This part PG, over all pg13.
A chance visit to a bar and the unexpected arrival of an old acquaintance raises a lot questions for Jack and creates a dangerous situation for Ianto.
This is set during the first series after 1x06 Countrycide, but before 1x08 They Keep Killing Suzie.
Jack rolls over in bed and pulls the covers up over his head, trying to cling to sleep. It takes him a moment to register that there really shouldn’t be enough room for him to rollover, not with Ianto in the bed.
Sitting up with a start, any thought or desire to go back to sleep rapidly fading, he looks around.
He’s alone, even Ianto’s shirt is no longer hung over the heating pipes, in fact any trace that Ianto has ever been in the room is gone.
A second later there is a crash from the main area of the ship and Jack is out of bed and on his feet, not even stopping to get dressed as he races off to find its cause.
Bursting into the ship’s small galley kitchen he find Jubel sweeping up broken glass. There is no sign of Ianto here either, although there are two mugs left on the table.
Jubel looks up as Jack hurries in, and smiles, before saying cheerfully, “You decided to get up then, I was beginning to think you were going to sleep all day.”
“Where is he?” Jack asks, concern rapidly giving way to something approaching panic, despite the fact that he has seen nothing to warrant it.
“Who?” Jubel empties the contents of the dustpan in to a bin.
Jack’s in no mood for games and he pushes Jubel back against the wall, his forearm across Jubel’s neck, “I said where is he?” He can’t believe he trusted Jubel not to pull anything. If anything has happened to Ianto he’ll never forgive Jubel and he’ll probably never be able to forgive himself either.
Before Jubel can answer, the door to the galley is pushed open to thump loudly against the wall as Ianto storms into the kitchen. Soaking wet and wearing nothing but a towel and an annoyed expression, he turns to Jack, “What are doing?”
“You’re alright,” Jack says, both surprised and relieved. He feels a complete idiot now, he’s over reacted and now Jubel looks afraid of him and Ianto’s angry. It must be a record, he thinks a little bitterly, to be awake for less than five minutes and be able to screw things up this badly.
“Obviously.” Ianto holds the towel firmly in place, “Do you think you could refrain from strangling anybody until I’ve finished my shower and got dressed?”
“Yeah.” Jack smiles apologetically as Ianto stalks back out of the room without another word.
Releasing Jubel, who coughs a couple of times and rubs a hand across his neck where Jack had pinned him against the wall, Jack tries to think of something to say.
Jubel however beats him too it, “What the hell was that about?”
“I thought…” Actually now that Jack has had a moment to think about it he’s not too sure what he’d been thinking when he’d run into the galley in search of Ianto or if at that point he’d even been thinking at all.
“What did you think? I’d screw up the best chance I’ve got of getting Sibel back even before we get there? That I wouldn’t even give your plan a chance? I was desperate, Jack, but I’m not a complete idiot.”
“I didn’t say you were.”
“Honestly, what did you think I’d do with him up here? Lock him in a cupboard? If I was going to do anything I’d wait until we’re planet side at the very least.”
Jack glares at him and Jubel takes a step back, hands raised, still very wary, “Not that I would.”
“I’m sorry.” Jack’s fed up with saying sorry. He feels like he’s said it more times in the past twelve hours than he has in pervious twelve years, and it still feels like he’s playing catch up, that he’s making mistakes faster than he can put them right or apologise for them.
Jubel sounds tired and miserable when he speaks again, “Yeah, well don’t do it again.”
“Then don’t ever put me in a position where I might need to.”
They stand and stare at each other, unable to back down, knowing that depending on just what is said next it could damage their friendship irreparably.
Jubel looks away first, “I didn’t want any of this to happen, Jack, and I don’t want to be your enemy, I know what happens to anybody who gets in your way. I just want my daughter back and for all this to be over.”
Walking over to the table he slumps down into one of the chairs, “I don’t know where you’ve been, what you’ve been doing or what the hell you’ve become, and I don’t want to know, I don’t even want to think about it.”
“No, hear me out,” Jubel snaps, slamming his hand down on the table. “I killed you and I saw you dead, and now you’re not. Don’t get me wrong I’m glad you’re not dead, but it scares the hell out me. You scare the hell out of me.”
Jack sighs and turns away, he doesn’t want to see the fear in his friend’s eyes, fear that is so much more accusing and damning than anger could ever be.
“I’m not going cross you, Jack, I’ve seen what you’re capable if anyone takes or harms what’s yours. So I’ll tell it to you straight, I’m not going to take your young man from you, you’ve got my word on that.”
