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Myfanwy 2

December 2017

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Myfanwy 2

The Shop at the Mall - Chapter Seven

Title: The Shop at the Mall
Author: milady_dragon
Beta: cjharknessgirl
Prompt: "The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
Pairing(s): Jack/Ianto, Gwen/Rhys (mentioned), John Hart/Gwen(implied)
Rating: PG-13
Warning(s): Language
Spoilers: None
Disclaimer: Torchwood is owned by the BBC and Russell T. Davies.  "The Shop Around the Corner" was produced by Metro-Goldwyn Mayer and was written by Samson Rafaelson and based on the play by Miklos Laszlo.
Author's note: This is the second of two stories written for Reel Torchwood Round Four, and was the first movie I actually ever saw James Stewart in.  This is not to be confused with "You've Got Mail", which was based on the original screenplay.

Summary:  It's nearing the Christmas season at Williams Electronics, where store manager Jack Harkness finds himself juggling a boss who suddenly seems to hate him, a well-meaning but meddling friend, an anonymous pen-pal he's rapidly falling in love with, and the newest employee who seems determined to bring out the worst in him.  Can he get through the holidays without making a total mess of his life?




Chapter Seven

Jack gave Ianto into the next day to decide if he was coming back, and then he took matters into his own hands.  It being a weekday, the shop wasn’t as busy it would be over the weekend, and he felt confident leaving it for the couple of hours that he’d be gone.   Neither Suzie nor Tosh had appointments outside, so there would be a full crew on in case of an unexpected rush of customers.

He looked up Ianto’s address is in his employee records, then drove out to the Cromwell Estate.  Jack couldn’t help but feel just a tad unsafe in the area; it looked as if the houses had seen better days, and as he locked his SUV and set the alarm, he gave a sincere prayer that no one would try to steal his car.  He liked his vehicle; he’d just gotten it broken in the way he wanted it.

Jack knocked, and was rewarded by the man himself opening the door.  Ianto was dressed in jeans and dark red jumper; and he couldn’t help but notice just how sexy he looked dressed down like that. 

Ianto looked shocked to see him.  “Sir?”

“How are you, Ianto?” Jack asked, smiling softly.

“I’m…fine,” the younger man answered, surprise still very evident on his face.  “May I ask what you’re doing here?”

“Well, what sort of boss would I be if I didn’t make sure my employees were all right?”  It was a flimsy excuse, but it was Jack’s story and he was sticking to it.

Toshiko’s revelations about Ianto had shaken Jack, and he was now determined to make up for his past behaviour.  Jack had admitted to himself that he’d been pretty damned horrible to Ianto, and that the young man who’d written such wonderful letters needed to be acknowledged, even if Jack had to pretend he didn’t know about them.  He would make the effort to get to know Ianto Jones, and perhaps someday they might actually become friends.

If Jack was hoping for something more, he kept that thought buried pretty deep.

“Your employee?” Ianto inquired, the professional mask going back up quickly, as if he was now on familiar territory.

“Do you mind if I come in?  I feel like every eye in the neighbourhood is watching me.”

“They most likely are.”  Ianto stood aside and let Jack enter.   The house beyond was homey, and it was obvious that more people than just Ianto lived there;  just from the toys strewn around, because Jack knew that Ianto didn’t have children, at least according to his tax information. 

He blushed slightly, leaning over to pick up some of the toys.  Jack pretended that he didn’t check out Ianto’s arse.  “I’m sorry,” he said.  “My sister didn’t get a chance to clean up this morning, and I’ve been out…” He swallowed away the words, but Jack guessed he was going to say ‘job hunting’.  “I just got back a little while ago.”

“No problem.”  Jack took a seat on the sofa, staring up at the obviously nervous young man.  “I really did just want to check on you.  You haven’t called off since you started, and now you’ve been out for two days.”

“I didn’t think I’d be welcome,” Ianto answered honestly, not looking Jack in the eye.  “With Mr. Williams gone…and I know how you feel about me…not that I didn’t bring some of that on myself, really…so yeah, I just didn’t come in.”

