Some days working for Torchwood just dragged you down. It was bad enough for the members of the team, but Jack, despite his outward stoicism when something went badly wrong, always took such disasters to heart. He was the one in charge, the leader; it was his responsibility to make the big decisions, no matter how hard some of those decisions might be. Ultimately he held himself to blame on those occasions when, for whatever reason, things didn’t quite go to plan and someone got injured, or in the worst cases, killed.
Times like that he’d always take himself off somewhere, usually the top of a tall building, to brood alone, dwelling on whatever had gone wrong, trying to work out what he could or should have done differently to change the outcome, and torturing himself with all the what ifs. That was never good; he was far too hard on himself. Being immortal didn’t make him any less human, and being from the future didn’t mean he could see what was about to happen in the present.
Sometimes there just wasn’t any way of avoiding something bad happening to someone. All anyone could do was their best; nobody was perfect, least of all an immortal ex-Time Agent from the 51st century. Jack just had unrealistic expectations when it came to his own ability to protect his team and the people of Cardiff, and he had a bad habit of blaming himself even for things that weren’t his fault.
This time things hadn’t even gone that badly; they’d dealt with a relatively minor alien threat without any harm coming to the citizens of Cardiff, and the criminal in question was now locked away down in the vaults, awaiting collection by agents of the Shadow Proclamation. Yes, Tosh was a little scuffed around the edges, but it was nothing serious and the accident had been something none of them could have anticipated. Even so, Jack had disappeared soon after they’d returned to the Hub, and if Ianto knew his lover, which of course he did, there was no doubt in his mind where he’d be found; his current favourite brooding spot.
It was one of Cardiff’s tallest buildings, a new and exclusive tower block comprising an expensive apartment complex situated above a row of high-end boutiques. The cornerstone of a new development designed to rejuvenate the docklands area, it couldn’t have been more different from the lowly blocks of flats elsewhere in the city if it had tried. Jack, of course, had a way into any building in the city that met his requirements for a lofty perch where he could brood in peace and solitude, while gazing out over his domain, on the lookout for trouble.
Ianto let him have an hour or so on his own before venturing forth to join him, taking the elevator up to the penthouse level, then climbing the stairs to the roof. Jack wasn’t the only one to have a means of access; alien technology could come in handy and he’d yet to find a lock immune to this little device. As he’d expected, Jack was there, staring gloomily out across the city, wallowing. No one was better at wallowing than Jack Harkness; he’d honed his abilities to a fine edge over the last century or so.
“There you are; I thought I’d find you brooding up here. Have you forgotten it’s date night?”
Jack turned, frowning at the question. “Date night? I’m sorry, Ianto, it completely slipped my mind. Rain check? I don’t really feel…” He trailed off with a gusty sigh, his expression bleak as midwinter. “How’s Tosh?”
“Tosh is fine, just a few bruises and scrapes. Accidents happen; there are worse things in life than getting bowled over by a careless cyclist.” Ianto put his hands on his hips and studied his lover, standing near the edge of the roof, his shoulders sagging like he was Atlas, carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. “It wasn’t anyone’s fault, Jack, except maybe the cyclist’s for being where he had no business being and not watching where he was going, and he’s been punished enough for the incident already. Owen gave him quite an ear-bashing for, if I’m remembering correctly, being an ignorant, brainless twat and endangering the lives of pedestrians by cycling on the pavement.”
“But I saw him coming, I should’ve pulled Tosh out of his path.”
“Really, and exactly how would you have done that? You were on the other side of the street, Jack; your arms aren’t that long. I know you hate seeing any of us hurt but you can’t go beating yourself up about things that are beyond your control. Look at you, making yourself miserable brooding away up here all alone for no reason. And in answer to your previous question, no, I won’t accept a rain check. Tonight is our date night, the Rift predictor says it’s going to stay quiet all night, and there’s no knowing how long it’ll be before we get another evening like this. You promised me a date and I intend to see that you keep your promise.”
If anything, Jack sagged further, not looking at all enthusiastic at the prospect. “But I don’t feel like going anywhere.”
