As Ianto cut in on Jack and Gwen's dance, choosing to ignore the hesitation on both their parts to release their partner, he recognized this for what it was – goodbye.
Allowing Jack to take the lead, he followed as they began to slowly turn in place. He relished this closeness to Jack, the feel of their hands entwined, fingers interlocked, as he knew this was something he would never get to experience again. Despite being caught up in the moment, Ianto didn't miss the looks Jack kept shooting Gwen from across the room. All that did for Ianto was cement his resolve to end things once and for all – he was through playing second fiddle to Gwen bloody Cooper.
In the meantime, though, he would do his part. He was Jack's man, after all, and always would be.
"That's what I love about Torchwood," he remarked, even as he veered away from the others, plastic bag in hand, "By day, chasing the scum of the universe. Come midnight, you're the wedding fairy."
What must have been hours later, the guests had been seen to – all with realistic cover stories to accompany the RetCon that had been distributed amongst them – and the decorations had been cleared away, leaving the hall exactly as it had originally been.
Ianto was ready to sleep – forever, if he had his way.
The team filed into the Hub, each attempting to stifle their yawns, with the exception of Jack, who never seemed to tire.
"Want to crash at my place, Tosh?" asked Owen, gallantly holding out his arm for her to take, almost as though he were a real gentleman.
"Thank you, Owen. I'd like that," Tosh replied quietly, slipping her arm through his as though she couldn't believe what was happening.
Ianto watched them leave together, and found that he was glad to have been able to see the pair make at least some progress after so much time spent skirting around the other's feelings.
"Yan …" came an unexpected voice from close by.
Startled, Ianto turned to face his boss, Captain Jack Harkness, and the cause of his current inner turmoil.
"You coming?" Jack continued, inclining his head towards the ground, below which his bunker lay.
"No, I don't think so," said Ianto, somewhat stiffly. "You're good in bed, Jack, I'll give you that. But you can also be a bit distracting, and I need some rest." He offered the older man a slightly tilted smile to soften what had surely been a blow to his Captain's pride.
"Goodnight, sir," Ianto finished, moving close enough to plant a quick kiss on the immortal's cheek as a parting gift.
Turning swiftly on his heel, he used the momentary distraction to his advantage by making a quick getaway. "Goodbye, Jack," he murmured under his breath. And with that, he was gone.
Jack stood frozen in place from shock, before springing in to action, his instinct telling him that something was wrong with his lover – something that was most likely his fault and that he would now have to fix.
Meanwhile, Ianto was driving aimlessly, not having any set plan. All he knew was that he was going to end his life that night. He had no idea how or where he would do the deed, just that he would. When he finally did stop the car, it was to discover that he had arrived at the warehouse where he had lured Myfanwy – and Jack. Giving a humorless chuckle, he entered to find that nothing had changed. Still abandoned, still empty – exactly the way he felt inside. Obeying an impulse, he sank to his knees and began to bawl like a baby, heart wrenching sobs that tore at his gut and made him feel as though there were rats clawing their way out.
I thought I'd moved past this, he thought dejectedly. Obviously not, or I wouldn't be so torn up inside.
He let his mind go blank as he continued to cry. After all, there was plenty of time for him to carry out his purpose for coming here, wasn't there? Who knew about this place anyway? That said, even if someone did know, who would care enough to come here looking for him? His question was answered a moment later when he sensed movement in the doorway. Stiffening, he rose instantly to his feet and strode away from the warmth emanating behind him. Though he should have been surprised, he wasn't – not really.
"Please leave, sir," he demanded, even as the words choked in his throat. "I never wanted you to see me like this."
"Why not?" asked the same soothing voice as from the Hub. "Were you afraid I'd think you weak?"
Haltingly, Ianto nodded.
"That's ridiculous," Jack went on. "You're the strongest man I know."
"How do you figure?" the other asked, disbelief plain for anyone to hear.
