Sometimes it won't go away

Night was starting to fall over New York City. In spite of the jokes they made about having to share, the rooms were nice, posh even. Jack had divided them along gender lines, which left him sharing a room with Owen, much to the other man's disgust. But they were too tired to even joke much. The emergency call out from UNIT and the subsequent transatlantic flight arranged in less time than it took to have a swift half at the pub, the adrenaline charged trip, only to find a false alarm left them glassy eyed and bone weary. The rest of the team headed out to find dinner and what passed for a pub but Jack had bowed out. He didn't feel like explaining, not that he ever did. He looked out at the city for a long time, deciding. It had been a long time, but he knew the number hadn't changed; it wouldn't, not without letting him know. Tired, and achingly alone, he dialed.

Kenneth Irons knew who it was when he picked up the phone. He always did, though he wasn't entirely certain how or why, it simply was. "Jack." There was no tone to give away what he was thinking, but after so long they could read everything in nothing, the need, the ache that mirrored his own. It made his heart race, that connection and the ever present loneliness loosened just a little. It was always the same, the same pattern. The phone call, the meeting, then later, much later, there would be talk, and the other gone before dawn. It wasn't a relationship particularly, they saw each other rarely, perhaps once or twice in a decade, certainly sometime they didn't even like each other. But they had a bond of sorts…forged of age, loneliness, and a kind of shared past that no one else would understand. Neither of them changed, nor did they die. Sometimes it was just enough to keep the despair at bay for a little while, not always, but some times.

"I'm in New York." It seemed a stupid thing to say, there would be no other reason for the call. He rarely contacted Kenneth otherwise. Neither of them was known to call just to socialize, that would change everything and neither of them wanted that.

"Come to the house." The phone closed with a click, and Jack picked up his greatcoat and started for the door.

"Captain Harkness is coming," he said without looking at the figure standing in the shadows radiating disapproval, "show him straight here."

"Sir, I don't…" he said, going rigid as if at a threat, though none was apparent. Something about the man made Ian uncomfortable. Not that it mattered to him who kept company with his father, not really. Or so he tried to tell himself. But this…relationship or whatever it was made him deeply unhappy. While they saw each other only occasionally still there was a connection very different from his. He could count the number of times he had heard the man mentioned in his life on the fingers of one hand and he was unaware of any other communication between them. Ian had tried once to ask, but his father would say nothing except that they were two of a kind, and that it was none of his business. He didn't particularly want to know but whatever it was, it was wrong, very wrong. The last time there were bruises, a swollen lip, and the ghost of something wild and predatory about his father's eyes, hints of a loss of control that frightened him in a way that nothing else could. And unlike any of his fathers other lovers, past or present, he wouldn't just die. Ian had even considered taking it into his own hands. Only his father's ire and the realization that the man was probably not easy to kill kept him from it.

"We will not discuss this again," Irons said dismissively. "Go see to your Wielder." Ian looked for a moment as if he might rebel. "Leave." He knew the boy would go, he was too well trained, and there was nothing he could do anyway. Turning himself deliberately away from the problems of the present, he allowed himself to get lost in memories of the past.

December, 1941

The night was cold and clear, not a good night to be out when at any time bombs could come raining out of the night sky but it was an invitation it would be wise not to refuse, even if on the surface it was only an invite from an old friend, the world was not that easy, not during war time. Besides, the Luftwaffe didn't like clear nights particularly either, the more they could see, the more they could be seen. Inside the large foyer, the butler took his heavy coat and scarf. The party was already in full swing, a little thank you for soldiers, some newly arrived, others stationed in and around London.

"Kenneth," his old friend John greeted him as he came through the door, taking a moment to allow the warmth to rush over him. A pity, he thought, that it could not warm me inside as well. "Glad you decided to come. I want you to meet one of our guests," he said, putting a hand out to the arm of a dark haired man with his back to them telling some kind of story to a wounded soldier with his arm in a sling and his wife.

