Summary: Jack doesn't always show much restraint. But a bet with Owen forces him to go a month without flirting, with amusing and sometimes painful consequences.
Rating: PG-13 for some language and a bit if innuendo. Come on, it's Jack! Of course there's innuendo. Oh, yeah, and it's got some slashiness: Jack/Ianto (who saw that coming?)
Author's Note: Not sure whether this is credit or blame. While the "no flirting" idea was mine, the shock-collar idea comes to you courtesy of Kameka's admirably twisted mind. Several of the funnier one-liners and scenes are hers as well. Love you, sister!
Takes place early in the season 2. Janto is an established couple and Owen can still enjoy alcohol. No spoilers.
Disclaimers: I own no part of the Whoniverse, although the TARDIS is on my Christmas list. Also wouldn't say no if I found the Doctor (who does not appear in this fic), Jack, or Ianto in my stocking. Or any combination of the above.
My first TW fic. Please feed my muses. Hit the feedback button, it only takes a second. Even (especially) if you hate it, I want to know. Thanks. Enjoy the fic…
Jack was feeling pleasantly buzzed as he sat in the bar with his employees. It had been a good night for Torchwood. They had managed to catch the alien baddies with no injuries and no civilians the wiser. Taking the team out to celebrate had seemed like a great idea. They were certainly enjoying themselves more than they had in a while.
He smiled up at the waitress as she brought another pitcher of beer to the table. "Thanks, gorgeous," he murmured, winking.
Ianto studiously ignored this, the way he always did. That was their understanding; Jack was allowed to look as long as he did not touch. Which was fair enough. Jack knew a good thing when he had one. He was not about to do anything to tick Ianto off.
Owen was not in on the agreement, and he looked at Jack with what looked like a combination of approval and disgust.
"Do you have to hit on every person with a pulse?"
"Beats me hitting on the ones without a pulse, right?" Jack asked, which sent Gwen into a giggle-fit. Tosh turned pink but Ianto just shook his head. "Besides, Owen, you're one to talk."
Gwen laughed harder, smacking the table with her hand. Toshiko made a point of refilling her empty glass.
Jack was a little tipsy, but for every glass Jack had polished off, Owen had had at least two so, when he stood up to challenge Jack, he wobbled slightly.
"A hundred quid says I can go longer than you without hitting on women."
"Don't tell him that," Ianto muttered, shaking his head. "He'll think it's an excuse to flirt twice as hard with the men. It's like an addiction for him."
"Wonder if they have a twelve-step program for that?" Gwen mused.
"I am not a… flirting-addict," Jack laughed, shaking his head. "I can quit any time I want to."
Even Ianto laughed at that. He could have given Jack a little support, but no…
"What? I can!" Jack protested over the laughter of the others.
"Love you like a brother, Jack," Toshiko said. "But I'll believe that when I see it."
He growled at her, but it didn't affect her any more than it did Ianto. He was going to have to work on his technique. Shaking his head, he sat down and helped himself to more beer.
"Here's a thought, Jack," Owen said, his expression almost malicious. "You go one month without flirting and I'll finish the three years worth of paperwork and reports I owe you."
Everyone at the table fell silent at that pronouncement, staring between Jack and Owen with wide eyes. The gauntlet had been thrown!
"You going to stay with me twenty-four hours a day?" Jack wanted to know. "Because, otherwise, how would you know whether I was keeping my word?"
"Oh, I'm sure I can find a way," Owen answered cheerfully. His eyes slid to Ianto. "Of course, it's kind of hard to have sex without flirting…"
"Leave me out of this," Ianto answered, holding up both hands and leaning away from the table. "I came here tonight for the company, not some ridiculous dare."
"It affects you, too, Ianto," Gwen was quick to point out. "I mean, a whole month…"
"She's right," Jack agreed, grinning. "I couldn't possibly do that to you, Ianto."
