By CS WhiteWolf
The first sign that anything was out of the ordinary, came in the form of Jack’s impression of an angry dinosaur,f as he stormed from his office to where the team were congregating in the staffroom for the few minutes they had left before the studio officially opened for the morning.
He barked out his orders for the day, glaring at every single one of them bar Ianto whom he avoided looking towards at all costs before he stormed his way out again; the door to his office slamming closed behind him.
“What the fuck crawled up his arse and died?” Owen spat, indignant and accusatory as he turned to stare at Ianto who’d turned back to the coffee machine as if they’d not all just received an unprovoked tongue-lashing from their boss.
“Ianto?” Owen prompted after a minute of silence.
Ianto turned, raising his eyebrows enquiringly even as he began handing out mugs of coffee to everyone.
“Any idea what’s up with our beloved Captain?” Owen pressed, sarcastically. He took his coffee with a grumble.
“I couldn’t possibly comment,” Ianto said, the epitome of politeness as he passed Gwen and Toshiko their mugs, unsmiling.
“Well, maybe a cup of your coffee will restore his good mood, huh?” Gwen said, smiling tentatively over the rim of her own mug.
“If Jack wants coffee,” Ianto began, smartly, “then he knows where the machine is.”
He promptly lifted his own mug, excused himself and proceeded to barricade himself inside his own cubicle.
The rest of the team watched him leave with varying expressions of disbelief.
“Did tea-boy just give Jack permission to touch his coffee machine?” Owen gaped unattractively.
“I think we’ve just discovered who’s responsible for Jack’s foul mood, at least,” Toshiko replied, sipping at her coffee. Owen and Gwen looked at her inquiringly.
“Clearly there’s been some sort of altercation between Jack and Ianto,” She explained.
“Must’ve been some fight for Ianto not to even care about the coffee machine,” Owen muttered.
“Jack is the one more likely to suffer if he breaks it though,” Gwen rationalised, “have you any idea just much caffeine he consumes in a day? There’s no way he can justify sending us back and forth to Starbucks all day.”
“If he breaks it we all suffer, remember?”
Gwen shrugged. “There’s always coca-cola.”
Owen pulled a face. Toshiko appeared thoughtful.
“I think we should stock up the fridge, just in case,” she agreed and Gwen nodded.
“We can go at lunchtime?” She offered and Owen shook his head.
“How about we just make sure Jack doesn’t come near the machine?” Owen tried.
“And how do you propose we stop him?” Toshiko asked.
“One of us could make him some coffee?” Owen offered. “Except me. I’m as bad as Jack, really.”
“Don’t look at me,” Gwen laughed, “I’m only good with instant, and we all know how well a cup of that would go down right now.”
“Still, better than nothing?” Owen asked, but the girls just shook their heads at him. He crossed his arms, offended. “You two got any better ideas?”
Toshiko and Gwen shared a quick look between them before simultaneously putting their coffees down and heading towards the door.
“I’ll get the Starbucks,” Gwen said at the same time as Toshiko responded with, “I’ll see to Ianto.”
Owen sighed irritably as he was left alone in the staffroom. “And I suppose that bloody well leaves me with Jack,” he groused, throwing back the rest of his own coffee before manning it up and stomping his way towards Jack’s office.
- - -
Toshiko knocked lightly upon the door to Ianto’s cubicle, her fingers twisting the handle open as Ianto’s quietly spoken ‘come in’ reached her ears.
“Hey,” she said softly as she stepped into his space. He was sitting at his workbench; head bent over a new piece he was working on. From the rough pencil lines themselves, Toshiko knew that Ianto was trying to come up with a plausible replication of a photograph one of their clients was hoping to have tattooed onto her shoulder- the piece in remembrance of a son lost too soon. Toshiko remembered it because she’d taken the booking for Ianto herself, knowing that there was no one better to do such an obviously emotional piece.
Toshiko pulled up a chair and sat herself beside Ianto, watching as Ianto’s hand flew over the piece for a good few minutes before he made an irritable sound in the back of his throat and threw his pencil down.
“I’m not talking about it, Tosh,” He said, voice polite but tight, already knowing why Toshiko was in his cubicle watching him work.
“Okay,” Toshiko replied easily. Ianto slanted an irritated look towards her.
“Why are you here then?” Ianto asked, picking his pencil up again and making a few needless adjustments to the paper before him. Toshiko reached out and stilled his hand with a touch of her own.
“Just making sure you’re alright,” she began. She didn’t get much further however as Jack’s voice sounded angrily above the otherwise quiet of the shop as he shouted for Owen to ‘mind your own goddamned business if you know what’s good for you!’. The outburst was swiftly followed by the sound of a door slamming and Owen cussing Jack like a sailor as he stomped his way towards Ianto’s cubicle.
