Watching the bottle spin around Jack couldn't help the grin that spread from ear to ear. While he knew playing the game broke every rule his parents had laid out, he couldn't care less. He was curious, and it was his tenth birthday, after all. Why shouldn't he get the games he really wanted?
"Better not land on me," Owen remarked, sitting directly across from Jack. "You try to kiss me and I swear I'll pop you one!"
"Oh Owen," Gwen said, giggling. "You said you wanted to play."
"Not with Jack!"
"Ooh, the bottle's stopping!" Tosh exclaimed, loudly.
"Shh! My parents don't know!" Jack whispered.
The bottle slowed to a stop, coming to rest with the opening facing a suddenly flustered Ianto Jones. Jack's grin widened.
"Aw, no fair," mumbled Gwen, folding her arms and pouting. "Owen's right. It should only be girls."
"My game, my rules," Jack replied. He looked back over at Ianto, who was doing his best to fade into the background. "You're it, Ianto."
"I-think maybe Gwen and Owen have a point," the boy said, his face coloring a healthy pink shade.
"Nuh uh," Jack said, shaking his head. He crawled on hands and knees, around the bottle, past his other friends, and stopped in front of Ianto. "You have to let me kiss you. Those are the rules."
Ianto frowned, looking at Adam to his side. "Remember, Ianto, you wanted to play," the boy told him.
"Yeah," Suzie piped up, giggling next to Toshiko. "No fair backing out now."
Jack winked at Ianto, watching the boy squirm as he got closer. When he was just centimeters away he closed his eyes, pressing forward until his lips met the Welshman's. It lasted only a couple of seconds but when he pulled away he had to catch his breath at the other boy's nervous smile.
Ianto Jones was the cutest boy Jack had ever met, and he'd finally kissed him.
tw tw tw tw tw
"Jack, you can't be serious," Gwen argued, hands on her hips. "Why can't you just ask me to the dance?"
"Because, Gwen," Jack replied, stretching. "I want to ask Ianto."
"And how do you think the headmaster's going to react to that?" she asked, scowling. "You trying to get kicked out of school?"
Jack rolled his eyes. "There are no rules about non-students getting invited to our dances. I know, I checked."
"That's hardly the point," she replied. "There is etiquette to consider."
"And you think because Ianto Jones isn't a girl the school is going to complain?"
"I know that many people will."
"Well that's their problem, Gwen," he said, shrugging. "I'm not responsible for other people's hang ups."
"Let it go, Gwen."
"And what about his clothes?" she questioned, grabbing his arm as he tried to walk away.
"What about them?"
"Well," she started, eyes widening at his pointed glare. "He's not exactly…trendy, is he?"
Jack shook his head. "So you're a snob now, is that it?"
"No, I'm just saying…"
"Look, Gwen," Jack interrupted, placing his hands on her shoulders. "Ianto is my friend. He's your friend too, remember? Since we were little kids. And if I want to invite him to our dance, that's my decision. You can't talk me out of it. Now come on," he added, releasing her arms and nodding his head toward the group at the other end of the gymnasium. "We have practice."
tw tw tw tw tw
Ianto blushed, ducking his head. "That's…nice of you, Jack, but I don't think I can."
"Why's that?" asked Jack, snatching a chip off Ianto's plate.
He sighed to himself. Ianto's work shirt was a deep red, and it complimented his blush perfectly. A fact he'd have pointed out if the conversation hadn't just turned sour.
They were sat in their favorite chip shop, occupying their favorite booth, and Jack had finally asked Ianto to the dance. He knew his friend would blush – he'd been a blusher as long as Jack had known him, and that was most of his life – but he didn't think he'd turn him down.
"I have to take care of my mam in the evenings, remember?"
Jack's shoulders slumped. He'd forgotten. Ever since Ianto's parents had divorced and his sister had run off with her boyfriend, Ianto had been the sole caretaker of his ill mother. It didn't seem fair, making a sixteen year old kid leave school to get a job, but that's exactly what had happened. Ianto worked during the day, so they could pay their bills, and at night he watched after his mother. She was worse at night.
