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We Also Serve

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After reality nearly ended and the Doctor dropped them off in London--Jack would have pouted for a ride back to Cardiff, but he could already see Donna fraying, and while he would have stayed, the Doctor just shook his head grimly when he looked at him, so better to leave them alone--he saw Martha home. There were hugs all around, and kisses, but as much as Jack loved Martha and her family, it just reminded him he had his own waiting in Cardiff. So he told Mickey, who was going to stay with Martha for a few days since he had no one on this or any other world waiting for him, and Martha to be at Torchwood in three day's time. They had work to do.

On the train back to Cardiff, he stopped himself from calling the Hub several times. Ianto and Gwen had checked in after the Earth was moved back to its proper place, letting everyone know the Rift was back to normal and they were fine. As much as Jack wanted to talk with them more, he knew he had to be there, to see and touch them in person as soon as possible, and no phone or radio connection would do.

Also, he had an entrance to plan. This kind of thing could take days to decide. Should he stride through the front door? He looked good striding, but the cog door was slow to open, and it's not like the others wouldn't hear him coming for several minutes before he came into view. The alternative was to take the lift, which would let him strike a pose, but there was only so long even he could hold a dashing pose before he felt silly.

So, instead, he settled for the backdoor.

He strode into the main Hub to find Gwen and Ianto sweeping up and putting things together.

"Hey, kids. Did you miss me?" he said, throwing his hands wide and grinning. Gwen glanced up and smiled at him, then went back to straightening up her desk. Ianto got up from where he was crouched, broom and dustpan still in his hands and came towards him.

"Absolutely," Ianto said earnestly, and Jack reached for him as he came closer. Which was when Ianto put the broom and dustpan in his outstretched hands. "Your office is still a mess, so you can start there," he said with a smile and walked away.

"That's it?" he asked, as Ianto grabbed another broom and continued sweeping. "I come back after saving the universe--multiple universes--and then towing the Earth back where it belongs, and I don't even get a hug? Or even a 'Welcome back!'?"

"Welcome back," Gwen said. "And you did a fabulous job towing us. No Roadside Assistance could have done better. But it knocked us about a bit, so if you could roll up your manly sleeves and help out, we'd love it."

Jack pouted, then walked away. "A little appreciation would be nice," he threw over his shoulder at the others. There was a faint two-part chorus of "Yay" from behind him, which he waved away as he walked up to his office.

***

Later, after Jack had spent a couple of hours cleaning up the bits of potted plants and paperwork scattered across his office floor, he looked up from the bin by his desk to find Ianto leaning in his doorway, jacket off, vest unbuttoned, and sleeves rolled up over his forearms.

He tried not to find that too hot.

After about 15 minutes, Gwen had come in and given him a hug and welcomed him back, but Ianto had continued to ignore him. Jack was getting the distinct impression he was being punished, but he had no idea what he could have done wrong.

"Hail the conquering hero," Ianto said dryly.

Jack barely resisted sticking his tongue out at him. "I'm assuming this is revenge for something, though I couldn't say for what, as I might have mentioned, I just saved the world," he said, just as dryly.

"We also serve who mop and dust," Ianto returned, then paused, miming serious thought. "Actually, we serve more than those who don't, I suppose."

Jack dumped the last of the dirt and debris he had in his pan into the bin and stood up. "Seriously, what did I do? I came back as soon as I could," he said, honestly perplexed.

Ianto seemed to relent and walked towards him finally, reaching out as he came close and slowly starting to unbutton Jack's shirt. "You're right. You did save reality," he said in a conciliatory voice.

This was more like it.

"At least in part by picking up strange soldiers in bars," Ianto continued in the same voice. Jack took it as a good sign that Ianto was now pulling his shirt out of his pants, but still felt a little worried.

"Hey, I told you it was strictly--"

"I'm sure there was a heroic use of your tongue involved, too," Ianto said, finally looking up. Jack finally noticed the glint in his eye and the slight twitch that indicated Ianto was trying hard not to smile, so let himself relax a little, and put his arms around Ianto.

"My tongue has been praised for it's valiance," Jack said, giving his best charming smile.

He then blinked in surprise as Ianto shoved him, none-too-gently, back against his desk and pinned him there.

"Would you like me to show you why that valiance should be slightly more selective?" he asked in a conversational tone, which was no less intense.

***

Somewhere along the line they had managed to make it downstairs to Jack's bed, though Jack couldn't have said when. He just realized where he was again as he lay panting on his back, an equally breathless Ianto rolling off to the side.

"It wasn't a ticker tape parade, but it was the best I could do on short notice," Ianto gasped.

Jack laughed. "Close enough," he assured him, reaching over and stroking his side.

They lay there side by side, not talking and barely touching for several minutes. Jack waited.

"So, you decided to come back to us again," Ianto said quietly, obviously trying for a casual tone, but missing by a mile.

"I said I would," Jack said, also attempting casual, though more successfully. He hoped. He turned his head towards Ianto, who was staring at the ceiling as if the meaning of life was written on it. "And I always will, whenever I can," Jack said, dropping any pretense at lightness.

Ianto swallowed. "Your Doctor didn't ask you to stay?" he asked, still looking at the ceiling.

Jack thought about how he left the Doctor: they'd all been so happy, laughing and celebrating with being together, whole and healthy and victorious. But Jack knew that they were all leaving soon, and he could see the Doctor starting to pull away even as they each said goodbye, bracing himself for being alone again.

Bracing for what Jack knew he would have to do about Donna and Rose.

"He--" Jack started, then stopped and thought about what he could say. What Ianto would need to hear.

He went with the truth.

"He's incredibly lonely. But if I stayed with him, all we could be right now is lonely together," Jack said, staring at the side of Ianto's face.

Ianto finally looked over at him, obviously amused, even around whatever else was going on in his head. "I assume you realize that makes no sense," he said.

Jack turned on his side and smiled, not charmingly or seductively, just quietly, and touched Ianto's face. "We're neither of us who the other needs," he said.

Jack watched it sink in, watched Ianto deciphering it and trying to decide if he believed it or not. Then he found himself pinned under Ianto for the second time that day. He did not mind at all.

"And what is it you need, Captain?" Ianto asked, smiling down at him.

Jack pulled Ianto's head down for a kiss. "I'll start a list," he said.