Here we go, the concluding chapter. A special note of thanks to Furious Dee for providing invaluable feedback, and for advice on improving one of the scenes here.
Thanks so much to everyone who has read, reviewed, and supported this story along the way. I can't adequately express how much I appreciate it. I really hope the story was been interesting and enjoyable. If you haven't had a chance to review yet, please feel free to let me know what you think of it.
Jack leaned back in his chair and surveyed his neatly organised desk. He smiled to himself. Ianto's fastidious, orderly nature was beginning to rub off on him. The Welshman would probably say it was about bloody time, Jack thought with fond amusement.
It was the end of the final workday at Torchwood for the year. The publishing company would reopen its doors early in the New Year, allowing everyone to enjoy an extended twelve day Christmas break. It would also be his and Ianto's last night in Cardiff until after the beginning of the New Year. In three days time it would be Christmas Day, their first year celebrating the festive season together, and the first year ever that Ianto would spend the holiday outside of Wales.
They were setting off early in the morning to drive up to Scotland to spend Christmas with Jack's mother. They'd decided to drive rather than take the train, and it was workable since they could share the twelve hour drive, and complete the journey in one day. Jack wanted to use the opportunity to make some day trips and visit the surrounding areas, and he'd promised to show Ianto some of the Scottish countryside. They initially hadn't known what to do with Moses while they were away, but John had offered to look after the contemptuous moggy.
Ianto seemed to be excited about the trip, more so since Jack had assured him that he'd been singing the Welshman's praises to his mother since their first date. He'd told Ianto he had absolutely nothing to worry about. Jack knew that his mother was going to adore the young man.
Jack was looking forward to the trip too. It would be their first holiday together, and a chance just to enjoy being with one another without the stresses of day-to-day life. He also had a little surprise planned for the week before Ianto began university in late January. He'd put together a package containing all the tickets and travel details, along with some brochures. He couldn't wait to see Ianto's reaction on Christmas morning when he opened it.
Standing up, Jack moved around the desk and leaned back against the other side. He looked out through the open doorway and down the hall. Ianto and Owen were standing at the other end, just outside the kitchen, talking to each other. Ianto laughed at something Owen said, and Owen grinned back at him.
Jack smiled as he watched them. The two men had become firm friends, somewhat to Jack's surprise. He wasn't quite sure how that had happened, but he was delighted nonetheless. Ianto had struggled for a while when he'd started at Torchwood, and it had been a huge adjustment for him after his isolated existence running his shop. But, overall, he'd settled into the job remarkably quickly. Although he'd already been well liked by Jack's colleagues after their housewarming, his coffee making skills had firmly enamoured him with everyone without exception. Ianto had also proven himself to be an efficient, amiable, and conscientious worker, and the office had never run more smoothly. In fact, Jack thought it was completely unrecognisable from the barely controlled chaos of the past. He'd even noticed some of his female colleagues flirting playfully with the young Welshman on occasion. Jack might have been jealous if Ianto hadn't seemed quite so oblivious to the attention.
Most importantly, Ianto seemed to be genuinely happy, the dark shadow of sadness having finally lifted.
At home, things had continued to improve. With a regular income, Ianto had repaid Jack the money he'd borrowed, and he was paying half of all their living expenses, including a half share of Jack's monthly mortgage payment. Jack hadn't been particularly happy about taking money from Ianto for the mortgage, but it was a small concession, and he understood Ianto's need to contribute equally to all aspects of their life together. Ianto's obsessive behaviour had eased, and through a process of negotiation, they now shared most of the household tasks. Ianto still did a bit more than his fair share, but he said he enjoyed it, so Jack didn't push the issue too much. He had to occasionally ask the younger man to ease back, but for the most part, Ianto seemed to recognise when he needed to stop and just relax.
Ianto still had his moments, and there were times when he'd turn subdued and melancholy. During these times, he'd usually just retreat to his room and write in his diary. Those moments tended to be relatively short-lived though. Ianto had assured Jack that he didn't regret closing the shop, but Jack knew that a part of him still missed it. Ianto had also added some of his own personal touches to the house, and he seemed to be finally accepting that it was their home together, and not merely the house that Jack owned.