"Yes, sorry," Jack acknowledged, frowning. "I'm sorry, Ianto. It slipped my mind."
"It's alright, Jack," Ianto said, smiling.
They sat in silence for a few moments. Jack looked around the shop. He hardly knew anyone there anymore. Ianto and Tosh were the only two left, and they never even got to work together anymore. Tosh worked part time, a couple nights a week, and Ianto, of course, had switched to days.
"Do you miss it?" he asked his friend, turning his attention back to the Welshman.
"School, you mean?" Ianto asked, and Jack nodded. "I do. I was looking forward to University." He was silent a moment and Jack waited. "I suppose that's just a dream, now."
"It doesn't have to be," Jack told him, covering his hand with his own. He rubbed his thumb over Ianto's. "Just because you can't manage Uni now, doesn't mean you can't in the future."
"Jack, my mam needs constant care. You know we can't afford it full time. I can barely pay for what we have during the day."
"I hate that it's all on your shoulders, Ianto."
"There's no one else."
"Rhiannon is older. She should be the one handling things for your mother."
"I wouldn't trust her to do it, Jack, even if she'd stuck around. With that Johnny in the picture, there's no telling where our money would go."
Jack nodded, squeezing Ianto's hand. "Does she even keep in contact anymore?"
"No. I haven't heard from her in months."
Jack frowned again. "Even if she was running from the problems at home she should be calling her baby brother."
"You're awfully protective, Jack," Ianto said, smiling again, softly. "Thank you."
"You're welcome, Ianto," Jack replied, grinning back. "I just wish there was more I could do, but considering I don't even have a job myself…"
"I don't expect my friends to solve my problems."
"I know, but…I've been thinking, Ianto."
"That's a bit dangerous, Jack."
"Ha ha," Jack drawled, shaking his head, but still grinning. "What if I helped you out sometimes? You know, with your mother."
"Come on, Ianto," Jack argued, releasing his friend's hand and stealing another chip. They'd gone cold but he ignored that fact as he shoved it into his mouth. "It could be fun."
Ianto's brow furrowed, watching Jack pointedly until he swallowed. "Fun?"
"Yeah, fun. You and me. I could help look after her and you could help me with my coursework. It's getting close to exams."
"So you want me…for my mind," Ianto concluded, drawing out the last word in his strongest accent and pointing to his head. His eyes twinkled at Jack and he wore a slight smirk.
Jack tried not to squirm in the booth. Ianto's Welsh vowels drove him insane. It didn't matter that he'd known him since they were four, when Jack's family had moved to Cardiff. Twelve years later and that voice with its accent made him want to do things he could only dream about. And dream he did.
"It's not my fault your mind is sexy, Ianto Jones."
His friend blushed to the roots of his hair. "Jack…"
"What? You started it."
"You could come over tomorrow, if you like," Ianto said, changing the course the conversation had taken. "I work until four, like today, but it's the weekend, so we'll have more time to…revise."
Jack's eyebrow rose. "So soon? Why Ianto, if I didn't know better I'd think you had an agenda."
"Me?" Ianto looked incredulous. "You suggested it."
"Ah, yes, but you want to start tomorrow."
Ianto blushed yet again. It really was endearing. "You don't have to…"
"Don't be silly, Ianto. I want to. I'll meet you there around five. How's that?"
Ianto smiled. "Perfect."
"Alright," Jack said, sighing as he got to his feet and threw down a few pounds for his share of their meal. "I better get going. Gwen wants to practice a few moves for the cheer competition next weekend."
Ianto's smile faded, shoulders drooping. "And I need to get home to Mam."
"I'll see you tomorrow afternoon, Ianto," Jack said, squeezing his shoulder. He started to walk away and then stopped, turning around. Ianto still sat with his shoulders slumped. "Hey Ianto?"
The Welshman turned to look at him, expectantly. "Yes, Jack?"
"Sure do like that shirt."