“Thank you.” Jack can’t think of anything else to say, despite how inadequate it seems. He’s not going to correct Jubel by telling him that Ianto isn’t his young man, not in that way, not yet, although Jack still has his hopes.
There is another slightly awkward silence before Jubel speaks again, “So in the spirit of me not taking things from you, I’ll give you something instead.”
Jack can do nothing about the positively dirty grin that he feels tugging at his lips, “What are you going to give me?”
Jubel makes a snorting noise, unimpressed, “Advice.”
“What is it?”
“Put some clothes on.”
Jack walks slowly back to the cabin, reassured, at least in part, that Ianto is safe from Jubel. He smiles, now all he has to do is keep them safe should the deal with Grell go sour.
Returning to the galley, dressed in boots and trousers, his other clothes hadn’t been in the cabin, Ianto having probably thrown them away as a lost cause, Jack finds Jubel and Ianto sat at the table, talking quietly and drinking coffee.
Pouring himself a cup Jack joins them. It really shouldn’t surprise him that even here in the depths of space that Ianto has somehow managed to find and brew coffee that would put most other people’s attempts to shame.
“Are you going to walk around like that all day?” Ianto sounds vaguely annoyed, although his expression is more one of embarrassment, as Jack sits down.
“It’s not like I’ve got anything else to wear.” Jack is quite aware that it sounds a little sulky, he doesn’t mean it to be, but it was Ianto that binned his clothes.
Ianto doesn’t reply. Instead he unbuttons his shirt, and lays it on the edge of the table before taking off his tee-shirt and throwing it at Jack, ”Put that on.”
Jack considers the tee-shirt for a moment before asking, “Couldn’t I have the shirt?” He doesn’t want to seem ungrateful, but he likes the look of the deep blue shirt.
“No, because I’d like to keep it intact, thank you.” The look that Ianto gives him doesn’t allow for any further discussion on the matter, and Jack puts on the tee-shirt without another word.
It’s still warm and smells faintly of Ianto’s deodorant and aftershave from the previous day and Jack the sudden ridiculous urge to sniff it. He doesn’t though as he doubts whether Ianto or Jubel would be very appreciative of him doing that, especially not while they were trying to eat breakfast.
On Ianto it had been somewhat form fitting, on Jack it’s just tight. Not that he minds, he knows he’s got a nice enough body that no one is going to complain, in fact he’s fairly sure he’ll get more than a few admiring glancing when they set down on Aphelion.
There is the faintest suggestion of a blush on Ianto’s cheeks as he looks at Jack before turning away and taking a hurried gulp of coffee, saying, “I think you might want to lose the braces.”
“Why?” Jack thinks that the red contrasts very nicely with the black of the tee shirt.
“Because it makes you look like a firemen themed stripper at a hen night.”
“You say that like such it’s a bad thing?” There were a great many worse things too look like than a person that people paid to see taking their clothes off, in Jack’s opinion. Not to mention all the hose, helmet and sliding down poles jokes that he could make.
Ianto gives Jack a slightly despairing look, “You know most people would not consider being told that they look like a stripper a compliment.”
“I’m not most people.”
“And don’t I know it.” The genuine annoyance of earlier is replaced with a gentle mockery and Jack knows that his earlier out burst is mostly forgiven.
“He’s got you there.” Jubel gestures at Jack with a forkful of food.
Jack looks first at Jubel and then at Ianto, “I’m not going to win this one, am I?”
“No.” They say in unison.
Jack unhooks the braces, “If my pants fall down it’s your fault.”
“You have a belt.” Ianto says firmly, before returning to eating his breakfast, waiting until Jack has started to drink his coffee before adding, with an innocent that obviously doesn’t mean, “And if they do it’s not going to be anything I haven’t seen before.”
Jack nearly chokes on his coffee.
The banter continues for a while until Jubel leaves to check on the autopilot system as they begin their approach to Aphelion.
Jack knows that to a casual observer that their humour may seem wholly inappropriate given the circumstances, yet it’s the very existence of these circumstance that forces them too it. It’s stress release, the calm before the storm, it’s these shared moments that allow the tension to be, temporarily at least, forgotten.
Once Jubel is gone Jack turns to Ianto who is pouring himself another mug of coffee, “I’m sorry about this morning, I over reacted.”
“I should have probably woken you and told you where I was going. Given what happened last night I guess I should be grateful all you did was shout at him when you couldn’t find me.” There is no anger or annoyance in Ianto’s voice now, just a sort of tired resignation as he walks back over to the table and sits down facing Jack.