“Good thing you won’t have to then; I took the liberty of bringing everything we’ll need with me. Don’t go away.” Turning back to the stairwell, Ianto disappeared through the door only to reappear moments later, carrying a folded picnic blanket and a hamper. “I thought we could dine alfresco tonight, since I had a feeling you’d be reluctant to leave the splendid ambience of this rooftop.” Despite this being a recently constructed and modern building, its roof was as unprepossessing as any other, flat, gravelled, with air-conditioner housings and vents sticking up here and there. “It’s not the most romantic setting ever, but then it doesn’t need to be. There’s a nice view across the bay and in an hour or so we can watch the sunset, assuming the clouds don’t get in the way and spoil it. At least there aren’t many taller buildings to get in the way.”
Putting the hamper down, Ianto shook out the picnic blanket and spread it on the gravel close to the surrounding metal and Perspex barrier. They wouldn’t be able to see as much when sitting down, the Perspex panels being frosted rather than clear to reduce dazzle from reflected sunlight, but they’d be out of the brisk breeze blowing across the roof.
He lifted the hamper onto one corner of the blanket and opened it, glancing up at Jack.
“Well don’t just stand there staring; give me a hand unpacking this. I’m not doing it all myself.”
Shambling over, Jack knelt on the blanket and took the covered containers Ianto handed him, laying them out and removing their lids; cold barbecued chicken, hardboiled eggs, crusty buttered rolls, a dish of mixed salad leaves, tomatoes, cheese and biscuits, a bunch of grapes, slices of cheesecake, and a tall glass bottle with two wineglasses.
“You brought wine?”
“I brought sparkling apple juice,” Ianto corrected. “It seemed a more sensible choice. You know alcohol just makes you even more mopey when you’re like this.”
Last of all, Ianto unclipped plates and cutlery from inside the lid of the hamper, setting them down on the blanket and closing the hamper. “Right, don’t stand on ceremony; get stuck in.”
Jack considered telling Ianto he wasn’t hungry and rebuffing his lover’s efforts to lift his mood in favour of going back to his solitary brooding, but his rumbling stomach at the sight of the spread gave him away. It was so loud Ianto couldn’t have missed it. Giving up, he flopped onto the blanket, picked up a plate and loaded it with food, settling in to eat.
“Mmph, this chicken is good!” he managed through a mouthful.
“I went to that deli you like, and the cheesecake’s from the bakery next door.” Ianto opened the apple juice and poured two glasses, passing one to Jack, who took a swig to wash down his chicken.
“You spoil me.”
“I know, but I happen to think you’re worth it.”
“Even when I’m being mopey?”
“Even then. Someone has to try to snap you out of it, and it might as well be me.”
Ianto filled his own plate and tucked in, just as hungry as Jack was after their busy day.
Above them, the sun was inching its way towards the horizon and the clouds were breaking up, the sky clearing; looked like it would be a beautiful evening.
They didn’t talk much as they ate, just relaxing, enjoying the food, and listening to the breeze, the calls of gulls somewhere overhead, and the distant hum of traffic on the streets far below.
“I can see why you like it up here so much,” Ianto said at last, setting his empty plate aside and refilling his glass. Standing up, drink in hand, he leaned on the safety railing, looking out across the city. “You can see practically the whole of the bay area from here.”
“And most of the rest of the city from the other side,” Jack agreed, coming to join him. “The sunset makes a nice backdrop.”
“It does.” The sky was ablaze in shades of pink and red, orange and gold. Ianto half turned to study Jack. “Feeling any better now?”
Jack nodded. “I think so; the food helped. This was a good idea you had. So what’s next? Date nights usually involve more than just dinner.”
“I thought maybe some music and dancing.” Setting his glass aside, Ianto produced a tiny transistor radio from his pocket. “Sound quality isn’t the best, but it has the advantage of being easily portable.” He turned it on, tuned it to an oldies station, and set in on the closed picnic hamper. “Dance with me?”
Jack smiled. “Always.”
Slow dancing high on the rooftop with the sun sinking below the horizon and the lights of the city coming on, they were in a world of their own, Jack’s gloomy mood completely swept away. Nobody knew him better than Ianto, nobody ever had, and he thanked the universe for the man in his arms who always seemed to know exactly the right thing to say or do in any given situation.
“Penny for your thoughts?” Ianto murmured against his ear.
“Just thinking how lucky I am. I don’t deserve you.”
“No,” Ianto agreed. “You deserve so much better.”
Jack shook his head. “Don’t talk like that. There’s no one better for me than you.”
The music played on, the moon came up, and high above the city, unseen by the people so far below, they simply danced.