By CS WhiteWolf
The morning after the night before saw Ianto leaving his apartment at his usual time; Michael leaving him, with a promising kiss, only minutes earlier as they both made their way to their respective jobs.
Though there could be no untoward sign that anything had happened the previous night, the moment Ianto stepped into work that morning he felt the smile he’d been sporting slip from his face almost instantaneously as he saw Owen and Jack- heads bent at the counter as they conferred on something or other.
Ianto felt the first stirrings of doubt, and guilt, over what had transpired between himself and Michael the night before and he frowned, hating himself for feeling even the slightest bit like he’d somehow betrayed Jack. Jack, the man who would flirt with anyone who happened to catch his attention. Jack, who’d only nights ago disappeared with another man Ianto knew to be a past lover. Jack who was always telling not-so-tall tales of previous lovers as if nothing in the here and now could ever be so good.
Jack, who had yet to apologise for his insinuations against Ianto.
Ianto, averting his gaze just as Jack looked up to acknowledge his entrance, felt suddenly as if Jack had maybe been justified in his worries over Ianto’s own fidelity after all.
Turning his eyes back to Jack, Ianto could almost see the second Jack put two and two together and came up with Ianto and Michael, together. There should have been no way to tell, no way at all to come to the conclusion that between their fight and now that Ianto had slept with Michael, but he did. Ianto could see that he knew.
Jack stood a little straighter, saying something to Owen who looked between the pair of them with a frown as Jack nodded his head at Ianto, indicating the direction of his office. Ianto followed him, wordlessly.
“Michael?” Jack said without hesitation as Ianto stepped into his office, closing the door behind him.
“Yes,” Ianto answered, knowing there would be no point in lying to Jack, and not really wanting to either.
“You said there was nothing going on between you two.” Jack circled his desk, seating himself and gesturing for Ianto to follow suit, which he did without argument.
“There wasn’t.” Ianto said.
“But there is now?” Jack asked, eyes narrowing. Ianto looked away. “These things don’t just happen, Ianto.”
Ianto said nothing. “You’re not that easy.” Jack prompted and Ianto didn’t know whether to be flattered or insulted by the comment. He shot Jack a hot look. Jack clenched his jaw and looked away, breathing through his building anger.
“Why?” He asked after a while and Ianto clenched his fingers in his lap, trying not to fidget.
“Why not?” He asked instead, biting at the insides of his mouth. He sounded petulant even to his own ears.
“Jesus, Ianto!” Jack hissed, “Don’t I mean anything to you?”
Ianto’s eyes flashed towards him, his look dangerous. “Don’t I mean anything to you?” He threw the question back to Jack but gave him no time to answer. “Do I grill you about the lovers you take? Do I make an issue over your infidelity to me? I’ve never demanded monogamy from you Jack, so why the hell are you trying to make me feel like the bad one here?”
Jack slumped back in his chair, his anger failing him in the face of Ianto’s own fury. “You never asked for it,” he said, softly, weakly.
“It’s not something I should have had to ask for,” Ianto snapped, watching Jack bristle at the comment.
“I suppose the same could be said of you,” he needled.
“Last night was the only time-,”
“-that you’re telling me about,” Jack interrupted and Ianto flushed an unattractive shade of red.
“Don’t you dare, Jack! How can you persecute me for this when it’s all you’ve ever done to me?”
“No! Just no, damnit,” he cursed, looking away with anger, “How can it be alright for you to shag anything that catches your fancy but God forbid I show an interest in anyone else but you?”
Jack pressed his lips together and the silence between them, strained and tensed, stretched out for long minutes.
“Maybe we should think about taking a break,” Jack said slowly, breaking the quiet with his words.
“What?” Ianto gasped. Jack met his eyes with deliberateness as he spoke.
“I think we should take a break,” his words were more confident now and Ianto gaped at him, unsure how to react to them.
“You could go and have fun with Michael,” Jack added as if trying to sell the idea to him.
“Jack-,” Ianto choked out his name, but couldn’t find the words to tell Jack that no, that’s not what he wanted at all. He wanted to tell Jack than if he wanted Ianto to be his, and only his, that he would. All he had to do was promise to be his in return. He just wanted Jack to be his. His words stuck in his throat and he found himself unable to summon the courage needed to speak them aloud.
“It might be good for both of us,” Jack said.
“It won’t be good for either of us!” Ianto managed, heart thudding against his chest.
“I think you need this Ianto.” Jack said, his voice calm but a deliberate serious now, as if he’d already made up his mind that this was what they’d be doing. “You obviously want Michael. I’m giving you an out to have your fun with him without feeling guilty.”
“Jack, no,” Ianto breathed, feeling a prickling heat at his eyes and a burning in his throat. “It’s not Michael I want,” he whispered, pleadingly, but Jack turned his gaze away.
“That’s not what it looks like.”
“Jack, don’t… please don’t…”
“Go,” Jack said, ignoring his words and dismissing him in the same breath “Go be with Michael.”
Ianto sat there, too stunned to move. He felt as though he were in a dream- or a nightmare, rather- he felt sluggish and too-hot and as if he were about to break into a million tiny pieces as the first of his tears slipped past his eyes to trail down his flushed cheeks. This couldn’t be real. This couldn’t be happening. This couldn’t be the end of him and Jack. They couldn’t be… they couldn’t have…
Jack had just broken up with him.
Ianto found it in him to move then, jumping up and fleeing Jack’s office before the sobs he could feel building up inside of him could break free. He didn’t want this. He hadn’t expected this. But then… what had he expected?
- - -
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Ianto spoke before the girls had even stepped foot into his cubicle just after lunchtime, which Ianto had deliberately missed taking in the staffroom. Toshiko and Gwen shared a surprised look behind his turned back even as they made their way into the room. Ianto sighed, turning, when the pair of them stopped paces behind him and proceeded to stare intently at the back of his head.
“What do you want?” He asked, his shoulders slumping slightly as he eyed Gwen and Toshiko suspiciously.
“Ianto-,” Gwen hesitated, noting the fresh puffiness to his eyes.
“What’s going on, Ianto?” Toshiko just came right out with it. Gwen nudged her with a frown and Ianto assumed that between them, they’d initially planned to ask him in a more round about way.
“Nothing I want to talk about,” he answered, turning back to his workbench and trying to ignore the pair of them.
“We know it has something to do with Jack,” Gwen ventured and Ianto frowned at the sketchpad before him.
“Well bully for you,” he snarled back.
“We know it has something to do with Michael,” Toshiko pressed and Ianto tensed at the mention of his name.
“What part of I don’t want to talk about it, do you two not understand?” He hissed, turning back to them, his face flushed and angry. They looked surprised at his outburst but instead of leaving him as he’d expected, Toshiko and Gwen only stepped closer, arms hugging him tightly on either side.
He slumped against them after a long moment of holding himself tense; biting at the insides of his cheeks till they bled, trying to distract himself from the pain inside of him and the overwhelming want he had to break down and cry.
“I slept with Michael,” he breathed out, voice barely above a whisper. Toshiko and Gwen said nothing and Ianto didn’t have it in him to question how they obviously already knew. He felt more tears slipping from his eyes. The girls' arms just tightened around him.
- - -
His session with Michael that evening was as, if not more so, subdued as the one the previous night had been. Again most of the team lingered around the shop after closing and again Ianto left his door open, wanting to leave nothing to their imaginations as he worked on Michael’s tattoo with the utmost professionalism and dedication.
And if Michael happened to follow him home that evening, well, no one thought to mention it the next morning.
- - -
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