"Every Savage Can Dance – Two Steps Back, One Step Forward"
"The valet and waiting-maid are placed near the persons of the master and mistress, receiving orders only from them, dressing them, accompanying them in all their journeys, the confidants and agents of their most unguarded moments, of their most secret habits, and of course subject to their commands, -- even to their caprices; they themselves being subject to erring judgment, aggravated by an imperfect education. All that can be expected from such servants is polite manners, modest demeanor, and a respectful reserve, which are indispensable. To these, good sense, good temper, some self-denial, and consideration for the feelings of others… will be useful qualifications." -- Mrs. Isabella Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1861. Duties of the Valet, Chapter 2234.
"The routine of his evening duty is to have the dressing room and study, where there is a separate one, arranged comfortably for his master, the fires lighted, candles prepared, dressing-gown and slippers in their place, and aired, and everything in order that is required for his master's comforts." –- Duties of the Valet, Chapter 2242.
Jack leaned back in the tub, luxuriating in the hot, steamy bathwater. The lights were low, and Ianto was humming a soft waltz to himself as he picked up Jack's clothes from the bathroom floor. The tune was one that had been played during many fancy dinners, in many times, and Jack found himself floundering in time a bit. As he lay in the bath, eyes closed, listening, he saw in his mind a house party long ago, and a beautiful girl with whom promises had been exchanged.
The smell of the candle wax, the lavender hand soap on the basin, the gentle scuff of Ianto's shoes on the marble floor took him back to a ballroom in another grand home. There had been a beautiful girl in a soft blue gown, sitting under a potted palm, peering breathless around her fan. Jack had seen her shy eyes, her perfect pink cupid's bow of a mouth, and the pansies tucked into her hair and had swept her onto the dance floor, propriety be damned. He teased her, tasted her, reveling in stolen kisses in shadowy corners of a lush conservatory. He called her his 'sweet heart's ease' as he wooed her. Pursued her, pleased her, bedded her and wedded her. Went down on his knees for their betrothal and on their wedding day, knelt by their marriage bed, and then, too soon, by her deathbed. He took his broken heart to a grave, whose marker even now read "beloved wife and infant child."
A crisp voice floated down through his haze of memory, "Will you be requiring anything else, Sir?"
Jack paused, running his hands over the surface of the bathwater, "You take such good care of me, Ianto. Why?"
"Am I still such a mystery to you?"
Jack opened his eyes and looked up at the man standing in front of him. A man whose own eyes were full of fond afffection for the man he served. At the end of a long day, Ianto still had every button buttoned and his tie was perfectly tucked into his waistcoat. He was in every way, the perfect gentleman's gentleman. His only concession to the lateness of the hour was his suit jacket hung on the hook on the back of the bathroom door, and his wristwatch lying on the vanity counter, precisely where it would be needed the next morning.
"Don't get me wrong. I love the mystery. But I wonder sometimes if I take too much, or you give too much. Like maybe we aren't…"
Ianto cut him off saying, "We've had this conversation," as he rolled up his shirtsleeves.
"I know. But maybe we should have it again."
"What were you thinking about Jack, lying there in the tub?"
Ianto perched on the back of the tub, behind Jack, and just chuckled, saying, "Dunk your head for me."
Jack slid under the water for a moment, and then sat back up, marveling at Ianto's capacity to accept random answers. Although Jack knew that Ianto was often frustrated by some of the things Jack did or said, for the most part all that was pushed aside, deftly hidden, or genuinely forgiven and ignored. Ianto's ability to accept what he was willing or able to give him in the way of answers was a quality that Jack truly valued.
Ianto squeezed some shampoo into his hands, and then proceeded to soap Jack's hair. He loved to run his fingers through Jack's hair and he enjoyed the feel of the soap bubbles tickling his palms. Concentrating on finding the tense muscles at the nape of the neck and around the temples, Ianto tried to scrub away the stresses of the day while he figured out how to respond to Jack's line of inquiry.
Jack was making very pleased noises as Ianto worked on some knots in his neck with his thumbs. He didn't resist when Ianto pushed him under the water and ruffled his fingers through his hair, rinsing out the soap. When Ianto let go, Jack sat back up and found his head engulfed in a fluffy white towel. Ianto briskly rubbed most of the moisture out of his hair, and then went back to working on the stiff muscles in Jack's neck and shoulders.