They sit in silence for a moment as Jack tries to think of something to say that isn’t likely to cause offence. He eventually settles with, “You must have been up early.”
“I was.” Ianto gives Jack a tired smile, and sips his drink, “I didn’t sleep that well.”
Jack feels guilty now that he ever let Ianto talk him into letting them share the bed.
“It’s not your fault.” Ianto wraps his hands around his mug, and Jack can’t help but watch his fingers, he sure he never had quite such a fascination with fingers before he saw Ianto’s. “I don’t sleep particularly well normally, never mind after a night like that, so don’t blame yourself.”
“Is it really that obvious what I’m thinking?”
They fall silent again. Ianto still looking into his coffee and Jack still watching Ianto’s long, slim fingers curled around the mug. It’s not exactly an awkward silence, nor it is a particularly companionable one, it’s just the silence of two people who both have far too much to say to each other but do not know how to begin.
It’s Ianto that breaks the silence this time, “I hope you don’t mind, sir, but while you were asleep I got Jubel to patch me though to the Hub’s internal messaging network so I could let the rest of the team know that we wouldn’t be in this morning. I told them it was a business negotiation.”
“A business negotiation,” Jack says wryly, it was certainly one way of describing what they were doing.
“It seemed like the best description of the situation that wasn’t an outright lie. It’s also one that shouldn’t lead to too questions when we get back.” There is an unspoken I don’t want to have to tell them about this and I’m fairly sure that you don’t either, in the brief silence that follows.
Sometimes Ianto’s logic just blew him away, “Thank you. You know you didn’t have to.”
“Yes, I did. We can hardly just run off without a word. They would be worried and can you imagine the mess that we’d get back to? Gwen would probably have half the Cardiff police force out looking for you, Tosh would be running so many scans and locator programs that it would send the central processor into meltdown and as for Owen I don’t even want to think about what he might do.”
Jack lets Ianto ramble on for a moment before asking, “You said they’d be looking for me. Why didn’t you say they’d be looking for us?”
“They barely notice me when I am there, I doubt it would even register that I wasn’t until they had to make their own coffee or find something in the archive.” He gives Jack a small, half smile that obviously supposed to mean he’s used to it and it really doesn’t matter or hurt his feelings anymore. It’s worse somehow, to Jack’s mind at least, that he should feel that it’s acceptable for everybody around him to totally disregard his how he feels. “Anyway, Owen is still waiting of me to just suddenly disappear, he’s still convinced that you’re coming up with some creative punishment for me.”
“And what do you think?” Jack wishes that he didn’t have to keep asking these questions that he really isn’t sure he wants to know the answer to.
“That he’s wrong. If you were going to do anything to me you would have done it there and then, and you would have made no secret of it.” Ianto seems surprisingly calm as he continues, “Owen confuses how you make the hard decisions for us with heartlessness. It’s not, I know it’s not, you only do it to protect us.”
Jack really not sure he comfortable with this new and ever so insightful Ianto. Although he knows in reality that Ianto has always been like this, it’s only since last night that Ianto has chosen to share these observations with him. It’s still a little unnerving though and Jack knows it’ll take a while for him to adjust to it. But he will adjust, because if there is one thing that he is good at it’s adaptability.
“If Owen is causing you trouble, I will speak to him about it.” Owen did have his good points, Jack wouldn’t argue with that, lately however more and more of his bad ones seem to be dominating his behaviour. It worries Jack because he knows that eventually he’s going to have to have to find a way deal with it before it starts to seriously affect the team and Owen ability to function as part of it, the problem is that Jack has absolutely no idea of how to go about it.
“Don’t, it’ll just make Owen more obnoxious than ever,” Ianto says quickly, before looking thoughtful for a moment, then he continues, “What we need is to get back to normal. For you to start treating me how you did before…” His hands tense on the tabletop for a moment and then he stands, turning away from Jack. “Before things went wrong. You don’t talk to me how you used to or say the sort of things to me that you did. I guess I’m saying I want things to go back to how they used to be between us.”
“Are you asking me to start flirting with you again?” Jack’s not sure he’s ever had a request for more flirting, but he guesses there’s always a first time for everything.
“Maybe, I mean I know I’ve missed it, but I don’t want you to start to again, not if you don’t mean it.” Ianto sounds confused, unsure of whether he should ask, despite the fact that it seems to be something he wants.
“Mean it?” Jack echoes, as confused as Ianto sounds as he wonders just what Ianto really means. Does he want the flirting to become more than just flirting? Does he want Jack to make good on the things that he has flirted with him about? Or is it more than that, does Ianto actually want a serious relationship with him?