"Oh, John," the man said turning around to greet the host. "Great Party!" His face was alive, matinee idol handsome with a smile that was infectious and an accent that placed him squarely on the other side of the Atlantic. Kenneth felt the other man's gaze flicker over him quickly, appraisingly, leaving behind the kind of warmth that the heat of the room could not, dangerous warmth reminding him of things best forgotten or not thought about at all.

"Thank you, nothing is too good for the men, you know. Listen, I have someone I want you to meet…"

"Captain Jack Harkness," he said sticking out his hand with no further provocation.

"Kenneth Irons," he said quietly, more reserved, guard instantly up as green eyes took in the cocky smile, the brilliant blue eyes, and the hand he offered, taking it carefully as though not sure how to react to the man.

"Ken, pleased to meet you, sorry, but my friend went off to get us a couple of…"

"Kenneth," he corrected him, looking the man over thoroughly. There was something about him, something intriguing and a little bit irritating as well. "American then?" Kenneth said, trying for cool politeness in spite of an instinct about the man, a feeling that went through him like electricity. It had been a good while since he had felt that kind of instant connection with someone, and that not an American, no matter how handsome. They tended to be both more progressive and less, in the oddest ways. These were dangerous times for many reasons and that kind of interest was positive madness. The thoughts that slipped behind his eyes were deadly and tore him between staying and getting to know the Captain better, and going as far away as fast as he could.

"Yep, that's right, you know it?"

"In parts," he said quietly. He didn't want to encourage conversation with the young man, or anyone else particularly, but it seemed to be dragged out of him. Whatever it was about the American that attracted him it was something visceral, something he couldn't explain and didn't want to think about. Certainly it was not like him to stand around chatting with someone he did not want to talk to. But rather than pulling John aside on some pretext or excusing himself to the bar, he stood rooted to the spot.

"Good, that's good, you take care of him, Jack, a host must…" John said vaguely wandering off to greet some new arrivals, leaving the two men who would probably rather not be talking alone together.

Jack hadn't intended to go to a party. His plans for the evening had been very simple really, Algy was a bit of fun and all but it was just that, a little flirting, a pat on the ass, nothing serious. It wasn't a good idea, not at this time, in this culture to really even hint at more, though he would certainly not refuse if the other man brought it to him. But he was not going to make the first move, and so they were at stalemate, at least for the moment. Actually his plans involved a rather friendly barmaid at the Dragon who put his creativity in bed down to being American and was more than eager to learn more about his "Yank ways". But when Algy invited him to the party it seemed a good idea, something hinting that maybe he wasn't just wasting his time there. The barmaid would still be there tomorrow. Besides there were plenty of other prospects, a lot of people were attracted to men or women in uniform, himself included, though personally he preferred a nice suit. Regardless, he was certain he wouldn't be going home alone tonight. Smiling he brought his attention to rest on the sharply dressed man in front of him. His eyes went through Jack like a sonic blaster and it took him a minute to clear his head.

"Ah, yeah," Jack said, trying not to look as much at a loss as he was. It was not often that he met someone who came as close to stopping him dead in his tracks as this man did. It was something about cut of the suit, something about the eyes that said beneath the frozen exterior was the kind of fire that could burn you to ash, and Jack had always liked playing with fire. But this was a bad plan, one of his worst, and it was pretty plain that the other man didn't want to be left with him. "Would you like a drink? My friend went to get a couple but we could…"

"You need not attend to me, Captain Harkness," he said, obviously trying to back himself out of the awkward situation. They both knew it wasn't John's intent, he was just trying to keep the party going and happy, but now they were in a bad spot. "John should not have dropped me on you like that, and as I have known him for years, I imagine that I can find the bar for myself."

"It's Jack, please, and believe me, I know what it's like not to want to be at a party. Some of these guys are probably about as keen on having me here as you are about being here. Might as well…" He stopped as he spotted two hands with drinks glasses edging into his field of vision, ahead of his friend, army Captain Algernon Hamilton as he wove through the crowd, trying not to spill. "Like I said, Algy, meet…"

"We've met, how are you, Sir?" he said, smiling more or less and trying to sort out the drinks and shaking hands. Jack took the drinks, handing one to Kenneth while the two men shook hands.

