Miss Winterhill: Thoroughly Impressed (15)
Author: Miss Winterhill
Rating: M 15 + for implicit stuff
Spoilers: Set immediately between "Greeks Bearing Gifts" and "They Keep Killing Susie". Also spoiler for the Captain's blog for "Greeks Bearing Gifts".
Warnings: Slash and fluff
Summary: Jack and Ianto have dinner three times. That's the story. An attempt to explain what happened behind the scenes.
I squeak under the bar for the Mistakes challenge like Indiana Jones escaping a hidden temple. There are a few mistakes in this story, but I think that the biggest mistake firing it is mine. I wrote a different story set in exactly the same timeline a while back, but in my fluffy little heart I know things didn't happen like that. They happened a bit more like this. Although there may be an exaggeration of the fluff. But you guys have come to expect that, right?
Word to learn: Pre-sequitur means a comment related to a previous conversation dropped into a conversation that has nothing to do with it (but the pre-sequitur is usually immediately understood anyway).
Other Staff issues: Ianto is still suffering, but putting on a brave face. Will try talking to him over dinner, outside the Hub, see if there's anything more I can do for him.
Captain’s Blog, Entry 7
Ianto sullenly wiped over the nozzle of the coffee machine once more, put on a happy face, and turned. He was good at keeping secrets, especially about himself. He reasoned that he’d made everyone’s life difficult enough to realistically request much sympathy.
“You got plans tonight?”
Ianto’s smile didn’t falter, although he did. He hoped that it didn’t show.
“Trick question, sir,” he said. Jack looked hopeful. “Are you genuinely interested in my personal life, or are you checking to see if I’m available to help you sort something out?”
“I want to know if you’d like to get a meal,” said Jack. “It’d just be you and me, though. Tosh is angry with me still, and Gwen and Owen are...”
“...rutting,” Ianto finished for him. Jack winced.
“Blunt, but fair,” he said. “So would you?”
“I have a roast that if I don’t cook it tonight, I’ll have to throw it out,” said Ianto.
He’d bought it in a fit of domesticity, and then realised that he had no-one to be domestic with. He’d avoided cooking the thing because of that, but it was too expensive to throw away.
“I’m afraid I’ll be cooking that,” he added.
“Oh,” said Jack. He sounded almost disappointed, but Ianto dismissed it as a trick of his own imagination. “Okay, then.”
Jack turned to go, and Ianto did something that he knew might be a mistake. He cleared his throat. Jack stopped, turned back. Raised an eyebrow.
“I know my cooking isn’t brilliant, but you could at least give me a time,” Ianto said pointedly.
Jack broke into a grin.
“If you let me go on time, so that I can start,” said Ianto. “Seven is fine.”
Seven, as it turned out, wasn’t quite fine. Ianto was still busy at seven. He was still preparing things at seven. He wasn’t sitting in his favourite chair, a glass of wine at the ready, looking unruffled and completely like he didn’t care if Jack was there or not at seven. He blamed Jack. He’d only left the office at six, and then he’d had to have a shower and change, and then he’d wondered why having a shower and picking out a shirt was so important. It was just Jack.
“Use your key!” he called, when there was a knock at the door.
“How did you know I have a key?” asked Jack, once he’d unlocked the door. Ianto shrugged.
“You’ve taken me home a few times recently, and not once did you ask me for my keys before you unlocked my door.”
“Are you still cooking?” asked Jack.
“Someone didn’t let me go from work on time,” said Ianto. “If that’s a bottle of wine, open it. Second drawer for the corkscrew.”
“How are you feeling, Ianto?” asked Jack, getting out the corkscrew.
“Non-sequitur,” said Ianto, peeling a potato.
“Pre-sequitur,” Jack countered.
“When was the original conversation?” asked Ianto.
“The one we had this afternoon where Gwen and Owen ran in with alien slime just before I was about to ask you...” said Jack, pulling out the cork. “If you were feeling any better.”
“Oh,” Ianto replied.
Really? Jack didn’t do concerned in situations that weren’t life threatening or involving physical injury. Ianto went for a safe topic.
“I think I’d like baked onion. Do you eat baked onion?”
“Yes,” Jack replied. “Glasses?”
“Cupboard above the microwave.”