Ianto scowled at him, then grinned and raised an eyebrow, his expression smug and evocative. The unspoken meaning behind the look was obvious:
You weren't saying that last night, Captain.
Jack laughed and looked around the table. "I'm on my own on this one, aren't I? Don't have one of you supporting me?"
"Might be good for you, Jack," Toshiko pointed out.
He looked at Ianto who shrugged as if it were no skin off his nose either way. He didn't think Jack could do it!
"You're on, Owen!" he declared, earning himself an incredulous look from Ianto. Show him. "One month: no flirting, no other extracurricular activity."
All four of them gaped at him.
"And that paperwork had better be properly filled in."
"You have to win the bet first," Owen pointed out, smirking. "Now, let's see. How are we going to insure that you play by the rules? Tosh, you still have the conditioning collar we found, don't you?"
"The…" Jack stared at him with wide eyes. "No! I did not agree to wear a shock-collar for the next month!" he protested.
"Well, we have to keep you honest somehow," Owen pointed out. "Any time you want to back out, I'll be more than happy to disengage the collar. Seriously, Jack. Twenty-four seven." He smiled.
Jack stared at Ianto, who just gave another shrug. His look clearly said that he thought that Jack would give in within the first few days. If not sooner. The man knew him too well.
Jack shook his head and looked around at his occasionally-mutinous employees. They were all wearing expressions conveying varying degrees of amusement and skepticism. Not one of them seemed to believe it was possible for him to refrain for a month.
What the hell was up with that? He had spent years without another living soul in sight. He wasn't so far-gone that he would be beaten by a month without sex. No matter how good the current sex was. Ianto was looking complacent, but Jack knew him better than that. He would be begging Jack to call off the bet within three days.
And serve him right…
"Alien shock-collar," he agreed, smiling as Owen's smug look faded. "Thirty days. Can do that standing on my head. Hell, have done that standing on my head," he informed Owen. "Had to. The artificial gravity was acting up," he explained at the looks the others were giving him.
Back at the Hub, it only took Owen and Toshiko a few minutes to reprogram the alien conditioning collar. Jack was familiar with the specifications. In certain more barbaric parts of the universe, the things were still used to potty-train children.
For the most part, they were used for the correction of criminal or addictive behavior. Any behavior the onboard computer deemed unacceptable would be met with a painful electric shock, commensurate to the severity of the infraction. Just like teaching a dog not to piss on the carpet.
Well, Jack was no dog. He could refrain from jumping people's legs for a month. No big deal. Even if Ianto was currently wearing the jeans that looked like he had painted them on…
"You sure about this, Jack?" the Welshman murmured as Tosh and Owen programmed the new specifications into the collar.
Gwen was watching the proceedings with a look of increasing dread as sobriety overtook drunken amusement. "I'm not so sure this is a good idea," she announced to no one in particular. "Jack said that thing's capable of delivering a lethal dose of electricity."
"Not much of a problem in Jack's case," Owen pointed out.
"Seriously, Jack, are we sure that thing is safe?" Ianto whispered urgently.
He had been amused and doubtful in the bar. Now he just looked worried, which Jack found highly gratifying. He was wondering how he could turn Ianto's concern to his own benefit when it occurred to him that he was going to be sleeping alone tonight.
Still, he was not an animal. He could go without sex for a few days. Ianto's company was highly… stimulating even when there was no actual sex involved.
"If the Doctor could see me now, huh?" he asked Ianto, grinning to reassure the younger man. "He once said that, for me, introducing myself was the same thing as flirting."
"He had a point," Ianto muttered.
"Oh, ye of little faith," Jack answered, shaking his head. "Trust me, Ianto. If you can handle a month without me, I can handle a month without you."
"Well, I never said I'd enjoy it. I just don't want you to hurt yourself or, you know… pull something…"
"When we all know pulling things I have is your job," Jack answered, winking.
"Get that out of your system now," Ianto answered. "Because flirting isn't allowed either."
