Jack had been puzzled at first, but now he was getting worried. Ianto wasn’t merely busy, as he’d initially assumed; his Welshman was actively avoiding him. That only ever happened when he was in Ianto’s bad books, so Jack knew he must have done something to incur his lover’s wrath, he just didn’t know what. Getting the cold shoulder was bad enough, but how could he apologise and make it up to Ianto if he had no idea what he was apologising for?
He knew he was behind with his paperwork, but it couldn’t be that. So much had happened over the last three weeks; the Rift had been in one of its overactive phases and the whole team had been kept so busy that they were all behind to varying degrees. Jack was sure he hadn’t broken anything recently, or caused a worse mess than anyone else, and he hadn’t forgotten to fill the SUV’s tank, so it couldn’t have run out of petrol. Neither had he taken anything of Ianto’s without asking. At least not recently. Besides, all those things were too minor to account for Ianto’s current state of annoyance.
Despite racking his brain for an nearly an hour, Jack couldn’t for the life of him figure out the reason for Ianto’s cold behaviour, and it became even more apparent that he was being punished mid-morning when coffee time arrived and he didn’t even get a cup of decaf. Whatever it was he’d done, it must have been really bad, which just made Jack feel even worse than he already did. He hated upsetting Ianto. ‘I’m a horrible person,’ he thought miserably. ‘I should know what I did. Ianto has every right to be mad at me.’
After a while of sitting there not getting any work done, Jack had an idea. Maybe Tosh knew what he’d done wrong. Ianto always confided in her, so it was worth a try. He mooched disconsolately down to her workstation. “Tosh? Can I have a word? In private?” he asked quietly.
She looked up from her work. “What did you do this time?”
Jack winced. “That’s just it!” he exclaimed. “I don’t know! I’ve been trying to think of something that might have upset him, but I’m drawing a blank! I was hoping you might have some idea.”
Seeing how distraught Jack was, Tosh sighed and her expression softened. “Sorry, Jack, Ianto hasn’t said anything to me except that he’s angry with you. He didn’t tell me why, but it must be something serious. He wouldn’t be this mad at you over something minor.”
“That’s what I figured, and I want to apologise and make it up to him, but how can I do that if I don’t know what it is I’ve done that he’s mad about?”
“Have you tried asking him?”
“Then I’d have to admit that I have no idea what I did.”
“You don’t seem to have any other option.”
“I suppose not. Guess I’d better do that then.” Shoulders slumped, Jack made his way down to the archives where Ianto had been holed up all morning, readying himself to face the music.
Every inch of his body tense and his spine so rigid it felt like it might snap, Ianto was fuming silently as he filed a backlog of reports, both newly completed ones and those that had been pulled out for reference. He tensed even more when he heard the familiar sound of Jack’s boots on the concrete behind him, but he didn’t turn around or acknowledge his partner in any way.
“Ianto? Can you spare a minute or two, please?” Jack’s tone was hesitant, nothing like his usual brash self-confidence.
“I’m busy.” Ianto kept his own voice controlled and emotionless.
“I can see that, it’s just… I know you’re mad at me, and I’ve been trying all morning, but I can’t think what I’ve done to upset you, so if you could just tell me, or at least give me a hint so I can try to make it up to you…” He trailed off as he took in the way Ianto was clenching his fists. “Whatever I did, I’m really, really sorry. Do whatever you want to me, just please tell me what I did.”
Ianto kept his back turned. “You really don’t remember?” His voice sounded tight, but Jack thought it was more hurt than angry. Somehow that was worse.
“I really, honestly don’t, I swear.”
“You broke a promise, Jack. The one you made on our last date night.”
Their last date night had been three weeks ago, but it had been rudely interrupted before it really got underway because that was when the Rift had started going haywire. Jack thought back to that night; it was supposed to be dinner and a movie, but when the Rift alert had come in they’d had to leave the restaurant without ordering. What was it he’d said? Oh yes. ‘We’ll pick up where we left off the first chance we get.’ Ianto had smiled and said, ‘Maybe next time we should just eat in. I’ll make dinner,’ and he’d replied, ‘Sounds great. It’s a date, I promise we’ll do that, as soon as the Rift lets us.’
“Oh God.” Jack felt his heart sink into his boots. The first chance they’d got in three weeks had been the previous night. The Rift had settled down, Jack had sent everyone home early… “You made dinner and I didn’t show up.”
“I cooked a really nice dinner, which went to waste. You didn’t even answer your phone when I called you. Seven times.”
“But I didn’t get any phone calls last…” Jack’s eyes went wide and he scrabbled at his trouser pocket, pulling out his phone, and frowning at it. It was dead as a doornail. “We’ve been so busy I forgot to put it on charge, and anyway, you’d been working so hard you must have been exhausted, I just assumed you’d go straight to bed when you got home,” he explained.
“I thought about it, but we’d made plans and I didn’t want to disappoint you,” Ianto said coldly.
“I’m not trying to excuse myself, I swear! I admit I forgot about our plans, what with all the running around we’d been doing, but I really didn’t mean to. I just wish you’d reminded me.”
“I tried. Seven phone calls!”
“Yes, and I’m really, really sorry, Ianto. I didn’t mean to stand you up, you must know I’d never intentionally hurt you in any way.” Jack was practically pleading, but he didn’t care. “How can I make it up to you?”
“That’s something you’ll have to figure out by yourself.” Was it Jack’s imagination, or did Ianto sound a little less frosty?