"Do you have any idea how good that feels?"
Ianto kissed the pulse point just under Jack's left ear, and then nipped his earlobe before replying, "You're just full of questions tonight aren't you, Sir?"
Ianto stood up, placing the folded towel over the back of the tub, adding, "Lay back and relax while I get us a drink."
The candles flickered as Ianto opened the bathroom door and slipped into the bedroom. Jack listened to him moving around in the suite. After a few minutes, Ianto came back with a bottle and one glass. He had also changed into a much-washed light blue t-shirt with a barely visible Guinness logo and a pair of striped pajama bottoms. He padded across the room in his bare feet and poured a generous measure of Scotch into a crystal low-ball glass. "Iechyd Da, Jack," he said, and then took a drink, knowing full well that Jack wouldn't be able to take his eyes off the press of his lips against the glass, the movement of the muscles in his throat, or the dark sweep of eyelashes against his cheeks as his eyes slid closed while he drank.
Handing the glass to Jack, he smiled as he curled up on the rug next to the tub. Jack took a long swallow, and then handed the glass back to Ianto. Jack loved this little tradition that they had developed of sharing a single glass in their most private moments together.
Ianto had inadvertently come up with this one night when he found he had only enough coffee ice cream in the freezer for one bowl. So he'd stuck two spoons in the bowl, and they had shared it, curled up on the couch in his flat, watching an old black and white movie. Jack had improved on the custom a few nights later when they had come back to the Hub after an exhausting late night Weevil hunt. He sent Ianto down to his bunk to shower, and Jack grabbed one wine glass from Ianto's well-stocked work area, and slipped down the ladder. He rummaged around in his footlocker and found a bottle of Cabernet he'd been keeping for a special occasion. He uncorked the bottle, and then slipped into the shower with Ianto. Afterwards, tired, but sated, they had curled up in Jack's bed, and had shared a glass of wine together. Ianto had fallen asleep in the middle of telling a story about his father renting a boat to take him fishing on the bay, and Jack had finished off the wine in the glass before curling up next to Ianto and getting a few hours sleep himself.
"Do you remember what happened the first time we tried to have this discussion?" Ianto asked, punctuating his question with a raised eyebrow that Jack knew so very well.
"I remember things improving after we stopped talking and started kissing." Jack leaned over, took the whiskey glass from Ianto, drained it, and handed it back to Ianto. Jack then pulled Ianto in for a long whiskey-flavored kiss, smiling as the glass slipped from Ianto's hand during the kiss and rolled across the floor.
"But do you remember what I said?" Ianto asked as he reluctantly broke off the kiss.
"Before… or after?" Jack smirked as he watched Ianto retrieve the glass and set it carefully on the floor next to the Scotch bottle.
"Maybe you should remind me how that conversation went."
Ianto felt wet fingers trail up his arm and cup the back of his head, pulling him to his knees as damp-fingered caresses sparked memories of another time and place…
The first quiet night after Jack's return, he had dragged Ianto down to the pub for fish and chips.
"They're just chips, Jack," Ianto had protested.
"I missed chips," Jack said, idly rubbing his right wrist with his left hand, and Ianto wondered how this man who had seen so much, could still seem so like a little boy begging for a goldfish in a shop window.
"Chips it is then," Ianto sighed, almost hating himself for giving in, but Jack's delight slipped under his defenses, and he tried not to smile.
"Don't underestimate chips, Ianto. They're one of the wonders of the universe."
Ianto had helped Jack into his coat, and they had silently ridden the lift up to the Plass.
It had been an awkward meal as they both felt like strangers to each other. They had chatted about the Rugby match on the telly, about things that had happened in Cardiff while Jack was gone, but they hadn't known how to say the things they wanted to say. It started pouring down rain just as they left the pub, intent on getting back to work. They ducked under the awning of a shoe store a few doors down from the pub hoping the rain would soon slack off, and Jack had pulled Ianto into an impulsive kiss. Ianto had leaned into the kiss for one unguarded moment, and then firmly pushed Jack away from him.
"You can't just assume we can pick up where we left off. I don't think I want to."
"Tell me what you do want, Ianto," Jack bristled.
