By CS WhiteWolf
There was no mention of Jack’s infidelity nor the kiss shared between Ianto and Michael the following evening when Michael turned up, right on time, for his next appointment. Nor the evening after. Nor the week after that. It seemed to suit the pair of them quite well, thank you very much, to pretend as if the whole sorry evening had never happened.
If Ianto retained a polite distance from Jack in the days after Toshiko’s gig, then it was only his being professional in the workplace (and at home where he turned his phone to silent every evening and insinuated that all the late night sessions with Michael were beginning to take their toll and he just needed to rest a bit longer than usual).
If Ianto tried to maintain just as polite a distance from Michael then again, it was just his attempt at professionalism and concentration as he worked even harder to ensure that Michael’s design ended up as exact as he’d intended for it to be.
If his hands lingered a little longer on Michael’s bare torso than was strictly necessary, and his eyes caressed Michael's face like a touch whenever he made to refill his inks, well… Michael never brought it up, so Ianto didn’t either.
At least not until one session, just over a week later, as Ianto worked on the image of a fallen angel which was placed on the lower half of Michael’s abdomen.
“You’re blushing,” Michael said softly, his voice low enough so as not to startle Ianto as he moved the tattoo gun in expert strokes across his stomach. It was the first thing he’d said in the half-hour since their initial greetings to one another that evening.
“Am I?” Ianto asked, deliberately keeping his head down and his eyes intent upon the area he was tattooing. He could feel the creeping crawl of a blush staining his cheeks and the back of his neck but he refused to acknowledge it, knowing its cause to be utterly unprofessional in nature.
“Yes, you are,” Michael said, raising a hand and touching lightly at the hand Ianto had unconsciously placed, fingers splayed out, across his stomach. “Ianto, stop,” Michael said and Ianto looked up, surprised both by the command and the touch.
Their eyes met for a moment before Michael pushed himself up at the same moment Ianto stood to his feet, both acts bringing them into unexpectedly closer contact. Ianto found himself freezing as he met Michael’s eyes, his cheeks burning in a way he knew was impossible to hide as Michael tentatively reached out and cupped at Ianto’s face, his thumb dragging across Ianto’s parted lips in a slow and deliberate gesture.
Ianto puffed out a gasp of air at the touch, tripping slightly forwards as Michael gently urged him closer, so close now that there were mere inches separating them from one another, so close that Ianto fancied he could feel the heat of Michael’s half-clothed body as they leant in towards one another, their faces- their mouths- but a breath apart, so close that Ianto felt the tingling of his lips as Michael whispered his name in the moment before their mouths pressed together in a kiss too soft and tentative.
Ianto exhaled heavily through his nose, his eyes slipping shut as Michael pushed closer, pressed himself into the kiss until Ianto’s mouth gave way beneath his own, his lips parting willingly to Michael’s urging.
“Ianto, when you get a moment-,” The door opened without warning, Jack’s voice entering Ianto’s cubicle before the man himself and Ianto pulled himself away from Michael so quickly and violently that he found himself backing up into his own tray of equipment, the tray rattling loudly as Ianto fumbled both for his balance and to keep its contents from spilling out across the floor.
Everything went deathly quiet after that.
Cautiously, Ianto raised his eyes to Jack who stared back at him with a hard and yet strangely closed-off expression. He watched as Jack looked between him and Michael, gauging the situation he’d just entered upon and coming to one conclusion. By the time Jack turned back to look at him, Ianto found he had trouble meeting Jack’s eyes despite knowing that this would only serve to make things worse. He forced his gaze up and Jack stared at him for a minute before speaking.
“I see you’re finished for the night,” Jack said, voice deliberately light but brooking no room for argument. Ianto nodded his head, even though they all knew it wasn’t true. Jack pursed his lips, “I’d like to see you in my office, Ianto, the minute Mr. Schofield leaves.”
“Yes, sir.” Ianto said, his voice strong despite the quiver he felt rushing through the rest of him. Jack stared at him for another moment before turning on his heel and vacating the room; without closing the door behind him, Ianto noted.
He wasted no time in apologising to Michael and suggesting he leave right away, promising to reschedule their interrupted appointment for another time.
“I’m sorry,” Michael said when Ianto made a concerted effort to avoid looking at him. His fingers were swift at buttoning his shirt as he spoke, his eyes watching as Ianto fiddled with his equipment, disposing of inkpots and used needles.
Ianto shook his head. “You don’t have to apologise,” he said, running a hand through his hair and meeting Michael’s gaze fleetingly.
