The Shop at the Mall
Author: Milady Dragon
Disclaimer: I don't own either Torchwood or "The Shop Around the Corner"
Author's note: And here we are, at the end. I do hope you enjoy, and once again many thanks to all my readers out there. I have one more story to put up, one I wrote for the Ianto Big Bang on Livejournal, and I should start posting that shortly.
At some point during the Christmas rush, Rhys showed up at the shop. He came around to each employee, shaking hands and thanking each one of them. When he got to Jack, he pulled the happy man into a hug, thanking him for running things so smoothly while he'd been gone. Jack felt tears prickle his eyes at the heartfelt words, and he told Rhys that he was just glad that his boss and friend was doing well.
As the day went on, Jack found himself watching Ianto as he worked. He really hadn't before, and he was surprised at the rapport he seemed to have with the customers. Jack knew his sales were high, and he was seeing the reason for it as Ianto waited on each person, seemingly anticipating the customers' needs and showing them exactly what they were after. It was a pleasure to watch although Jack did get caught once, receiving an odd stare before Ianto went back to work.
It was with a weary sigh that Jack finally closed the shop. The shelves were bare; there were blank places on the walls where buyers had purchased the display item that had been in that place. They would need to do an inventory before their re-order on Boxing Day, which would mean a very early morning for several of them, but for now the shop would be closed through Christmas Day, giving everyone a much-needed day off.
Toshiko was at the front cash register, doing the final tally for the day. Everyone was gathered around her, waiting for the news. Rhys was looking a bit nervous, but Jack knew he didn't need to be; just from looking around, he could tell they'd done a booming business.
When she announced the total sales for the day, everyone cheered.
"That," Rhys said, "is perhaps the best Christmas Eve sales we've had since I opened this place. Thank you all for all your hard work." He reached into his jacket pocket, pulling out a handful of envelopes. "I wanted to give you these," he handed them round, "just as a token of my gratitude. Don't spend it all in one place, yeah?" That caused them all to laugh.
When he got to Jack, Rhys handed him an envelope that seemed a bit thicker than the others. "Jack, you've been the rock that's held this place together while I've been sick, and I wanted to show my appreciation for it. In that envelope is also a legal document making you part-owner in the shop…a small part," he chuckled, almost self-consciously, "but it's yours if you want it."
Jack didn't know what to say. He nodded, then pulled Rhys in for a hug. He hadn't expected this, and it touched him that his boss – now partner, he supposed – would do that. He'd do his best to live up to Rhys' trust.
The others came forward to offer their congratulations, and Jack grinned. This was the best Christmas ever, surrounded by the people he worked with…and his friends, old and new. And, hopefully more, when it came to one of them in particular…
"Let's just leave this place the way it is," Rhys went on. "We'll take care of it all before the Boxing Day sales. You've taken care of the early shift, right Jack?"
Jack nodded. "Toshiko, Ianto, and I will be in early to work the inventory." It wouldn't take long, judging from the empty shelves.
"I'll be in as well," the boss said. "About time I get back into the swing of things. Now," he clapped his hands, "let's get out of here. Happy Christmas to you all."
They broke up, most everyone heading toward the employee lounge. Jack watched Rhys pull Eugene aside; he hasn't met their newest employee, and so hadn't prepared a bonus for him. Rhys' wallet came out, and several bills were handed over; Eugene looked pleasantly shocked, but accepted them.
As he headed into the lounge, he passed Owen on his way out; wishing him a Happy Christmas, Jack walked in, to see Andy already with his coat on and just ready to leave, while Toshiko and Suzie were shrugging theirs on. He went over to hug both women, telling them to give his best to their families, knowing that Suzie's dad had finally finished his chemotherapy and was feeling better than he had for a while. He shook hands with Andy, and once they'd all left, it meant he was alone with Ianto.
The young man was busily wrapping something in tissue paper, and Jack could see it was a box of some kind. "Christmas gift?" he asked, opening his locker and grabbing his coat.
"Yes," the young man answered. "To the gentleman I had the date with that night in the coffee shop." His voice didn't sound condescending or sarcastic as Jack thought it had the right to.
"I hope it works out this time."
Ianto looked up, and apparently saw that Jack was being honest – how could he not be, when his own happiness was on the line as well? – because he smiled. "Thank you, Sir."
"It's Jack, you know."
Ianto rolled his eyes good-naturedly. "Jack, then." He paused, then carefully removed the tissue paper. "Would you like to see?"