“And your answer?” Jack poured the wine, let it breathe for all of about two seconds before sipping from his glass.
“Do you want the honest answer?” asked Ianto, hunting in a cupboard for onions. “Or one that won’t make either of us feel bad?”
“May as well be honest,” Jack said. “We promised each other no secrets.”
“A promise that you continually break,” Ianto pointed out. “Tell me how you are, without lies or euphemism.”
“Once I get your answer.”
“I feel like Chip and Dale. No, no - you tell me about your miserable life first. Really,” said Ianto. “Ah. Onions.”
“Don’t stall,” said Jack, gently.
“I go into work each morning and I feel like nothing has changed,” said Ianto, straightening. “And I knew it would be like this, for all of your promises. And then I feel ungrateful. I’m still alive. I shouldn’t still feel like this. So then I make some coffee, and everyone says something nice to me, and I keep hoping that one day someone will say something nice to me that isn’t in response to being handed an espresso.”
“Tosh is worried about you,” said Jack, as Ianto picked up his own glass, took a mouthful.
“Why?” asked Ianto. “Because I freaked out on her in the country? That was such a good thing for me to do. Freak out and get myself captured. Wasn’t even able to help her.”
“Been meaning to talk to you about that one. You do know you saved her life?” asked Jack. Ianto shrugged, loosely. “No, no. She’s just worried.”
“She heard my thoughts,” said Ianto, feeling the colour drain from his face as he worked it out. “What was I thinking?”
“You think she told me?” asked Jack.
“I know she did. You promised to tell me the truth, Jack,” said Ianto.
Jack frustrated him on every level, sometimes. He acted as if Ianto were utterly naive, utterly unable to spot the obvious when it was there on a platter in front of him.
“She thought you sounded suicidal,” said Jack.
“So you thought you’d take me out to dinner to check on me?” asked Ianto. “Very noble and caring of you, sir.”
“Ianto,” said Jack, as Ianto turned away and cut the bottom off an onion. “How many times do I have to ask you to call me Jack?”
“Enough,” said Ianto. He stripped away the outer layer. “Your turn.”
Jack sighed, heavily. Leant against the counter. It hadn’t been the response Ianto had expected, and he looked up at Jack slightly before returning to cooking. Onions. He’d forgotten the problem with onions.
“Worried?” Ianto’s vision blurred.
“Not the right word. Culpable. Look at our current track record. Susie. You. Tosh. Cannibals. I could have done something, I should have done something. I should never have left you so alone,” said Jack, as Ianto placed the onion in the dish, started on another. He wiped his eyes, which were already stinging. “Are you..?”
“Onion tears,” muttered Ianto, using his sleeve to try and get the tears to go.
Jack stepped in, slipped arms around his waist. Jack was there, and his arms were just right.
“Oh my god,” Ianto breathed, shakily.
“I thought...” Ianto paused. “No-one’s done that for a long time. I didn’t think it would be you.”
“I keep making mistakes, Ianto. I keep letting all of you down, getting all of you hurt. You saw right through my dinner invitation.”
“Maybe I did,” said Ianto. He kept working, Jack warm against his back. “Maybe the mistake was mine. Maybe you did actually want to have dinner together, not just to check up on me, but because you like my company. Maybe I said yes because I like yours.”
“You haven’t elbowed me in the stomach and told me to get away,” said Jack, and Ianto knew that if he turned around, Jack’s eyes would be red too.
“Yet,” said Ianto, cutting. “If you stay here, you’ll be crying too.”
“Onion tears aren’t real,” said Jack. Ianto pulled off the outer layers from the final onion, and put it in the dish with the vegetables. His eyes were watering so much that he could barely see.
“Perhaps,” said Ianto, blinking furiously. He turned to Jack. “We must look a sight.”
Jack laughed, shifting free of Ianto, and then pulling a tissue out of the box and wiping Ianto’s tears before his own.
“Catharsis,” said Jack, as Ianto put the dish of vegetables into the oven. “That’ll be what, an hour?”
“About that,” Ianto replied, washing his hands, washing out his eyes. “Damp cloth?”
“I’ll be okay,” said Jack, and Ianto smiled.
“Jack,” he said. Jack stopped. “I didn’t say you could let go of me.”
“I...” Jack stammered. “I just assumed.”