Ianto's sombre shirts and ties were a thing of the past. They'd gone shopping shortly after Ianto had started his new job, and he'd purchased a collection of new shirts and ties, in a range of reds, purples, pinks, and blues. Jack loved all of Ianto's outfits, but there was one particular pink shirt he found especially irresistible, and it hadn't escaped his attention that Ianto wore that specific shirt more frequently than all of his others. Ianto was also gradually expanding his wardrobe of casual attire, providing Jack with some very fond memories of their shopping adventures.
Jack often found himself simply staring at Ianto, his heart filling with love, pride, and admiration. The intensity of his feelings for the younger man continued to astonish him. In retrospect, he didn't think he'd ever imagined finding someone who would make him feel so settled and happy. Although they'd only been together for six months, Jack knew without a shadow of doubt that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with Ianto Jones at his side.
He continued watching as Owen clapped Ianto on the back, called out a farewell to Jack, and then disappeared out through the main doors. Ianto turned and made his way towards Jack's office.
"Hey." Jack smiled warmly at Ianto as he reached the doorway. "Come here," he said, holding his arms out invitingly.
Ianto smiled back and moved to stand in front of Jack, allowing Jack's hands to settle on his hips and pull him closer. Jack leaned in and gave Ianto a slow, gentle kiss.
"Jack, we're still at work," Ianto protested feebly when Jack reluctantly drew back. The corners of Ianto's lips twitched upwards. "This could be construed as harassment."
Jack laughed. "And what about last week when you dragged me into the storeroom and had your way with me?" he asked, raising an eyebrow. "What do you call that?"
"It was only a kiss." Ianto's eyes glazed over slightly, apparently recalling the brief but heated encounter, and an adorable blush filled his cheeks. "And, technically, we were on our lunch breaks."
"It was one hell of a kiss," Jack said teasingly as he also recalled the encounter. It had been undeniably thrilling, and he loved when Ianto asserted himself and took control. "And there was definitely some groping involved," he added with a wink.
"Yes, well..." Ianto's eyes twinkled with a mischievous glint. "It's your fault... you and your fetishes. You've corrupted me."
"Oh, I have, have I?" Jack asked, trying to keep a straight face.
Ianto nodded solemnly. "Yep. Totally."
Jack laughed again and pulled Ianto into another kiss. Everyone except John had already left, and the work day was over, so he took his time and enjoyed himself.
Eventually Ianto pulled back, probably sensing that Jack was getting a little too excited. Jack groaned quietly in frustration.
"So, I was talking to John before," Ianto began, looking at Jack with obvious amusement in his eyes. "He wants me to stay on part-time when I start at university. Maybe one full day a week and two half-days, depending on my schedule. We'll have to wait and see how it works out."
"That's great, Ianto," Jack said, smiling at him.
While the original arrangement had been short-term for the three months until Ianto began studying, he'd hoped Ianto would be able to stay on part-time. He assumed John would look at hiring someone else to help out when Ianto couldn't be there.
Ianto had shown great interest in the publishing business, and he'd told Jack he was hoping to become a writer. He'd shyly shown Jack a couple of short stories he'd written during his school days, and Jack had been impressed both by his imagination and word skill. He intended to do everything he could to encourage and support Ianto's ambitions, but he also thought that Ianto had the attributes and potential to become a brilliant book editor.
"I knew he wouldn't want to let you go," Jack continued, and then looked at Ianto curiously. "Are you happy about that?"
Ianto nodded. "Absolutely. Now I've settled in and I know what I'm doing, I wouldn't want to leave."
"Now you won't have to," Jack agreed, feeling a surge of pride in the younger man.
Ianto gave him a wide smile in return. Ianto's smiles were more open, and less guarded than they used to be, Jack was happy to note.
Ianto stepped back and glanced around the office, apparently approving of its orderly state. "We should get a move on, Jack. I've got packing to do."
"Right," Jack said, chuckling at Ianto's pragmatism as he grabbed his belongings and followed the younger man through the doorway. "Let's get out of here."
Ianto woke on Christmas Day to find Jack staring down at him with a mixture of anticipation and affection dancing in his bright blue eyes. "Mmm... morning," he mumbled, blinking and reaching up to rub blearily at his face.
Consciousness had barely taken hold as Jack pulled him up and into his arms. He captured Ianto lips in a soft kiss. "Merry Christmas, Ianto."
