The young man in a cheap suit stands out like a sore thumb in the room of old money and gold diggers.
Jack’s job for the night is done, all the pieces set in place, so he’s got nothing better to do than cross the glittering room and have a chat with this mystery man, two glasses of champagne in hand.
“You look like you could use a drink.” Jack purrs, drawing the man’s attention away from the paintings that would soon be his.
Sore Thumb smiles, startled and a bit bashful. “I really shouldn’t.”
“I insist. Ken Medals.” the fake name rolls off his tongue easily.
“Well, if you insist.” He takes the drink. “Thank you. I’m Jones, Ianto Jones.”
Welsh. God Jack loves the Welsh. “You’re a long way from home, Jones, Ianto Jones. What brings you to Paris?”
Ianto’s smile grows, just a bit. “I could ask you the same thing.”
“I’m entering into business with Mr Mendosa.” The host of this party, the owner of some really expensive artwork that would go nicely on the blackmarket, as well as a few pieces Jack would keep for himself.
“Must be a profitable business, that’s a very nice tie.”
“This ol thing?” Jack touches the blue silk tie, a relic from the last time he was in Paris, with a coy smile. This city will be in the rearview mirror in a few days, Ken Metals just another ghost he leaves behind. Why not have some fun? “To be honest, I don’t know why I keep it. Such a pain to get off alone for some reason. I’ll have to find someone to help me.”
Walking the line between being himself and staying in character is difficult when he’s genuinely flirting with someone, but Ianto’s eyes widen just enough that Jack is certain the evening is going to end with him in the Welshman’s bed (he couldn’t take Ianto back to the apartment he was renting in Paris under yet another fake name without some serious questions).
Then their host appears from the crowd. “Drinking on the job, Mr Jones?
The smile on Ianto’s face slips back into a professional mask. “Just being polite, Mr Mendosa.” The champagne glass was still completely full. Most people would have reflexively taken at least a sip by now. On the job?
“I see you’ve met our guardian angel, Ken.” Mendose continues. “This is Ianto Jones. He was sent by my insurance agency. Apparently there are rumors that someone is after my collection.” He nods to the artwork on the wall that Ianto had been admiring when Jack had approached him.
Shit. Someone must have snitched. Jack needs to leave now, as discreetly as possible. He can still make this work, he’s just going to have to be especially careful.
A shame too, he was hot, Jack thinks mournfully.
“Why is it always the hot ones?” He moans three days later on the floor of his apartment, the painting collection around him. “And since when do insurance investigators carry guns?”
Ianto Jones lays a couple feet away from him, also on the floor, also shot in the arm. “Since I recognized you at the party. You have quite the reputation, Jack Harkness. And I’ll remind you, you shot first. This all could have been avoided if you had just surrendered.”
“This was not exactly what I was thinking when I fantasized about taking you home.”
The authorities arrive eventually, his neighbors having called the cops after the second gunshot. Jack escapes custody easily enough but the memory of Ianto Jones’s smile when he half flirted back and the defiant look in his eyes when he shot Jack to keep him from escaping haunts his memory for a lot longer.
The next time they meet is in Rome.
“How’s your shoulder?” Ianto asks as they slow dance in the ballroom of a museum that had hired Jack to oversee their Roman art exhibit, believing him to be Doctor Joe Freeman.
“Healing nicely. Yours?”
“Hurts when it rains.”
“Good thing your job keeps you far from home so often. It’s been a while since I was in London but I remember the weather there well, though not fondly.”
Ianto tilts his head. “You looked me up.”
“Of course. You knew who I was, turnabout is only fair play.” And what interesting things Jack had found. Ianto Jones of Torchwood & Co Insurance. Twenty eight years old. He’d been with their accounting department for years but in the eighteen months since his promotion to investigator he’d saved his employers millions. A large chunk of that was from foiling Jack in Paris, unfortunately.
Jack would not be foiled again. There was only one reason Ianto hadn’t already had him arrested and that was because he must suspect that Jack wasn’t working alone on this job and was hoping to be able to get more information out of Jack while they danced.
“I like the tie.” Jack says, because ties were a safe subject. “That’s a much nicer suit that you were wearing last time we met. Torchwood give you a bonus?”
