"Have you ever managed to fellate yourself?"
And this was why Ianto hated being sent out with Owen. "Your obsession with sex now that you can't have any really does border on the unhealthy."
"If I can't do it, I can fucking talk about it. Lighten up, Jones. If you don't pull that stick out of your arse, Jack won't be able to get in there later."
Ianto bit his tongue, with effort. Owen - and for that matter, Gwen and Toshiko as well - assumed Jack and Ianto's relationship in bed mirrored their working relationship, with Jack the one in charge and, in their minds, on top. Ianto would love to shoot back that their oh-so-alpha-male boss liked nothing more in bed than being tied down and buggered hard, but the truth was, Jack's tastes were complex. Yes, Jack enjoyed getting fucked, and he enjoyed fucking, and he enjoyed taking Ianto's cock down his throat, and he enjoyed dressing up like cowboys, and he enjoyed being collared and ordered and taken care of like a pet, and he enjoyed paddling Ianto until his bottom was bright red. Jack liked everything even tangentially related to sex, and Ianto enjoyed himself with every new trick. But he didn't want to give up those pieces to Owen, not the scant remaining secrets of his sex life with their employer. The things the two of them shared that didn't make their way into yet another Harkness dirty story were the only evidence Ianto had that whatever-this-was meant more to Jack than an easy shag with the first available warm body.
Or one thousand thirty-seven warm bodies.
"That was a stop sign," Owen said amiably. "You probably should have stopped."
"We're almost there. Look, we'll go in, I'll be the nice one and pay my respects to the family." He glanced at Owen, who had stayed in his t-shirt and jeans. "You check out the body and get the ring. We should be in there five minutes. Agreed."
"Whatever. You never answered my question. You ever tried to suck yourself off? I had a cousin Walter who died doing it."
"Yep. His mum found his body, broke his own neck. But he made it, died with his balls on his own nose."
The mental image was weirdly intriguing. Jack had once claimed to be able to do that, but he'd never demonstrated.
"I never could reach," Ianto admitted, pulling the car to a stop in front of the funeral home.
"You know." His neck had hurt for hours after. "I couldn't bend far enough."
Owen made a face. "You actually tried? Sick bastard." He led the way into the funeral home, Ianto following behind and wondering how many body parts a porn-watching zombie could lose and still function. He could find out, for science.
Five minutes later
Working for Torchwood meant developing the ability to outrun various life-threatening creatures. Ianto had not previously considered a middle-aged mum, grieving her daughter's unexpected death, would be such a threat. Nevertheless, he barely made it back to the car alive. Owen had no such luck, but a) it was his fault, and b) he was dead anyway.
Ianto's foot buried the accelerator as they peeled out, irate aunties, grannies, and more piling angrily out after them.
"Fuck," Ianto said, flooring it.
"You groped the corpse!"
"She was falling!"
"Because you tipped over the casket!"
"I got the bloody ring, didn't I?" He showed off the prize.
"Fuck," said Ianto again.
When they made it back to the Hub, Gwen and Tosh had returned. Jack and the Doctor were nowhere to be seen, and they had left Amy and Rory in front of the Tourist Office. They didn't show as Ianto logged in the Drowning Ring. Jack didn't check in via the comms as Ianto continued work on the broken door.
A series of the usual annoying customers walked through the door: the stoned uni students, more Grannies asking for the loo, and one arsehole who tried to convince Ianto to sell his brand of chewing gum for Welsh pride. He couldn't make a good case for any of them being aliens, so no attacking today. Alas. Instead, Ianto fought back with paperwork, printing out forty-nine pages of paperwork for the man to fill out to be considered as a vendor for Visit Wales, and sent him on his way.
Still no word from Jack.
He told Amy he was going back down to the main Hub for a few minutes. She waved at him absently; at some point during the day, she had retrieved an iPod from the TARDIS (he guessed) and was busy dancing to a song only she could hear. The lyrics she sang under her breath sounded obscene, and part of him wanted to listen in, but Rory gave him a Look.
"Right." Back downstairs, everyone had their own projects going. Gwen had been tasked with finding historical references to photographs and daguerreotypes containing images of a long, thin man in a suit standing off to the side in the back of photographs. Toshiko was tracking down reports of a shared computer file which ostensibly drove humans mad with merely a glimpse of the attached photograph of a demoniacally-smiling dog, on the printout of which Owen had (at some point) drawn a moustache and added the caption: "I lick my own balls." On closer inspection, the handwriting looked more like Jack's.