"Working with you without flirting with you? Huh. Well, I never said this was going to be easy."
Ianto smiled weakly. "You sure about this, Jack?" he repeated.
Somehow, his genuine concern was almost as annoying as his previous amusement with the idea. "Ianto, I'm a big boy. I can handle this. It's not that big a deal."
"If you're sure."
"Relax," Jack urged. "This'll be like standing on my head. Especially if I have your support." He smiled warmly at Ianto, looking up as Owen and Tosh approached. "Got it programmed? Great, then let's do this!"
The first few days were not so bad. Jack and Ianto were up to their eyeballs in different but equally urgent bits of paperwork. Jack seldom left his office and even went without his customary coffee because Ianto was too busy to make it. By the third day, the caffeine-withdrawal headache was growing unbearable.
At first, he thought he must be imagining the delightful smell of Ianto's most lovingly-brewed cappuccino. The man took real pride in all his work, even things as basic as making a cup of coffee.
He looked up at the sound of knocking on the office door, nearly drooling when he saw Ianto with a cup of coffee in hand.
"Oh, you're kidding," he moaned longingly, staring at the cup in Ianto's hand and just appreciating the smell.
"I know I've been remiss the last couple of days, but I thought you might appreciate this," Ianto explained, placing the cup on the desk.
"I could kiss you," Jack answered. Pain lanced through him, starting at his neck. "What the hell!" he protested, lifting his hand to the collar he was wearing. "That was an expression of gratitude, damn you!"
Ianto regarded him with a sympathetic expression. "You okay?"
"I may have to have Tosh mess with the presets on this," he answered with a shrug, picking up the coffee and inhaling its scent. "Oh, that's a relief, Ianto. I've been missing your coffee."
"Is that the only thing about me you've been missing?" Ianto asked, sitting on the edge of the desk.
"What do you think?"
"Oh, now that's just crap!" Jack protested. "You can't penalize me for being honest with my boyfriend, you piece of junk!"
Ianto got back to his feet. "Sorry I asked. You still sure about this, Jack?"
"Never had anything to prove yourself, then?" Jack sighed. He shook his head. "Never mind. What about you? Holding up okay?"
"It's only been a few days. We've had cases keep us apart longer than this." He grasped Jack's shoulder. "We'll manage."
Jack opened his mouth to respond, then thought better of it. "Thanks for the coffee, Ianto. I appreciate it."
"I'm glad," Ianto answered. "I won't ask for my customary reward right now. You can save those up for me."
Jack grinned. "Thanks, Ianto. I'll be sure to do th--"
Cringing internally, Ianto hurried from the office.
Of course, life could not be all boring paperwork and sequestering himself in the Hub. Not flirting was really no challenge at all when there was no one to flirt with. Even if he still had what felt like a caffeine-headache in spite of regular infusions of coffee.
Then Torchwood was called to a case being handled by Detective Kathy Swanson, who had helped them out with the whole Suzie Costello fiasco last year.
"New fashion accessory, Captain?" Swanson asked, eyeing his 'necklace'.
Jack opened his mouth, then jumped a foot, grabbing his neck and grimacing. "Damn it!"
She stared at Torchwood's eccentric leader. Come to think of it, he didn't look so good. In fact he liked like a man with a nasty case of food-poisoning. Still, if he wanted to be up and about, she supposed that was his business.
"No problem," Jack assured her lightly, starting towards the crime-scene. "Let's see your body." He stumbled, letting out a pained cry. "The body!" he gasped. "The dead one…"
"Uh, right this way." She led Jack and his team in under the tape and showed them into the office-building where the crime had taken place.
"Hey!" the CSI tech protested as Jack led the way into the room. "Authorized personnel only! Who the hell are you?"
She was new to Cardiff, and still aggressive in defense of her scenes. Young for the job, she managed to make white hazmat look attractive; probably exactly the Captain's type.