Jack knows he can do the first two with little difficulty. The first two are just sex. Sure there would be affection and companionship, but sex would just be a shared pastime between them, like golf or going to the cinema. It wouldn’t have any strings attached, there would be no thought of commitment, of it becoming anything more romantically inclined.
It’s the last option though scares him, because he knows that he can’t give Ianto that, not at the moment anyway, and maybe not ever. He’s sure it wouldn’t be remotely fair on Ianto to even let him think even for a moment that’s what he’s offering.
Maybe once he’s found his Doctor and got him to make things right again, then he’ll be able to come back and give Ianto what he needs.
There’s doubt though, doubt that has been growing year on year as Jack has waited for him to come back. Doubt that says maybe he never will come back, that he’s gone forever, doubt that says if the Doctor really cared about him then he’d have come looking for Jack years ago or that he would never have abandoned him in the first place.
Not that Jack allows himself to believe these doubts, not even for a moment, he can’t, because if he does it means giving up hope, and that’s all he has.
So until he finds the Doctor he’ll give Ianto what he can and he hopes that will be enough. Jack smiles, “What if I just keep it to compliments? Tell you how good you look in a suit, how you make the best coffee in Wales.”
“That’s flattery, not flirting.” Ianto turns back to Jack, looking like he’s come to a decision.
“It’s the same thing isn’t it?”
“Not at all.” Ianto gives Jack what he can only describe a very knowing smirk, “Flattery is you saying how good I look in a suit. Flirting is you saying how good I look in a suit, but how you think that I’d look even better out of it.”
Jack laughs, he can’t help it, “I thought that was a given.” He just hopes it doesn’t offended Ianto too much.
He’s about to apologise when Ianto starts laughing as well. The tension between them is shifting, changing, becoming something else, something that’s no longer about hurt or blame, but is still as equally dangerous for them both.
They are standing a lot closer now and Jack’s not sure which of them has moved or if it was both of them. All he knows is that Ianto’s hand is on his hip, resting against the hanging loop of his braces.
There is something in Ianto’s eyes that’s totally unfathomable, although desire is definitely a part of it, as he leans in even closer.
And just for a second Jack thinks that he is going to kiss him, then the mood is broken as Jubel shouts loudly from the ships small bridge, “We’ll be breaking atmosphere in five minutes, so find something to hang on to.”
Ianto takes a hurried step back, looking flustered, “I should…” He points to where Jubel had called from.
“Yeah.” Jack nods, trying not to get too annoyed with Jubel’s timing for ruining something that he knows would have been special.
Following Ianto up to the bridge Jack stands behind Ianto’s seat, holding on tightly to the rail as the ship start it’s entry into Aphelion’s upper atmosphere.
The re-entry is as noisy and bumpy as leaving Earth’s atmosphere had been, although Jack barely notices it as he’s deep in thought about what nearly just happened between him and Ianto.
The fact that Ianto had been the one to initiate the situation, that he would almost certainly have gone through with it had it not been for Jubel’s interruption, gives Jack hope that it will happen again, if he just gives it time.
He watches the rapt fascination on Ianto’s face as the ship begins its approach to the spaceport, Ianto leaning slightly forward in his seat as the planets surface changes from being a blur far below them to a jumbled cityscape, it’s varied architecture a product of its long multi species heritage.
Dropping into the docking queuing system above the spaceport they wait to be allocated a landing site. They don’t have to wait long before a light flashes on the control panel, indicating an incoming call and Jubel flicks a switch, connecting it.
“Verdanii vessel you have permission to land. Landing site one seven nine jay gee seven six is clear for your arrival. The coordinates are being transmitted to your landing operations systems now. Please familiarise yourself with Aphelion’s weapons laws before disembarking your vessel and have an nice, profitable and safe stay on Aphelion.” The droning automated voice repeats the message two more time before Jubel flicks the switch back off.
“Takes all the joy of out space travel automated systems like that.” Jubel says sulkily, “It’s not like the old days, putting in at an unfamiliar port with nothing but your wits and the port’s landing lights to guide you in.”
Jack doesn’t add that while Jubel may think that the old ways were fun, something he’s not going to argue with, as it was, the new automated systems have probably saved Jubel a lot of money in repair bills by stopping him from landing his ship nose first into the docking area.
Twenty minutes later they’ve finished the docking and ship registration procedures, then leaving their guns behind as per Aphelion’s non-aggression laws, they head out to meet Grell and the Devor elders the customs house. Part ten