I shouldn't have brought him with me, Jack raged to himself. I should have made him stay behind. We should be living together, not dying together. He'll die, and I'll wake up, I'll be torn back into life. But he won't be there to hold me through it. Never again. Never….No No No No No
Ianto struggled desperately to speak. It had become a game, this holding back the words. And now, too late, he was saying it, finally. Well, better late than never.
"I love you, I….."
And even through the agony in his mind and heart, Jack knew what came next. Knew exactly what he had to say. Because they had their own language, their own code. Words unique to them, that would mean more than repeating those other precious words one last time.
First dates were always awkward. They'd caught a movie before dinner, at Jack's suggestion. Because he had other plans for after they'd eaten. Besides, first date etiquette suggested seeing the movie first would give them something to talk about over the meal. Something other than Torchwood. And it had worked, to an extent. They'd had a laugh picking holes in the sci-fi flick they'd seen. But the conversation had run dry over the entrees.
Jack watched Ianto across the table, trying to hide his amusement. The young man was pretending to be concentrating on his food, when he'd hardly gotten any into his mouth. Hadn't met his eyes all evening. Hands, lips, yes, a satisfactory amount of that in the darkened cinema, but not eyes. Shyness was the last thing he'd expected, considering. Cute though. Damn cute.
"How's your pasta?" Jack asked casually.
"It's OK. Bit heavy on the anchovies," Ianto muttered.
"Really? I've had the puttanesca here before, I've always liked it." Jack reached over and grasped the wrist holding the fork, bringing it towards his own mouth.
"Yeah," he agreed, swallowing. "They went a tad overboard with the hairy fish this time."
Ianto pulled his hand away, eyes flicking around the restaurant.
"Something wrong?" Jack asked.
"Don't like sharing food," Ianto mumbled.
"We share pizza all the time," Jack pointed out.
"That's different. Everyone shares pizzas."
"We've shared the same slice," Jack reminded him. He was getting an inkling of the problem here, and he didn't like it much. He slid his hand deliberately across the table, reaching for the hand Ianto wasn't using to pretend to eat. Watched it snatched away.
"So," Jack said quietly. "Grappling in the Hub is fine, snogging in the cinema is OK, but I'm not allowed to touch even your hand in public, is that it?"
Ianto met his eyes, finally. "I'm sorry. I'm just…I'm not used to this."
"What exactly," Jack asked "Are you not used to? Eating in public? Dating?"
Ianto flushed. "Dating," he admitted. "Dating men, specifically. I'm not. I don't…"
Jack waited. Ianto attacked his food determinedly.
Really doesn't want to tell me, thought Jack with amusement. Not all bad, at least it's made him actually get some food into his mouth. Better not tell him he dripped sauce on his tie. And I'm worrying if he's eating enough. Pathetic, Harkness.
"I like women," Ianto burst out. "I loved Lisa. I…" he spluttered to a halt again.
"I like women too," Jack pointed out. "When I'm with one."
"And bug-eyed aliens, when you're with them," Ianto added. Slightly bitterly.
Well, that's something, Jack thought, at least he's jealous.
"I've met some very lovely bug-eyed aliens," he agreed.
Ianto went back to shredding pasta
"Have you finished eating?" Jack asked.
Ianto pushed his plate away. "Yep."
"No thanks," Ianto smiled thinly. "Watching my waistline."
Jack grinned. "So am I. Looks good in those jeans, by the way." He chuckled at the blush. "Coffee? Won't be as good as yours, but at least you won't have to make it."
Ianto shook his head. "Too late. Won't be able to sleep."
"I wasn't expecting to get much sleep tonight," Jack said cheerfully. "Were you?"
Ianto choked slightly. "A latte, then," he muttered.
Ianto's nondescript sedan was parked next to the SUV in the car park. They hovered uncertainly between the two vehicles.
"I could have picked you up," Jack commented, leaning back against the door of the SUV.
"Doesn't matter," Ianto said, fumbling for his keys.
Jack took a deep breath, then took the plunge. "Do you want to come back to the Hub?" And was quite annoyed with himself at how pleased he was to see Ianto nod.
"See you there then. Twenty minutes?"
"Ten," Ianto disagreed. "It's not that far."
"I thought," Jack said with amusement, "You might want enough time to pick up a change of clothes for tomorrow." Even in the uncertain light of the carpark, he could see the crimson blush flare across Ianto's face. Jack bit back a smile. Guess he hadn't thought of that. He really isn't used to this. Sneaking around isn't his first preference. And Jack suddenly didn't feel like smiling anymore. Which means I'm just his dirty little secret. Nice. Not. But he knew he'd go along with it anyway. For a while. The Welshman was under his skin. Couldn't give up this easily.
"Not that I'd mind the jeans, personally," Jack added, trying and failing to keep the edge out of his voice. "But the others might notice."
Ianto still didn't answer. He had his car door open by now. The cabin lights illuminated a clothes hanger suspended from a hook in the back seat. Complete with a full suit. Shirt, tie, probably socks and shoes there somewhere, too.
Jack's mood cleared abruptly. Maybe he had it wrong. "Ten minutes, then," he said lightly, leaning in for a kiss. Which Ianto dodged.
"What's the problem now?" Jack asked impatiently.
"I'm sorry," Ianto said, dredging up a smile. "Took me by surprise." But his eyes were roaming the car park, registering the other people returning to their cars. And Jack could see the effort it took for Ianto to lean back towards him.
"Don't force yourself," Jack said tightly, backing away, hands dropping to his sides. "I'm not into unwilling sacrifices. It's not like this is a condition of employment. Go home, Ianto. See you tomorrow."
"Jack," the touch on his arm was light, but it froze him in the act of climbing into the SUV. "Jack, don't go. I'm sorry, I really am."
Jack dropped back down to the tarmac. "What the hell do you want from me, Ianto? Tell me, because I've got no idea."
"Neither have I," Ianto confessed. "This is new for me. Too new. I don't…I can't…."
His eyes were begging for understanding. Jack's anger evaporated.
"Space?" Jack offered. "Time? Persistence? Indifference? What?"
"Patience?" Ianto suggested.
"I can do that," Jack agreed. "So," he leaned towards Ianto again, giving him time to pull away, relieved when he didn't. Took his face between his hands. Kissed him lingeringly - on the forehead. "OK?" he asked.
Ianto smiled. "Yep."
"Keep that for public consumption then," Jack suggested, drawing away reluctantly. "Would that help?"
"Yep," Ianto agreed. "Thanks." He turned back to his car. "Hub?" he asked uncertainly, looking back over his shoulder. "Or not?"
"Not," Jack decided regretfully. "In the interests of patience, you understand."
"OK," Ianto agreed. "But, um." Pause. "I'll pay for dinner next time, yeah?"
Jack grinned. "Next time? You asking me on a date? Patience paying off already?"
Ianto dropped into his car, started the engine. "Was that a yes?"
"Yes," Jack called over the sound of the engine. "Yes."