Ianto smiled a little drowsily as he reached up to trace his fingertips along Jack's unshaven cheek and over his chin. He returned Jack's kiss with a tender one of his own. "Merry Christmas, Jack."
The drive to Scotland two days earlier had been long and tiring, but uneventful. They were staying in a lovely, classically furnished room at a beautiful period hotel on the outskirts of Glasgow, just a few minutes drive from the home of Jack's mother. They could have stayed in the small guest room at her house, but they'd decided that a hotel would be better as it would allow them to have their own space and privacy, for which Ianto was grateful. He wasn't sure how comfortable he would have felt sleeping in the same bed with Jack while under his mother's roof, and it would almost certainly have put a serious damper on their sexual activities for the duration of their visit.
Jack had also booked them an overnight stay at a nearby fourteenth-century castle for their final night before they returned to Wales. Ianto had never stayed in a castle before and he was eagerly looking forward to it. He'd spent some time reading everything he could find about the history of the castle before they'd left Cardiff.
He'd been anxious about meeting Jack's mother. As much as Jack had reassured him that he had nothing to worry about, he hadn't been able to let go of the small sliver of fear that she'd find him unworthy of her son. He'd tried to convince himself that this was a normal enough concern when meeting the parents of one's partner for the first time. However, he'd been completely surprised when they'd pulled up at the front of the house after their long journey, and Jack's mother had rushed out her front door to greet them.
Helen Harkness was nothing like Ianto had expected. For some ridiculous reason, he'd conjured up an image of an older, female version of Jack, with a larger than life and outrageously flirtatious personality. He couldn't have been more wrong. Helen was a petite, diminutive woman with straight, shoulder-length blonde hair, and a quiet, softly spoken manner. It was in her intelligent, expressive blue eyes that he could see a resemblance to Jack. She'd greeted them both warmly with kisses to their cheeks and hugs, and despite a little initial awkwardness on his part, Ianto had almost immediately liked her. It was obvious that she adored her son, and Jack's face had lit up the moment he'd seen her.
The plan for Christmas Day itself had worked out well. They weren't due at Helen's until one o'clock for Christmas lunch, so they had the entire morning to themselves. Ianto was glad they had part of the day to spend together in private. It was a particular significant day for both of them. Not only was it their first Christmas together, and their first trip away together, it also marked exactly six months since the fateful day when Jack had walked into Ianto's shop for the first time.
Jack pulled back a little, his arms settling around Ianto's waist, and Ianto took a moment just to gaze into the older man's eyes. The intensity of emotion he saw might have been intimidating if his own feelings weren't equally as deep and powerful. He'd been a little dubious at first about spending Christmas away from Cardiff and what was familiar, but he'd decided none of that mattered. He was exactly where he wanted to be.
"So, can we open our presents now?" Jack asked, looking hopeful.
"Shouldn't we have breakfast first? At least some coffee?" Ianto suggested, only barely managing to hold back a grin, and already knowing what Jack's answer would be.
Jack shook his head firmly. "Nope. Presents first, then we can have some breakfast."
"Oh, all right," Ianto agreed, resisting the temptation to roll his eyes. "But I need to use the bathroom before I do anything else."
Jack sighed dramatically. "Okay, but don't take too long. I've already been waiting very patiently for you to wake up."
Ianto laughed, and after reluctantly extricating himself from Jack's arms, he retrieved clean underwear and a t-shirt and padded into the bathroom. After some hurried ablutions, he returned a couple of minutes later to find Jack similarly attired and sitting cross-legged on the large bed, looking at him expectantly. After retrieving the small box wrapped neatly in silver paper from his bag, he joined Jack on the bed, sitting opposite him so their knees were touching.
They'd agreed they were allowed two gifts each. One set would be exchanged with the rest of the gift giving during the festivities with Jack's family, while they'd exchange the other set of gifts in private.
"Here, this is for you, Ianto." Jack placed a thin rectangular parcel wrapped in shiny red paper in Ianto's lap. He smiled gently, looking almost shy. "Actually, it's for both of us. It's kind of a combined Christmas and six-month anniversary present. I hope you'll like it."
"I'm sure I will," Ianto said as he looked down at the package and tried to figure out what it was.
