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Myfanwy 2

October 2018

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Myfanwy 2

The Shop at the Mall - Chapter Four

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 Four

It was so very quiet in the shop. 

They’d closed over an hour ago, and the decorating was going well.  Jack was working with Suzie on a tree in the window, untangling the lights that had been put away haphazardly from the year before, his mind in a small coffee shop on the Plass.  He’d have to go home and immediately write a letter, apologizing for not showing up.  Jack really hoped his ‘date’ wouldn’t take it personally, and he vowed to at least get a mobile number in case something else happened. 

He couldn’t help but be disappointed.  He’d built up all his courage to suggest this, and now he was standing his pen pal up.  Jack stifled a sigh.  Who would have known this would happen today, of all days?

Jack looked out over the shop from his position in the display window.  Ianto and Owen were also stringing lights; those along the trim near the ceiling, the Welshman was up on a ladder and Owen was feeding him the lights, which he tacked up using a staple gun. 

John and Toshiko were working with programming Christmas screen savers into the various computers in the shop, as well as the synchronized holiday photos that rotated across the large television screens.  No one was really speaking, and Jack knew it was a holdover from the argument from earlier.  As manager he should be trying to fix things, but he didn’t think he could.  This was just too much of a mess.

The office door opened, and Rhys stuck his head out.  “Jack,” he called softly, as if afraid of breaking the hush, “I’d like to have a word with you in my office please.”  He ducked back inside, leaving the door open for Jack.

He knew this wasn’t going to be good.  Things had deteriorated so badly between them that Jack couldn’t expect anything else.  He crawled out of the window and did as he was bid, holding his head up, feeling as if he was going to his own execution.

“Jack,” Rhys said, once the door was closed, “I’ve been thinking a lot today –“

“Rhys, I’m sorry…I lost my temper.”  He had, but why did his apology feel like begging?

“No, I think you’re right, and I think maybe you’ll be happier somewhere else.”  Rhys wouldn’t look at him.

“Rhys –“

“No, Jack.  There’s nothing left to be said. Now, I know you’re entitled to a month’s severance pay,” he handed Jack a sealed envelope, “and I have a letter of recommendation for you.  Anyone you apply to can call me for a reference.  I know you’ll find your feet again.”

Jack felt like this was some sort of bizarre nightmare.  He’d never thought about leaving Williams Electronics; he’d loved it there, and was proud of the job he’d done.   He still had no idea what had happened to drive this wedge between his boss and himself, and Rhys certainly wasn’t going to enlighten him. 

He really had no choice.

“Goodbye,” he said, extending his hand.  “Good luck with the shop.”

Rhys hesitated, then took the offered hand.  He didn’t say anything though; apparently content to let Jack leave without a word.

He left the office in a fog.  This had come out of nowhere, and quite honestly Jack didn’t know how to handle it.  He was good at his job; yes, maybe he could let his pride get in his way, but this…he was being let go for absolutely no reason.   He hadn’t done anything wrong; he certainly knew the business and how to treat the customers.  No, this was Rhys being unhappy with him for some reason, and a part of him wanted to appeal it, go to the proper authorities and put in a complaint.

In the end, he doubted he would do it.

Despite everything that had just happened, he did consider Rhys Williams a friend.   Something had obviously changed Rhys’ mind about him, but Jack hadn’t changed his mind about Rhys. 

“What happened?” Suzie’s voice broke him out of his funk.  They were all standing around, waiting for him; even Ianto, whom he hadn’t really treated well from the very beginning, looked as if he cared. 

Jack opened the envelope that contained his reference.  He opened it mechanically, glancing down at the scrawl that Rhys Williams called handwriting.  He read it aloud:

To Whom It May Concern;

I wish to state that Captain Jack Harkness leaves my employ of his own accord.

Captain Harkness had started with Williams Electronics nine years ago, where he helped get the shop opened and acted as salesman.  Through his hard work and diligence, he moved up to lead sales, and then to Manager three years ago.  I have found him knowledgeable, pleasant, and efficient. 

I can recommend him without reserve, and wish him well in his future career.

Rhys Williams, owner.

 

The shock was clear on everyone’s faces.  “That bastard,” Owen swore, “he can’t do that!”