"Captain Ja--" Cutting off abruptly, Jack staggered backwards and leaned heavily against the wall, looking dazed and more than a little irritated. His people were staring at him with wide eyes and varying degrees of amusement. "Damn it, it isn't the same thing," he breathed to no one in particular. "Besides, she started it…"
"Torchwood," Ianto supplied, stepping forward. He raised an eyebrow at Jack and mouthed, "Are you okay?"
Jack nodded weakly and gestured for his people to get on with it. He closed his eyes and drew a series of breaths.
Ianto clapped his hands together and approached the kneeling CSI. "Okay, people, let's get to work!"
Gwen was helping Ianto with the computer end of covering up the actual events of the case. 'Arson' sounded better than 'spontaneous human combustion', so that was the story they were going with.
"Where's Jack?" she asked as they typed.
"Hazmat showers," Ianto answered, shaking his head. "That CSI tech was pretty. I think he's still coming up with things he could have said to her if it hadn't been for that collar. I'm sure the cold water is helping quell his… natural impulses."
"You don't sound all that sympathetic."
"Oh, dreadfully sympathetic, really," Ianto assured her, grinning. "Doesn't mean I'm not enjoying it, too." He held up a hand as she opened her mouth, "And don't tell me you don't think it was funny. I saw the look you gave him when he was trying to introduce himself…"
Gwen colored, unable to deny it. The look on poor Jack's face had been priceless.
"I'm considering convincing him to renegotiate with Owen," Ianto admitted after a moment, not taking his eyes from his computer screen and typing so fast his fingers blurred over the keys.
"I told you you'd regret it," she teased.
"I'm not worried for myself!" he answered. "I can handle bloody Owen's idea of a joke. Jack, on the other hand, seems to be experiencing all the classical symptoms of withdrawal."
Gwen's eyes widened. "I'll go talk to Owen."
"Just don't tell Jack I said anything. He thinks he's doing a good job at covering it up."
Sighing, Ianto went back to his work, reflecting that he worked in a den of absolute crazies: sadistic and misanthropic Owen Harper, over-empathic and too-involved Gwen, Jack bloody Harkness who was such a sex addict that he thought he had to go a month without so much as flirting to prove he could go without play and not keel over from it…
"You do realize that you're the only sane or rational person who works here, I hope," he told Toshiko as he brought her her coffee later that afternoon.
"How's that, Ianto?" she asked, frowning uncertainly.
"Gwen, do you have that report for m— Aghh!" Jack called from across the Hub. "Damn it!" But he made no move to actually argue with the shock-collar's judgment.
"I think I see your point," Toshiko told him, picking up her coffee with a forced smile. "Thanks for the coffee, Ianto. I'll just… be double-checking the programming on that thing. Seems a bit sensitive."
"Just a tad," Ianto sighed, going to bring Jack and Gwen their coffee.
"Has it been a month yet?" Jack asked weakly that night after the others had left.
"Six days," Ianto told him, dropping onto the couch next to him. On the upside, the worst of the physical withdrawal symptoms seemed to have passed. "Seven in a few hours. Holding up okay?"
"Three cold showers a day doesn't begin to help."
"Tell me about it," Ianto grumbled.
Jack's haggard face lit up. "You, too?"
"What do you think?" Ianto scoffed. "Jack, I can't begin to tell you some of the measures I've had to take to stay sane. Not when there are cameras in this room and I know for a fact that Owen's been studying the CCTV footage for signs that you're cheating."
"We must have him on the run by now?" Jack suggested, sounding brighter than he had in days. "'Cause I know for a fact that he didn't expect me to hold out this long."
"I don't think any of us did, to be quite honest," Ianto told him. "I know I didn't…"
"I'll bet not," Jack answered grinning at him. "I've hardly bothered with self-restraint around you. In fact--" He winced. "Damn."
Ianto rested a hand on Jack's back, rubbing in soothing circles. "You're going to make it through this, Jack," he promised.