Owen was supposed to be investigating rumours of some children's programme no-one had ever licensed in this country or any other though many young adults now claimed memories of having watched. They all had similar terrified recollections, and even Ianto thought he could recall the pirates and awful skin-stealing monsters that made up the charming childhood novelty. Why investigating witnesses and watching hours of static had become Owen's job baffled Ianto, but he suspected Jack was punishing him for something.
Instead of working on his assignment, Owen waited for Ianto at the doorway like he was expecting him.
"Something I missed?" Ianto asked, instead of making another joke about haunting the Hub. Gwen's mobile rang.
"Just taking a break to admire the view."
Ianto followed his glance, but didn't see anything Owen would typically call admirable, just the screwy typical workplace of a steampunk alien-fighting secret base that could use another go-round with the dustmop.
"If you're pointing to the mess, you may be dead but your arms aren't broken."
"Torchwood is a microcosm of humanity," Owen said, not listening. "Like in the outer world, the people here come in exactly two varieties: obnoxious," he gestured at Gwen shouting at Rhys on the phone, "and pathetic." This gesture was for Toshiko, who'd just dropped her stylus to the floor and was digging around unflatteringly on hands and knees to find it.
Owen smiled mirthlessly. "There's the spirit. Keep it up, and you'll make it into the 'obnoxious' camp someday, too."
Ianto shrugged him off and went the rest of the way in as Gwen finished her call. "Should I ask?"
She frowned. "Best not to." Distracted, she ran a hand through her hair. "Since we're looking to be here a good while longer until Jack and the Doctor get back, do you think you could get us some supper?"
He overlooked the implication. "Sure." Jack's office was free, unfortunately, so he used the phone in there to order, quietly also flipping around the CCTV cameras to look for a glimpse of where Jack had gone with the Doctor. No luck. Unhappy and not wanting to look unhappy, he put in an order for a large pan of lasagne and extra garlic bread from Casa Celi for takeaway. When the time came to pick it up, he grumbled through his wait in line for his order and all the way back again. Grudgingly, he invited Amy and Rory down, since they were in the same boat, waiting for word. More satisfying was watching Owen slink away, unable to join the rest of them for the meal.
"The Tourist Office still needs a warm body," said Ianto. "But yours will do."
Owen flipped him off and went back upstairs.
The Tourist Centre was the most fucking boring assignment in the history of fucking Torchwood. Back in the old days, Jack had used staffing the fucking place as a punishment: death by tedium and obnoxious tourists. Owen had spent many an hour sitting in this fucking chair glaring at these fucking idiots as they asked for directions to the fucking place across the street. Then someone had offered to suck Jack's dick in exchange for a job, and when it'd been his turn, he turned out to fucking enjoy sorting the fucking brochures. It was a match made in banal Heaven.
And now Owen was stuck up here. Fuck.
He opened another window for porn. Sure he couldn't get an erection, but he fucking remembered.
Just as it was getting good, one of the millions of goddamned pensioners who lived within two bloody minutes of this place wandered in. She glared over the top of her pearl-shell glasses. "Do you have a toilet?"
He opened his mouth to say they were only for the staff. Then he remembered the taste of lasagne. Fuck it. "Through there."
Owen returned to his viewing, tonight's selection being three tabs of foursomes and two tabs of chicks with dicks that put his to shame. He settled in for his educational viewing when, from the direction of the toilet, he heard the granny ask, "Young man?"
He ignored her.
"Oh, young man?"
Owen turned the volume up. With the broken door, potential customers out on the quay could hear the fucking on the computer. Pity Tosh swept for viruses every day, he was sure he could fill up Ianto's drive with something delightfully nasty with a few more websites.
"I say, young man!" The granny was shouting now. Owen grumbled and minimised the window. If the old bat hurt herself, he ought to help her.
Back in the small room beside the toilet, he noticed the bulb that used to shine under the stall door had burned out. Fuck. "What?"
"Could you come in here? I need your help with something."
Owen cringed at the prospect of wiping old lady arse. He considered walking out, then steeled himself. "I'm coming in," he said, closing his eyes.
