Ink in my Coffee
By CS WhiteWolf
The small bell above the door chimed his entrance as he stepped into the shop, juggling a leather-bound folder, a tray of Starbucks coffee and a box of custard donuts he’d picked up on his way into work.
“Morning,” Toshiko greeted, looking rather prim and proper for nine o’clock on a Monday morning as she glanced up from her position behind the reception desk and the laptop she was typing away on.
“Morning, Tosh,” Ianto returned with a smile as he made his way towards the reception desk to unload his arms.
“How was Wales?” Toshiko asked, nimbly swiping one of the coffee’s from the tray before Ianto had even finished setting it down.
“Wet. Cold. Home,” he answered with a slightly wistful look on his face before smiling. “But it’s good to be back,” he said, brushing his hands over his suit jacket- it was dark pinstripe in pattern and rather ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ in style- as if in an attempt to dislodge any stray flakes of lint.
Toshiko raised one delicately shaped eyebrow before leaning forward enough to peer over the counter, her eyes roaming the length of Ianto’s body. “The ‘Cute Suit’, Ianto?”
“A little bird told me that Jack managed to break the coffee machine whilst I was away.” Ianto said by way of answer. Toshiko grinned, nodding her head emphatically.
“You’re such a tease.” She laughed, her eyes bright as she sipped from her coffee.
“You wound me, Tosh!” Ianto exclaimed, lifting the tray of coffees and starting towards the back rooms. “How can you think I’d be so petty as to make our revered Captain watch me walk around all day in a suit that plays havoc on his libido?”
Toshiko laughed again, waving her hand in a ‘shooing’ motion at Ianto. “He’s in his stall, working on Gwen.” Was all she said in answer to that comment before turning back to her laptop and returning to whatever project she’d previously been working on.
Ianto grinned widely a moment before schooling his features and slipping silently through towards the workrooms. He could hear the familiar humming of the tattoo iron going from Jack’s section and made a bee-line towards his boss’ cubicle. The humming stopped just as he entered the room and he watched from the doorway as Jack wiped at the foot he’d been inking before setting about the cleaning and disposing of his tools.
“Ianto Jones, you are a lifesaver!” Jack exclaimed without turning and Ianto smiled at the other man’s back, silently admiring the view of Jack in his tight black vest- his broad shoulders bared and begging to be ogled as they displayed the thick tribal ink work that spread out across the top-half of his back and shoulders.
“I’ve been known to pull the odd miracle or two, sir.” Ianto answered lightly, his lips twitching with amusement as he saw Jack’s body tense just so at the honorific. Oh yes, he knew he was in trouble.
He dutifully held out a cup of coffee for Jack when the older man turned to look at him, the smile on his face freezing momentarily as he came face to face with Ianto and his figure hugging suit, his eyes drinking in every possible inch of Ianto as they ran over his body in deliberate swipes.
Ianto, for his own part, took the time to eye Jack back; drinking in the sight of the Captain as he allowed his eyes to roam openly over Jack’s black slack and tank-top combination. A dark grey shirt was slung casually over the bench behind him and the braces he wore more often than not were hanging loosely at his hips. Ianto wet his lips slightly, dragging his eyes up to roam over Jack’s face, from the high brow- the left eyebrow pierced twice whilst the right was left unmarred- down the length of his aquiline nose to the curve of his lips, suddenly full and smiling as Jack reached out to take the proffered coffee from Ianto’s hand.
“Didn’t I ban you from wearing that suit?” Jack asked, finally finding his voice after a long and drawn out moment.
“Did you, sir?” Ianto asked innocently. He leant casually up against the doorway, scanning Jack’s face with just the barest hints of a smirk on his face.
“I’m pretty sure I did,” he answered with an exaggerated narrowing of the eyes before moving to sip at his coffee and proceeding to moan loudly and obscenely with the first sip of his caffeine laced beverage.
“Oh god, marry me, won’t you?” Jack asked licking his lips with long swipes of his tongue. Ianto grinned, shaking his head. Another, softer moan issued from the piercing table beside Jack and, distracted, Ianto looked over, noticing for the first time the young woman who lay upon it. Gwen Cooper looked comatose, her naturally pale face appearing a few shades lighter than Ianto was used to seeing it, and the heavy-lidded kohl of her eye makeup only enhanced the pastiness of her complexion.
“Is she alright?” Ianto asked, nodding towards Gwen with a frown.
“I told him to stop.” Owen Harper appeared suddenly beside him, snatching a coffee cup from him without so much as a grunt of appreciation. Ianto frowned at him. Owen, it seemed, was going for the just rolled out of bed look with his faded band tee and washed out jeans combo; the denim tight but comfortable and disturbingly good looking as it clung to all the right places when he bent over Gwen, poking her none-too-gently in the side in a bid to bring her back to consciousness.