A part of Jack did, knowing that once his identity got out that he might never actually see what Ianto had gotten him. But, at the same time, he wanted it to be a surprise. "If you want to show me."
It was a plain black box, and when Ianto opened it, a watch was inside. It was silver, with a dark blue face and black leather band. It was beautiful, and Jack knew it was perfect. Ianto had gotten the letter writer he knew the perfect gift.
He just hoped he didn't get it thrown in his face before the night was over.
"That's gorgeous," Jack murmured. "He's a very lucky man."
He was also horribly nervous about how it was all going to turn out.
"Thanks," Ianto said, and if Jack wasn't mistaken there was a faint flush on his cheeks. "I hope he likes it."
"He'd be an idiot not to," Jack answered. He pulled his own gift out of his coat pocket. "Let me get your opinion on something?"
"All right," Ianto agreed, looking a bit surprised at being asked.
Jack handed him the box, and Ianto opened it to reveal his own gift: it was a silver pocket watch, on a fine chain. "He wears a lot of waistcoats," he explained hastily, in case Ianto thought the gift was a bit old-fashioned. "But I've never seen him wear a watch chain."
"It's beautiful," Ianto said. He ran his finger over the closed face of the watch, then closed the box and handed it back to Jack. "I think he'll like it very much."
"I hope so." Jack was suddenly attacked by a case of nerves, as he put the box back in his greatcoat pocket. "Although it's quite the coincidence that we both got our potential partners some form of watch."
Ianto chuckled. "Yeah, you're right." He re-wrapped the gift, then put it away. "Well, I need to go. I'm meeting him soon." He smiled. "Happy Christmas, Jack."
"Happy Christmas, Ianto," he replied. He turned to leave, and doubts began to float through his head, wondering if this was all a very good idea, to actually admit to Ianto that it had been him who'd been writing those letters. He wasn't sure how he'd take it if Ianto rejected him.
It was strange…Jack hadn't given the young man much thought, until he'd discovered that Ianto had been his pen pal. And then, when Toshiko had set him straight about a few things…well, it forced him to give Ianto another look, and what he'd seen had pleased him.
"Ianto," he stopped, spinning on his heel.
Ianto ceased his own walk toward the exit. "Yes, Jack?"
"This man of yours…he's lucky to have you." Jack didn't know where this had come from, if just from the need to let him know how he felt before Ianto had the chance to dump him.
Ianto smiled softly. "You know…up until I started writing him, I'd had no interest whatsoever in men. In fact, the reason I'd requested a male correspondent was to avoid any sort of emotional entanglement." His face turned sad. "I know Toshiko told you about Lisa."
Jack nodded silently, hoping Ianto would continue.
"Well, I found myself falling for him, with every letter I got. It wasn't the fact that he was a man; I don't even know what he looks like. But there was something about him, and before I knew it I was…well, acting like a girl, I guess." He laughed self-deprecatingly.
"You, Ianto Jones, are no girl," Jack said, not even keeping the admiration out of his voice.
The blush returned, this time more red than pink. "You know what I mean."
"Yeah, I think I do." Jack certainly did.
Ianto chuckled weakly. "I'm really nervous about tonight. I do hope he likes me."
"He'll like you," Jack assured him.
Ianto snorted. "How can you be so sure?"
Jack looked at him, very aware of his own nerves as they stood staring at each other. "I just am," he finally answered evasively.
"Yeah, right." Ianto shrugged, as if it didn't matter…even though Jack could tell it did.
"He came by the other day," Jack blurted…then cursed himself for opening his mouth.
Ianto froze, his eyes narrowed. "Why would he do that?" he demanded.
"He wanted to see where you worked," Jack lied through his teeth.
"And how would he know that? I never told him."
"I don't know," Jack answered hastily, knowing he was digging himself into a hole he didn't think he could climb out of. "He did know me, though."
He could tell that Ianto wanted to ask about this mystery man, to find out what he was like. Instead, he tucked his hands into his coat pockets. "Then I don't have anything to worry about," he said, his eyes suddenly sharp and sure. "If he likes me, and I like him…then we can work out." He smiled. "Thank you for telling me. I appreciate it."
"Even if he's not exactly how you might think?" Jack pressed, finding himself needing to know that Ianto would accept whatever he was given, as long as it was the letter writer.