"I'd have an easier time if you'd stop touching me!"
Ianto jerked his hand away as if he'd been burned. "Sorry."
Jack sighed softly. "No, I'm sorry. It's just easier when you aren't… You know what? In the interest of saving myself another shock, I'm not going to finish that sentence."
"Probably for the best," he agreed.
"Still, it might be best if you were to start keeping a log--"
"Ah! Like in your diary--"
"Oh, cut that out! I'm getting through this!" He shook himself and looked at Ianto. "Logbook, of missed-- Geez! Man! Okay, so, when oppor-- Gah! --tunities are missed, you were to just make a quick note, we can-- Ooof! after I get this damned thing off. Review-- Arrgghh! your notes."
Jack leaned back on the sofa, closing his eyes and sucking in deep breaths as Ianto stared at him, wide-eyed.
"Okay. I'll just go ahead and start noting these things down. If you promise never to do that to yourself again!"
"Don't think I could if I tried," Jack assured him with a weak grin.
"Good. So… shall I go home now, or did you want to risk dinner?"
"Well," Jack began in a cautious tone of voice. Slowly, he told Ianto, "I could use the company." He sat up straighter, looking startled. "Hey, it didn't shock me…"
"Well, that's promising," Ianto answered. "Pizza or Chinese?"
They settled on pizza and worked their way through most of it in relative silence. Jack had been avoiding Ianto as much as possible since putting on the shock-collar. Still, it seemed that the only thing Jack had to do to avoid a nasty shock was to keep his mouth shut.
"This is nice," Jack told him. He paused for a moment, then grinned. "I need to buy Tosh a nice present."
Ah! "She recalibrated the collar for you?"
"Said she couldn't see why it kept going off before I even said anything. Wasn't part of her programming, so she changed it."
"Does Owen know?" Ianto frowned. "I wouldn't put it past him to decide that this nullifies your deal."
"What Owen doesn't know," Jack answered, grinning at him. "Thing is, Ianto, I wouldn't put it past Owen to have made the damned thing that sensitive in the first place…"
Ianto stared at Jack with wide eyes, his mouth hanging slightly open. "That's just cruel!"
"No, that's just Owen," Jack answered. "So, we aren't going to mention to anyone that the collar isn't still working exactly as programmed." He grinned. "If the rules are fair, I can handle three more weeks standing on my head. In fact, big fella--"
"Jeez!" Jack gasped, clutching his neck. "You know what, never mind. We'll discuss it when I have this damned thing off. 'Cause, when I do, you and me are going to--"
"Careful, Jack," Ianto cautioned as Jack shook it off. "Tosh may have fiddled with the settings on that thing, but I'd say it still does the basic job of punishing any behavior it doesn't like."
"Yeah, I'm actually starting to think it might be a Mark Two."
"A Mark Two?" Ianto repeated, raising an eyebrow.
"Yeah, well, the Mark One was kind of ineffective as a deterrent because it could only punish a behavior after it's already been committed. So they made the Mark Two… mildly psychic."
"You think that thing's psychic and you're still wearing it?" Ianto stared. "Jack, that's mad!"
"I'm not a sex-addict and I'm sick of the most important person in my life thinking I am, okay?"
Ianto recoiled. "You're doing this because of me? Oh, Jack, that is crazy."
"It's worth it," Jack answered, giving Ianto that serene smile that he generally only wore right before running off to face some lethal danger all by himself.
Which was not such a reassuring look.
"Just tell me that thing can't kill you?"
Jack's expression turned furtive.
"Oh, God, man!" Ianto sighed, climbing to his feet.
"Hey, where you going?" Jack demanded, jumping up as well.
"Home, so you don't unintentionally electrocute yourself. See you in the morning, Jack…"
"Did we just have a fight?" Jack asked.
"Not sure," Ianto answered honestly.