“Come and we’ll watch the news,” said Ianto. “Then we’ll have a late dinner, because someone let me out of work late.”
“It smells good, though. Let’s listen to music, or something else. I’ve had enough of wars in the Middle East, and celebrity gossip.”
In the end, Ianto put on a CD and Jack insisted on flipping through a coffee table book about the full moon, one arm around Ianto as he did so. Later, once Jack had left, Ianto made sandwiches with the leftovers for both of them to eat tomorrow, feeling lighter than he had for weeks.
The second time they had dinner together, it was after Ianto had been injured. Not badly, just enough to make him miserable and self-pitying. Ianto had dragged himself home to his flat, and then taken a shower, pulled on some comfortable clothes, got the blanket off his bed and curled up in front of the television, actions blurring into one another with the heaviness of pain. He woke up when there was a knock at the door.
“I’m coming,” he grumbled, staggering to the door. It was Jack. It was Jack, who put both arms around him and allowed him to rest against his chest.
“Owen said you got pretty beaten up by that thing,” said Jack.
“Mmm,” Ianto managed, closing his eyes. “I think I’m a trouble magnet.”
Jack always smelled fabulous. Jack walked him backwards into the flat, still enveloped in a hug, nudging the door shut behind them.
“Come on,” said Jack. “Let’s see if you have any other interesting coffee-table books.”
“There’s one about speed photography somewhere,” yawned Ianto.
“I’m sorry I got you hurt,” said Jack, maneuvering Ianto so that they were on the lounge. Ianto wasn’t quite sure how he’d got there so quickly, shamelessly snuggled against Jack.
“I got hurt. You didn’t get me hurt,” said Ianto. He opened one eye. “Unless you possess the hitherto underused talent of being able to turn into an ungodly hybrid of a zebra and a rhinoceros.”
“I should have taken better care of you. I promised you I would.”
“You did your best,” sighed Ianto, closing his eyes again. “If you smother me, that’s just as bad as willfully letting me get injured.”
Academically, Ianto knew that Jack would hold any of them like this, should they need it. He wished that he didn’t know that; Ianto wanted to be special to Jack. Realised that was probably the concussion thinking, not himself. Jack shifted so that he could hold Ianto tighter.
“Bruises,” Ianto grumbled.
“You eaten dinner?”
“Nup,” said Ianto. Jack sighed.
“You didn’t eat lunch, either. What’s in your cupboards? My turn to cook.”
“I don’t remember,” said Ianto.
“You don’t remember can’t be bothered, or don’t remember concussed?” asked Jack, running fingers through Ianto’s hair.
“I... haven’t been home to cook for a week. We’ve been running such late nights,” said Ianto. “I think there might be some pasta and a jar of sauce. And some cheese in the fridge, if it hasn’t got furry.”
“Okay,” said Jack. “Wait here.”
Ianto didn’t. He staggered into the kitchen, still wrapped in his blanket, dragging a chair behind him so that he could slump onto it. Jack shook his head.
“I won’t break anything,” he said. Ianto nodded.
“I know. That’s not why I’m in here.”
“Making sure that I don’t poison you?” asked Jack, rummaging in a cupboard.
“Nup,” said Ianto, leaning against the coolness of the wall. “You won’t poison me. You know I’d come back and haunt you.”
“Too true. I have enough ghosts,” Jack replied.
He found a pot, put water on to boil, and then crouched in front of Ianto, putting a hand to his forehead. Ianto smiled, and felt Jack’s touch all the way to his toes.
“Are you really okay?” Jack asked. “Really?”
“Getting there,” Ianto replied. “That painkiller Owen gave me is wearing off.”
“When are you due for the next one?” asked Jack.
“It’s almost eight,” said Jack. “Where are you keeping them?”
“I can do it,” Ianto said, and tried to get up.
“You don’t have to,” Jack said, gently pressing him into the chair.
“Surface. Blue bottle,” said Ianto.
Jack deftly provided medication, and then resumed the task of cooking. Ianto watched, blearily.
“Why did you come over?” he asked.
“I could say that I was concerned, and I wanted to check on you,” said Jack. “But I guess that wouldn’t stretch to making dinner. I am still concerned, by the way. But that’s not why I’m still here.”
