Notes/Warnings: Spoilers: TW: S2E6 onwards. Meets lover100 prompt 001: Writer's Choice: advice.
Disclaimer: This fiction is based on characters and situations created and owned by Russell T Davies, the BBC and affiliates. No money is being made and no offense is intended. Characters are of legal age for sexual situations.
Jack stepped up behind Toshiko, craning his neck and peering over the rail to see what it was below that had her so ensnared that she hadn't heard his heavy footfalls. He smiled a sympathetic smile when he saw Owen moving about in the Autopsy Bay, muttering incomprehensibly to himself. As they watched, Ianto joined him and Owen gesticulated over the green-hued, tentacled body on his examination table, Ianto nodding intermittently.
'You two have seemed closer lately,' he said quietly, startling Tosh and making her head snap around so fast that her hair whipped him across the face.
'Jack!' she squeaked, holding a hand to her chest. 'God, you scared me.'
He smiled in apology then put a hand on her shoulder. 'Give him time...' he advised, but Tosh shook her head.
'No,' she told him with a tight smile. 'He knows how I feel, and I'm glad he knows. But nothing can come of it. Not now. He doesn't think he has anything to offer.'
'You don't regret telling him you love him?' Jack asked, eyes drifting back to the autopsy bay.
Owen had somehow coerced Ianto into donning a smock and gloves and was now showing him how to make the initial incisions for a post-mortem examination. Jack smiled affectionately at the sight. Ianto looked cute in the billowing protective smock and gloves. Perhaps they could do a little doctor/patient role play later on tonight...
'I only regret not telling him earlier,' Tosh murmured, answering Jack's question and breaking into his plans for 'borrowing' some of Owen's medical equipment. 'He might be less inclined to hold me at arm's length now if I'd confessed before he...'
She made a vague gesture which Jack understood to mean 'was shot and killed by a maniacal doctor and brought back to life only to be robbed of everything that made life worth living'. 'He might have believed me if I'd told him before.'
She sighed regretfully and turned her back on the Hub, gazing up at Jack. 'I should have told him earlier.'
'You're here for him now, Tosh,' he said soothingly, rubbing her arm. 'I know he appreciates it.'
Tosh smiled sadly then turned back around, both of them silently watching as Ianto removed what looked like an alien heart, his face filled with distaste as he lowered it into the dish Owen was holding out. Owen made a comment that didn't reach their ears, but Ianto's glare and Owen's subsequent grin made it clear that the men were indulging in their usual snarky banter.
Tosh sighed once more then pushed away from the railing she'd been leaning against. 'Don't do what I did, Jack,' she said softly, tucking her hair behind her ears then running her hands over her skirt, smoothing out the wrinkles. 'I waited too long to tell Owen how I felt and he didn't believe me when I did. Make sure the people you love know it before it's too late.'
Jack felt a flush spread across his cheeks and he tried to laugh his discomfort off. 'Have I told you lately that I love you, beautiful Toshiko?' he said, slipping his arm around her shoulders and drawing her into a loose embrace.
She smacked him lightly across the chest with the back of her hand then pushed him gently off her. 'It wasn't me I was thinking of,' she said in amused exasperation, narrowing her almond-shaped eyes at him.
Jack exhaled sharply and shoved his hands deep into his trouser pockets. He couldn't stop himself from glancing back at Ianto and Owen, catching the two men in a rare moment of shared laughter, Ianto elbow-deep in the gut of the sliced open alien. A warm sensation shimmered in Jack's chest – a feeling that had become more and more common of late when he looked at Ianto – and his brow creased.
'He knows how I feel,' Jack said, trying to sound more certain than he was. 'Not everything needs to be said aloud to be understood.'
'No,' Tosh agreed with a smile. 'But it is very nice to hear it occasionally.'
Jack opened his mouth, but before he could tell Tosh that he and Ianto didn't operate like that, that they both had their secrets and shadows and didn't need the flowery, romantic sentiment that seemed rife in this century, the Rift alarm went off. Tosh shot him another quick smile then they clattered down the stairs to join Gwen in front of the computer.
Three months later
'Where did I...? Ah! Here it is. I knew I left it down here.'
Ianto shoved Jack's seldom worn dress shoes back into the cupboard then pushed himself to his feet. Jack saw the small white first aid kit in his hands and raised an eyebrow in query.
'Left over from that time you wanted to play hospital,' Ianto explained in answer to the silent question. 'I wasn't going to return it to O... Owen. Not with half the bandages missing and no good explanation.'
Jack bit his lip when Ianto's voice broke over Owen's name, grief washing over him as fresh and as gut-wrenching as it had been when he'd first realised that the other man was truly gone this time.