"I think you can call me Kenneth, at least now. How is your father?" He took a sip of whiskey, trying to keep the distaste off his face. Jack figured he must have gotten the bourbon that was in all likelihood mean for him.

"He is well, sir. At least he was last time we talked, he's taken Mum out of the city. My father is one of Mr. Irons, er…Kenneth's solicitors, Jack. I clerked for him the summer before I joined up."

"That's like a lawyer, right?" Jack said, handing over the other drink to his friend, though it left him without.

"Yes, rather like, bit more specialized I suppose, or at least differently so. Oh, let me go and get another, here, Jack, you may as well have this, it's that damn bourbon of yours anyway," he said and dove into the crowd again. As they watched the young officer thread his way through the crowd, a hand came out and tapped Irons on the shoulder.

"What are you doing here? This party is for British soldiers, and proper gentlemen." The man was red in the face and obviously had a few more than a few too many. "You should have the good grace and courtesy not to be where you are not wanted."

It took a lot to shock Jack. He had been in and broken up his share of fights in barracks, barrooms, just about any place soldiers and liquor were put together in quantity. There were bound to be any number of dust ups but this was a bit beyond him. Very few people went looking to offend a man with so much obvious wealth and power. Finding himself ignored, he decided to insert himself back into the equation. John had been very kind, it was only fair that he do his part to keep the peace not to mention avoid ruining a perfectly good party. Besides, while Kenneth looked like he could take care of himself, it was probably better if he didn't. "Hey Fella," Jack said, laying a friendly hand on the man's arm as the other man stood, not saying a word, his face a completely neutral masque. Even still Jack though he could detect something, a flicker of wariness that he recognized from his own mirror. The intruder turned around to face him with an irritated look.

"Bloody Yank," the man said, pulling free. "Come over here acting as if you own the place, as if you are doing us a bloody great favor…" He was getting even redder and Jack found himself suddenly the focus. While shifting attention had been his goal this was not what he had in mind. The man gave off a seething cesspit of emotions all heightened by alcohol and fueled by rage. The look almost set him back on his heels in its intensity but he had never been one to back down from a challenge, in fact usually he enjoyed them.

"Listen buddy, all I'm trying to do is have a quiet evening. You know a couple of drinks, dance with some pretty girls, celebrate the fact that my friends and I are still here and still breathing. This isn't the time or the place for a fight. It wouldn't be fair to the host."

"Leave him," Kenneth said, quietly, ruining Jack's attempt at gallantry. "Your fight, if you insist on having one is with me. But perhaps it would be wiser if we took our disagreement outside?" He made it a question with a quirk of one eyebrow, though his face was still impassive. Jack wasn't sure what to make of the other man, what he was doing or why he felt the need to get involved. It wasn't as if he was planning on getting to know him any better. He should by all rights just let him go on, and it would mean the end of the confrontation. That would end his obligation. Then there was the question of why Kenneth was voluntarily putting himself back into the equation. The man seemed perfectly at home attacking Jack, he could have just stepped aside. Maybe his is just not comfortable with your attempt to ride to the rescue? He thought wryly to himself.

"You…you, how dare you?" The man said, his voice sounding as if was being choked from his body. "Goddamn Bosch!" The man took a deep breath and looked as if he were getting ready to spew another geyser of hostility. The two men looked at each other, and Jack wondered briefly why he was so fond of this century. They had prejudices here that he could barely comprehend much less accept or play along with. Here was a man that in another time and place he would have already made his interest in perfectly clear and with any luck, be at least halfway on his way to bed with. Instead he was defending him, or something while trying to prevent the kind of end to the party that would ruin the mood and the evening. As that rather confusing thought trying to eek out room in his already crowded and overheated brain, he braced, waiting for the next onslaught, whether verbal or physical. A glance told him that Kenneth, while trying to be completely relaxed was also subtly shifting his stance, preparing himself in a way that bespoke some kind of military training as well.

