Here we go, the final chapter. Hope you enjoy it! Sincere thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read this story. And extra special thanks to all the wonderful people who have reviewed and commented along the way. If you haven't had a chance to review yet, I'd love to hear what you think of the completed story.
Thanks also to my fantastic beta Prothrombintime.
Later that evening, Jack was taking his turn dancing with Tosh when Ianto approached them. "May I… erm…" Ianto cleared his throat and looked nervously at Jack and then Tosh.
They broke apart and Tosh smiled at the Welshman. "Of course, Ianto. He's all yours," she said warmly. "I'd better go and rescue that husband of mine anyway," she added, looking over to where Tommy was dancing awkwardly with her mother.
Tosh leaned in close to Jack and kissed his cheek. Tilting her head, she whispered in his ear, "He's happy, Jack. Thank you."
Then she turned on her heel and hurried off towards Tommy.
Ianto turned towards Jack and gave him a tentative smile. Jack shook his head with fond amusement, and after giving Ianto a moment to change his mind, took the younger man into his arms. They began to move slowly in time to the music, their hands entwined, and holding each other close.
"I've been waiting all night for this," Jack whispered as he pressed his cheek against Ianto's and luxuriated in the feeling of the warm, smooth skin against his own.
"Sorry. I wanted to," Ianto murmured. "It's just…"
"It's okay. You know that if you hadn't been ready, it would have been all right?" Jack reassured him. "Not that I wouldn't have been disappointed, but I would have understood."
"I know." Ianto nuzzled his face against Jack's neck and sighed. "Anyway," he began a moment later, pulling back to meet Jack's eyes. "I could hardly get a look in. You've danced with just about everyone here. Well most of the women anyway…" He grinned. "I don't think Owen was particularly keen."
"Just biding my time," Jack said with a small shrug. "And what can I say? Can't blame a guy for trying."
Ianto rolled his eyes, but the corners of his mouth tugged upwards. "The expression on his face was rather priceless."
"Tommy and Rhys weren't interested either," Jack moaned. "It's not possible is it? I can't be losing my irresistible charm?" he asked with a pout, looking thoroughly dejected.
"Or maybe Tosh and Gwen just warned them about you," Ianto suggested teasingly. "Anyway, you're not nearly as irresistible as you think you are."
"You think I'm irresistible," Jack declared smugly.
"Yes, well… you've had plenty of time to wear me down," Ianto retorted.
Jack growled good-naturedly and then grinned. "So, you don't deny it then," he said confidently.
Ianto rolled his eyes again. "Arrogant git," he mumbled, pressing himself closer to Jack.
They continued to dance for several minutes. Jack had his eyes closed, losing himself in the sensation of having the man he loved pressed up against him. He knew that it was a big step for the Ianto to dance with him in public, and his heart swelled with pride and affection.
Ianto eventually broke the silence. "Is your leg all right?"
"It's fine, Ianto. It's a bit sore, but I know my limits."
"I just worry that you might be over doing things," Ianto said, his voice wavering slightly.
Jack squeezed his hand to reassure him and rested their joined hands against his chest. "You don't need to worry. If I have any problems, I'll let you know. You know that."
Ianto nodded but didn't meet Jack's eyes. They continued to dance. Jack knew they were being watched by many of the wedding guests, most looking at them with fondness or envy, but a few with disapproval. He didn't care but he just hoped that Ianto didn't either.
"You're getting better. You've been practicing," Ianto observed a few moments later.
"Well I did have a very good teacher," Jack teased. "Gorgeous too. I couldn't keep my hands off him."
"Hmm. Should I be jealous?"
"Nah," Jack said breezily. "He was a bit too full of himself. And he was very demanding. He kept telling me off when I tried to lead."
Ianto shook his head sadly. "Poor bloke. He must have had the patience of a saint."
"I'm not sure 'saint' is a word I would associate with him," Jack said with a laugh. "He's quite a cheeky young devil." Jack lowered his voice conspiratorially. "And he's a tiger in the bedroom."
Ianto snorted. "Daft bugger. I didn't think it was possible, but your lines are actually getting worse."
Jack grinned unrepentantly. "But we had fun didn't we?"
Ianto's eyes glazed over for a moment. "Oh, yeah," he whispered.
"And I could really use some more lessons," Jack suggested.
"I think that can be arranged," Ianto replied seriously, his voice low and sending a shiver of desire surging through Jack.
Jack decided he'd better end that train of thought before he was forced to do something that might mortify the Welshman. "I'm glad we came back for this."
Ianto pulled back slightly and looked at Jack, his eyes bright. "Me too."