"You put up with everyone's crap, day in and day out, with nary a complaint. You do your own work, and more besides. You never sleep for long, which I should know, considering that many nights find you in my bed. And you seem to genuinely care for me, a challenging task not many have ever been up to."
Jack paused to observe Ianto. Though his back was still to him, the younger man's shoulders were heaving with barely concealed sobs. Making his move, Jack slowly inched closer, until he was standing right behind Ianto and practically breathing down his neck.
"It's alright, Yan," he whispered. "Let it out."
Apparently, that was all the encouragement Ianto needed, as he quickly turned to face Jack, burying his head in the other man's chest and giving himself over to the sobs wracking his thin frame. Jack gave a sad-but-knowing smile, winding his arms around Ianto's waist and cupping his head from behind.
"Shh, there, there," he cooed.
After many minutes in their respective positions, Ianto finally moved away, scrubbing furiously at his now-red-rimmed eyes and tear-stained cheeks in an attempt to erase the evidence of what he clearly considered to be a moment of weakness. Jack was quick to still his motions, though.
"Hey, now," he said, holding Ianto's face between his sturdy hands, "None of that. I do not, for one minute, think that you're weak, Jones Ianto Jones. You hear me?"
"Yes, sir," Ianto whispered in reply, at a loss as to how else to respond.
"And the name's Jack, Yan," he insisted, "Remember?"
Again, all Ianto found he was capable of was nodding.
"Now, what's wrong?" asked Jack sternly. "Why did you come here in the dead of night all by yourself?"
"I wanted to die," Ianto admitted simply. He felt Jack's arms freeze, before wrapping even tighter around his torso.
"Oh, God," Jack breathed in his ear. "Why, Yan?"
"What are we?" Ianto asked instead. "You never say much – about anything – and you're so evasive when it comes to labels, which I can understand to an extent. But say I was to introduce you to my sister – would I be expected to call you my boyfriend or my boss?"
"Whichever you prefer," Jack replied, "Or whichever fit the situation. Either way, I'm yours."
"Are you? Because I often get the impression that you're just settling for me, and that you'd actually prefer if Gwen were your bedmate."
"That's not true," Jack protested vehemently, extricating Ianto from his arms only to vigorously shake him in an effort to drive the truth of his words home.
"Is it? Then what was with those looks between the two of you – and at her wedding, no less? Honestly, Jack, sometimes I feel as if I really am just the part-time shag, like Owen says. I'll never be good enough for you, always playing second fiddle to Gwen Cooper!"
"That's not true," Jack repeated plaintively. "You're more than just a part-time shag. Owen was out of line to say a thing like that. Sure, sex with you is great. But there's more to our relationship than that."
"What relationship?" Ianto sneered. "We never go out. All we do is shag and save the universe."
"That's not too shabby, when you think about it. That's more than most people can say they've accomplished in their lifetime," Jack quipped.
"But I want more, Jack," Ianto whimpered. "I want someone who wants me just as much as I want him. I want someone who's willing to kiss me and hold my hand in public. I want someone who isn't ashamed to be seen with me. I want someone who will do more than just shag me or indulge me with a quick grope in the archives. I want someone who will actually make love to me. Now, if you don't think you're up to doing any of that, then let me go my way, and I'll let you go yours."
"Is that what you think, Ianto?" asked Jack quietly, overwhelmed by a sudden pain that came with knowing he had driven his beloved to this. He was at fault, for everything.
"Why not? It's the truth."
"No, far from it, Ianto – I swear to you."
Ianto scoffed. "Prove it."
Jack's response was to pull away, exactly as Ianto had predicted he would. What Ianto hadn't expected was for Jack to kneel at his feet, hands outstretched imploringly as though seeking forgiveness, or perhaps praying for guidance.
"Ianto Jones," he began, voice wavering slightly due to nerves, "I love you more than life itself. And while that might not mean much, considering my "condition," my life is all I have to offer. I'm so very sorry if I've ever made you feel second best to anyone, and I will spend the rest of my existence making it up to you. Previously, you gave a list of what you're looking for in a relationship. I feel that I qualify as a possible candidate, and, if it meets with your approval, I would like to declare myself as being completely yours, from now until the end of time. What do you say?"