“Right, I’ll go get started on that then. I’m sorry, Ianto, more than I can say,” he added one last time before going back up to the main Hub, knowing that just saying the words was nowhere near enough. A screw-up of such monumental proportions required something more tangible in terms of an apology.
What could he do? Book a table at their favourite restaurant for dinner? No, that wouldn’t be a good idea. Ianto would be even more exhausted after cooking yesterday, and he’d probably stayed up late waiting for Jack and trying to reach him by phone. Speaking of which, as soon as Jack reached his office, he put his phone on charge, then headed down to Tosh’s workstation again.
“So just how badly did you mess up?” she asked.
“Very, very badly, it’s going to take more than just saying I’m sorry before he’ll forgive me,” Jack replied gloomily. “How’s the Rift looking?”
Tosh pulled up her predictor program. “Should be quiet for a few days.”
“Good. I have to go out for a bit; if I’m needed for anything, contact me via the comms. My phone battery’s dead so it’s on charge.” Taking the steps up to his office three at a time, Jack grabbed his coat and left.
Should he get flowers? No, that wouldn’t do it. Chocolates were a possibility, but that still didn’t seem like enough. Wandering through the streets, hands jammed in his pockets, Jack searched for inspiration, finally finding it in the window of Ianto’s favourite bakery. He pushed the door open and stepped inside, immediately assaulted by a whole host of delicious aromas. Looking around, he tried to decide what would say ‘I’m sorry, please forgive me’ best. Perhaps a selection of Ianto’s favourites.
“Can I help you?” the woman behind the counter asked.
“Yes, I hope so, um, do you make up gift baskets?”
“We do, certainly.”
“Could you make one up that I can take with me?” He looked pleadingly at her.
“Well, usually you’d have to order in advance so we could bake whatever’s required. If you want it now, I can only fill it with what we have on display.”
“That’s okay, you already have everything I need,” Jack smiled, relieved.
The woman fetched a wicker basket, lined with red and white gingham cloth, and a bundle of cellophane bags. Jack made his order, watching as she placed each cake in a separate bag, fastening the tops with red bows attached to rubber bands. Two double chocolate-chip muffins, two lemon muffins, two Red Velvet cupcakes, two bags of giant chocolate cookies full of dark chocolate chunks, two individual blackcurrant pies, half a dozen chewy macaroons, and two big slices of Ianto’s favourite lemon cheesecake. The last items were placed carefully into a clear plastic box and nestled among the other cakes and cookies. Finally, the whole basket was wrapped in a sheet of cellophane and a large red bow was tied to its handle. Jack nodded in satisfaction; that looked suitably apologetic. Thanking the woman and paying the bill, Jack picked up the cellophane-wrapped basket and hurried back to the Hub, picking up a card and a helium balloon on the way.
Back in his office, he wrote the card, pouring out how sorry he was, promising to always check with Ianto in future about whether they had plans and to keep his phone charged, and finishing with the words, ‘I know I can’t expect to be forgiven right away, I have a lot to make up for, but I hope you’ll think this gift basket is an acceptable start.’
He looked at what he’d written, shook his head, and shoved the card in his desk drawer. Some things were better said aloud, but he wasn’t sure if Ianto was ready to hear them yet. Tying the balloon to the handle of the basket, he took it down to the archives and left it on Ianto’s desk in the area he used as his office. The laptop on the desk was turned on, so Ianto couldn’t be far away. Adjusting the bow, Jack stood back to give his gift a quick once over. Everything seemed to be in order so he quietly slipped back the way he’d come.
Ianto watched from the shadows as Jack left the archives, only moving to investigate once the other man was out of sight. He was still angry with his lover, but feeling a little guilty too. He probably should have checked with Jack before going shopping and then spending an hour cooking dinner. It was just that Jack didn’t normally forget about plans they made, and being stood up after going to all that effort had hurt, especially since he’d already been tired from overwork. The fact that Jack didn’t answer his phone or reply to any of the messages he left just added fuel to the fire; he’d ended up sleeping badly, and by morning he’d built up a fine head of steam.
A basket wrapped in cellophane sat on his desk, a brightly coloured foil helium balloon printed with the words ‘To The One I Love’ bobbing above it in the draught from the ventilation system. Ianto walked across to look at the peace offering, mouth watering as he took in the contents. It was mid-afternoon and he was hungry, having left the team to fend for themselves at lunch, not feeling sociable enough to join them. A slice of cheesecake would go well with a cup of coffee, and it was about time to serve everyone their afternoon beverage anyway. Before he headed upstairs to start it brewing, he plucked a couple of things from the basket. There was no way he could eat everything by himself while it was still fresh.
Ten minutes later, he’d served the rest of the team their drinks and only Jack was left. Returning to the kitchen, Ianto collected Jack’s familiar blue and white striped mug, and a plate, carrying both up to the glass-walled office and setting them on Jack’s desk. He didn’t look at his lover and didn’t say a word, just turned on his heel and headed back to the kitchen once more to collect his own coffee and a plate and spoon for the cheesecake.
Sitting at his desk, Jack looked at what Ianto had left. The steaming mug gave off the unmistakeable aroma of Ianto’s coffee, not instant or decaf, and the plate held two giant chocolate cookies and a double choc chip muffin. Ianto hadn’t needed to say anything, the message was clear: Apology received and accepted; you’re forgiven. Jack broke off a piece of cookie and popped it in his mouth, smiling as he chewed. In a while he’d go down to the archives and apologise properly, in person, but for now he’d leave Ianto to enjoy some of the treats he’d bought for him in peace.