“It’s against regulations to keep tattooing if a client passes out. But would he listen?” Owen sneered in Jack’s direction, before laughing and dancing aside as Jack tried to whack at him.
“Jack-,” Ianto gaped at him but Jack waved a hand to shush him.
“She won’t mind,” Jack defended, standing and prodding Gwen in the side until she groaned again, rousing herself to wakefulness. “In fact, I think she’ll be rather pleased I kept going. You know how sensitive she gets with her feet.”
“I’m rather surprised she agreed to let you near them at all,” Ianto commented, stepping further into the room so that he could better view the spreading lotus flower Jack had etched across the bottom half of her foot. Ianto silently handed the last cup of coffee to Jack to give to Gwen once he’d aided her in sitting upright. She took the coffee with a muttered thanks.
“What do you think?” Jack asked moving to brush shoulders with him. Gwen peered down at her foot, her dour expression suddenly lighting as he gasped her surprise.
“You finished it!” She exclaimed with obvious delight. “Oh, Jack, it’s gorgeous!” She shimmied off the bed. “I have to show this to Tosh, she’s going to love it!”
She paused long enough to kiss Jack soundly on the lips in thanks before turning to Ianto and pressing a softer kiss of welcome to his cheek. “Thanks for the coffee, Ianto. It’s been hellish without you!”
And then she was gone, laughing and calling out for Tosh.
“Take it easy!” Jack yelled after her, laughing.
Ianto smiled fondly, shaking his head. Jack nudged him. “What do you think?”
“I kind of like it,” he agreed. Jack shot him a frown.
“You kind of like it?” He said, offended. Ianto rolled his eyes. “Ianto Jones you besmirch my talent! I poured all my blood and sweat into that piece and-,”
“I rather hope you’re speaking metaphorically, sir,” Ianto interrupted, “you know how anal I am about hygiene.”
Jack scowled at him. “If you’re going to be like that I think you should take a few more days leave.”
“I brought donuts?” He offered in a bid to soothe Jack’s pout away.
Jack crossed his arms defensively. “My forgiveness cannot be won over with coffee and donuts, Mr Jones.”
“Not even those special custard donuts you’re so fond of?” Ianto went for a surprised tone, pressing his hand to his chest in mock shock. “Well then, Mr Harkness, I shall just have to dispose of them!”
He turned on his heel, making as if to leave the room when suddenly Jack’s arms were slipping about his waist and lifting him from his feet. He was hugged to Jack’s chest and spun widely. Ianto tried his hardest not to squeal with the gesture but suspected he failed most miserably when Owen started guffawing.
“Jack!” He yelped out, clutching at Jack’s hands 'til the Captain finally lowered him to his feet, laughing puffs of air against Ianto’s neck even as he kept tight hold of him.
“You want to be careful, Jack,” Owen piped up, grinning as he took in Ianto’s flustered face, “else you’ll be getting another reminder of proper conduct expected in the workplace!”
Jack reluctantly released him, smacking him lightly on the arse as Ianto stepped away. Ianto managed to contain his yelp of outrage as he turned to glare at Jack.
“Make it the one on sexual harassment, won’t you Ianto? I prefer those ones.” Jack grinned widely at him.
“You’re incorrigible!” Ianto groaned, making it back to the safety of the door. “See if I bring you coffee again.” He threatened before squealing and fleeing the room as Jack made an aborted lunge for him. He could hear Jack and Owen all but busting their guts with laughter as he hurried away.
- - -
“Only the one appointment for you today,” Toshiko said, as Ianto stepped up to the reception desk. She ran an expertly manicured finger down the length of the appointment book, and Ianto noted that today her nails were painted a deep red, flecks of gold painstakingly drawn atop the bold colour in a series of what looked to be miniature Chinese characters.
“A guy by the name of Michael Schofield?” She continued as if expecting Ianto to recognise the name.
Ianto looked up from her hands and shook his head negatively; the name didn’t ring any bells with him.
“Well he asked for you personally,” Toshiko continued. “I’ve got him in the book as coming in around seven this evening. I know it’s a bit late with this being your first day back and all, but Jack’s already agreed to stay on after shop closes so that you can consult with Mr Schofield.”
Ianto huffed a dramatic sigh, pressing the back of his wrist to his forehead. “Oh, Tosh, however shall I cope with such a workload?” He bemoaned through an infectiously wide grin.