“Did he give you a reason?” Toshiko asked.

Jack chuckled weakly.  “He’s the boss.  He doesn’t have to.”

“You can appeal it,” Ianto spoke up. 

He was a bit surprised by the support from the younger man, after what happened between then earlier.   “I doubt it would do any good,” he answered.  “Besides, I guess this means I get the night off after all.”

Jack turned to collect his things.  No one followed him into the employee lounge, except for Suzie, who still looked shell-shocked.  “Are you still going?” she asked quietly.

“No,” Jack shook his head.  “I’m not in the mood for company.  Besides, I don’t think I could face him tonight.”  He sighed, slipping his coat on. 

“Come over some night, okay?” she pressed.  “Just because you don’t work here anymore, doesn’t mean you have to be a stranger.”

“Okay,” he promised.  It was an easy one to make; they’d been friends since Suzie had started there, five years ago. 

Together they made their way out to the sales floor again, where the others were still waiting. 

“Jack,” John was the first to speak.  “This is a fucking shame, it is.  You ever wanna get together and get pissed –“

“I’ll call you.”  He shook John’s hand, knowing he wouldn’t be calling.  John Hart was more predator than friend, and he’d been on the receiving end of his attentions before. 

“I don’t understand,” Toshiko said when Jack moved forward to enfold her in a hug. 

“It happens all the time,” Jack answered, letting her go.  “People get fired.   It’s just the way of things.” 

“We’ll miss you,” the technician replied, dashing a tear from her eye.

“Owen,” Jack said, digging around in his pocket for his keys.  He removed the store’s key from the ring it had been on for years, and handed it to Owen.  “Make sure Rhys gets this, all right?”

“You got it,” he said, holding the key tightly.  “Still think this sucks, mate.”

“I’m not going to argue with you.”  It did.  Jack still couldn’t quite wrap his mind around the idea that he wouldn’t be coming back to the shop tomorrow.

That left Ianto, who was standing there, his professionalism gone and his arms crossed over his chest almost protectively.  “Look, if I had anything to do with you…I’m sorry.”

Jack took a bit of pity on him.  “You didn’t, not really.”

“I know we didn’t get along –“

“That’s an understatement!”

“But,” Ianto went on, “I do respect you.”

Jack didn’t know what to say to that.  He still didn’t care for Ianto Jones; in his opinion, the man should have been in jail with the other Torchwood Technologies employees who’d been found guilty of a long list of crimes.  But he had to admit that he’d never done anything outright to Jack, and yet Jack had been almost rude to him since day one. 

All Jack did was nod, to acknowledge the sentiment.   It was all he could do.

He took one last look around the place where he’d worked for the last nine years, and then turned and left.

**********

“I really think you should go and keep your date.”

Jack stifled a sigh, snuggling down into his heavy wool coat as he and Suzie made their way along the slippery sidewalk toward the coffee shop he’d said he’d meet his pen pal at.

She’d appeared at his front door a bare ten minutes after he’d arrived, saying that Rhys had let them all go after Jack had left, and had convinced him to go out with her.  He hadn’t really felt like it; today had been one of the worst he’d ever been through, and he really just wanted to be alone. 

But Hurricane Suzie wouldn’t be denied.  She’d even brought a red carnation for his buttonhole.

The crowds were thinning out, leaving Jack and Suzie plenty of room to bicker as they walked.  “I’m just not in the mood,” he pouted.  “Why can’t you just give him a note or something?”

“Because he’s your friend,” Suzie pointed out.  “Having a complete stranger show up with a note from you is really going to make the wrong impression.”

She did have a point, but Jack was certain he could smooth things over in his next letter.   Claim a bad day – and it had been, he wouldn’t be lying – then go back to the anonymous writers they’d been.  No more meetings; no more talking about seeing each other.  Yes, Jack had feelings for his friend, but a part of him didn’t want to risk losing him because he was now unemployed. 

As they approached the coffee shop’s front window, Jack said, “Can you just look and see if he’s there?  Oh, and don’t tell me if he’s ugly…or good looking, really.  I just don’t want to know.”  He was babbling a bit, which was out of character for him.