Before Jack or Kenneth could do anything, Algy was suddenly beside him, bringing with him a reinforcement. "Alright now Uncle," the other man said as he took a hold of one of the man's arms. Jack recalled vaguely being introduced to him before, some friend of Algy's from the barracks, offering them both a different kind of rescue. "I think you have had enough fun this evening." Algy scooped an arm around him from the other side and before the man knew what was happening, the two had maneuvered him out of the crowd. With a look of apology, Algy disappeared out the door. Jack turned to say something to the other man but he was already surrounded, swallowed up by the crowd in the room. Tired and suddenly alone, he decided to step outside for some fresh air and a smoke. At least he thought the cold would take his mind off other things, like Kenneth Irons.

The air outside was cold and still, and Jack pulled the coat tighter around himself as he pulled out a battered cigarette case. He tried to focus on the simple act that would give him a good reason to be out there in the cold alone. Carefully he lit the cigarette, and cupped it with his hand to shield it against the wind. At the moment he was wondering very much why he came to the party at all. Maybe he should leave, he thought, go find that bar maid. What he didn't need was to hang around here, allowing himself to focus on the strange, electric, dangerous attraction he felt. He could find Algy, if he was back from helping deal with the problem. Maybe they could stop flirting this time, maybe they could finally move on to something, anything. Jack was tired of being alone.

Perhaps that was all it was. He was being reckless; he knew that, endangering himself and the man who had befriended him when the others were a little unsure about Americans in general and a stranger in particular. Though his behavior had mostly been passed off as harmless yank bluster, still Jack knew he should stop, but he had never been good at stopping. Over the top, and never mind the fall out, that had always been his way. Maybe he should just leave, get out of this time zone for a little while even though he hadn't finished what he was doing. The thoughts were dark like the night around him. He wasn't used to it, he was Captain Jack Harkness, at least he was now; cool, confident, just a little cocky, and definitely a little reckless. Dark thoughts were just not like him, or so he told himself. Jack was trying to decide whether he should go back to the party when he heard the door open. He turned away, hoping that who ever it was would take that as a sign that he was not feeling social.

Kenneth watched from the doorway as the young man smoked, obviously lost in his thought. He should go back, leave him alone and try to think of something, anything else. Or so the wiser voice in his head whispered. At first, he thought he was mad or reckless for the rush he felt in the presence of the other man but his friendship with Algy cast things in a different light, and there was something almost flirtatious in his attitude. He wondered whether he and the American were lovers, but pushed that thought aside for now. Jack was beautiful, confident and just a bit cocky, but he was also a man who most definitely knew what he was about. That alone was enough to convince Kenneth to take the chance and damn the consequences, just this once.

For a moment he considered Algy. Like so many other young men he was confused, devoted to his family and his duty and completely unable to deal with the person he was inside. One of the reasons Kenneth himself indulged so infrequently was that such encounters were rarely pleasurable in any but the basest physical way, full of guilt and fumbling like a cheap toss with a Limehouse whore. But he could sense in Jack a kind of sensuality that appealed to his own. Here was someone who would most definitely match him pleasure for pleasure. Quietly he stepped out, allowing himself to study the young man at his leisure, unobserved while he planned his next move, his doubts already pushed to the back of his mind. It was only a night after all.

"It is a bit close in there." Jack started. The voice, low, intimate and familiar was also closer than he was expecting. Kenneth Irons was standing right behind him, close enough that he could almost feel his breath in the cold air. He was quiet, you had to give him that. The other man slid a hand into his jacket and withdrew a slim cigarette case and Jack couldn't help his eyes following the slim fingers against the dark fabric. He had come out without his coat but seemed to be paying little attention to the cold.