“Check on does seem to imply a flying visit,” Ianto acknowledged. “Are you okay?”
“That thing got you too,” said Ianto, picturing Jack trampled by the rhino-cum-zebra. Gwen had shot it, and then run to help Jack. He’d slowly risen to his feet, as if from the dead. “I thought you weren’t going to get up again.”
“I always get up again,” said Jack. “I just lay still and it flew right over the top of me.”
“Honestly?” asked Ianto. Jack sighed.
“Honestly it might have got me a bit. That’s not why I’m here, Ianto.”
“So why are you here?” asked Ianto.
“Because I want to be here,” said Jack, firmly. “I like spending time with you.”
“Oh,” was all that Ianto could muster in reply. He added rather lamely: “I like spending time with you, too.”
“Honestly?” asked Jack. He started to grate cheese.
“Yup,” said Ianto, and it became the truth as he said it.
His stomach growled. He hadn’t realised quite how hungry he was up until this point. Jack stirred something.
“I didn’t know you could cook.”
“How long do you think I’ve lived alone?” asked Jack, wryly. “I’m quite a good cook, when I have the time and the inclination. I’ll make you dinner sometime. If you’d like.”
“You’re making me dinner now,” said Ianto.
“No, I’m heating up things from packets and jars,” said Jack, poking at the pasta. “I don’t cook from packets and jars if I’m trying to impress someone.”
“You don’t need to try to impress me,” Ianto replied.
“You don’t give easily, do you?” asked Jack. “You’re worse than I am. Stop undermining every compliment I give you. You’re worth impressing, Ianto. I only wish I’d worked that out sooner.”
There was a cloud of steam as Jack tipped the boiling water out into the sink, and Ianto closed his eyes. Worth impressing was a pretty big call, he felt, and he wondered if Jack had an ulterior motive. If Jack was planning something. When Ianto opened his eyes, Jack was standing there with two plates. Ianto’s stomach made its opinion felt.
“Dinner,” said Jack, beaming. Ianto staggered to the table, and for once Jack waited on him. He was too hungry to argue, and he wolfed his food.
“You were right. This is good,” he said.
“I can do better. Give me a chance,” Jack replied.
“When?” asked Ianto.
“We have to go to work on Friday.”
“Okay,” Ianto replied. “Friday.”
By Friday Ianto’s bruises had calmed to colour that was disturbingly vivid, but mostly pain-free. Ianto was surprised that he’d made it to three meals with Jack, and none of them had been at the Hub. He wasn’t entirely sure if this counted as a date. The first one might have, he thought. The second one was just a pity feed. This was starting to feel like a date.
Jack had wanted to people-watch before dinner, so they’d arranged to meet at Ianto’s local, barely a block away. It was calm, full of people having a quiet one after work. Jack got a table outside, and they made small talk. Jack plied Ianto with beer, drinking only water himself.
“You’re just trying to get me drunk,” Ianto said, and Jack laughed.
“Maybe I am.”
“It’s a mistake. I’m a mean drunk,” Ianto said. Jack put a hand over his, and Ianto didn’t brush it away.
“You’re too cute to be mean,” said Jack, and there was a hint in there that he wasn’t joking.
“Cheap flattery,” said Ianto, turning his hand to capture Jack’s, to hold him. Jack stroked Ianto’s hand with his thumb.
“You like it,” said Jack.
“So do you,” Ianto countered. “And you’re the sober one.”
Jack kissed Ianto’s hand. Ianto felt daring - almost surreal - sitting in the pub, flirting with his boss.
“How did we get here?” he asked.
“You walked. I drove,” said Jack. Ianto shook his head.
“You know that’s not what I meant.”
“I don’t know,” said Jack. “Honestly. I don’t know. It’s like traveling by Tardis - you’re at one destination, and then you can be somewhere else a billion miles and a hundred years away, and I don’t know how it works. But it does.”
“You’re talking riddles again, sir,” said Ianto, but he believed that this time, it was the truth.
“Jack.” Jack sounded only mildly reproachful.
“Jack,” Ianto repeated, if only to see the man’s expression shift to one of elation. “Time travel?”
“Long time ago. Lifetimes ago,” said Jack, wistfully. He pressed Ianto’s hand to his cheek. “Let’s go home. I’ll come good on my promise and you’ll be thoroughly impressed.”
