Jack hadn't meant for the words to come out, but they'd tripped off his tongue before he could stop them and now, Ianto was sitting across from him on the late train from London to Cardiff after spending the afternoon visiting with Martha Jones and family. The invitation for Ianto to join him in London after the Doctor dropped Jack, Martha and Mickey off had been spontaneous, but, watching Ianto sleep now, his face content and a smile curling the corners of his mouth, Jack was glad for his tendency to speak before he thought.
'Everything is fine, here, Jack. Gwen's gone to find Rhys and call her family.'
'Why are you still at the Hub?'
'Rhiannon's fine – they're with Johnny's family in Newport – and you're in London. I've nowhere else to be.'
'It would only take a few hours for you to get to London.'
He'd tried to play down the significance of having Ianto meet the closest thing to family he had, but Francine had seen right through his nonchalant introductions.
He's lovely, Jack.'
'Of course he is. I only hire lovely people.'
'He's obviously crazy about you.'
'You've seen the jaw line. Do you blame him?'
'Do you want me to answer that?'
'Stop being so flippant. This is serious with him, isn't it?'
'I care about him, but I don't really do long term.'
'Jack, I've heard you talk about him. You lo...'
'It's not easy for me, Francine. To let them in. They... they leave me. All of them.'
'Love is the easiest thing in the world, Jack. Fighting it is what takes work. And what do you get in the end for all that struggling? What have you got when they're gone? The same heartbreak, but so many more regrets.'
Jack couldn't deny the simple truth of her words and, for the first time since Estelle, he thought he was ready to let his guard down. Ianto had fallen asleep soon after they left the station, and Jack let his gaze roam, taking the time to really look at Ianto, to commit every single curve and angle to memory: the slope of his nose – upturned at the end, the colour of his lips (the same shade of pink he blushed when Jack teased him) and the way Jack loved to lick the perfect bow, the way his cheekbones became sharper when he smiled, the sweet shell of his ear and the way his hair curled around the lobe when it got too long.
Ianto's eyelashes kissed his cheeks, fluttering slightly as Ianto dreamed, and Jack thought about the eyes behind the closed lids – God, those eyes could be as cold as ice or burn like fire, could blaze with anger or dance with laughter, that changed from pure blue to a light grey to almost black, depending on Ianto's mood.
He'd spent a lot of time looking at Ianto before now, but today, he really saw him - saw who he was, who he could be – and, with the revelations, came the reluctant admission of what he meant to Jack. The moment was a bit of an anti-climax, actually, considering the sheer terror Jack had always felt every time he considered letting Ianto get closer, but as the burden of not telling lifted from his heart, a broad grin broke across Jack's face.
He was happy. For the first time in a very long time, he was happy. The universe had been saved, he'd seen his beautiful Rose again, met Donna who had the greatest rack he'd seen in a long time, and had finally put his mixed feelings for the Doctor on a shelf. The Hub had been defended, Gwen was safe and with the man she loved so much she would risk the world to keep him with her... and so was he.
'He's a little young for you, isn't he?'
Jack blinked and tore his eyes from Ianto to stare at the elderly woman across the aisle. 'Excuse me?'
She pursed her lips. 'He's a little young for you,' she repeated, and Jack couldn't help but laugh.
'You have no idea,' he said, under his breath, before he turned up the wattage of his smile and aimed it right at her. 'He's very mature for his age,' he confided. 'He keeps me in line.'
She lifted her chin and peered at Jack appraisingly. 'Something tells me that's no easy task,' she retorted, and Jack laughed loud enough to make Ianto stir.
'You've got my number,' Jack said, beaming at her. 'He's a very patient and determined man.'
'Marvelous qualities to possess,' she said primly as she held out her hand. 'Eddy Marshall.'
'Captain Jack Harkness,' he said, giving the offered hand a gentle squeeze. 'And this delight is Ianto Jones.'
They both looked at Ianto – at his pale skin and the dark shadows under his eyes. 'He looks tired,' Eddy said with the tone of a fussy mother, and Jack quietly agreed.
'He's had a rough couple of months.'
'Good thing he's patient and determined then,' Eddy said, but her stern gaze softened as she watched Ianto.
'Good thing,' Jack agreed. 'He'd have given up on me a long time ago if he wasn't.'
'It's good to see a young man wearing such a fine suit,' she said, approvingly. 'They all prefer those baggy trousers these days.'
'He does make the suit look good,' Jack agreed, looking at Ianto and, for a moment, getting a little lost in remembering the last time he'd slowly stripped that suit from Ianto's body.
'How long have you been together?'
Jack, with difficulty, pulled himself out of his fantasy to study the woman. 'What made you think we're together?' he asked, partly to avoid a question he had no clue how answer (Should he count from the first kiss? First date? What about his two thousand years underground? The year that wasn't?), and partly because he was curious. What had she seen that revealed the nature of their relationship?
Eddy smiled. 'The way you've been looking at him for the last two hours,' she said with a reminiscent gleam in her sharp blue eyes. 'Like he's the sun and moon and stars all wrapped up in one, and you can't believe how lucky you are that he's yours. It's the way my husband used to look at me when I was young and beautiful.'
Jack felt heat suffuse his cheeks and ducked his head. Jesus. He'd feel less self-conscious if he and Ianto were naked and fucking in the middle of the aisle. He glanced at Ianto, whose head had tipped to press against the window, and smiled fondly.
'He is pretty spectacular. And it took me so long to see it,' he murmured, then he turned back to Eddy and reached across the aisle to take her hand. He pressed a soft kiss to the dry, papery skin and winked at her. 'Beauty isn't the sole dominion of the young, though.'
She chuckled as he stared at her through his eyelashes, and waggled an arthritic finger. 'Now, now,' she admonished playfully. 'What would your young man say if he caught you flirting?'
Jack leaned towards her conspiratorially. 'He'd probably steal you away from me,' he whispered. 'He's much more charming than I am.'
Eddy giggled, and her eyes sparkled in delight. 'Oh, he must be a saint to put up with you.'
'He's on his best behaviour right now,' Jack heard Ianto mutter, his sleep-thickened accent making arousal curl lazily in Jack's stomach. 'You should see him when he's being inappropriate.'
Jack turned his head to look at Ianto. The other man's eyes were clear and had a mischievous glint. Oh, hell. He's been awake this whole damn time.
'How long have you been awake?' Jack asked reluctantly.
The slow spread of Ianto's smirk told Jack everything he needed to know before he even opened his mouth. 'Long enough to know when I've got competition for your affections,' Ianto drawled, gaze lingering on Jack for a moment longer before his eyes slid to Eddy. 'I do hope he's not been too much trouble.'
'Nothing I can't handle, love,' she said, reaching over to pat his hand. 'My John was a rascal as well.'
Ianto smiled the affectionately exasperated 'he's impossible, I know, but what are you going to do?' smile that he and Gwen used when Jack was being particularly irrepressible. Eddy, predictably, melted, and Jack snorted softly in amusement. Ianto shot him a look and Jack straightened his face immediately. He settled into his seat, warmth blooming in his chest as watched Ianto charm the pants off Eddy Marshall.
A short time later, they pulled into Cardiff and Eddy bade them farewell. Jack stood and stretched, a wide yawn startling him. He was more tired than he'd realised. He turned towards the exit, and found himself in Ianto's arms. He managed to huff out a surprised laugh before Ianto's mouth covered his and then he was kissing him, slow and deep.
'What was that for?' Jack asked breathlessly when Ianto pulled back.
'Because I'm patient and determined,' Ianto said, voice low as he tangled their fingers and tugged Jack towards the doors. 'And because you finally saw me.'