He carefully removed the wrapping paper to reveal a semi-translucent plastic filing wallet. His curiosity piqued, Ianto lifted back the flap and removed the contents. He looked at the collection of brochures and tickets in confusion for a moment until he spotted the pair of return fare train tickets for Cardiff to Paris.
Ianto let out a small, involuntarily gasp and looked up at Jack. "We're going to Paris?" he asked the other man incredulously.
Jack nodded. "Yup. The week before you start university. Everything's booked and I cleared it with John for both of us to have the week off, so we're all set. Is that all right?"
"Jack, that's brilliant," Ianto exclaimed, grinning happily. He looked back down at the tickets and other documentation in awe. "I've always wanted to go there. Almost for as long as I can remember."
Jack smiled, looking both pleased and relieved. "I remember you telling me once. I've always wanted to go there too."
Ianto looked up at Jack in surprise. "Oh, I thought you'd been before?"
Jack shook his head. "No. I've thought about going a few times, but for some reason, I never got around to it." He shrugged self-deprecatingly and looked uncharacteristically self-conscious. "I think... well, I think I was waiting for you."
Touched by the sincerity of Jack's words, Ianto carefully slipped everything he was holding back into the envelope, and placed it down on the bed beside him. Shuffling closer, he pulled Jack into his arms and kissed him. "Jack, thank you," he murmured after they pulled apart. "This is perfect."
Ianto reached over and retrieved the small silver box from where he'd put it on the bedside table. Resuming his position opposite Jack, he handed the box to him. "This is for you."
Ianto bit down on his bottom lip as he watched Jack nervously, his stomach constricting with a stab of anxiety. He'd considered and rejected countless ideas before arriving at a final decision. The other gift he'd bought for Jack had been relatively easy – he'd found a beautiful wool and cashmere jumper in sapphire blue, and he'd cheated slightly by pairing it with a coordinating fine wool scarf, and a pair of stylish woollen gloves. But for his private gift to Jack, he'd wanted something symbolic and meaningful. He'd wanted a gift that would ensure the older man had no doubt about the depth of Ianto's love for him, and of his commitment to their future together.
Jack studied the small parcel with a curious look on his face. Unlike Ianto, he carelessly tore off the wrapping paper, but looked perplexed when he was confronted by an unassuming and unmarked white box.
Ianto squirmed self-consciously. Being fiercely proud of his heritage, he'd wanted to give a piece of that to the man who had so completely captured his heart. He'd thought that parting with something so priceless and irreplaceable might have been a terrible wrench, but in actual fact it wasn't at all. Giving this to Jack felt exactly right. He just hoped that Jack would welcome and appreciate the significance of the gesture.
"Go ahead and open it, Jack," he said in little more than a whisper.
Jack slowly lifted the lid off the box, and putting it aside, he pulled back the tissue paper within. He removed the antique silver pocket watch and stared at it with wide eyes. "Ianto, it's beautiful," he whispered as he gently opened the casing and traced his fingers over the neat roman numerals beneath the glass face.
Ianto took a deep breath. "It was my dad's. Actually, my grandfather gave it to him. It was broken for a long time, but I managed to find someone to fix it. I had it repaired and cleaned, and the glass was cracked so I had that replaced. Now, it's as good as new." He paused and looked at Jack apprehensively, trying to discern what he might be thinking. "Um... do you like it?"
Jack looked up at him, and he appeared to be utterly dumbfounded. He blinked, and reaching up, he roughly wiped at his eyes. "Ianto... it's... I don't know what to say. I love it, and this means so much... that you're giving me something that's so precious to you." He paused as his voice wavered with emotion. "Thank you."
Ianto smiled with relief. Leaning in, he kissed Jack softly. "I love you, Jack. I never want you to doubt how much."
"I don't doubt it," Jack replied earnestly. "I love you too, Ianto."
Jack put the pocket watch carefully back into the box, and replacing the lid, he put it on the bedside table. He did the same with the folder of travel details. Turning back to Ianto, he tugged him down onto the bed so that Ianto was lying on top of him. "Let me show you how much I love you?"
Ianto smiled down at Jack with genuine happiness. "Always."
It was just over a week later when Ianto crouched down in front of the simply carved headstone. Exhaling a frosty breath, he reached forward and after brushing away the light coating of snow from the ground, he placed a single white carnation gently at the base of the grave.