Owen woke up flat on his back in the Tourist Centre, confused as fuck. First, he hadn't been able to fucking sleep since he'd died, so waking up meant he'd been out.
He jabbed a hand against his chest, feeling for a pulse, and came into contact with the weird goopy remnants of his gunshot wound. Also his hand was still broken. And he had no heartbeat. Still dead and loving it. Fuck!
Jagged memories sorted themselves together in his befuddled brain. Owen went through a brief spell of terror. What if he'd hit his head, and scrambled his deceased brain like a leftover egg, and he had to go through his fucking stupid semi-immortal undeath with the IQ of an ice lolly? This brought on memories of Katie, and the weeks of diagnosis, and no, the sharp pain that had nothing to do with nerve endings indicated his mind was working as well as it ever had.
Nerve endings. Owen could experience pressure, and some other sensations, and right at the moment, he was noticing the state of his body. He lifted his head from the floor and glanced down to see his clothes askew, and a certain old friend hanging out in what appeared to be recent use.
Wait. Had he? Had she? Mixed up images of the past half hour slowly returned, and he let out a little whoop of joy.
Owen got to his feet just as the secret door to downstairs opened, and Ianto emerged in his normal smarmy state, no doubt about to sass Owen about not eating. That hot bird Amy and her husband were with him, and Owen quickly stuffed his dick away. "I had sex!" he announced proudly.
Rory's eyebrows went up, and he looked at his wife. Amy said to him, "Yeah, the Doctor said they do that all the time here. He blames Jack."
"Everyone blames Jack," Ianto said. "What do you mean you had sex? You can't have sex. Your prick doesn't work. And who would have sex with a corpse?"
"Shows what you know." Before anyone could crack a rigour mortis joke, Owen's patchy memory patched in the identity of his sex partner. Who was still in the loo. "'Scuze me." He pushed past the bead curtain to the back room. The toilet stall was closed.
Owen rapped on the door. "You all right?" There wasn't any reply. "Oi!"
Ianto followed him into the small room. Owen knocked again, worried. "Come on, this isn't funny."
"You had sex in my toilet stall?" Like he could talk. Owen knew for a fact Ianto and Jack had shagged in here loads of times.
Owen looked at him, then turned back to the door. Banging harder. The door latch gave way, and the door fell open.
The Granny fell out onto the floor. Unlike Owen, she wasn't the walking kind of dead.
Jack had missed this. They'd spent hours chasing down the alien the Doctor had described, roaming from haunt to haunt, and now they'd reached the best part: running pell-mell through the streets together on the heels of some threat. Jack gloried in the pound of his feet and the heavy breath in his chest. Questions and clean-up could wait.
They trapped the alien from opposite ends of an alley. Jack had his gun, and only as the Doctor approached from the other side did the worry appear in the back of his head. A sonic screwdriver was nice and all, but if the alien attacked, putting chairs together wouldn't be much help, nor any defence.
"Hey, ugly!" Jack shouted, to draw its attention.
"That's not nice," the Doctor admonished, unfortunately drawing it right back. He lowered his hand with the screwdriver and stepped forward. "I'm sure you're very fetching for your species. Which, by the way, and this is rare, I haven't met before. Hello. I'm the Doctor. Don't look me up, that gets all messy. That's my friend Jack behind you. I didn't catch your name."
The creature stared at him, in confusion or dawning rage. Jack stepped closer behind, but at a glance from the Doctor, didn't approach further.
The Doctor waited, but with no response, he continued, "So now that we're all friends, I have a favour to ask. You met my other friend Rory, and you did something to his voice. We'd like to change him back. Rory the Roman, he wouldn't be the same without spouting off in Latin now and then, would he?"
"Roman?" Jack asked, interest piqued.
"Roman Centurion. Also Nestene. Well, he was. Bit muddled. Anyway, we'd like to hear his voice again, so if you could just hand over the cure, we'll be on our way." He gestured at the artefact under the creature's arm.
The alien glared, and raised its laser pistol towards the Doctor, crouching over the artefact. Jack jumped forward, grabbing from behind. The Doctor pulled the pistol from the alien's hand, then held it out like a used handkerchief. The alien in Jack's grip struggled and squirmed. Up close, his light fur turned out to be thin scales, almost protofeathers, prickly and slippery, and smelling like the bottom of a pigeon coop. Jack tried to breathe through his mouth.
