By CS WhiteWolf
Though nothing had happened between them at the gig, something in their dynamic seemed to change in the days following on from their night at The Hub. Although initially embarrassed to have awoken to find himself snuggling up to a relative stranger more than anything else, Ianto couldn’t help but remember how nice and comfortable he’d felt lying against Michael’s chest; his head having nuzzled its way to the crook of his neck. He remembered how nice Michael had smelled, how warm he had been, how safe he’d felt in the other man’s arms.
He remembered too how Michael had smiled down at him with fond amusement, the arm about his shoulders tightening a moment in reassurance as Ianto felt himself blush in the heartbeat between waking up and pulling away from Michael’s embrace with muttered apologies for the intrusion and being such poor company.
Michael had waved his concerns away with another smile and a long, lingering look Ianto was too flummoxed to decipher. They’d left soon after that, both going their separate ways and Ianto had found himself, disturbingly, thinking more of Michael than of Jack for the remainder of his weekend.
The next time they saw each other, at a session a few days afterwards, there appeared to be a frisson in the air between them, as if they both expected something to happen even though nothing ever did. Ianto was at a loss to explain to himself just what he was anticipating, trying to convince himself that he didn’t actually want anything to happen between himself and Michael, even though he secretly wished something would.
They spent the next week or so dancing around the unanticipated elephant in the room as Ianto moved from his work on Michael’s chest to work on his back, spending their sessions mutually talking about everything and nothing (though what Ianto knew about Michael’s personal life could just about fill a coffee cup) and simply enjoying the time spent together.
It occurred to Ianto that he’d never had quite the same rapport with another client before Michael and he wandered, not for the first time, if the sheer scale and magnitude of this project wasn’t influencing his feelings just a little bit. Whatever the authenticity of his feelings in regards to Michael however, it didn’t stop him from inviting Michael out with him (and the rest of the team) for another of Toshiko’s gigs a fortnight later.
Michael agreed with little hesitation and Ianto tried to smother his grin of delight by gnawing at his snakebites till they began to sting.
- - -
The night of the Greeks Bearing Gifts gig saw the entirety of the Torchwood team, and guests, taking command of a stage-facing booth at The Hub with laughter, good music, and the first round of drinks on Jack- pitchers of beer and brightly coloured shots of vodka- soon setting the tone for the rest of the evening.
Toshiko’s band was one of the last on that evening and Michael commented, leaning close to talk into Ianto’s ear over the sound of their music, that either the style was beginning to grow on him after all or he’d been deafened by all the music they’d heard beforehand. Ianto smiled at him, laughing and nudging at Michael with his shoulder as if to agree.
Beside him, Jack was regaling the rest of the table with an outrageous anecdote regarding a past conquest of his. Ianto rolled his eyes at the story, shifting awkwardly as Michael gave him a raised-eyebrows look.
“It’s just Jack,” he explained, leaning in and smiling a little as if that explained everything. Michael gave him a disbelieving look but made no comment as Owen chimed in, trying to up Jack with his own sordid tale of debauchery.
“I think I’ll leave you boys to your little talk,” Gwen interrupted them all with a laugh, “I’m done for the night!” She stood with Rhys, grabbing up her jacket and blowing kisses to each of them.
“Ah, come on, Gwen, one more?” Jack encouraged, holding up his glass and offering it to her. She laughed and shook her head.
“Some of us have to work tomorrow,” she laughed, declining. Rhys shot her a put out look as he hurried to finish his beer.
“Spoil sport,” Owen cajoled, slinging an arm around Toshiko’s waist as she joined the table, fresh off the stage.
“Who’s a spoil sport?” She asked, settling herself on Owen’s lap and reaching for his drink.
“Gwen’s leaving!” He answered. Toshiko laughed and offered her cheek for Gwen’s kiss goodbye.
“We need more drink,” Toshiko said turning back to the table after downing the contents of Owen’s glass in one quick swallow. Gwen laughed at her before grabbing Rhys’ unfinished glass, setting it down before Toshiko and dragging him, unwillingly, from the club.
“I think it’s your round, Harkness,” Owen hinted as Toshiko gladly scooped up Rhys’ glass.
“Mine? Wasn’t I just up?” Jack turned to Ianto who was currently engaged in a conversation with Michael. He laid his hand on Ianto’s thigh, gaining his attention.
“You up for another round?” Jack asked, nodding to Michael also. Ianto smiled at him, agreeing for the both of them, and watched as Jack stood and made his way through the throng of people towards the bar. He turned a half-ear to the question Toshiko directed towards Michael as he saw a man in a familiarly bright red jacket step up to Jack, his hand moving to touch with confidence at the small of his back. Jack turned, grinning widely and clapping the other guy on the back.
It was then that he recognised the other man as John Hart, an old acquaintance of Jack’s apparently, who’d attended the same school as him back in the day. Ianto knew that was code for the fact they were once an item. He dropped his gaze to his hands as they tightly gripped his beer glass and forced his fingers to relax. Having John Hart back in town didn’t mean anything. Or rather, it could mean anything, not necessarily that he was back for Jack.