Jack automatically pulled out his lighter and cupped his hands around it, offering to the other man. As Kenneth leaned in close, he wondered if it was his imagination or was he closer than necessary. He felt the cold hand cup his, bringing both a little closer, holding perhaps a little longer than was required. Then he leaned back and took a slow drag, the exhale a tired sigh. The man had a beautiful voice. Unable to stop himself, Jack's mind flew to other sounds, wondering what that beautiful voice would sound like, the sighs, groans and cries as they tore out of that aristocratic throat that drew his attention. What would it be like to watch him lose control? To make him? Jack pulled back trying to look casual, realizing that he had been leaning closer to the man. I need to pull myself together, he thought. I need to find some company tonight before I do something even more stupid. But the thought had no real savor for him and when he looked at the man standing before him, he found the other man looking back at him, appraising.

"So how well do you know young Algy?" Kenneth asked a little too casually. Jack looked back, just as casual, but his heart rate tripled and he could feel that electricity buzzing through him. Perhaps he was wrong or reckless. The temptation to flirt with the man was almost too much, despite his earlier declaration of good behavior. He was always better at making them than following through anyway.

"He's a friend." Jack shrugged, looking at him with the crooked smile he used to charm so many before. Kenneth nodded, returning the smile. He was without a coat and Jack found himself unfastening the heavy wool great coat he was so fond of and offering it to him. His uniform jacket was thick and the cold helped keep his thoughts focused just a little.

"Are you sure?" Kenneth said as he took it. "It wouldn't do for one of our heroes to succumb to pneumonia just to protect me from my own folly." There were definite undertones there and a certain amount of irony that Jack would have enjoyed more if he had not found the urge to move closer almost unbearable. But how much was there and how much was what he wanted to see? Reckless, yes, stupid, no. Overstepping himself with someone like this would not just get blown off. No matter how much Jack knew he should just be smart, go back to the ship, order a martini, run a couple of scans and take a very cold shower, somehow he could not seem to make himself move.

"I'm no one's hero," he said, "but I do know a lot about folly." Reckless, he thought to himself again, completely reckless.

"I am sure you do. You are certainly not just some farm boy from America," Kenneth said, smiling a wicked smile, those green eyes missing nothing as he stubbed out the cigarette with one fine leather shoe. Jack couldn't seem to help himself, taking in all the details.

"No, I'm from Chicago," he said, trying to deflect whatever it was that the other man sensed, turning to look out at the night. He had just finished promising himself that he would stop, that he would be careful, and here he was flirting with danger again. There was a cold hand on his shoulder, and he turned to find himself being studied. Then the moment was passed, the hand slipped away, leaving only cold.

"Thank you for the use of your coat," Kenneth said as he handed it back. "We should get back inside." Then he was gone, leaving the heavy wool hanging from his arm, smelling of someone else.

Back inside, another drink turned to two, and he was giving serious consideration to a third when Algy caught up with him. "Hey Tiger," he said affectionately, trying to act as casually as he could.

"A few of the lads and I are heading out to the pub, maybe a little dancing. Care to come along. I'll make sure you get home." It was an offer of sorts, Jack could see that. On any other night he would jump at it, considering how much he liked him, but he knew that at least tonight, his thoughts would be elsewhere and that wouldn't be fair to either of them. Instead he pleaded tiredness and asked for a rain check, one he had every intention of taking him up on, another time.

He walked out with them, laughing and joking. Most of them were guys he knew from the base and it took a bit of work to turn down their encouragement. "Come on, Jack, you always draw the best birds," one of them said, as they turned down the street and left him alone in the dark. He stood on the sidewalk with a last cigarette, watching the night swallow them up.

So wrapped up in his own thoughts, Jack almost didn't see the black Bentley as it pulled to a stop right in front of him. The window was opened and he looked through at Kenneth Irons, sitting snug and smug in the rear seat of the car. "After your help, the least I could do is offer you a ride," he said beckoning him into the warm car. Jack hesitated only a moment before climbing into the back next to him, the close quarters bringing them almost knee to knee. It was warm and there was a cute young lady driving the car that he would have hit on in a moment if the man next to him had not completely absorbed all his attention.