"Now, let's not fight," the Doctor said. "Jack, let our new friend go."
The alien twisted, shoving a wing-elbow into Jack's side. "Get the artefact first!"
The Doctor held up his hands, as if he was the one being held hostage. In a voice like a calm lake, he said, "You can let him go. It's all right."
The alien struggled harder, and Jack said, "Are you sure about that?"
"Yeah." A little half-smile crossed his face, and for a second, Jack could see how very old the Doctor truly was.
Jack let go. The creature ignored him and shambled at the Doctor, who didn't move.
"You're so lonely," said the Doctor.
The alien stopped, blinking its third eye.
"Can you make it home from here?" he asked it. "Do you need a lift?"
The alien backed away, and noticed Jack again. It tilted its head, then set the artefact down. It reached out a wing for the pistol, and to Jack's astonishment, the Doctor handed it back, saying, "Thank you."
And it vanished in front of them with a transmat beam that steamed the chilly air of the alley.
When the last wisp of smoke drifted away, Jack's head tilted up to the Doctor's face again. "You're different."
The Doctor poked his own nose, squishing it like Silly Putty, if Silly Putty had cartilage. "Not."
"From the last one. The last you. You don't act like him."
The Doctor said, "That's stupid. It's a stupid thing to say. I can't believe you'd say something that stupid. I am exactly the same me."
Jack took a breath. "That part's the same anyway. No, what I mean, look at this guy. You could have flipped the polarity of his pistol and made it backfire, but you didn't. You changed his mind."
"He changed his mind. I helped a little." The Doctor picked up the artefact resting on the pavement and walked purposefully away.
Jack followed. "The last Doctor I met made noises about giving people choices, but he solved every crisis by reversing the polarity of the neutron flow."
"Ha," said the Doctor, mostly to himself. "Neutron flow. Don't be stupid. You're being stupid again. Neutrons don't flow, and I never did."
"Right." Jack had kept tabs, and he'd talked to Martha, and he'd even wriggled a bit from Donna's grandfather. "You're different now. You reverse the polarity inside people's heads. You don't fix up some machine to backfire on them, you change their minds instead." He grinned. "I like this new you."
The Doctor's mouth twisted, and Jack's heart skipped a beat, sensing a private moment, just the two of them in the universe. Then the Doctor said, "I think this new me is a lot more dangerous. The old me saved the world reversing simple things. Change the world's mind, now that's going to cause problems."
"You changed me." He didn't mean to say the words out loud, but it wasn't as if the Doctor didn't know.
The young-old face, the stranger who knew Jack so well, sized him up with such a familiar nod that Jack's heart skipped and he was in the TARDIS again, Rose asking him to dance. And then it was gone, the old Doctor banished by a quirky smile from the newest one. "You were ready to change. And you're still changing. These new friends of yours have been good for you." He half-shrugged in an awkward, puppet-like fashion. "You keep coming back to them."
Jack let the observation sink inside, to peruse later. "They're worth it." The pair fell into step as they made their way back towards the Hub. "So, about this woman you're marrying."
"She's amazing. Brilliant, mad. Crack shot with a gun."
Jealousy, not a comfortable feeling, squirmed inside him, echoes of a thousand remonstrances. "You don't normally go for that."
"She's not what you'd call 'normal.' Come to think of it, you're the only person I've met who probably would." The Doctor's face, momentarily happy by his distant matrimonial prospect, suddenly soured.
"Think you could bring her by sometime?"
"No. Definitely not."
"Are you sure about this?" Jack didn't want to admit to his worries, but he decided he had the right. He'd been there with Rose, through thick and thin, and now the Doctor was set to marry a stranger instead. Even if Jack wasn't to be anything else to the Doctor, he was his friend. "This isn't like you."
"I've been married before, you know."
He hadn't known, no, but Jack wasn't about to admit that, either. "So have I. That doesn't mean I'm doing it again."
The Doctor's almost non-existent eyebrows raised. "Doesn't it?"
"Of course I'm not." The Doctor's expression caught up with him, and a reminder of every expression his old friend had worn today. "Wait, what do you know?"
The Doctor kept walking, getting ahead of him.