“I’m sure you’ll survive.” She laughed, shaking her head lightly. “I suspect Mr. Schofield is going to be good for business.” She offered after a moment and Ianto dropped his arm, moving to lean on the desk beside her.
“Oh? How so?” He asked curiously.
“Well, he wears better suits than you do for a start,” Ianto shot her an affronted look which she politely ignored. “And he lives on West Ardmore Avenue.”
“West Ardmore?” Ianto made a face. “Addresses don’t mean much, Tosh. We’ve got millionaire gangsters living in the ghetto round the block.”
“And, he’s never been inked before in his life.” She smiled slowly at him.
“Okay, now we’re getting somewhere.” Ianto agreed. First timers were usually susceptible to forking out considerable amounts for the pieces they wanted done. Not because they were charged double the price or anything quite so immoral, but because they tended to have no concept of just how much getting inked did cost. And by the time they’d made up their mind to get inked and gone through the process of finding a tattooist to do said inking (and likely the designing too), they were usually too self-conscious to then protest the quoted price. He should know, it’d happened the very first time he’d gone to get a tattoo.
Admittedly, Ianto’s first tattoo had been a rather simple piece of text, a name in fact which he’d had scrolled across his left wrist in an exaggerated style of calligraphy that had ended up looking rather old English in appearance. But he’d wanted it. He’d designed it. He’d planned out the placement for it. And by Jove he was going to get it. So when he’d been told just how much it would cost to get it done he’d silently balked to himself, forced a smile onto his face and agreed almost immediately, knowing that if he turned away then, he’d never have had the balls to go back.
Ianto smiled softly at the memory as he gently tugged the sleeve of his suit jacket down over his wrist to reveal the beautifully etched tattoo that, when properly looked at, revealed itself to be a name and short, related verse:
If you go there, you go forever
If I go there, I lose my way
If we stay here, we’re not together
The name was that of his, then, recently deceased girlfriend, Lisa Hallett. She’d been English, tall, dark-skinned, gorgeous and everything Ianto had ever wanted in a women. They were at that stage of their relationship where Ianto was seriously considering proposing when Lisa started getting sick. For the first couple of weeks Lisa had brushed off the pain in her side as nothing. Ianto finally convinced Lisa to have herself seen by a doctor only to have things progressively worsen from there. She had cancer. Lymphoma to be exact, and it was in the advanced stages. There was no cure.
The months that followed were the hardest Ianto had ever faced in his life. The feeling of utter helplessness- uselessness- in the face of her illness nearly broke him, but somehow he found the strength to keep going, to be strong for her, for his beloved Lisa. Ianto, fresh out of University at the time with a degree in Law took sabbatical leave from the firm in downtown Chicago he’d been temping at in order to spend as much time as was physically possible with Lisa. It was during the months that followed, with Ianto sketching Lisa at every possible turn in order to forever preserve the memory of her, that Lisa had urged him to pursue a new career.
“Life’s too short, Ianto,” she’d said, clinging to his hand as he lay beside her, his free hand stroking gently through her hair. She knew he wasn’t happy at the prospect of doing Law for the rest of his life, knew he’d taken it up only at his father’s insistence, knew that without her around it would drive Ianto to misery and she wanted anything but that for him.
“Pursue your art,” Lisa had breathed, smiling softly even as her eyes shone bright with pain. “I want you happy, Ianto. I want you to live when I’m gone.”
He’d kissed her then, his hands tracing invisible patterns across her body as they made love for the last time. A few weeks later Lisa passed away. It took almost a year for Ianto to drag himself out of his spiralling depression. He spent just under a month in Wales for her funeral before returning to Chicago, alone. He lived his life on automatic after that. It wasn’t until he heard one of Lisa’s favourite songs on the radio one morning as he readied himself for another day at the firm that he effectively found himself ‘waking up’ and realising that his life since her loss had compromised of nothing more than sleeping, eating and working. He’d skipped work that day, choosing instead to drag out his sketches of Lisa and start, rather spur-of-the-moment, sketching out the design for a tattoo in remembrance to her. He was starting to heal. He quit his job soon after and began to search for an apprenticeship as a tattooist.
Jack Harkness had been the one to ink it. Ianto found the knowledge that Jack had been the one to etch the name of his deceased lover into his flesh somewhat ironic, as not six weeks later he’d ended up being employed by the enigmatic Captain, whom, upon receiving Ianto’s Curriculum Vitae immediately recalled him as being the “eye candy! The one with the dead girlfriend, right?” Toshiko had been there at the time and upon hearing the reference took a moment to jab Jack sharply in the ribs.