It could be so easy for Jack to accept the half-arsed resignation.  After all, he’d kinda wanted that for a long time.  But now…he couldn’t.  Toshiko had been right: everyone deserved a chance.   And Jack had let his prejudices get the better of him, preventing him from getting to know this man; getting to know the letter writer of his dreams, even if he hadn’t known it at the time.  How differently would the meeting at the coffee shop gone if there hadn’t been that bad blood between them?

Jack would never know.

“Look,” Jack said, “we got off on the wrong foot.  Why don’t we try this over?  I know we can’t go back to the beginning, but I think we can at least work together.  What do you say?”

Ianto was looking at him, as if he’d never seen him before.  There was something in his eyes…Jack almost called it hope.  “All right,” he finally answered.  “I’d like that.”

“Good.”  Jack stood.  “You gonna feel up to coming into the shop tomorrow then?  Christmas is coming up, and we could really use you.  Oh, John’s gone –“

“Tosh told me what happened.”  Ianto shook his head.  “How’s Mr. Williams doing?”

“It’s going to be a long road, but I think he’s going to be fine.”  Jack was gratified that Ianto had asked.  “Well, I need to get back.  Don’t want the place falling apart.  Without someone in charge, Owen would be on the computer all day and Suzie would rearrange all the televisions.”

Ianto snorted.  “Yes, we wouldn’t want the mall to burn down around the shop.”

Jack laughed.  “God forbid.”  He stuck out his hand.  “Truce?”

Ianto looked at it askance, before taking it.  His hand was warm in Jack’s, the grip firm.  “Truce,” he agreed.

“Oh, and I’m sorry about the other night,” Jack added.  “How do you know your date wasn’t just delayed or something?”

An expression of pain crossed the younger man’s face.   “He was supposed to wear a red carnation.  After about an hour, I left…and found it outside.  It looked as if someone had crushed it with their shoe.”

Jack hadn’t even thought of that, when he’d discarded the flower.  “He didn’t call or anything?”  Of course he knew that wasn’t the case, but he knew he had to continue to play ignorant.

“No, I haven’t heard from him.”  Ianto seemed resigned to it, and Jack felt like a heel.  He knew he could come clean about the letters, but he also knew that he had to get back into Ianto’s good graces first before even thinking about admitting the truth.

And, at this point, he wasn’t even sure the truth would ever come out.  “Who knows?  You might yet.”

Ianto shrugged, not convinced.  Suddenly Jack could hear Toshiko berating him for ruining Ianto’s chance at happiness.  She didn’t know that he’d ruined his own, as well.

“Thank you for coming, Sir,” Ianto said, “I appreciate you keeping my job open for me.”  He looked more at peace than he had when Jack had arrived.

“You’re one of the best I’ve got!  I’d be a fool to let you just leave like that.”  Jack smiled, then turned toward the door.  “Tomorrow, bright and early?” he asked, twisting the knob.  He looked back for confirmation.

“Bright and early,” Ianto agreed, a soft smile on his face.

“Good.  Oh, and Ianto?”

“Yes, Sir?”

“Why don’t you wear that pink shirt?”

It was one of the very few times he’d heard Ianto Jones laugh so freely.  Jack wanted to hear it again.

**********

The weeks leading up to Christmas seemed to fly by.

As the days went on, it got busier and busier.  The shop was doing a booming business, and Jack knew he had a certain Welshman to thank for that.  Ianto seemed to have gained a new lease on life; he could tell the day after Ianto had received his first letter after the aborted meeting at the coffee shop, how much happier he’d been from the day before.   Jack had received another just three days later:

Dear Friend:

I’m glad you wrote to me.  I thought for sure that you’d decided not to meet me, after I found your carnation on the ground outside the coffee shop.  I know I’m not the greatest prize, but I’d hoped you would explain to me why you’d decided not to come in to meet me.

 

Jack had been surprised that Ianto felt so little about himself.  He’d answer that in the next letter he wrote.

No, that was my boss.  Well, at the time he was my ex-boss – and that’s a long story I might tell you some day – and he and I don’t get along very well at all.  I know he holds my past against me, and I can’t blame him for that because I do the same thing.  I know that you wouldn’t do the same, and I trust you not to turn your back on me for it. I like to think I know your heart, friend.  It’s a good, generous heart.

 

Jack wished that were true.  It had been difficult to finish reading after that.