The amusement was back on his face, and age, and more. Jack knew he ought to be glad for the Doctor, glad to know good tidings were coming, glad to know the Doctor had found someone he considered enough of an equal to wed. Sure, Jack had the right to be wistful and full of might-have-beens, but he knew what he should be feeling right now was shared happiness for his friend's upcoming joy.
But the Doctor had been looking at Jack like that all day.
Eyes full of delight, the Doctor said a single word: "Spoilers."
The four of them stood in a semi-circle around the body in the back. Gwen folded her arms, brows scrunched in concern at the poor, dead old woman. Tosh played with her hands, shooting looks between the corpse and the other corpse. The other corpse continued his smirk, obviously pleased that his penis had worked again, no matter for how short a time, and oblivious to Tosh's discomfiture that he'd once again used it on someone who wasn't her. Ianto stood back, wondering how he was going to clean this up. Had Granny's friends known she was coming here? Could he fake a car accident, or did she not drive any more?
Outside, he could hear Amy catcalling someone on the quay. If she wasn't careful, she'd wind up getting picked up by the police on solicitation, and that had been a pain in the arse to deal with the last time Jack had been up on the same charges.
"The poor dear," Gwen said, finally breaking the shocked silence amongst them.
"Poor her?" Owen asked. "She practically assaulted me."
This won him a sympathetic glance from Gwen, and a question from Ianto. "Were you attacked?"
"No, she called me into the stall. Then she said we ought to have sex."
Tosh asked, "And you said?"
"I started to explain about my lack of blood flow." He cleared his throat, of what who could say? "And then my blood flow issue suddenly wasn't an issue."
Ianto said, "And that's when she assaulted you?"
"Well, no. I reckoned I was there, and she was interested." Seeing their expressions, he moaned, "Come on, it's been ages. I haven't had a shag since I died."
Toshiko said, "So when you said she practically assaulted you, what you meant was that she didn't assault you at all."
"When you put it that way, yes."
Gwen asked, "What are we going to do with her?"
"I'll deal with the body," said Ianto. Might as well. It was his job, even if he oughtn't be here. "Unless you care to perform an autopsy first, Dr. Harper?"
Owen prodded the body none too reverently. "Cause of death was a heart attack on account of fantastic sex."
"No," said a new voice. The Doctor strolled in, Jack behind him of course, and Amy and Rory with, making this small space far too tiny.
Jack, Ianto couldn't help but notice, had the mussed hair and 'recently sweaty' look that spoke of recent running or recent fucking. "Who'd you kill while we were gone?" Jack asked in boss voice.
"You see, Owen…."
"I told him not to…."
The Doctor looked at the body then stepped over her to reach Owen. He pulled from his own pocket a long device that looked suspiciously like Jack's favourite bedside toy. The item sounded similar to that toy as a green light passed over Owen's abdomen. "The good news is, she didn't impregnate you."
"What the fuck?"
"Listrenite. They mate out of their species, impregnate their partner, then die. The spawn have enough DNA to pass for a member of their birth parent's species, but go on to breed using the alien genetic material."
Jack made a face and scratched his stomach unhappily. "Oh, one of those. I ran into one once. Didn't think we had a colony here. That'll be tomorrow's project. We'll have to eradicate them or tell them to move."
"A colony of what?"
"Listrenites," said the Doctor, annoyed. "Really, don't you train your people here?"
Jack said, "It's in the employee manual not to shag any aliens."
The sudden outbreak of suspiciously-innocent expressions in the small room probably did not fool the Doctor, but before he could comment, there was a noise from the office area. Ianto pushed past the bead curtain.
The group of tourists looked vaguely familiar. The sticky-fingered young boy with them brought the memory into sharp focus. Ianto aimed for a polite expression. "May I help you?"
The mum slammed her hand on the counter. "My daughter said she was given cigarettes here when we came in earlier. How dare you give a child those awful cancer sticks!"
Ianto reared back from the woman's anger. "Excuse me?"
By her side, the sweet-faced young cherub of a girl who'd stolen his fags beamed at him. "You gave them to me."
"I did not. You took the pack, young lady."
The dad said, "Are you accusing my daughter of stealing and lying?"