Jack walked briskly across the outside terrace, tugging Ianto along with him by his hand. The evening was clear and still, and not as cold as Jack had expected. He carefully negotiated the steps leading down to the gardens and then continued across the lawns.
"Jack, where are we going?" Ianto grumbled.
"Just a little spot I found earlier. We're almost there."
"Tosh and Tommy will be leaving soon. We can't miss seeing them off." Ianto stopped abruptly, looking annoyed.
Jack came to a halt and turned around. "We won't," he assured the younger man. "I told Tosh that we're just going for a stroll for a few minutes. She said to take our time and they'll be here for at least another half hour."
Ianto huffed but continued to allow Jack to lead him forward.
Moments later they reached a small gazebo at the end of the gardens. They walked around it and Jack stopped abruptly at the other side, Ianto stopping beside him. Before them, the ground gently rolled away and in the far distance, the lights of Cardiff blazed across the landscape. Above them, the full moon shone brightly, casting a silvery glow over the area, while stars filled the almost cloudless sky.
"This is the spot," Jack said. He turned and reached into the gazebo, extracting a large folded blanket. He laid it out on the grass beneath them as Ianto stared at him quizzically. Jack promptly sat down, pulling Ianto down to sit beside him.
"It's beautiful," Ianto whispered as he gazed out appreciatively.
Jack smiled. "I thought you'd like it."
He rose to his knees and reached back to the edge of the gazebo again. Carefully picking up two glasses and a half-size wine bottle that were hidden from view, he sat back down and passed a glass to Ianto.
"Champagne?" he asked with a cheeky grin as he deftly removed the wrapping and popped the cork.
Ianto's mouth dropped open. "How did…" he began.
"I gave one of the waiters a tip earlier and asked him to bring these down here for us," Jack explained. "It was all organised. I just had to tell him when. I did it when you weren't looking."
Ianto shook his head in disbelief, apparently lost for words. Feeling pleased that his gesture had left the Welshman speechless, Jack filled their glasses and settled the bottle down next to them. Moving closer, he wrapped his arm around Ianto's waist, leaned in and pressed a soft kiss to the corner of Ianto's mouth. Ianto smiled in response, briefly meeting Jack's eyes with his own.
Sipping their drinks, they gazed out at the vista before them.
Several minutes later, Jack placed his empty glass on the ground beside him and captured Ianto's left hand in his own.
"Ianto?" Jack squeezed their hands together slightly to get Ianto's attention as he idly rubbed his thumb over the back of Ianto's hand.
"Hmm?" Ianto returned as he continued to look out across the skyline.
"Is this what you want?" Jack began. "Something like this… a big formal event, lots of people, food and flowers, speeches and dancing?"
"Sorry?" Ianto murmured distractedly.
Jack gave him a nudge with his shoulder. "You know. When we get hitched."
"What?" Ianto spluttered. He turned to look at Jack, his expression filled with shock and disbelief.
Jack smiled. "When we get married. Is this the sort of thing that you want?"
"Jack, we're not… I mean, we can't… we're men… and two men don't…" Ianto stammered, shaking his head violently.
Jack continued to smile, amused by Ianto's histrionics. "Ever heard of a civil partnership? Ring any bells?"
"Of course I have. But I don't… I mean, I didn't think you'd… that we…" Ianto tried again, but he gave up and clamped his mouth shut.
"Have I ever told you how adorable you are when you're incoherent?" Jack teased.
"Probably," Ianto retorted sharply. "And don't change the subject."
"Fine. I just thought… you know… that we could make it official. You and me. I thought that maybe you'd want that – a proper commitment," Jack explained.
Ianto looked away and shrugged. "I suppose I've never thought about it."
"But it's what you wanted once," Jack insisted. "You told me you dreamed about being married."
"That was a long time ago," Ianto said as he looked off into the distance again. "Everything is different now." He shrugged again. "I'm not that person anymore."
"So, you don't want it? Or, it's too soon?" Jack asked evenly. "Or, is it that you just don't want it with me?" he added more quietly.
"No, it's not that." Ianto shook his head again. "Of course it's not. But we've never talked about this before."
"We're talking about it now," Jack urged.
"Obviously," Ianto said with a sigh. He turned back to Jack and looked at him searchingly. "You're not just saying this because you think it's what I want?"
"No," Jack said vehemently. "I mean, I do think that it's what you ultimately want. That it's what you need. But I want this for us. For you, and for me. I don't want anyone to doubt what we are and that you're mine."
Ianto's expression turned thoughtful. "And are you mine?" he asked in a whisper.
Jack sighed deeply. Ianto was surely one of the most frustrating people he had ever known. But he clamped down on his annoyance and raised his hand, stroking his fingertips gently down the side of Ianto's face and along his jaw.