"You can't just come back and start ordering me around. Let's face facts, Sir. You are no longer the master of my fate. I served my time. I did my penance. You're the deserter now, Group Captain," Ianto said as he jabbed his finger into Jack's left shoulder, just underneath the greatcoat's epaulettes.
Ianto knew he should stop talking, but the anger that had been simmering for months boiled over before he could check the words.
"You've became the traitor to Torchwood everyone always said you would be," Ianto spat out.
"Guilty as charged," Jack sneered after a pause, and then continued.
"So what is my punishment? If you plan to make me suffer I warn you I've been worked over by better men than you…"
As Ianto stood facing Jack, hands on his hips, eyes snapping with anger, he noticed Jack again unconsciously rubbing his right wrist. Ianto suspected that whatever had happened to Jack while he was gone, was something that was still affecting him profoundly. It didn't mitigate his anger, but he paused for a deep breath before continuing.
"I'm sick of the games Jack. Whatever this is, is spectacularly fucked up. I mean, look where we are," Ianto laughed bitterly, pointing vaguely in the direction of the alley that ran along the side of the shop.
"The first time I saw you in Cardiff you were screwing a girl at the end of this alleyway. Christ, my life really has come full circle…"
Ianto rubbed the back of his neck, and stared out into the rain.
The beginning isn't such a bad place to be, is it Ianto? Don't you sometimes want to have the chance to go back and do things over again?" asked Jack softly.
Ianto wondered to himself if the brutal universe he knew actually had room in it for do-overs. He had no idea that if anyone knew the answer to that question, it was Jack.
Getting no response from Ianto, Jack pushed him out into the drizzle so that they were standing at the end of the alleyway. He leaned into him from behind, putting both hands around his waist, and whispered in his ear, "When you were here watching me in this alley… did you want to be that girl?"
"Truth, Jack?" Ianto asked breathlessly, turning in Jack's arms so they were face to face.
"Tell me true, Ianto," Jack said, slowly running the back of his fingers along Ianto's jaw line.
"I wanted to be you…" Ianto said, eyes downcast, fingers playing with one of the buttons on Jack's greatcoat, and then abruptly, he pushed Jack into the damp alleyway up against the railings of the shoe store's loading dock. Both men were breathing hard and dripping wet from the rain.
"Take what you want Ianto. Make me give you what you want," Jack thought suddenly, the thought registering as equal parts desire and desperation.
Ianto grabbed the lapels of Jack's coat and fiercely shoved him up against the brick building in a shadowy corner underneath a fire escape, the length of their bodies hotly plastered together. With a growl of frustration, Ianto rasped out, "Bloody Torchwood."
Jack's laugh is captured in a kiss that seems to go on forever as Ianto reacquaints himself with Jack's mouth. Gasping for air Ianto slips his hands inside the greatcoat, the need for skin-to-skin contact driving him as he yanks Jack's shirt and undershirt untucked.
"Remember, Jack. Remember the feel of my hands …" Ianto thinks to himself.
The ability to talk is lost as their lips are soon busy with messy open-mouthed kisses. Jack and Ianto are kissing fiercely as Ianto's hands finds their way around Jack's waist, pulling their hips tighter together, the friction ratcheting up their arousal. Ianto can't think, doesn't want to think, as their bodies move. They mix hot wet kisses seeking flesh, with damp sweaty hands grasping at wool, and cotton, and silk.
The need for oxygen winning out over passion for a few moments, Jack's head drops back against the brick wall, and Ianto takes the opportunity to rake his teeth down Jack's neck.
"I missed you Jack," Ianto says as he wound his fingers in Jack's hair. Gripping the hair in his fingers tightly and pulling just hard enough to make Jack meet his eyes in surprise, he says, "Tell me you missed me…" his voice rough with desire.
Jack stills for a moment, meeting Ianto's gaze and saying finally, "Make sure the questions you ask are ones that you're prepared to hear the answers to…"
"It's time for the truth, Jack," Ianto growls. "Fucking answer the question…"
Jack grabbed Ianto, slammed him up against the wall opposite, and kissed him with a passion that left Ianto dazed, but with no doubts about how much he had been missed.
Before Ianto even really knew how it happened, Jack had his belt and trousers undone, and he felt Jack's cool hand slip inside the waistband of his underwear, his deft stroking causing Ianto to gasp, the muscles in his back shuddering beyond Ianto's ability to control them.
