Author's Note: Inspired by a line from the ninth Doctor: "This is me, here and now; this is who I am!"
And I suddenly realised why he was so important to Jack, and why Ianto is so important (well, I had kinda got that bit, but this was another layer).
He escaped to his office from another round of 'poke Jack's past with a big unsubtle stick' and settled into his chair, which groaned so that he didn't have to. The office had moulded around him over the years, accepting his changes and the affectionate neglect he'd subjected it to over the years. It had never tried to push him or change him or make demands of him; it was his. Not like his team.
His Doctor hadn't cared who he had been, what he'd seen and what he'd done; all that had mattered was the person that the past had made him into. He let Jack be, left him his past and, by doing so, protected him from it. Jack had loved him for that.
Gwen pushed him too hard and too far; she had this image of the man she thought he was, of a dashing hero who saved everyone, never hurt anyone and was probably kind to puppies, and she tried so, so hard to fit Jack into the box she'd made for him. He had never been that person, but that was who she thought he was and that was who he had to be. And because of this, he never quite measured up, never quite made the grade, and couldn't help but fail her and disappoint her.
The door opened quietly and Ianto came in and set Jack's striped mug down next to this hand. He didn't say anything, but he brushed the backs of his fingers against Jack's wrist just once before he left, and Jack found a tiny emotional space to relax into. "Ianto," he stopped him.
Ianto paused in the doorway and turned back. "Yes, Jack?"
"All that counts is here and now," he told him softly. "This is me."
"I know." Ianto closed the door and leaned back on it. "That's why I never ask. You still tell me, though..."
"Because you never ask," he explained, wrapping his fingers around his mug. "This is what matters: Who I am here and now... and who I'm with. You."
"Yeah." Ianto dropped his gaze to his feet. "I guess I won't be around for long..." he trailed off and shook his head. "I like the here and now, this you. Some days I think I love it."
"Only some days?" Jack asked.
Ianto shrugged. "Well, I can't be certain every day, can I? It would take half the fun out of life."