"They were sitting out, she took them." This had been a long, stupid day. Normally, Ianto could manage polite even to the worst customers, but he was having none of it tonight. "Perhaps if you'd supervise your children more closely," this was to the boy who had started pushing thumbprints into the frosted glass, "we wouldn't have this problem." He didn't add, "You idiot" but his tone left nothing to the imagination, and he didn't care.
The mum said, "I'm going to speak to your supervisor about this!"
Jack took the opportunity to come out past the beaded curtain. As the family watched, open-mouthed, so did the rest of the team. "Hi," said Jack. "Can we help you?"
The woman sized up the five of them. "Which one of you is in charge here?"
"I am." Jack folded his arms. "Why?"
His natural charm butted ineffectively against her annoyance. "This clerk gave our daughter cigarettes and he has been terribly rude to us. It's a shameful face to put on Visit Wales."
Jack tilted his head to Ianto, then back to the family. Behind them, Gwen and Owen started laughing. "I find that hard to believe."
"Believe what you like, we will be making a complaint about your office. What were you doing back there, anyway?" The mum craned her neck. Unfortunately, the dead Granny-alien's foot was just visible under the curtain until Tosh hurriedly shoved it away. From inside the smaller room, there was a loud whine, and a man's voice said, "Thank God!"
Jack sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "I'm sure there's just been a misunderstanding. Why don't you step in, we'll all have a cup of tea, and we'll chat." It was Gwen's normal patter for setting up witnesses with Retcon, and the look he gave the others strongly hinted someone ought to grab the bottle.
The mum's lips pursed into a tight, straight line. The dad's brow furled as he stared at Jack, and a distinct expression crawled over his plain face: recognition, with accompanying fear. At the same time, Jack's own eyes brightened and he relaxed into a more comfortable pose. "Oh, hey. Almost didn't recognise you, Snowball. How've you been?"
Owen mouthed, "Snowball?"
"Hi. Been … Been fine, yeah. Got married. Hi." He stammered, dropped a glance to his wife significantly.
And Ianto knew better. He did. He'd been in the man's shoes wondering how the people in his life would react to finding out about him. He knew the fear, knew that coming out was supposed to be a personal decision, not something you did to someone else.
He knew all that, and later he felt very guilty even though by then the Retcon would have wiped away the event from the man's memories.
In the now, he glared at Jack and said, "Let me guess. One of the thousand you've slept with."
Jack glared. "You. Out. I will deal with you later." Tosh had already found the drawer with the Retcon stash, and Gwen pushed back through the curtain to fetch the electric kettle as Jack soothed the angry tourists.
Ianto stormed outside, itching for his smokes and even more irate that he didn't have any. Night had brought all the lights on the water in the Bay. He stared at the waves and fumed, too angry to go back inside, too tied to this fucking place to leave before Jack said so.
A shadow darkened the lit doorway. For a moment, Ianto was stupid enough to think it was Jack, and he himself would be stupid enough to apologise. Maybe.
Instead, Rory wandered out, and joined him by the rail. "We're heading out. Thanks for having us."
"Whatever. Fine, You're welcome."
Through the doorway, he could see Amy flirting with Jack, who flirted back just as outrageously. Even without hearing their words, he could lip-read Jack: "And that's only the first session."
To which Amy replied, "First? I don't even get going until the third."
"Christ, there's two of them," Ianto said, amazed.
"Yeah. Amy flirts with everyone she meets. It's who she is. I remember one timeline where she worked as a kissogram. Did you know, she ran off with the Doctor the night before our wedding?" Rory smiled tightly, privy to a joke he wasn't sharing. "But even if she's kissed a hundred people, I'm the one she loves." He gave Ianto a companionable nod. "See you."
Ianto didn't watch him go. He heard Amy's warm laugh envelop Rory as he went back inside to say his goodbye, and Ianto knew that laugh, knew the cadence even from the unfamiliar voice. She'd minx around Jack and everyone else, but her heart was Rory's, and it lightened as soon as he entered the room. Jack laughed the same way whenever Ianto came down to the main Hub.
Jack yelled at Owen to help Ianto finish the door repair and talked the Doctor into staying long enough to see the dead Listrenite's body downstairs. Now that Rory was cured, a familiar wanderlust had returned to the Doctor's eyes, already fixed on a mental horizon limited only by his imagination. Jack remembered their days together, remembered the mad grin and random flips of the TARDIS's controls, next stop anywhere.