"Where shall I take you?" Kenneth asked, one eyebrow raised, a wicked smile curving the thin lips. It was all there in that one look, no more games, just an offer that Jack knew he should turn down, and also that he wouldn't.

"Where ever you like," he said with a smile, and leaned back to enjoy the ride, content that he had not mixed his signals up at all.

"Home," Kenneth said, decisively. The young woman in the front seat nodded curtly and started the big car.

The house that the big automobile pulled up to was exactly what Jack expected of the man sitting next to him. The door to the house opened, letting a slice of light out into the dark night and Jack followed Kenneth toward the door. The man holding it could have been the clone of the one at John's earlier, waiting to take their coats from them. Kenneth waved him through a door on the other side of the foyer as he hung back to speak to the butler. Jack looked around at the room, warm wood, and a cosy fire burning on the grate. The window was covered with heavy blackout drapes, and whole room glowed of history and old money. Not the least bit surprising, considering the man himself, Jack thought. A moment later, the man himself entered, pulling the door behind him.

"Would you care for a drink?" he asked, as he moved to the side table and pulled the stopper out of a crystal decanter.

"I didn't think you brought me here for a drink," Jack said boldly, walking towards the other man with a smile.

"No, I have much more interesting plans for you this evening but that is beside the point. My staff has been with me a long time, they are very loyal. They pretend that you are nothing more than a guest, a soldier that I am offering a bed for the night. In return, I practice a degree of…discretion."

"I imagine your position here is delicate," Jack said, as he moved closer, taking the glass from his hand. The brandy was warm in his mouth, not that he needed it. The other man might appear icy on the ouside but there was more than enough fire to burn him through.

"It can be," Kenneth said, cradling the crystal snifter in his hand in a way that brought Jack's pulse up another notch. Graceful and confident, that was what those hands said to Jack. "It helps that I have lived here for some time, and that I have roots in this country. What about you, Captain? What are you doing here?"

Jack set his glass down on the nearest flat surface and reached out, cupping Kenneth's jaw in his large hand. He kept his movements slow. They were both moving with caution, but Jack was suddenly tired of the chase, he was ready for more. He pulled the other man to him. Lips met, touched, then parted. When they released one another, they were both breathing harder.

"Come, I think its time I showed you your place for the night." Jack turned to pick up his glass but Kenneth shook his head. "Leave it, you won't need it." That was more than enough for Jack.

Jack stood for a moment before the closed door. It was a world away from that cold night in 1941 when they were both young and looking for a little fun in the middle of the devastation around them. The boy had brought him up, glaring the entire time as he usually did when they were forced to interact. It was hard to imagine that he was the same little boy, that he was Kenneth's son. Cute too, but that was definitely something that he would keep to himself. Ian glared at him dangerously and he smiled as the young man retreated threateningly down the hall. But it was just a distraction, a last ditch effort to remind himself that he wasn't desperate, that he wasn't running to Kenneth because he needed him, because they needed each other. He took a deep breath and raised his hand to knock, but the door opened in front of him. "After all this time, you are still wearing that old coat," Kenneth said with a smile, his eyes roaming over the man in front of him. It wasn't as if there was any reason to hide anymore. The world had changed, and even if it hadn't, this was Kenneth Irons' world. The room was dark save for a fire on the hearth, and warm.

"And you still look good in or out of a suit," he said trying for his usual cocky grin and knowing that it was hollow even to him.

"Come, you must be cold," Kenneth said, drawing him in. They both knew it wasn't the temperature they were talking about, or suits or coats. But for the moment, all he knew was that they were here together, and it was enough for now. They could talk but they wouldn't, or perhaps they would, but not now. Now was not the time, not between two who had known each other for three quarters of a century. The door closed behind him with a snap as he reached out into the other man's arms, hoping he didn't look as needy as he felt.