The Captain had winced, looking suddenly sheepish and apologising for his insensitivity. For some reason, Jack’s words hadn’t offended him. He suspected Jack knew this as not five minutes later he was back to flirting his way through Ianto’s CV and making appropriate hums and haws whenever something particularly interesting caught his eye. Ianto had even been reduced to blushing at one point, a sight Jack seemed to find particularly endearing as he reached out to stroke a finger across one heated cheek.
“Careful!” Ianto had blurted out in his embarrassment, “That’s harassment, sir.”
Jack had been unexplainably delighted at his choice of words and hired him as an apprentice before Ianto was even aware that Jack’s inappropriate perusal of his CV had been part of some informal interview process.
And now, here he was, years down the line with Lisa a fond but distant memory and Jack a relatively old but no less interesting one. He’d lasted less than six months under the alluring charms of the Captain (a nickname he’d acquired thanks to his unexplained fetish with period military clothing) before he’d allowed Jack to take him to his bed. Tosh was darling enough to inform him that he’d held out longer than all of Jack’s previous conquests. A comment, to which, he wasn’t entirely sure how to take especially when Jack proceeded to treat him exactly as he had before their first tryst- that is to say, he flirted outrageously and made inappropriate passes at Ianto whenever they were in the same vicinity. A brief spell of emotional angst and confusion aside, Ianto had resigned himself to being yet another notch in the older man’s bedpost and resolved to keep things between them as strictly professional as possible from that point onwards. Jack… well Jack had had plans of his own.
Less than two weeks later, Ianto had ended up back in Jack’s bed. The night one he’d never forget as Jack took his pleasure in branding Ianto as his own with Ianto’s first ever piercing- a silver bar pierced through the left nipple. It had been an interesting experience for them both, as far from finding the perforation painful, Ianto had discovered that his already sensitive nipples became even more receptive to sensation, the ensuing discovery leading Jack to grin ever so wickedly at him before torturing him to a whimpering mess with naught but his mouth and that devilish tongue hidden within. It had been a good night. And one of many they’d shared from that point onwards.
Though Jack was by no means a monogamous sort of man, Ianto had grown to accept that no matter how many others (male and female, and likely a few in between if the tall tales he told held any truth to them!) Jack chose to share his body with, he always came back to Ianto. And Ianto was satisfied with that. Knowing that he held a piece of Jack’s heart, that he was more than just a passing fancy or another faceless fling, well… he supposed that was enough for him.
Slowly, Ianto became aware of slim fingers stroking through the hair at the nape of his neck and he straightened, realising he’d drifted off into his own little world for a moment there. He turned his head slightly to see that it was Gwen who was petting him. He smiled shakily; he hadn’t even heard her come into the front room.
“Alright there, Sunshine?” She asked with a smile which Ianto returned along with a nod of his head. He always returned a little melancholy from his trips back home.
“Fine, Gwen. Thanks.” Gwen moved her hand from his neck to his crown, mercilessly ruffling his hair and laughing as Ianto groaned and batted her hands away.
“Away with you, wench!” Ianto exclaimed, trying in vain to rake his hair back into some semblance of order. Gwen just giggled, dancing away as Ianto made to reach out for her. Not that he’d have been able to do much damage to her hair of course, being as she sported an array of multicoloured dreadlocks; most of it her own, but the more brilliantly coloured dreads he assumed were the synthetic locks she braided into her hair.
Ianto had never been all that fond of the look himself, but with Gwen? Well there was just something about this vibrant young woman that pulled it off. With her infectious joy for life and humanity and all things in between, so long as Gwen was in the room beside you, you’d soon forget about the troubles your own life was throwing at you and focus on the here and the now and the sheer delight of simply living in the moment. And you couldn’t help but love her for that.
Gwen childishly stuck her tongue out at him before turning and flouncing in the direction of the back rooms, muttering something about finding her converse trainers and wondering if there was anyway she’d be able to turn a spare pair of them into dolly type shoes to better show off the new tat.
Ianto and Toshiko shared a brief look and an amused eye roll before Ianto, feeling much more lightened, brought up their initial conversation about the potentially good for business Mr Schofield.
“Did he say what sort of inking he wants done?” Ianto asked and Toshiko shook her head.
“Not really, no. He did say it would be a large upper body piece, but he was quite mum about the specifics.” She tapped her mouth thoughtfully with her index finger. “I suspect he’ll discuss everything with you tonight,” she mused, “and if Jack’s here he can help you work out the pricing for it.”
“Yeah,” Ianto agreed, frowning in thought. “Quite the mysterious sort, isn’t he?”
“Right up your alley then.” Toshiko quipped with a glint in her eye.