They exchanged one more letter each before the week of Christmas.   In that time, Jack had actually gotten to know Ianto, and he’d soon realized that, if he’d bothered to put his prejudices aside, he would have seen that the young man was, indeed, the one he’d been corresponding with for months.   How much time he’d wasted when he could have been getting to know Ianto!  Jack was very disappointed in himself, even though he’d thought at the time that he’d had good reason to distrust him.

He could tell that Ianto was a bit surprised by Jack’s change of attitude.   Jack didn’t blame him, since he had no idea what was behind it.  He did take Toshiko aside and thank her for giving him a large dose of truth, and she accepted it, saying she was glad to do so.  She said she was glad that they seemed to be getting along, and hoped it would continue.

Jack thought it would.

He even broached meeting again in his last letter before Christmas.

As he got to know Ianto better, Jack realized he really wanted the young man to know it was him writing the letters that Ianto felt were so special.  Even though he knew he’d been the one to pen them, a part of Jack felt he wasn’t living up to Ianto’s ideal, that the man in the letters was different from whom he, himself, actually was.  That Ianto was putting him up on a pedestal that he didn’t deserve.

That scared Jack more than a little, but he still wanted Ianto to know it was him in the letters, that he was the one that Ianto was so obviously in love with.  Not that Jack thought he was worthy of it, after what he’d done since Ianto had come to work at the shop. 

Maybe it was out of a desire for Ianto to see past the front that Jack had put up, but he decided to ask about another meet-up for Christmas Eve, if he didn’t have any other plans.  Jack was literally on tenterhooks from the moment he’d posted the letter.   What if Ianto turned him down?  Should he just admit that he was the other end of the correspondence, and take whatever consequences there might be?  Or should he let it play out over the letters, and deal with any repercussions over their meeting?

Jack didn’t really consider himself a coward.  He was willing to admit that he’d been wrong about Ianto; he had, in fact, done that very thing, if not with words then certainly with his actions.  Even Owen had commented on the change in Jack’s behaviour toward his newer salesman, although his comments were more snarky than complementary.  Suzie had been impressed by Jack’s change of heart, even if her observation about ‘old dogs’ and ‘new tricks’ hadn’t exactly gone over well. 

The object of Jack’s attitude difference had been cautiously wary at first, but after about a week Ianto seemed to relax into it, and soon he was lightening up around Jack and letting his real self – the one past the immaculate suits and professional demeanour – shine through to his boss.  That was when Jack had seen just how much Ianto Jones was like his pen pal that he was disappointed in himself for not paying attention sooner.

It was the day before Christmas Eve when Jack received his answer.

Dear Friend:

If you’re serious about getting together Christmas Eve, then of course I want to meet the man whose kind words have made me smile.  Shall we try the coffee shop again?  I shall meet you there, wearing the outrageous Christmas tie my niece and nephew gave me last year.  I only hope the hideousness of the tie doesn’t frighten you off again! 

 

It was all Jack could do not to laugh at said tie, when Ianto appeared at work Christmas Eve morning.

Before the shop opened for the crowds that were already gathering outside, Jack brought them all together.  “I just wanted to let you all know,” he said, “that Rhys was released from the hospital this morning.”  Glad smiles greeted the news; Jack himself had been ecstatic.  “Now, I know you were all thinking about a present for him for Christmas, but I think the best thing we can get him is an empty store in the morning.  Let’s make this one of the best Christmases Williams Electronics has had yet.”

As everyone went to their areas, Jack pulled their new stockman aside.  “Eugene,” he said, “I know you’re new, but we’re counting on you to make sure we have good counts on all stock.  We don’t want to sell something we run out of and don’t know about it.”

Eugene Jones nodded.  He was a young man, eager to please, and while a bit quiet and obsequious he seemed to be fitting in fairly well.  “I’ll do my best, Captain Harkness.”

“It’s Jack, Eugene.  Only Ianto calls me ‘Captain’, and I think he does that to keep me on my toes.”  Personally, he thought it was somewhat sexy, but he couldn’t very well say that.  It was like when Ianto called him ‘Sir’.  If Ianto had any idea what that did to him…

He shooed the man back toward the stockroom, then went to open the front doors.


Chapter Eight



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