Beside Gwen, Amy and Rory peeked excitedly at an artefact Toshiko had brought out, both careful not to touch, but clearly eager to keep exploring. It was their turn to ride the ride, to spin the wheel, and tagging along on their journey would feel wrong. Intrusive. The past was tempting mainly for its false perfection.
The present, as he discovered when checking the kitchenette, had ordered his favourite lasagne and had reserved two pieces, with a second plate on top to keep them warm with the leftover garlic bread.
"I could invite you along," the Doctor said, taking in the plate and Jack's fork with a knowing look. Immediately Gwen and Tosh went silent, straining unapologetically for his answer. Before he could give one, the Doctor added, "But you'd only say no again."
"Call when you need my help, and I'll be there with bells on."
Amy asked with a grin, "Are you open to suggestions on where to put the bells?" Rory rolled his eyes, either forgetting he could talk again, or knowing it would be pointless.
Jack matched her grin. "For you, I'll show up in bells alone."
"Right," said Rory, stepping between them, but Jack stayed back and took a bite of his lasagne.
Around his chewed bite, he asked the Doctor, "Are you inviting me to the wedding?"
"And watch you keep flirting with my mother-in-law? No, you're not invited. You never invite me to yours, I'm certainly not going to invite you to mine. Fair's fair."
And with those very confusing back to back statements, the Doctor said, "Come along, Ponds," and stepped onto the stone for the invisible lift, which he activated with his screwdriver like the big drama queen he insisted he wasn't. The three of them rose to the street and were gone.
Jack spent an extra five seconds chewing, then swallowed noisily before he said, "Huh."
Ianto stared at the door frame with no motivation. Another hour would see the job finished, and he could go home, but what was the point? He rarely slept in his own bed any more, and after his admittedly stupid display earlier, Jack wasn't going home with him tonight. He'd be lucky if Jack didn't tag along with the Doctor for a bit of fun, flirting with the Ponds and travelling again.
As he hammered the last of the frame into place, Ianto wondered if that's why he'd done it. Jack was always the one to leave, and the one who decided to come back. But if Ianto pushed Jack away first, why then he was in charge of the relationship, and he wouldn't have to hurt as badly watching Jack go this time.
From inside, Owen was swearing. Ianto had insisted he clean up the clutter in the toilet stall, since he'd caused it.
"Don't think I'm cleaning up your mess, too!" came an echoed shout bookended with expletives. "Christ, how many times has he had you up against the wall in here?"
He wasn't going to rise to the bait. Owen didn't need to know who'd had whom where.
"On second thought, you're not tall enough to make these stains. Must be from one of the other blokes he's been shagging."
He wasn't going to rise to the bait. He wasn't.…
"I reckon now the Doctor's finished his booty call, they'll be off."
The door was finished. It was an ugly job, but Ianto could barely see through the red mist forming in front of his eyes. He took the moment to set the fucking thing into the hinges so he could slam it properly before stalking into the back.
Owen sat on the floor, not having touched a single stain, including the rather pathetic mess where his now-deceased partner had lain. He gave Ianto a sharp grin, daring him to do or say something. Ianto pictured throwing the first punch, and the satisfying thud of his fist into Owen's face. They'd tussle, each aiming for the advantage, both aware of and ignoring the problem that any damage Owen sustained would be permanent.
It'd be so easy.
Ianto sat down next to him on the messy floor. "Why are you trying to get me to hit you?"
"Because you're a prick." He threw his sponge at a spot on the floor, where it squelched.
"That's a step up. Does it mean I've joined you in the ranks of the obnoxious camp?"
Owen went to say something, but he caught Ianto's eye and let out a chuckle instead. "You have. The boy becomes a man at long last."
"Whiny nitwit who doesn't see what he's got."
Ianto pulled back. "Excuse me?"
"You've spent all day moaning coming in on your day off, about the door, about the arsehole tourists, about your slutty boyfriend, about the Doctor."
"I haven't said a word about the Doctor." He'd been good.
"I suppose glaring daggers into his back every time he turns around isn't moaning, it's just being petty and jealous of someone who got on the list before you did. You ought to be fucking relieved that you're the last one. After tonight, my last shag is always going to be a dead old lady alien who was trying to get me up the duff." Owen banged his head back against the wall.