The tempo of the song picks up as they whirl and their steps speed up with it. Ianto’s smile, the one that had haunted Jack’s dreams since he last saw it, returns. “Thank you. And yes, they did. How much do you think I’ll get this time? For saving them two million?”
A beat. Jack keeps the same pleased smile on his face that he’s been wearing since he was asked to dance but Ianto’s smile grows anyway. “More than two million. Guess this is bigger than I thought.”
“I’m afraid I’ve lost you.” Damn this mystery man. Damn his ability to read Jack, somehow. That should not have been possible. Jack was a great lier.
They dance through three more songs and Jack knows that the only reason the entire job doesn't go completely to the dogs is because he keeps up a constant stream of flirting with Ianto then manages to trip the fire alarm to provide cover for an escape.
They get only half of what they came for, and divided up among the crew it’s not really worth the trouble. Not for the others. But Jack got a dance with Ianto Jones, so he’s counting it as a win.
Their forth face to face meeting is a lot more unpleasant. Jack really should have known better that to do another job with John, they always got messy. Especially in Germany. He hates Germany.
“I had a dream like this once.” Jack says, trying to keep his voice calm. “You, me, handcuffs. There was significantly less water involved though.”
Ianto tugs uselessly at the cuffs keeping them attached to the metal ladder the smugglers had climbed up minutes before. “You’re a thief. Can’t you pick locks?”
“I’m a grifter.” Jack shoots back. “If I do my job right, people unlock their safes for me.”
“How about you hit on these handcuffs, see how far that gets us.”
Jack’s reply vanishes from his mind as the dirty water rises a bit more, soaking his shirt through. He gasps. Ianto moans a little bit. “God, Lisa is going to be furious with me if I die.”
Ianto smiles genuinely, a strange look on a man about to die in a sewer under some street in Berlin. “My fiance.”
“You mean that ring isn’t just a part of the con you were running?” Jack can’t keep the shock out of his voice, even if he manages the hurt.
The Welshman glares at him. “I wasn’t running a con. I’m not a criminal. I was just-”
“Tricking them into thinking you were someone and something you’re not in order to get something from them.” Jack finishes. “Definition of a con. And apparently not a great one.”
“It was working fine until you showed up.” Ianto mutters angrily and then they’re silent, the only noise the rushing of water.
Up and up it rises and though they tug and shout and pray (Ianto, not Jack) they remain cuffed to a metal ladder in a slowly filling sewer. They’re going to die.
“Tell me about her.” Jack says as the water reaches his shoulders. They’re standing on the ladder now, as high as they can get with the cuffs but not high enough to get their heads at street level. His need to not die in silence and desire to hear Ianto’s beautiful voice overriding his irrational jealousy. “Lisa.”
Ianto does. It’s the most Jack’s ever heard him say at once. She works for Torchwood as well, an art inspector. Apparently they’re quite the power couple, though she rarely leaves London.
“I proposed last month, on our anniversary. The wedding is in eight months, in March. She loves the spring. God, she’s going to be so upset.”
There are tears on Ianto’s face now. Jack wants to wipe them away but his hands are below him, in the filthy water. Even if they somehow survive, both their clothes are going to have to be burned.
Instead, Jack leans forward so their foreheads rest together. The water is nearly to their heads and both of them are balanced on the steps precariously, making sure not to do anything that might cause someone to slip and fall.
“It’s been nice knowing you , Jones, Ianto Jones.” Jack says and it’s the truth. “Thanks for making life interesting.”
They stare into each other's eye, close and cold and dying. Ianto opens his mouth, shuts it, and as one they lean in just a little bit, because there’s barely any space between them anyway-
Ianto rips back, eyes wide. “Did you hear that?”
He’s right. Just barely there under the sound of the water and their own breaths, but undeniably there. Footsteps.
Neither of them know the word for help in German but it turns out being desperate enough makes language barriers moot. Thank god for pretty hookers walking where they shouldn’t be and their cousins who own lockstores just down the road.
“I’m starting to think ambulances are out place,” Jack murmurs before fading into unconsciousness, despite the EMT or whatever they were called here instructing him not to.