"No, not even that," Ianto answered firmly. "I know his mind, and that's what I fell for. I don't care what he looks like or how he dresses…outside appearances don't matter."
He meant it, too; he wasn't just saying it to throw Jack off.
And then, he did just that.
"You know," Ianto mused, "when I first came to work here, I couldn't help but look at you. I just didn't want to take my eyes off you. I found myself wishing that you were him, the man who wrote to me. But, that wasn't the case, and you hated me…" he sighed. "I was confused by what I was feeling toward you, and the fact that I was attracted to you. I think that's why I was always so professional around you, because I didn't dare let myself hope that you would change, and like me. Your dislike of me didn't stop me from dreaming sometime…well, it doesn't really matter, does it? Because you're not him, and you never could be him." He smiled; a sweet, small smile that set a warm feeling through Jack's chest. "I need to go. Happy Christmas, Jack." He turned to leave.
It struck Jack like lightning out of the blue that, if he let Ianto walk out of that door, then any later meeting they'd have would end in disaster. That he would lose this man before he'd really gotten a chance to know him beyond the letters they'd shared. The sudden urge to be completely honest overrun his nervousness over the entire situation. "Ianto!"
"I really need to head out Jack," Ianto answered, stopping once more. "I don't want to keep him waiting."
"I know." He shoved his hands in his pockets, butterflies roiling around in his stomach. "If I'd known how you felt about me in the beginning –"
"Would it have really changed anything? Be honest with me, Jack. Would it?" The blue eyes challenged him.
"I don't know," he answered honestly. "But I would have tried to understand a little better before being smacked upside the head with the truth." He met those challenging eyes. "You know what I wish? I wish, when your date comes up to you, and you see who it is…it's me. I'm the one standing there, waiting to be asked to sit, not laughing at that horrible holiday tie you're wearing –"
"Jack, please don't –"
He stepped forward, right into Ianto's personal space. "I want, more than anything, for you to use your key and take me out of your post office box, and read me so you can see how much you mean to me…"
It took Ianto only a few seconds to work out what Jack had just said, but Jack knew the moment he did. His eyes widened in pure shock, and his mouth opened and closed without any sound coming out. Then, barely loud enough to have been heard if Jack hadn't been standing so close, he whispered, "You?"
"Dear friend," Jack whispered in return, his heart hammering so hard he was surprised his words could have been heard over the sound.
This was it; the moment when it could all fall apart. That Jack's rudeness and disdain and misunderstanding could all come crashing down around him. That Ianto could easily reject him, after everything Jack had done. And could Jack blame him?
He could practically see the gears behind Ianto's eyes as they digested everything that Jack had just revealed, and comparing it to everything that had happened between them from the moment he'd walked in the door of Williams Electronics.
Jack really wanted to panic.
Ianto seemed to come to a decision.
And Jack found himself with an armful of Welshman, who was kissing him into near-oblivion.
He couldn't help but moan, and pull Ianto closer. It wasn't a particularly romantic kiss, but Jack got the hint of it easily enough. He returned his own feelings in the slide of lips and tongue, and his hands on Ianto's hips, holding him in place.
They broke apart, and Jack pulled back enough to look directly at Ianto. The man was examining him minutely, and then with a step back large enough to break Jack's grip he pulled back his fist and punched him straight in the jaw, knocking him to the ground.
"I deserved that," Jack said, wiping the blood from his chin.
"Bloody right you did," Ianto growled. "You knew from that night at the coffee shop!"
"I did, yes." He wasn't about to lie.
"Yes, I am." He held up his hand, silently asking for Ianto to help him up.
He looked as if he was going to decline, but eventually he did reach down and pull Jack to his feet. "Don't do it again," he warned.
"If you give me a chance," Jack promised, "I won't."
Ianto regarded him closely, and it was all Jack could do not to shuffle his feet. He had hope in that kiss, but he wanted to hear it from Ianto officially.
"Well," Ianto finally said, "I have a date at a coffee shop on the Plass. I'm expecting to meet a man there, who makes me feel like I'm special. I do hope he isn't going to be late." With that, he left the store, flashing a smirk as he headed out.
Jack grinned. He couldn't help it. He could have completely screwed up whatever future he'd had with Ianto, and yet he was being given another chance. Whistling a jaunty tune, Jack made certain all the lights were out and everything was locked up, and then he gave a single nod in approval.
Continuing to whistle, Jack left the shop, and headed toward his SUV.
He had a date to keep.