He looked back up, his eyes widening as he failed to locate either man through the crowd surrounding the bar. They were both gone. Ianto felt a sinking sensation in his stomach and pushed his beer away miserably, knowing it wasn’t too much a leap of the imagination to assume that Jack had taken Mr. tall, blond and handsome into the nearest men’s room so that they may have their wicked way with one another. He scrubbed a hand over his eyes, wishing he had the courage to step into the loos to confront Jack, but… out of sight, out of mind, as the old adage goes.
To his left, Michael leant towards him, nudging him slightly with his shoulder. Ianto turned his attention from the empty spot at the bar to Michael’s concerned gaze and watched as the other man looked between the bar and himself a moment before speaking.
“You want to get some air?” Michael asked, and the feeling in his stomach quickly turned to a queasy sensation as Ianto realised that Michael had concluded the same as he had. He didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. He reached for his beer and gulped what remained in only a few sips.
Michael laid a hand upon his arm and stood, tugging Ianto with him, willing or not. Too filled with his own turmoil over the way the evening was progressing, Ianto allowed himself to be lead from the bar and out into the cool night air. The freshness of the breeze- a sharp slap of cold air to the inebriated flush of his skin- sobered him enough to pull away from Michael’s grip and slump himself up against an alley wall. He could feel Michael’s gaze upon him but chose to ignore it as he sucked in a lungful or two of air and concentrated on trying not to think about Jack… Jack and…
“You okay?” Michael asked softly, moving to lean against the wall beside Ianto. He slung his arm almost protectively around Ianto’s shoulders, simply smiling when Ianto frowned up at him with confusion.
Ianto looked away just as quickly, muttering a disbelieving, “Always,” in response to the question. Michael tightened his arm a moment in comfort.
“Does he do that a lot?” Michael questioned and Ianto shrugged, not really wanting to talk about it.
“I never for a moment believed all those stories he was telling about past conquests,” Michael mused, leading. Ianto sighed miserably.
“He’s usually more discrete,” he answered, voice barely above a whisper. Michael leant closer to hear his words.
“I thought you two were together though?” Ianto looked up and saw Michael’s frown as he attempted to understand.
“We’re not… exclusive,” Ianto said slowly, unhappily. Michael’s confusion turned to curiosity as he removed his arm from Ianto’s shoulders and moved to stand in front of him instead.
“You don’t sound too happy about that,” Michael observed, watching Ianto carefully. Ianto simply shrugged again but said nothing. Not content with a non-verbal answer, Michael reached out to tip Ianto’s chin up, waiting until those big, blue eyes were watching him before he spoke again.
“If you want more, you should tell him,” Michael prompted, earning a snort of derision for his efforts.
“Jack won’t change who he is for… for just one person.” Ianto muttered.
Michael heard the elusive ‘me’ in that sentence. “What about what you want?” he pressed.
Ianto shook his head, “Can we not talk about Jack just now?” He pulled his face from Michael’s hands, ending the conversation as he looked down at the ground where he was currently digging the toe of his boot into the soft dirt without his usual care.
“May I say just one last thing?” Michael asked after a moment’s silence. Ianto looked up at him, his gaze wary as he nodded his consent.
Michael reached out again, cupping Ianto’s face in his own and ensuring that he had Ianto’s full attention before he spoke.
“If Jack can’t give himself wholly to you,” he said, “then he doesn’t deserve you. Not even a little bit.”
Ianto found himself unable to speak in reply to the deep intensity with which Michael had spoken his words. Words spoken with such honesty that Ianto could almost believe he cared in a way he sometimes doubted Jack did. It was inconceivable to think that a man he barely knew- in the grand scheme of things- could be so protective of him.
Ianto reached up and gripped at Michael’s wrists, his fingers shaking as they touched his skin. Michael smiled gently, stroking his thumbs along the length of his cheekbones as they stared intently at one another before, in a move he found to be rather spontaneous even though he was the one initiating the move, Ianto pressed himself forward enough to be able to touch his lips to Michael’s.
The kiss- a brief touching of lips between breaths- lasted only seconds before Michael pulled away with a look of regret.
“You don’t want to be doing this right now,” Michael said, regretfully. Ianto pulled his face away and looked down, embarrassed both by the rejection and by the knowledge that Michael was right. He nodded, clenching his eyes closed as Michael leant in to press a longer kiss to his crown before stepping away and wordlessly leading Ianto towards the sidewalk and an easily flagged down taxi.
- - -
When Ianto Jones awoke the next morning, it was with the mother of all hangovers.
Well, that and the glass of water, pack of painkillers, and what looked to be an origami bird sitting unobtrusively upon his bedside table.
He managed a briefly fond smile and prayer of thanks before hurriedly leaning over the side of his bed and throwing up into the inconspicuously placed bucket.
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