He glanced across the vast rows of headstones. The cemetery was desolate and deserted, the unusually heavy snowfalls keeping even the most devout mourners away. He felt a stab of guilt for not returning sooner. His last visit had been on his birthday, a little over four months ago. It was always difficult being here, and each time he was, he would feel all the pain and sorrow reawakened and pulled unrelentingly back to the surface.
Looking back at the headstone, he traced his eyes over the handful of stark words that never seemed to be enough. 'Dafydd Jones. Beloved husband, father, and son. Forever in our hearts.'
"Hi, dad," Ianto began, his voice low and barely a whisper. "It's been a while since I've visited you. Sorry. I've... well, I've been kind of busy I suppose. Not that I'm trying to make excuses." He paused and a slight, wistful smile tugged at his lips. "Do you remember what you always told me? Never make excuses, make amends. You'd always have words of wisdom for any situation. All those things you said that you learned from granddad. Timeless words passed down from one generation to the next. I'm not sure if I understood half of them, and you'd drive me a bit barmy with them sometimes, but I've never forgotten a single one. So I'm here today, dad... making amends."
He paused and closed his eyes for a moment, steadying himself. "I've never been much of a talker. You know that. And neither were you. Not really." He huffed out a small, broken laugh. "We undoubtedly come from a long line of stoic, brooding Welshmen. I sometimes wish things had been different though. There's so much I should have talked to you about."
He paused again, shifting his feet on the frozen ground. "I met someone a while ago. Someone amazing. I didn't say anything last time I was here. I suppose I was scared... scared of what you might think... scared to admit my feelings... but I'm not afraid anymore... at least I don't think I am. His name... his name's Jack. Does that surprise you? Somehow, I don't think it does. Maybe you knew all along, but you wanted me to figure it out in my own time." He chuckled under his breath. "You're probably more horrified that Jack's not Welsh than you are that he's a man. He's a good man though. He's kind and generous... he looks after me... and I try to look after him. Sometimes I think he's better than I deserve, but I'm trying to be worthy of him. I think you would have liked him. I'm sure he would have liked you."
He stopped again as tears prickled at his eyes. "I know it's probably not what you wanted for me, but he makes me happy. I want you to know that. It's taken me a while to get there, but I'm happier than I've been in a long time. I'm going to spend the rest of my life with him if he'll let me. I think he will... he says that's what he wants too. He's taking me to Paris later this month. Remember how I always wanted to go there? And when we get back, I'll be starting at university. I'm going to be studying literature and writing. I want to become a writer."
He blinked back the tears. "I'm sorry I couldn't keep the shop going. If you're disappointed, I hope you can forgive me. I tried... I tried so hard... but it wasn't the same without you. Nothing was the same. It was destroying me. I had to let it go, and find a new path for myself. Jack helped me to do that. I didn't want to at first, but it was what I needed to do. I hope you can understand. I hope that no matter what I end up doing, you'll be proud of me." His voice broke as a thick tear trailed down his cheek. "That's all I ever wanted."
"Well, I'd better go. Jack's waiting for me. He can be an impatient bugger sometimes." He let out a wry chuckle. "I'll visit again soon though. I love you, dad... you'll always be in my heart... you and mum. I miss you both."
Rising slowly to his feet, Ianto took a moment to wipe the moisture from his eyes. He glanced over his shoulder to where Jack was standing several metres away, watching him steadily. Ianto pulled his woollen coat tightly around his body and turned up the collar. He shivered as the cold winter air nipped at the exposed skin of his face and hands.
He slowly made his way towards Jack, his eyes lowered while his thoughts drifted. He'd spent so much time looking backwards, wishing things were different, regretting all the things he hadn't said, or hadn't done. He was finished doing that. Everything had changed and he had a future to feel excited about, for the first time in his life.
Coming to a stop in front of Jack and looking up to meet his expressive eyes, he was pulled into a firm, comforting embrace.
"Ready to go?" Jack asked as Ianto reluctantly eased himself out of the older man's arms.
Reaching for Jack's hand, Ianto stared down at their intertwined fingers for a long moment. The sight warmed him despite the bitter cold.
Keeping their hands wrapped tightly together, he smiled at Jack and nodded. "I'm ready, Jack. Let's go home."