“All right,” Suzie chuckled.  As Jack hung back, she craned her neck to check.  The Fellowship of the Ring, right?”

“Right.”

“And a red carnation?”

Jack fiddled with the flower in the upper buttonhole of his RAF coat, and agreed.

After a few moments of silence, Jack demanded, “Do you see anything?”

“Pushy,” Suzie teased.  “Just a sec…wait, I think I see him.”

Jack’s heart began beating faster.  Now that he was there…maybe he should just bite the bullet and go inside?  Would his friend really be embarrassed that he was out of a job?  Would it matter to someone who thought they’d had a meeting of the minds?

“Or I see part of him,” Suzie amended.  “He’s very inconveniently sitting behind a rather large potted plant…oh wait, he’s leaning forward…”  Her voice faded out, and Jack saw a rather gobsmacked look on her face.

“Is he handsome?” Jack pressed, jumping on the balls of his feet in excitement.

“He’s freaking gorgeous, actually,” Suzie commented.  “I’d say he looks…well, kinda like Ianto at the shop, actually.”

“What?” he asked, confused.  Suzie knew damned well how he felt about Ianto, and the reasons for it, although she’d also tried her damnedest to talk him out of it.

“C’mon, Jack!  You know Ianto’s pretty dishy!  You might not like who he worked for, but even you have to admit the guy’s quite lovely.  And I like him very well.”

Jack did admit that…to himself.   “This is a fine time to be talking about Ianto Jones!” he snapped.

“Well, I can tell you right now: if you don’t like how Ianto looks, then you aren’t going to like this guy.”

“Quit being so damned mysterious and tell me!”

“It is Ianto.”

At first, Jack thought she was pulling his leg.  He pushed past her, taking his own look into the coffee shop. 

There he was….Ianto Jones, sitting at a table with a well-worn copy of The Fellowship of the Ring on the tabletop, and a red carnation on the lapel of his charcoal suit jacket.

He couldn’t believe it.  Could his day get any worse?

Jack stepped back, disappointment warring with anger within him.  Here, he’d thought his letter writer had been special; someone he could build a relationship with.  Not bloody Ianto Jones, who represented something he completely detested.

He reached up and removed the carnation, crumpling it in his hand and letting it fall.  Turning, he began to walk away.  It wasn’t possible, that the man he’d thought he’d known was one of Torchwood Technologies’ murderers.  The man he’d been writing had had a compassionate soul; someone who would look after Jack, just as Jack would look after him.  One that he had so many things in common with, and whom Jack had fallen for.

“Where are you going?” Suzie asked, catching up.

“I’m leaving,” he answered curtly.

“Do you want me to give the note to one of the employees to give to Ianto?”

“No.”

“Jack,” she exclaimed, grabbing him by the arm to stop him.  “You can’t just leave him hanging like that!”

“Why not?”  All of his dreams had just come crashing down on him.  In one day, he’d lost his job, and the one person he thought might have understood him.   “He’s fought with me nearly every day!  Why should I care if he sits there and rots?”

“Because,” Suzie said calmly, “he’s the one who wrote those letters.”

She was right, of course.  But how could Ianto Jones have done that?  All of those letters must have been a lie.  “I know,” he answered softly.  “My bad luck, I guess.  Just more in a long line of bad today.”

This hurt.  He couldn’t believe how much it hurt.  Jack wished Suzie hadn’t convinced him to come out now; he could have gone on quite happily ignorant of who his pen pal had been.

But now he was lying to himself.  Eventually, Jack would have tried again, and he would have found out sooner rather than later.  Better to be disappointed now, than before he was more emotionally invested.

“I’m going home,” he decided.  He reached out and hugged Suzie.  “Thanks for trying.”

“Jack,” she said, returning the hug, “please just rethink it, okay?  I think you have Ianto all wrong.”

He made a non-committal sound, then released her.  She began to walk away, waving over her shoulder as she headed home.

Jack returned the wave, then waited for a few moments until she was around the corner and out of sight.  He headed back toward the coffee shop, and although he didn’t know what he was going to say to Ianto, he suddenly and desperately wanted to see if he could make out any of his mysterious friend in the young Welshman.


Chapter Five



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