- - -
The rest of Ianto’s day was taken up with a few small pieces, requested by customers walking in off the street and looking to be inked sooner rather than later. As Ianto was the only one with an open book in regards to appointments, he was the lucky one who got to take them all.
The pieces were depressingly simple and predictable (emo stars on the wrist, butterfly’s on the foot, and even one woman who thought it’d be hilarious to get the ‘stickman moving the lawn’ motif that was going around). All in all, by the time the day drew to a close Ianto was feeling particularly uninspired and tired.
The shop gradually emptied as everyone cleaned up their work areas and left for the night. Gwen was going home to her boyfriend Rhys who was apparently cooking lasagne for them. Owen was popping down to a bar with his on-again, off-again, girlfriend Diane. And Toshiko was heading for a practice session with her band, “Greeks Bearing Gifts”, where she played cello with fellow band mates Mary, Tommy and Adam.
Eventually, Ianto and Jack were left alone to await the arrival of the mysterious and potentially good-for-business Michael Schofield.
They settled themselves through the back, secure in the knowledge that the front shop was locked up for the night and that the soon to be arriving Michael Schofield knew to ring the bell beside the front door once he got there to alert them of his arrival. The staffroom, or “boardroom” as Jack liked to call it, consisted of a small kitchenette unit along the back wall, and a set of two couches- unlike the ones used in the waiting room of the front shop, these opposite facing settees showed their age through various rips and tears and stains so ingrained into their very fabrics that nothing Ianto had tried had yet been able to remove them.
It was on one of these sofa’s that Jack and Ianto currently sat, facing each other from opposite ends as they sipped from the coffee Ianto had miraculously managed to coax from the coffee machine Jack had honestly thought he’d broken beyond repair whilst playing an impromptu game of piggy-in-the-middle with Owen, Gwen and an alien Tamagotchi belonging to the latter. Though of course, he didn’t mention that to Ianto, choosing to be as vague as he possibly could be in his explanations in an endeavour to stop the other man from finding out the specifics. He knew instant coffee would be the least of his worries if Ianto found out his precious coffee machine had been damaged after Jack was bodily slammed into it by an overly enthusiastic Gwen as she rugby-tackled him into it, her grasping hands snatching the Tamagotchi from his slack fingers with a triumphant ‘ha-ha!’ as he was momentarily winded.
Ianto had his head rested against the back of the sofa, his eyes closed as he rested them for a few minutes. His legs were drawn up beside him, his coffee mug clasped gently in his cupped hands. Jack sipped silently from his own cup, watching Ianto with an inscrutable expression on his face.
“You’re staring.” Ianto muttered with eyes still closed.
“Am not.” Jack immediately retorted. Ianto’s mouth twitched into a sort of half-smile.
“Liar.” He breathed, blinking his eyes open and raising his coffee to his lips. Jack merely smiled at him.
“You look tired.” He said, nodding in Ianto’s direction. Ianto smiled again.
“I am.” He agreed, watching Jack as he shifted on the couch, shuffling closer towards Ianto who felt his heart pick up the pace. With anyone else the movement would have come across as a purely innocent repositioning of oneself, but with Jack, Ianto knew everything the older man did was as far from innocent as he could possibly get. Ianto raised his eyebrows, watching silently as Jack set his coffee on the table beside them before reaching out to take Ianto’s too and setting it next to his own cup.
“Need I remind you we’re still on work time, sir?” Ianto asked, amusement lacing his words.
“Overtime,” Jack corrected, “And technically, so long as your boss doesn’t find out…” he drifted off, waggling his eyebrows.
“Oh, I’m not sure about that, Jack.” Ianto obligingly protested. “My boss can be quite the battleaxe. I’m not sure he’d approve of any extracurricular activities going on in his parlour.”
“I suspect you’d be right,” Jack purred, leaning over, “but I have it on good authority that your boss very much encourages these sorts of extra-,” before he could say more however, an audible brrrring! sounded and Ianto moved suddenly forward to press a quick kiss to Jack’s mouth before he pushed up and off the couch with nothing more than an airily called ‘doorbell!’ thrown over his shoulder as he made his way towards the shop front and the gentleman they were expecting.
Jack cursed and slumped face forward into the cushions, grumbling wordlessly to himself as he listened to the sounds of Ianto moving about the front shop- the door opening then closing, the sound of voices and footsteps as Ianto led someone (presumably Michael Schofield) through into the back rooms and towards his own workspace. With a groan, Jack pushed upwards and brushed himself down into some semblance of order. He straightened his shirt, untangled his braces, slapped his patented Harkness grin onto his face and went in search of Ianto and the mysterious Mr. Schofield.
- - -
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