"Hey!" Jack called after him. "Does that mean no m-- Ow! Damn it!"
Ianto shook his head. "Night, Jack," he called, grinning in spite of himself.
Jack actually hit his stride a few days after Tosh made the programming changes. The shock-collar did not keep him from exchanging the occasional knowing or just plain coy glance with Ianto. Of course, he spent a lot of time downstairs in the icy Decon Shower.
Ianto kept on disappearing for thirty or forty minutes at a time and reappearing with damp hair and a faint flush to his complexion as if he had been doing something embarrassing. Which was actually pretty hot. But, just as long as Jack kept his mouth shut, there was no unpleasant electrical shock to intrude on such pleasant reflections.
Jack had been aware of Ianto's absence for the main Hub for probably ten minutes when he received an email from Owen. Considering that Owen was right downstairs, he did not see why the doctor did not simply come up, or even shout whatever he had to say to Jack. Curious, he opened the message.
Video footage. Of Ianto in the Decon Shower. Jack could just bet where this was going. But he was powerless to close the window. It had been a very long three weeks, after all.
Which was, presumably, why Owen was not even pretending to play fair any more. The day before, it had been nudie magazines scattered across his desk when he woke up, and the day before that Owen had required Jack to sit in on an interrogation with two members of the most promiscuous race in the galaxy (no, not humans). They had been more interested in each other than in their interrogators, probably because the interrogators were on the other side of a sheet of Plexiglas.
"Oh, Ianto, you know there are cameras down there," he moaned, shaking his head and willing his lover to stop. "You're the one who insisted I put them everywhere in the Hub after Lisa…"
Jack closed his eyes, but there was still audio to contend with. Yup, obviously Ianto was feeling as frustrated as Jack himself.
Deep breaths, Harkness, he told himself. "It's only five more days. Standing on your head, remember?"
He clicked shut the window on the computer and decided to start pacing the office instead. Bad move. His slacks were just a little too well-starched and his silk boxers…
"Jack, why are you standing on your head?" Gwen asked when she entered the office some twenty minutes later.
"Just, you know, increase the flow of blood to my-- Gah! brain, damn you, my brain!" he snapped, getting his feet back under him. "Problem?" he added politely.
"No, I just have those police reports you were after me to get. You really plan on going through with this?"
"I didn't come this far to back out with five days to go. I've been after Owen for that paperwork for years. Besides, self-denial is good for the soul."
Gwen handed him the folders in her hand. "You actually believe that?"
Jack grinned. "Not for one second."
He winked at Gwen, managing not to wince at the mild shock the collar delivered in response to the action. He tended to react more visibly when Owen was in the room, usually accompanying his little jumps or winces with curses and sometimes even arguments over whether a specific behavior constituted flirting or not. But he didn't want to worry the others, so he tended to downplay his responses to it as much as possible.
"Thanks for these," he told her, dropping the files on his desk. "When you see Ianto, can you tell him I could do with another cup of coffee?"
"You sure that's wise, Jack?" she asked.
Her eyes were not on his face.
"Yeah, on second thought, if you could get it for me?"
"Coming right up," she promised Jack, doing her best not to giggle.
"Yeah, I know!" he called after her. "Losing battle." He shook his head, murmuring, "Tell me about it…"
Day thirty dawned bright and beautiful. Of course, Jack would have considered it a glorious day even if it had been three degrees and raining. Instead it was twenty-four and sunny.
"Morning, troops!" he greeted the others as they arrived. "Beautiful day, isn't it?"
"Be more beautiful tomorrow," Ianto answered, looking… well, exactly like a man who had not gotten any for a month.
"Two in the morning," Jack answered, raising an eyebrow. "Then you and I-- Okay, so I deserved that one…" He looked around the room. "Tosh, when I get this thing off, it goes with the other restricted equipment, okay? I nearly got electrocuted in the shower last night. Hey! Stop laughing!"