Owen shoved Ianto’s door fully open, pointed an accusatory finger towards him and spat, “You! Fix it!”
Ianto shot to his feet before Owen had a chance to storm off of his own accord, his face clouded with what Owen saw to be unprovoked anger as he moved swiftly towards him and slammed the door shut in his face. Ianto’s hand pressed firmly against the wood of his door, his body shaking as he tried to calm the rush of fury running through him. Owen’s renewed cursing faded away as the other man moved off to lick his wounds.
“Ianto,” Toshiko’s voice called to him and Ianto sucked in a deep breath, his eyes closing as he held the inhale for a moment before gently exhaling, his shoulders slumping as he let his anger flow from him.
“I’ve got a consultation in an hour, Tosh,” Ianto said, reopening his door and stepping to the side, “I should really get to work on Mrs Bevan’s piece.”
Toshiko took that as her cue to leave. She paused long enough that Ianto looked up, meeting her gaze, before she leant in and kissed him on the cheek.
“You know where to find me,” was all she offered before stepping from the room and gently closing the door behind her.
Ianto slumped against the door, his head thumping back as he closed his eyes and tried to pretend that this day was just not happening.
- - -
The atmosphere in the Torchwood studio lasted throughout the day with everyone tip-toeing around Jack and Ianto both. Owen, himself, was in an especially bad mood after his encounters with both men. And to make matters worse, one of Gwen’s clients- a lovely older lady by the name of Estelle who was looking to get the name of her lost lover tattooed upon her shoulder- had turned out to be a fainter. As the resident First Aid officer, Owen had been called in to see to Estelle and to ascertain as to whether she was alright or not, a task hindered by the pet cat she’d brought in with her- a vicious little thing who tried to claw Owen’s skin off every time he got too close to her.
To top off an already bad day, everyone at Torchwood found themselves so busy with booked and non-booked appointments that they had to make do with Gwen’s attempt at instant coffee since it was very clear that unless you were paying for a consultation or actual tattoo, Ianto was off-limits to all, including the coffee machine.
By the time five o’clock eventually dragged itself around, Gwen was practically running to the door with the keys jangling in her hands. She fell back against the door with a sigh, looking over to Toshiko and Owen who were propping themselves up against the reception desk to save falling into boneless heaps upon the floor.
The moment of relief lasted seconds only as a knock to the glass of the door sounded.
“We’re closed!” Gwen all but yelled as she spun on her heel to face whichever poor soul had the misfortune to try and get in after closing. Instead of the random stranger she’d been expecting to see, when Gwen turned it was to find herself face-to-face with Michael Schofield who was, as far as she could tell, at least an hour early for his appointment.
Gwen hurriedly unlocked and opened the door, ushering Michael into the studio before locking the door tightly behind her.
“You have to fix him!” Gwen squeaked out by way of greeting, her eyes comically wide as she shifted her weight from foot to foot with nervous energy. Michael frowned with bemusement, a half-smile tugging at his lips as he watched Gwen’s antics.
“Fix who?” He asked.
“Ianto!” She blurted out, “You have to fix him!”
Michael frowned, “What’s wrong with him?”
“Well if we knew that, he’d be fixed by now,” Gwen said, seriously. Michael shot a look towards Toshiko and Owen, the pair of them providing only a nod and a shrug of agreement.
“I’ll just-,” he gestured towards the back rooms and Gwen all but shoved him towards Ianto’s cubicle.
“You want to tell me what’s going on?” Michael asked, stepping into Ianto’s workspace. Ianto looked up, surprised both at the interruption and at the fact it was late enough in the day to be Michael interrupting him.
“Leave the door open,” he muttered as Michael made to close it behind him. He frowned, looking speculatively towards Ianto. Ianto said nothing, only gestured him towards the bed-chair and began his show and tell for the use of brand new needles and such for every session.
Slowly, Michael stripped his shirt off and slipped onto the bed-chair, eyeing Ianto and noting the way he looked at everything else bar him. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that there had been repercussions to their interruption the previous night.
“Look,” Michael began, “I’m sorry if-,”
“Don’t,” Ianto said quickly. “The door is open for a reason.”
He said nothing further as he moved closer and transferred the newest part of Michael’s design onto his skin. Michael kept his own silence, watching as Ianto peeled the carbon paper away and asked him to confirm the placement, which he did with the merest of nods. Their session began in silence. A sound broken up only by the humming of the tattooing gun as Ianto worked on his left side, and the shuffling of feet as one by one, Ianto’s team-mates walked slowly past his opened door, peering intently within as they passed as if hoping to source out the reasons behind the foul mood he shared with Jack.
If they were expecting some sort of big reveal, they were to be disappointed. Even Michael could see that by leaving his door open during their session together, Ianto was spiting them all by showing them that he had nothing to hide. Michael wondered what Jack had said to him last night but bit his tongue against asking.