He’s not sure if he wakes up before Ianto gets his wits about him, or if the man is giving him a free pass because of the almost dying, but he’s got no trouble sleeping from the hospital hours later.
Jack only sees Ianto once more before the wedding, but there’s no talking involved. Just a young dutchess, her collection of diamond jewelry, and her very fast sports car. After that Ianto drops off the radar for a while. Premarital bliss, wedding planning, an extravagant honeymoon. Whatever, he’s busy. Jack is busy too. It’s nice to not be looking over his shoulder so much and he runs several jobs without a hitch because everyone else smart enough to keep up with him is on his side of the law, not Ianto’s.
“You have got to stop this.” Suzie tells him angrily one night when she finds him in the room of the little apartment safe house they sometimes use in between jobs. The one set up with his art supplies. On the canvas is a near perfect replica of the painting Ianto had been looking at, protecting, the first time they met.
“Stop what?” Jack asks, faux innocent.
“Pining. For an honest man about to marry an honest woman and have an honest life. Jack, the only place for you in Ianto Jones’ life involves putting you behind bars.”
Jack dips his paintbrush in the green. “He’s not a cop.” He doesn't want Jack behind bars. Ianto just wants him not to steal expensive things that cost Torchwood & Co a lot of money.
“This obsession has got to stop, now. ” Suzie says firmly. He’d love to protest that it’s not an obsession but they’re a little past that now. Jack had started deliberately pulling jobs on those insured by Torchwood & Co, and every one of his sketchbooks are covered in drawings of the insurance investigator’s face.
Because Suzie is one of the few people he trusts completely, and because she has a point, Jack tries his best to move on. He packs all the drawings of Ianto into a box, takes a long vacation on the yacht of a handsome heir to an oil empire. But first he finishes the forgery of Claude Monet’s ‘Water Lilies’.
Three months later on a train running through the English countryside, Ianto’s first words are “Lisa loved the painting. She’s got a few tips though.”
Yeah. he’d sent it as a wedding gift. Under the name Ken Medals. Jack was nothing if not petty, according to many of his ex’s.
Their dance continues, across countries and continents. Daring escapes, banter, and that feeling of overwhelming joy that came from having met his match. Jack’s on top of the world, cruising through jobs like he’s ten years younger. His many bank accounts have never been fatter.
But success leads to ease, and ease leads to sloppiness. Jack focuses too much on his marks and his pursuer, he forgets to watch his back.
It’s a weird job from the start. A gauntlet, medieval or something. Looks like it goes with a set of armor one might find in a castle. Owned by a rich old man who sadly doesn't have a taste for guys and has long left the family business to his children, all of whom live far away. So Jack calls Suzie.
“You know I’m not a grifter.” She says as she enters his hotel room, shedding her jacket and throwing it to him.
“It’s a lot of money.” Jack reminds her, tossing the jacket over a chair and leading her to the main room of the suite where he’s set up. Floor plans for the mansion, information on the owner, history of the glove, and at the center, the target itself.
“I need an in and you-”
“What?” he blinks, startled by her harsh tone and sudden change of mind.
His friend’s eyes are fixed to the picture. “I said I’d do it. What are we running? Swedish Swap?”
“That’s the plan.” Jack should have seen it coming. There were so many signs, but they were subtler in the beginning and it had been awhile since they’d seen each other, so Jack brushes them off.
And then Ianto Jones shows up and his attention is elsewhere.
Three weeks later, Suzie double crosses him, shoots him, and leaves Jack bleeding in the street. “If I get out of this alive,” He mutters to himself “I’m retiring, I swear. Too old for this bullshit.”
Suzie had crushed his phone so there was no calling for help, and he was in the wrong part of town for anyone leaving pubs or dancing clubs to stumble across him. “No convenient prostitutes this time.” Jack says to the empty courtyard and then he’s laughing hysterically. It makes the pain worse.
He rolls over so that he’s laying on his back against the water fountain. The light pollution is too strong to see the stars.
“A shame.” He tells the angel at his side, over the frantic shouting of his name. One of them anyway. “I would have liked to see them once more before I die. There was a great view where I grew up. My whole family used to go out and just watch them in silence for hours.”
“You’re not going to die, Jack Harkness. I won’t allow it.” His angel tells him, pressing a hand to the bullet wound.”