Jack smiled, and asked softly, "Does that answer your question?"
With Jack's fingers ghosting over his erection, Ianto found it rather difficult to think.
When at last he whispered, "Explain it to me again?" Jack smirked and he slid to his knees, running his hands down Ianto sides. With his fingers he pulled Ianto's trousers and underwear down as he ran his tongue across Ianto's hipbone, causing Ianto to whimper Jack's name...
"Jesus, Jack! What the fuck?!" Ianto cried out as Jack pulled him over the tub edge and into the bath, sloshing water everywhere and soaking Ianto to the skin.
Jack rolled them over so that Ianto was pinned against the back of the tub, with Jack straddling his thighs.
"You're a bit overdressed for this situation, don't you think?" Jack crooned, his fingers teasing down the front of Ianto's sodden t-shirt.
"I don't recall a wet t-shirt contest being on the conference schedule, Sir," Ianto said, trying to sound stern, but failing utterly. It didn't help that Jack found a rumpled, wet, flushed and indignant Ianto absolutely adorable.
"Doesn't matter, Ianto… I'm about to disqualify you from the competition. Lift your arms up for me, darlin'," Jack said huskily as he worked his fingers up under the hem of the shirt, and proceeded to peel it off over Ianto's head.
Ianto was momentarily distracted by the sound of his wet t-shirt hitting the bathroom floor, but thoughts of objecting to soggy laundry and ridiculous endearments went right out of his head when Jack leaned in for a deep wet kiss. He tried to fix the memory of laying submerged with Jack in a large iron claw-foot tub in a marble bathroom, kissing as candlelight flickered across their wet bodies, but soon, Ianto found he could think of nothing but lips and teeth and tongue and skin, of fingers twined in damp hair, bodies pressed together, both of them surrendering to the pleasure of this timeless moment of perfect passion.
As the soft purple light of dawn filtered into the room, Jack stood at the window, wrapped in Ianto's dressing gown, smiling as he thought back over the previous evening. Ianto was sleeping face down in the bed, the duvet bunched around his hips. Jack listened to his lover's slow deep breaths that were not quite a snore. Jack guessed that Ianto would sleep deeply for the next few hours.
They had given each other quite a workout. There had been mutual pleasures in the tub, and then as they were drying each other off, Ianto had unexpectedly pinned Jack to the bathmat and put lips that were already swollen from kissing to work. Before Jack thought it possible he came hard and fast in Ianto's mouth. Ianto slid up his body, lay against him and kissed him languidly for a while, finally whispering in his ear, "Turn about is fair play, Sir. Count to ninety-nine and meet me in the other room."
When Jack slipped into the bedroom eighty-seven seconds later he found Ianto standing by the bed, wearing only Jack's greatcoat. Jack crossed to Ianto who changed the rules of the game, when he pushed Jack over the edge of the bed and proceeded to fuck him hard and fast right then and there. In the aftermath, Jack tossed the greatcoat aside and took Ianto to bed. Unable to keep their hands off each other, they sought out their favorite sensitive spots and delighted in driving each other to the brink, over and over again. Eventually they collapsed into a heap in the middle of the bed utterly exhausted, and thoroughly satisfied.
Jack watched the early morning light slide across Ianto's back for a long while, and then pulling the drapes shut, he slipped out of the robe, and crept back under the covers. He snuggled up behind Ianto, wrapping one arm possessively around the other man's waist, and burying his head in the nape of Ianto's neck he lay there, listening to the rise and fall of soft breaths. With a satisfied sigh, Jack closed his eyes and drifted peacefully to sleep.
a/n: Whew. What a ride! What started out in my head as a harmless piece of Jack/Ianto fluff ended up something a little more meaningful, a lot more satisfying, and much more of a challenge to write – especially this last chapter. Thanks to everyone who kept encouraging me to continue the tale. The first part of the title of this chapter is a line from "Pride and Prejudice." Darcy, of course, Chapter 6. As originally envisioned this was just another master-servant role-play in a country manor house, so it seemed fitting to end with a bit of Darcy pride. Ironically, the overriding image I had when the story began never even made it into the story… but perhaps it will end up in another story one day.