'Give me your hand,' Ianto murmured, taking Jack's hand carefully before Jack had a chance to comply and tutting over the scrapes. 'You really are an idiot sometimes.'
Jack couldn't disagree; not when Ianto was gently swiping anesthetic wipes over the raw gouges across his knuckles, the result of Jack's phone altercation with Owen's mother.
'You're lucky you didn't break it,' Ianto continued as he wielded a pair of tweezers and carefully plucked larger slivers of wood and plaster out of Jack's wounds. 'We don't have a medic anymore.'
Jack saw Ianto's poorly-concealed wince as his own words hung in the air, and ran his free hand over the other man's mussed hair. Ianto had been so good in the days following Tosh and Owen's deaths; doing the hard, painful jobs that Gwen wouldn't and Jack couldn't face. Keeping the Hub running as smoothly as he could; co-ordinating with various government agencies in charge of rebuilding the city after Jack's impatience made communications tense; making sure that Gwen had a shoulder to cry on, and Jack had a body to bury himself in, and that they both had his wonderful coffee to keep them going.
Jack felt a shot of guilt. Ianto had been there for him when it all became too much, when he was worn out from his regrets, from trying to take the weight of Gwen's grief on his own shoulders. Had Ianto even cried yet? Jack's insides twisted with shame as he realised he didn't know.
A sharp sting across his knuckles made him hiss softly and Ianto mumbled an apology. Jack peered at his shadowed face - really seeing him this time - and his heart sank. Ianto looked completely worn out: eyes ringed in black from sleepless nights, face grey and gaunt and looking far older than his meager years. There were new lines etched around his mouth, his jaw was rough, and his suit was ill-fitting where it once clung like a second skin.
He looked awful.
Jack had never loved him more.
'Hey,' he said, the word sounding like a croak from his suddenly tight throat. 'T...Tosh once told me that I... I should tell the people I... love how I feel more often. I told her that they knew.'
Ianto paused for a moment, hand half-way to the first aid box, then finished the journey, returning with a crepe bandage.
'That was good advice,' Ianto murmured, holding the end of the bandage in place with a thumb while he twined the length around Jack's hand. 'You'll only need this on for an hour or so until you heal. Don't want to undo all my hard work by getting something nasty and alien in the wound.'
'Do you?' Jack asked abruptly, gnawing at his lip. 'Do you know?'
Ianto looked up with a surprised expression and smiled. 'I know, Jack,' he said quietly. 'We all know.'
He closed his eyes for a moment then looked back at Jack, the pain reflected so deeply in those blue eyes that Jack couldn't bear to look directly into them. 'Knew,' he corrected himself sadly. 'Gwen and I know. Tosh and Owen knew.'
He fastened the end of the bandage with a clip then trailed his fingers lightly over the exposed ends of Jack's before withdrawing his hand. 'Done,' he told Jack, reaching for the first aid kit. Jack intercepted him, though, threading their fingers together as he drew Ianto's hand to his mouth. He pressed his lips to Ianto's palm then caged his hand between his own.
'She said it's nice to hear it sometimes,' he whispered, eyes on Ianto's face, searching for a hunger he hadn't fed, a need he hadn't met. 'Ianto, I...'
'Don't,' Ianto said in a rush. He bit his lip – a nervous habit – then slid a hand along Jack's thigh, closing it around the bony jut of his hip. 'She... Tosh was right. It would be nice to hear it, but only if you want to say it. Not because you think you should or think I need to hear it. And not because you're scared of making the same mistakes Tosh did.'
Jack winced at that and Ianto smiled, lifting the hand that had been gripping Jack's hip to Jack's face. 'I know, Jack,' he murmured, stretching to press his lips reassuringly against Jack's. 'And you know. That's enough.'
Jack released Ianto and carded his fingers of his good hand through the brown curls that, he now realised, were longer than Ianto usually kept them. His bandaged hand hooked around Ianto's nape, thumb rubbing along the curve of his neck.
'You're good for me, Ianto Jones,' he said softly, and Ianto's gentle smile grew.
'I could be bad for you now Gwen's gone home,' he suggested with a lewd crook of his eyebrow.
Jack chuckled quietly, but shook his head. 'Not tonight,' he said, drawing Ianto closer and pressing their brows together. His hands skimmed over Ianto's shoulders, feeling the coiled tension in the muscles there, the stiffness in his neck and arms, and resolved to make it disappear. 'Tonight I'm going to show you how good I can be for you.'
Tosh was right – it was nice to hear it – but it was even nicer to know Ianto didn't need to hear it. He just knew, and Jack knew, and that was enough for them both.