The third time somebody stopped outside Ianto’s cubicle, Ianto paused in his work, looking up and staring, expressionlessly, towards the person standing there. Michael glanced around, craning his neck and seeing that it was Jack. Jack who stared at them both a long moment without comment before he turned on his heel and left them.
Turning back to Ianto, Michael raised an eyebrow in question. Ianto said nothing.
The rest of their session continued on in the same vein.
By the time Ianto was finished the latest segment, Michael was more than ready to leave Torchwood for the night.
- - -
Ianto slumped against his workstation after seeing Michael out of the shop. He was glad to see that the rest of the team had taken the hint and left for the night as well, leaving only Ianto and Jack- who had tucked himself away in his office after his vigilante moment- in the shop.
After forcing himself to clean up his workstation and pack away Michael’s designs, Ianto found himself hesitant over how next to proceed. He knew he should let Jack know that he was done and that he would be leaving shortly, but at the same time he’d really rather not speak to Jack at all. The man hadn’t said anything to him the entire day and Ianto was feeling more and more pissed off with Jack than anything else.
In the end, Ianto wrote him a post-it note and pinned it to the front of Jack’s office door, knowing that Jack would know he’d been there and he was certain that the Captain’s curiosity would get the better of him and he’d check before long.
That done, Ianto left the shop. He locked up after himself and headed towards his car, more than a little surprised to see that Michael was still there, waiting.
Michael stepped out of his car at Ianto’s approach.
“Is something the matter?” Ianto asked, worried that Michael was here about his tattoo or to complain about their latest session.
“No,” Michael answered, moving closer than was entirely appropriate, “please excuse my forwardness,” he said before taking a final step closer and bringing his mouth to Ianto’s in a deep and lingering kiss.
Startled, Ianto gripped at Michael’s arms, initially intent on pushing the other man away but finding that he clung to Michael instead, his mouth opening eagerly to Michael’s kiss.
“I assume I’m the reason you’re upset?” Michael asked, pulling slowly away.
“What?” Ianto asked, blinking a little dazedly up at him. Michael smiled a little smugly and Ianto tried very hard not to blush.
“No,” he eventually said, reprocessing Michael’s question. “I’m not upset.”
“Ianto, I might not know you as well as the rest of your team,” Michael pressed, “but I’m very much aware that being accosted by Gwen and told to ‘fix’ you is a sign that not everything is going well.”
“She had no right,” Ianto frowned. Michael tugged him in for another kiss, waiting until Ianto was breathless before pulling back.
“She had every right. She was worried about you. And after tonight, I’m worried about you.”
“Don’t be, I’m fine.” And to prove it, more to himself than to Michael, Ianto moved in to press his own kiss to Michael’s mouth.
- - -
Michael proved to be far less resistant to Ianto’s advances this evening and Ianto wondered if Michael had only rejected him at the club because of his intoxicated and upset state. He certainly had no qualms about following Ianto back to his apartment as they left the Torchwood premises and falling into bed with him not all that long after they’d made their way inside; intent on making sure Ianto couldn’t even remember a Captain Jack Harkness never mind why he was so angry with the man.
Ianto lay upon his stomach now, his head pillowed upon his arms as he smiled, sated, as Michael ran his hand along Ianto’s naked back; fingers tracing the lines and swirls of the tattoo spread out across his shoulder blades and the upper half of his back.
“What does it mean?” Michael asked, his voice a gentle murmur of words and Ianto closed his eyes, content to simply lie there and let Michael touch him.
“Which part?” Ianto answered, eyes still closed, imagining his tattoo- dubbed by his colleagues at work as his ‘tree of life’- which was of a large artistically designed tree, its branches stretching out and curling over his flesh, as small, symbolic images were scattered amongst its branches.
Michael’s fingers continued to dance over his back and Ianto shivered gently. “The flowers?” he asked, pressing a little at a spot near Ianto’s spine.
“Daffodils,” Ianto said with smile, seeing in his mind the yellow flowers scattered about the tree’s roots, symbolising Wales, “to remind me of home.”
Michael moved his fingers up Ianto’s spine, his nails scratching lightly against his skin and making Ianto shiver with the touch.
“The scales?” he asked, splaying his hand out over the space where the image sat.
“To remind me of my life before Torchwood, when I was studying law,” Ianto replied.
“The bird?” Michael asked, shifting closer to press a soft kiss to the image of a bird taking flight from one of the reaching branches.
“A lovebird,” Ianto corrected but said no more, opening his eyes and pushing up onto his elbows.
Michael lay himself down beside him, smiling languidly at Ianto as he reached for him, pulling him down for a long, unhurried kiss; their mouths pressing close and their bodies even closer as their kissing turned to touching and tasting and the slow rocking of hips into one another.
- - -
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