"You could stay," Kenneth said later as they in front of the fire, both satiated and easier now than they had been. It was said casually, but there was more to it than that. They both knew it, just as they both knew he would refuse as he usually did, he had to. Kenneth had done the same to him, more than once. In all the time they had known each other, neither stayed, not often. It was a line that neither wanted to cross. They had changed, and perhaps another time, another day, but not now.

"I have to get back to my team. We leave early tomorrow, have to get back." He didn't apologize, and knew the other man wouldn't expect it. The offer was pro forma, made each time, rarely accepted, regardless of who made it. The fire was low and soon he would have to leave but for the moment, just for now, he enjoyed the comfortable chair.

"Someone special?" the other man asked, knowingly. After all this time, they both knew each other well enough to read everything in nothing.

"Someone who could be," he said leaning back in the chair and taking a drink. Kenneth merely nodded and turned to the fire. "What about you, anyone particular gotten snared by that Irons charm?"

"The same, someone…perhaps," he trailed off as Jack gave him one of his glowing smiles.

"I thought so," he said, grinning. "Who is she?"

"Jack, it is not like you to make assumptions," he said raising an eyebrow and glazing significantly through the open door at the tangled sheets trailing from his bed, evidence of their earlier activity.

Jack met his eyes with a smoldering look of his own. "Not an assumption, evidence. Kenneth, you have never been quite as 'flexible' as I am, not for a serious relationship. Besides, I thought the boy was more hostile towards me than usual. He must like her a great deal, because he has certainly never approved of me."

"I will speak to him," Kenneth said, suddenly serious.

"No, you won't. It isn't that important. Now about this girl…"

"Perhaps you are right, I have always been a bit too much a man of my time," he conceded gracefully avoiding the question. "Were you…" There is was again, that nibble, just the edge of a question that would probably never been asked, and certainly never answered.

"Am not," Jack said finally, closing that door. Kenneth shrugged lightly, too relaxed to make anything of it. It was a game but also part of what kept the two of them at their perpetual impasse, neither allowing the other any closer or pushing any further away, always orbiting one another at a safe distance.

Jack didn't know what time it was as he walked toward the hotel, trying to clear his head. He was looser, more relaxed than he had been but still not settled. He wasn't even sure why he went. They weren't in love. Hell, sometimes they didn't even in like with each other, though the attraction was still there and still mutual, not surprising since physically, neither of them changed. Frequently their meetings resembled nothing so much as consensual sexual assault than anything else. But they needed each other. They were two people with so many secrets, so much pain, and no one to share with; they needed someone they couldn't ever hurt. That was all, why they resisted, why they refused to let it become more. Not that it could have been, together they were combustible, for all definitions of the word. But it was a relationship of sorts; at least it was something to fill the darkness. Tonight, he had almost been tempted to stay. So why was he walking along a street in New York City at 3:30 in the morning? He didn't sleep much on a normal day anyway. What he really wanted was to be back home in Cardiff. Home, when did Cardiff, did Torchwood become home? The phone rang and Jack clicked his earpiece. "Yes?"

"Sir, that information you requested, I have it."

"Ianto, have I told you how magnificent you are recently?" he said, feeling a smile as contentment settled over him suddenly. "But you didn't have to call. Tomorrow is soon enough. Do you know what time it is here?"

"Three thirty-four in the morning," the young man said promptly. "Did I wake you sir?" he asked, concern in his voice.

"No, not at all, and even if you did, the sound of your voice would make it all worth it."

"I think that is harassment, sir," he said, but Jack could hear the warmth in the younger man's voice. Once again he started to wonder if perhaps he ought to make his interest a little more clear.

"No, trust me, when I harass you, you'll know it." Smiling, Jack walked up the front entrance of the hotel. "Good night, Ianto Jones. See you around tea time."

"I will have your coffee waiting." The phone clicked off as Jack headed up to the room and let himself in.

"Where the bloody 'ell 'ave you been?" Owen said, blearily from the other bed. Jack sloughed off his coat, and dropped it on the bed.

"I had to go and see an old friend."