“I think I do,” Michael pressed, “I believe I’ve just put you in a position with your… boss.”
“Not your fault,” Ianto insisted, forcing a smile. He didn’t miss the way Michael hesitated over what to call Jack.
“I can speak to him if you want?” he offered and Ianto’s smile was a touch more genuine as he led Michael to the door, seeing him out.
“Thanks, but no,” Ianto said, “I can handle this, Michael, don’t worry.”
Michael watched him for a moment before bowing his head in acquiesce. He bid Ianto a goodnight and stepped out into the early night air. Ianto stood in the doorway a moment, breathing deeply of the fresh, icy-breeze that brushed past him before gathering his wits about him and stepping back into the shop. He locked up the front, headed back to his cubicle to finish tidying up and returning Michael’s sketches to his safe, before faltering at the knowledge there was nothing left to do now other than see Jack.
His stomach lurched at the very notion, knowing that Jack was going to be rather unimpressed with him, to say the least. He dragged his feet towards Jack’s door, his knuckles rapping half-heartedly against the wood a split-second before Jack was barking for him to enter. Steeling himself, Ianto took a deep breath and stepped into Jack’s office.
“You wanted to see me, sir?” Ianto asked, all faux innocence as he stepped inside. Jack was sitting behind his desk, hands clasped so tightly together before him that his knuckles were straining white. Ianto got the distinct impression that Jack had been sitting like this for the last half-hour he’d spent dilly-dallying around.
“Do you want to tell me what the fuck was going in there?” Jack hissed, his voice hard and barely containing the fury behind his words. Ianto blinked, taken aback both by Jack’s tone and his language.
“Jack?” Ianto questioned, frowning at the other man. This was more than a boss rebuking a employee, Ianto was sure, just from Jack’s words so far he could tell that this was far more personal that that.
“Don’t play dumb with me, Ianto Jones,” Jack spat out, “I want you to explain to me what the hell you were doing playing tonsil-tennis with Mr. Schofield.”
“It wasn’t… we weren’t…” Ianto fumbled, paused, clenching his jaw tightly as he tried to find the right words to explain himself. “Look, Jack,” he tried, tone placating, “it just sort of happened. I didn’t, it certainly wasn’t planned…”
If anything, his words served only to infuriate Jack all the more.
“It just happened? It wasn’t planned?” Jack repeated with a growl.
“Jack-,” Ianto tried only to be interrupted.
“No,” Jack snarled out. “I don’t care how it happened only that it did. How dare you.”
Ianto tensed, his hands balling into fists at his sides.
“How dare I?” He choked out, indignation and anger building. “How dare I what exactly? It was just a kiss! A spontaneous, out of the blue, kiss, Jack. It was hardly anything sordid or worth making a fuss over. Hell, we’ve done worse things together whilst at work!”
“Not with clients, we haven’t!” Jack countered, his eyes sharp and dangerous as he continued with a softer, steelier, “Not when you’re with me, you don’t.”
“What, wait, is this what we’re arguing about? The fact I showed an interest in someone other than you? That’s your problem?” Ianto scoffed, finding Jack’s outrage to be entirely hypocritical when Ianto knew for a fact that they’d never been exclusive, that Ianto had never really been anything more to Jack than- to quote something Owen once said to him- a part-time shag.
“What I have a problem with,” Jack began, his voice deceptively calm, “is you entertaining clients in my studio.”
Ianto flushed a deeply unattractive colour, his mouth suddenly dry as he stood, humiliated and mortified, in the face of Jack’s words, in the face of Jack’s accusations. He knew exactly what Jack was implying here and it made his stomach roll with shame.
Ianto wanted desperately to feel anything other than disgraced as he stood before Jack’s desk, his mouth slack with shock, his eyes shining suddenly wet as the words struck at him in a way words never could before, but Ianto found that he couldn’t even summon the energy to be defensive, to deny something that should never have needed denying in the first place.
“Do me a favour, Jack,” Ianto said after a full minute of silence, his voice a breathless shake of words as he forced himself to talk. “Don’t speak to me. Don’t look at me. Don’t even breathe in my direction until you’re prepared to offer up an apology for those insinuations.”
He didn’t wait for Jack’s reply as he turned smartly on his heel and left. He lingered just long enough to grab up his jacket and car keys before storming out of the studio and hurrying to his car. By the time he’d slipped behind the steering wheel and pulled the car out into the main street, his face was wet with tears.
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