking the last of his cigarette on the ground he slowly turned to face the older man, taking a step back to put some space between them. Jack grinned at him and leaned against the pillar, his hands automatically slipping into his trouser pockets. A similar pose to the one he pulled at work every day, usually when he wanted something he knew Ianto wasn't going to give him.
"Well, you didn't exactly give me much choice in the matter sir," Ianto stated coolly, his own hands soon finding their way to his pockets. Jack raised an eyebrow as his grin grew even wider, flashing his perfect pearly whites. Ianto swallowed as he felt the familiar nervous flutter in his stomach and was soon wishing he hadn't finished that cigarette quite so quickly.
"And where would be the fun in that? I'm the boss, remember?" he moved closer to Ianto and Ianto took a step back, trying his hardest to keep as much distance between them as possible. The move caused Jack to sigh and roll his eyes.
"Oh come on Ianto, enough with the formalities. We're not in the office now."
Ianto shrugged slightly, "You're still my boss, Jack."
Jack smirked and moved closer yet again, though this time Ianto stayed rooted to the spot, desperate to maintain his calm exterior.
"That I am, Ianto Jones," he reached out a hand to wrap the Welshman's deep red silk tie between his fingers and Ianto suddenly found it a lot harder to breathe. Christ, how on earth did Jack do this to him? Couldn't he find someone else to stalk?
Stepping back once again, Ianto pulled the tie from Jack's grasp and folded his arms across his chest to form a barrier. Jack chuckled and finally moved out Ianto's personal space, his eyes never leaving the younger man's.
"You know," Jack began, "maybe I should order you to do things more often, you usually just say no when I ask," he paused and bit his lip. Ianto knew exactly where this was going. "Like, say, if I asked you to have dinner with me tomorrow night...you'd say no, right?"
Ianto rolled his eyes and dropped his arms to his side with an exasperated sigh. "You just don't give up, do you?"
"What if I make it an order?" Jack asked hopefully. Ianto smirked.
"Not in the office now, remember?"
"Then I'll just ask again on Monday," said Jack with a small, smug grin. He really didn't give in without a fight...
"You already tried that one too. My answer still stands and I'd appreciate it if you'd stop playing these silly games in the office, sir. I think some people in our department are jumping to the wrong conclusions about us."
Jack raised an eyebrow, "You mean, Owen still thinks we're shagging like rabbits in the stationary cupboard?"
Ianto couldn't help but smile at that. "Got it in one, sir."
Jack laughed, "Well, it's a shame we're not really," he put up a hand to stop Ianto interrupting and went on. "Though, if it's really bothering you I could have a word with him on Monday?"
"If it's not too much trouble, sir"
Jack smiled and shook his head, moving into Ianto's personal space once again. "Nothing's too much trouble for you, Ianto. Though, maybe in return you could rethink your decision regarding dinner tomorrow night?"
Ianto let out a breath and chewed on his lip, the part of him which was dying to say yes overpowering the bigger part of him which knew getting involved with Jack would only lead to heartbreak. It wasn't fair of Jack to ask him now, not when he was stood mere inches away from him, the tension sizzling between them. God, Jack smelt amazing. If Ianto just moved his head forward a tiny...
No. Now was definitely not the time to be having these thoughts, Ianto decided. He quickly stepped back, much to Jack's disappointment, and put his hands on his hips. Jack didn't say a word, just waited patiently for him to speak.
"I'm sorry Jack, but I really don't think that's a good idea. Maybe if things were different—" he paused to try and phrase the words in his head, running a hand through his hair. "Look, now's just not a good time for me, okay?"
Jack nodded but said nothing and Ianto couldn't help but feel a little guilty for the slightly crestfallen expression on the older man's face. He hurriedly changed the subject before they could fall into an uncomfortable silence.
"Listen, I think I'm gonna head off. I've uh, got an early start tomorrow," he offered Jack a tight smile and a nod. "Have a good weekend, Jack"
"Thanks, Ianto. You too," Jack responded quietly, before he turned on his heel without another word and headed back into the party. Ianto watched him go and sighed. It really was getting harder and harder to say no to Jack, especially since the man was so persistent. He'd been flirting nonstop with Ianto since day one, constantly inviting him to dinner or the movies and never really taking no for an answer. Ianto was sure Jack just wanted him because he was the one person in their department who hadn't fallen head over heels for his charm and devastatingly good looks. At least, that's what Ianto told himself.
It didn't matter either way. Even if Jack's feelings for him were genuine, Ianto could never give the older man what he wanted. Getting involved with someone meant facing up to the past. Facing up to the past meant telling the truth, and there were some truths that were best left unsaid.
Because if Jack found out the truth, that would likely be the end of everything.
Jack would never look at him in the same way again.