“It takes a lot to impress me,” Ianto warned.
“I know,” said Jack. “That’s why I’m giving you forewarning. Come on.”
Jack hopped up, and Ianto helped him into his coat. Jack smiled, offering Ianto his arm. Ianto accepted.
“Tosh told me that she’d forgiven you,” said Ianto, as they navigated through the increasing crush of a Friday evening.
“Tosh needed to forgive herself, first,” said Jack, as a change of temperature heralded their arrival on the street. Ianto hugged Jack’s arm, wanting the warmth as much as the touch.
“Is that what you thought about me, too?” asked Ianto.
“I don’t think you’ve forgiven yourself yet,” Jack said. “So no.”
“Does it ever get easier?” Ianto asked, as cars swished past them. Damn Jack for being right.
A group of people marked out the entry to another pub, yellow light spilling out into the early evening.
“Yes,” said Jack. “Then you get a whole new layer of guilt that things are easier now, and you thought that your whole life should - would - stop.”
The footpath was crowded, and Ianto knocked into a burly man as they passed. The man grabbed Ianto’s arm, hard. Ianto winced. That had been a nicely-healing bruise. Now it was going to be a livid mark for bloody weeks.
“Watch where you’re going!”
“Let go of me,” growled Ianto.
“Let go of him,” said Jack.
“What, don’t like me touching your boyfriend?”
Ianto yelped involuntarily as the man twisted his arm. Jack’s punch was swift and fluid, practiced. It had the agreeable effect of loosing the man’s grip from Ianto’s arm, but the immediately disagreeable effect of rallying his thuggish friends. And the bouncer. Ianto ducked out of the way of someone else’s misfired punch, trying to get between Jack and his now-bleeding foe.
“Stop it,” said Ianto, quietly desperate.
“All right, you blokes. Break it up,” said the bouncer, and Jack pulled away.
The other man was swearing like a sailor, and Jack was bristling. It had been a rough week, a rough month, a rough year. Ianto wondered if Jack was being protective, or just venting some rage.
“How bad is it?” asked Jack.
“Not bad enough to get arrested over,” said Ianto. “Come on.”
“Everything okay, sirs?” asked the bouncer, meaning: “Go away and don’t come back.”
Jack grumbled all the way back to Ianto’s flat. He grumbled about meatheads who didn’t know how to behave in polite society. He grumbled about bouncers who didn’t do their job. He grumbled about Ianto pulling him away before he was finished.
Ianto let him, because that was another way to vent anger, wasn’t it? He put an arm around Jack’s waist as they neared the home stretch, and Jack leaned on him gratefully.
Ianto started to laugh as soon as the door was shut. Jack looked at him, mock-affronted. His knuckles were bloody, his lip split, and there was an impressive graze making itself known next to his eye. Ianto took his coat, still laughing.
“What’s so funny?” Jack asked.
“No-one’s ever fought for my honor before,” said Ianto, shaking his head.
Jack barked a laugh.
“I like to think I did a good job,” said Jack. “What sort of Captain would I be if I didn’t occasionally fight for the honor of a gorgeous creature like yourself?”
“Flattery will get you nowhere. We’ve already established that,” said Ianto. “Sit. I’ll get something for those cuts.”
“It’s okay,” protested Jack, but Ianto gently pushed him in the direction of the table.
“Let me take care of you, Jack,” he said, and the use of his name was enough to shut Jack up whilst Ianto busied himself getting a first aid kit, some clean water and antiseptic. Almost as an afterthought, Ianto added two glasses of scotch to the collection of things on the table.
Jack took a mouthful of scotch.
“Okay,” said Ianto. “Hands, eye, lip, that it for injuries?”
“Think so,” winced Jack.
“We should clean you up. Even if you do heal abnormally quickly,” said Ianto.
Ianto had a steady, confident hand as he wiped away the blood from Jack’s knuckles. He gently pressed a cool cloth around an ice pack to the graze near Jack’s eye.
“Hold that there.”
“Why is it that injuries hurt more when they’re being cleaned than when you actually sustain them?” Jack asked.
“Murphy’s law,” Ianto replied, dabbing at Jack’s lip. Jack winced. “How’s your eye?”