"I've been yours for a long time now," he said matter-of-factly. "It's just taking you a while to believe it." He paused and looked at Ianto earnestly. "I want this for me too. I can't imagine my life without you, Ianto. I don't want to try to imagine it."
Ianto closed his eyes briefly and then looked back at Jack. "I'm not going anywhere, Jack. You know that, right?"
Jack nodded. "Yeah. I just… I like the idea of it being official. I know that probably seems ridiculous and old-fashioned, and I know we don't need a piece of paper to prove what we have…" he broke off awkwardly.
Ianto stared at him for a long moment. Then he ducked his head and mumbled, "Well, you haven't actually proposed yet…"
Jack took a deep breath. "Okay, here goes…" he said, his voice barely a whisper.
He gently cradled Ianto's chin in his hand and turned Ianto's head until he was looking into his eyes again. Then he took Ianto's hand in his own and held it tightly. Ianto's eyes were wide as he looked at Jack apprehensively.
"Ianto… you're stubborn and pedantic, and you can be a grumpy bastard. You're also prickly and difficult, and sometimes you're a royal pain in the ass. There are times you drive me to total distraction."
Ianto gasped and glared at Jack, his mouth opening to retaliate. But Jack just smiled and pressed his finger against Ianto's lips to silence him.
"And I love you more than I ever could have imagined. I didn't know it was possible to feel this way about someone until you came along. I never knew what love was, what being in love really felt like. But I do now and I never want to let you go."
Jack paused, suddenly feeling anxious. "And I know it won't be easy. We'll fight and we'll make each other crazy, and at some point maybe one or both of us will want to call it quits. I know there are no guarantees, but after everything we've been through, we know how lucky we are to have each other."
"Ianto, I've never wanted anything as much as I want this. I've never been more sure about anything. I want a lifetime with you. And I could be wrong, but I think you might want that too."
Jack paused again and gazed deeply into Ianto's eyes. He took another deep breath. "So, what do you say Ianto Jones… will you marry me?"
Silence hung thickly in the air between them. Ianto stared at Jack with a look of utter astonishment.
"You've been rehearsing that," he said eventually.
"Maybe," Jack admitted sheepishly.
"Jack, are you sure this is what you really want?" Ianto asked firmly, his eyes scanning Jack's face, searching for any hint of doubt.
"Yes." Jack's voice was steady.
Ianto gazed at Jack with affection and a hint of bemusement. No, it wasn't affection, Jack realised, his breath catching suddenly. Ianto's eyes were filled with love. But he needed an answer.
"I'm getting nervous here, Ianto," he said, his voice starting to break. "Look, if it's too soon…"
It was Ianto's turn to press a finger to Jack's lips, and Jack stopped speaking. He looked at Ianto expectantly. His heart was pounding in his chest so hard that he wasn't sure if it would handle the strain.
Ianto leaned forward and placed a tender, lingering kiss to Jack's lips. Pulling back, Ianto smiled. "Yeah, all right. But you're buying me a ring."
Jack started to breathe again. "Okay," he agreed with a dopey grin. "But only if I can choose where we go for our honeymoon."
Ianto grinned back. "Deal."
"We can go shopping tomorrow if you like," Jack said.
He decided not to mention that he'd planned for them to do precisely that anyway, and that he'd already picked out what he thought were the perfect rings. But he wanted the final decision to be one they made together.
"Okay," Ianto agreed.
Jack pulled Ianto into a tight hug. Then he looked at Ianto mischievously. "So, I was thinking that Ianto Harkness has a nice sound to it."
Ianto scowled. "Why not Jack Jones?" he countered.
"Seriously?" Jack asked incredulously.
"Okay, maybe not," Ianto conceded.
"Ianto and Jack Harkness-Jones?" Jack suggested hopefully.
"And why not Jones-Harkness?" Ianto demanded.
"Because it sounds better the other way," Jack argued. "Plus, I proposed to you, so I get dibs." He added sagely, "It's the rule."
"Fine," Ianto grumbled but a warm smile played across his lips.
Jack leaned in closer and kissed Ianto deeply. "Did I mention how much I love you?"
As Ianto stared into Jack's eyes, he felt the last remnants of his doubts begin to ease and fade into the darkness. Jack was right – there was a part of him that needed this, as hard as that was to admit. The fact that Jack also wanted a tangible sense of security and permanence made Ianto's own deeply buried desire seem less unsettling. There were no guarantees, but Jack was more than worth the risk. Being with Jack, Ianto had found the happiness and meaning that he had never expected to experience again. He was ready to take the chance.
Ianto returned Jack's kiss with equal enthusiasm. Then he replied.
"I love you too, Jack."