“Wow. I knew my fake IDs were good but I didn’t know I’d managed to fool even Heaven. Don’t you know that isn’t my real name angel?”
In the distance, sirens split the silence of the night. They almost sound like they’re coming for him. “I’m not an angel.” Ianto Jones tells him in that beautiful Welsh accent of his.
Ianto is right. Jack doesn't die. He’s told that he’s lucky to be alive, that he’ll probably have pains in that arm for the rest of his life (couldn’t Suzie have shot him in the arm that hadn’t already been operated on?), and that he’s under arrest.
“Nice of you to visit me.” Jack says into the phone and on the other side of the glass, Ianto smiles a bit. “Though I'm afraid I have to insist you leave immediately. Orange is not my color.”
“You better get used to it. You’re going to be here for quite a while.”
Jack gives him his most wild grin. One that says “I wouldn’t be so sure about that.”
They go back and forth for a bit, and with every word, Jack feels his heart lifting. The slump he’d been in since he woke up in the hospital with no Ianto in sight disappears like fog under sunlight. But sadly they do not have all day.
“I only came to say,” Iatno says when the guard informs them they only have two minutes left. “Um, I’ve taken a desk job at Torchwood in London. Just for a bit. Not that it matters, since I’ll probably be retired by the time your sentence is up.” he adds.
The thought of that beautiful brain of his locked up in some office somewhere, answering phone calls and filing paperwork instead of running through streets like a Welsh James Bond breaks Jack’s heart. But not as much as the answer to his “Why the hell would you do that?”
“Yeah.” Ianto smiles softly, so different from the wild grins Jack is used to. “I want to be there for her, and I can’t exactly do that when I’m-” He waves his hand. Three countries away, doing dashing things in suits, being around you.
That last one is probably just wishful thinking.
“Congratulations.” Jack manages as the guard barks that their time is up and motions Ianto to the door.
Jack walks right out the prison doors three weeks later, dressed in a bartered uniform from that same guard and using a stolen ID. Then he moves to Cardiff and does what he’d sworn he’d do if he survived: Jack Harkness retires.
Cardiff is a nice enough place, once you get used to the weather. The accents are great, as long as he doesn't think too much about them and who they remind him of. Jack is rich enough to live comfortably for the rest of his life, though he does join a little theater production and enter a few pieces at an art gallery not far from his house, just to keep from getting bored.
On Wednesdays he visits a little pub forty minutes from where he lives, just to keep up on the news. Criminals are terrible gossips. That’s how he hears about the attempted robbery at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London that results in the death of the curator, Lisa Hallett-Jones, and her unborn child. The others shake their heads in embarrassment at the sloppy work while Jack clutches his beer and tries not to be sick.
He considers sending a card, flowers, jumping on the first train to London himself and finding Ianto. But he knows none of those things would be welcome. Instead he tries to lose himself in acting, in his artwork. Originals, not forgeries, for the first time in a while. The lady who runs the gallery loves them, makes them the main attraction for her new exhibit on local artists.
The man, who Jack knows to be a great deal younger than he looks, stands out like a sore thumb in his expensive suit, surrounded by old men and proud parents and people who wandered in off the streets.
“They’re nice.” Ianto says when Jack comes to stand next to him. Sadly there was no champagne, only paper cups of water. Ianto takes one with a thankful nod. “I’ve never seen your originals before.”
“Haven’t you heard? I’m a citizen now, honest.”
Ianto smiles, that wonderful dangerous smile that promised a game. “I’m not.”
“Oh?” For the first time, Jack notices the three people behind Ianto, watching them. Gwen Cooper, Toshiko Sato, Owen Harper. They’re all dressed more appropriately for the setting than Ianto, though they look much less at ease. More confused at what they were doing there. “You’re playing my side?”
“I’ve got a job and I need an unknown face. You in?”
For you? Always. “Absolutely. I wouldn’t miss this for the world. Lead the way, Jones, Ianto Jones.”
“Excellent.” Ianto turns with a flourish in his step, that little bit of drama queen Jack’s always known is in there somewhere making an appearance. He addresses the hitter, hacker, and thief now in front of him. “Alright, lets go break the law, just one last time!”