Jack pulled the ice pack off, and poked at it, uncertain. He grinned.
“I got a black eye for you,” he said, laughter peppering his voice.
“I’m sorry,” said Ianto, mock-contrite. “How can I make it up to you?”
“Well...” replied Jack. “I’ve heard that wounds stop hurting when they get kissed better.”
“It’s a theory worth exploring,” replied Ianto, playing along.
He took Jack’s hands, and then slowly kissed Jack’s left hand. Jack exhaled, a long breath. Ianto kissed his right hand. Jack squeezed Ianto’s hands, briefly.
“Better?” asked Ianto.
“A little,” said Jack, low.
“Maybe I should keep trying then,” said Ianto.
Jack was barely breathing, and he hoped that he hadn’t misjudged his Captain’s intentions. Ianto slid his chair slightly closer to Jack’s, and touched Jack’s cheek. Jack’s eyes fluttered closed for a second or two, before staring straight at Ianto, dark with desire. Ianto slowly reached up and kissed Jack’s temple, next to his swollen eye.
“Better?” he breathed.
“More,” murmured Jack. “I’ve still got that sore lip.”
“I’m sure there’s something I can do about that,” Ianto said, sweeping his fingers across Jack’s neck.
He tentatively leaned in and kissed Jack’s split lip. Jack deepened the kiss, and Ianto suddenly found himself pulled into Jack’s lap.
Jack didn’t end up cooking dinner, in the end, but Ianto did find himself thoroughly impressed.
The phone rang, muffled. If Ianto hadn’t been on the edge of wakefulness and the delicious realisation that he wasn’t alone, he would have missed it. Ianto rolled over and was about to answer it before he realised that it wasn’t his phone. Jack, all signs of injury gone, clambered over Ianto and reached for his trousers on the floor, pulling out the phone and sticking it on speakerphone so that he could blearily examine the number on the face.
“Mmm?” he grunted, by way of greeting.
“Where are you?” asked Tosh, her voice tinny through the speaker. “You’re not in the Hub.”
“I was comfortably asleep in someone else’s bed,” said Jack. “Want to come join in? It’s nice and warm. I’m planning to cook pancakes later. You could have pancakes.”
“Jack, be serious. We have a problem,” said Tosh. “There’s a crimescene. Someone’s written the word ‘Torchwood’ on the wall in blood.”
“That is serious,” Jack acknowledged. “Have you called the others in?”
“Everyone but Ianto. I can’t raise him - his phone’s going straight to messages. And I’ve had to try you four times.”
“Phone was buried under my trousers,” Jack said. Ianto rested his head on Jack’s bare shoulder, pressing a kiss to it. “I’ll bring Ianto in.”
“Jack, where are you..?”
“Half an hour I want you all waiting for the SUV,” said Jack, cutting her off. “I want an address, I want everything that you have. Got it?”
“Half an hour. Got it.”
Jack hung up, satisfied. He ran a hand over Ianto’s hair.
“I could have had pancakes,” said Ianto, resting his chin on Jack’s broad chest. “I like pancakes.”
“Next time,” said Jack, ducking in for a kiss. “Come on. Up.”
When Jack got out of the shower, Ianto had made coffee. When Ianto got out of the shower, Jack had washed up, and he watched as Ianto dressed.
“I’ll have to keep clothes here,” Jack mused. “If this is going to be a regular occurrence.”
“You will,” said Ianto, doing up cufflinks. “Because it is.”
Jack kissed him, and raced him downstairs into the morning light. Ianto followed gladly, and they made it to the Hub ten minutes early. Jack reached over to Ianto again.
“I still owe you that meal.”
“You do,” said Ianto.
The door opened, and the team spilled out, blinking in the light. Ianto opened the car door.
“Ianto,” said Jack, and Ianto held back for an instant. “Thanks.”
“My pleasure,” said Ianto, before the rest of the team swept in, Gwen tutting about Jack going AWOL, Owen making snide jokes, Tosh providing addresses.
Ianto was unceremoniously replaced, but he caught the little wave that Jack gave him through the tinted windows before pulling out. He imagined Jack sitting smugly in the driver’s seat, allowing them all to think what they would, and laughed. Ianto was good at keeping secrets, and finally - finally - this was one that he could enjoy.