"Why did you shag her?"
"My dick was working again. I wasn't going to argue. Guess that alien species can get me moving a bit." Owen looked thoughtful. "Jack said we might have a nest of them somewhere close. Reckon he'd let me go in after them first?"
"You're seriously contemplating going into a nest of aliens to have sex with them."
"And they'll croak as soon as they're done without successfully breeding. It'd be a public service. I ought to get a medal. Fucking in the line of duty."
That led him back to thoughts of today, and Jack. "Do you think he's going to swan off with the Doctor again?"
Ianto twinged, and glared at Owen, who only shrugged. "Next time the Earth's in danger, the Doctor'll show up on our doorstep, and Captain Reckless will go off to help and still be home for tea just like last time. And if you stop being such a whiny tit, he might let you go along. He's mad about you, God knows why."
Owen rolled his eyes. "No? You know for a fact that he could do better than your pasty arse. He has done better, case in point was in this office today. Hell, I could pull better than you, and I'm dead and impotent. But for reasons only known to idiots from the 51st century, you're the only one he's been with for over three years. So quit your fucking whining, and appreciate it. Jesus."
Amy had recognised him, which meant they would run into one another again. As a rule, the Doctor's presence meant trouble, so yes, Jack was likely going to go off to help him in future. And he would come back.
Ianto got to his feet, and bent over to get the sponge. "Here." He threw it to Owen.
"My part's done and I've closed the office. You clean up in here. I'm going out." He needed to clear his head, needed some space.
"Where are you going?"
"I haven't decided yet."
He ought to play a game up here. Maybe get a ball, kick it around, punt it off the side of the building into someone unsuspecting. Ianto leaned over the edge to look, wondering who he'd bean. At this time of night, only the drunks and the uni students. God, he wanted a smoke.
"I had a feeling you'd be up here."
He didn't turn around. He'd half-expected Jack's arrival. "You did threaten to install that tracking device."
"Only the once." Jack came up behind him. "I managed to find a place that was open." He offered a small white cardboard box, pushed out in front of Ianto. "I almost forgot. But I wondered why you were so pissed off today."
Ianto turned his head, not looking at Jack. He took the box, and carefully opened the string tying it closed. The scent of chocolate and sugar hit him. A fairy cake.
"You told me once that she liked strawberry with chocolate frosting. That took a little persuading, but I got the baker to put it together." His face was open, quiet. Jack Harkness was known for stupidly grand gestures, not thoughtful ones, and he was clearly nervous. He reached into a pocket. "I brought a candle, if you wanted one."
A month ago he'd looked at the calendar and realised she'd be turning thirty, if she hadn't been dead almost four years. He'd requested the day off, because going in to work at the place where she'd died was too hard to contemplate.
Ianto pushed the candle into the chocolate frosting, and fumbled his lighter open.
"Wanna sing?" asked Jack.
"No." He watched the candle burn, and he thought about Lisa's last birthday party, how their friends had come, how her girlfriends had giggled and whispered, and one of his mates asked Ianto if he was going to propose. "Not today," he'd said, knowing the ring she'd been eyeing would cost more than he had saved up. Waiting was more sensible.
"Sorry," he said, to the candle, to the cake, to the ghost on the rooftop with him. He huffed out the flame. He pulled apart the fairy cake, making a messy pile of crumbs, and offered the smaller half to Jack, who chewed his portion noisily. Jack was an idiot, and sometimes a slob, and certainly a pain, and he'd had sex with over a thousand people, but Owen was right about one thing. The last number on that long list had been Ianto.
He ate his own part of the cake more slowly. He never liked this variety, but Lisa always had. Happy birthday, sweetheart, he thought, and wiped the crumbs off his hands.
"Can we go home now?" Jack asked. The almost-hidden hesitation in the query added a silent, "Are we okay?"
"Can I have tomorrow off?"
"No. We have to deal with the Listrenites."
"Then we should go home." They helped each other upright, and made their way to the staircase, dropping crumbs behind themselves like children lost in the woods together.
Previous reel_torchwood fics:
Jack Harkness and the Chocolate Factory
The Day the Dragons Came (by Mica Davies, Age 7)
My three favourite words are "I liked this."