"Jack Harkness, get off the floor this instant. Do you have any idea how much it'll cost to get your pants cleaned?" declared Ianto, giving a watery laugh as he offered Jack a hand up.
"I bet you can get me a good deal," said Jack with a leer.
Ianto gave an involuntary shudder at Jack's less-than-subtle remark. "Jack . . ." he whispered, his feelings a mess inside of him after Jack's passionate declaration of love and devotion. Raising his hand with the intention of cupping Jack's cheek, he watched as Jack closed his eyes – resignedly, almost – and tensed his muscles, as though awaiting a blow of some kind. "Jack . . ." he whispered again, his lips briefly brushing against Jack's, before retreating again.
Leaning heavily against Jack, foreheads pressed close together, Ianto attempted to maintain some semblance of order to the flood of thoughts and emotions he was experiencing.
Why does something so wrong feel so right? he thought miserably. I love Jack, but being with him hurts too much. I should have more self-respect than that, but, at the same time, I can't imagine my life without him.
"Jack . . ." he whimpered, finding that, for once, he actually didn't care about how pathetic he might or might not be sounding.
"I've got you, Yan," said Jack encouragingly, gripping him so tightly that Ianto was sure he would be bruised by morning.
Yet another thing for Jack to blame himself for, Ianto thought wryly.
As if sensing Ianto's discomfort, Jack released his hold on him ever-so slightly. "Talk to me, Yan. What's up?"
"I don't . . . feel anything anymore," he said, weighing each word with the utmost care. "I'm numb, except for when I'm around you – and occasionally the rest of the team. Even then, all I seem to feel is an overwhelming pain that comes from knowing you prefer Gwen to me."
"That's not true, Yan – I've told you," Jack stressed urgently.
"I'm tired emotionally inside," Ianto continued, "from not knowing where I stand with you. I'm never sure if you're saying what you really think, or if you're merely trying to placate me. You share as little as possible of yourself with me. Sometimes I feel as though I'm shagging a perfect stranger. We don't talk about anything deep. I've never even heard you use the word "love" before tonight. Is it any wonder, then, that I'm confused as to what we're doing? You've worn me down so that I hardly know who to trust or what to believe in anymore."
Jack was stunned by how much he seemed to have hurt Ianto, albeit unintentionally. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "I'm so sorry. I never meant to cause you pain or give you reason to doubt yourself. You are an amazing person, and one who I could never deserve or be worthy of. But know this Jones Ianto Jones – I do love you, and I always will."
"Then that's good enough for me," Ianto gasped, pulling back from Jack's embrace just enough to crush their lips together hungrily.
"Does this mean you forgive me?" asked Jack once they'd drawn apart in order to breathe.
"And how," said Ianto, smiling that tender smile reserved only for Jack, who clutched Ianto to him desperately, afraid that if he let go for even an instant, the Welshman would vanish into thin air. "I'm not going anywhere, Jack," Ianto assured him, "Not unless you order me to leave."
"Guess we're stuck with each other, then," Jack responded, pressing a kiss to Ianto's brow to seal the deal.
As if by mutual design, they turned to leave at the exact same moment, arms wrapped around their respective partner's waist.
"Jack, how did you know where to find me?" asked Ianto, as they approached the Torchwood team's car.
"I was just lucky, I suppose. I went to the spot where I first admitted to myself that I'd fallen for you – both literally and figuratively – and hoped for the best. How did I do?"
"You never fail to perform above and beyond expectations," said Ianto, accompanying his statement with a sly wink.
That fact alone convinced Jack that they were going to be fine. There were sure to be some hard times ahead, but they'd work through them – together.
"And by the way," Ianto whispered, in a tone Jack could only describe as sultry, "I love you too."