Just as well he had not mentioned the easily dozen other occasions where the thing had nearly killed him in the shower. Plus the three or four times it actually had…
"Like to see one of you people go a month in this thing," he muttered under his breath. "Let's get to work, people! Those aliens aren't going to chase themselves down!" he pointed out cheerfully, bounding up to his office.
"You're in quite the mood today," Ianto observed when he brought Jack his morning coffee.
"Three guesses why…"
Jack hissed and jumped a foot, nearly spilling molten coffee all over his lap. Which would have been bad the day before his bondage came to an end. Another jump. Okay, so maybe 'bondage' was a loaded word-choice. At least with actual bondage you eventually got a chance to--
"Jack?" Ianto asked, rushing to his side. He recoiled. "Is that burnt flesh I smell?"
"Nothing that won't heal," he assured Ianto. "Coffee smells great." He smiled, forcing himself to unclench his teeth. "How's Rift activity look this morning?"
"All within acceptable parameters. Again."
"I don't think I like that," Jack mused.
"Neither do I," Ianto agreed. "Living on the Rift, it never rains…"
"Except in the monsoon season," Jack finished for him, nodding. "And we're past due for some serious activity." He sighed. "Okay. Well, I'll see you at the morning briefing."
"Oh, Jack?" Ianto said as he turned to go. "I've been keeping that log you recommended…"
"The…? Oh!" Jack smiled and nodded. "Very good. We'll go over the… the assorted entries this weekend. In the meantime, if you need m-- uh, if you need anything, I'll be in the corner. Standing on my head."
Ianto stared at him with a confused expression for a moment before shaking his head and leaving the office. Jack grinned as he heard Ianto mutter, "Well, he did say he could do it standing on his head…"
"Hey, a guy does what he has to, right?" he remarked to the room at large, taking a long pull of Ianto's heavenly coffee before heading for the corner for yet another protracted bout of gravity-assisted circulatory redirection.
"Started that paperwork for me yet?" he asked Owen as he entered the briefing-room.
"You still have fourteen hours to go," Owen answered. "I'm not holding my breath."
Jack opened his mouth and was promptly shocked. "I was just thinking it; I wasn't going to say anything!"
"I've programmed it to come off promptly at two," Toshiko offered, "So we don't have to be around when you…" She trailed off, blushing. "Well, when it comes off."
"When what comes off?" Jack laughed. "Ooh! Okay, so I deserved that one."
"Oh, my God," Owen muttered, looking at Jack in disgust. "Are you starting to enjoy that?"
"Just tickles a little. I could show you." He jumped. "Damn!"
"Jack, would you stop," Ianto ordered, shaking his head.
"Why don't you make me? Jeez!" he hissed, leaning on the table and clutching his neck. "Man, that one just hurt!"
"So stop doing it!" Ianto advised, shaking his head. "You know, most people who want electro-shock therapy have it administered by a professional."
Jack started to retort, then changed his mind. Not much longer now…
The briefing was routine, the day itself boring. Until about five minutes before everyone was ready to be out the door, at which point the Rift Activity Monitor started screaming.
Oh, well, Jack reflected as they raced to the SUV. At least he would not have to spend the next however-long focusing on the fact that he still had seven more hours in the collar. On the downside, while chasing down aliens, there was seldom much time to stop and stand on your head. Of course, how arousing could an alien hunt become?
"Oh, God, get it off!" Ianto gasped as his clothes started to smolder.
Acid-spitting aliens. Typical. Jack shook his head and started peeling off Ianto's suit-jacket, ignoring the tingling in his neck as the collar just waited for him to step over the line. Unfortunately, Jack and Ianto were alone in the elevator and the panicked Ianto was too busy struggling with his belt to worry about anything else.
"Owen, meet us downstairs!" he snapped into his headset. "Ianto's been hit! I can't tell how bad it is. I need to get him out of his clothes before they burn him any worse!"
"Shit!" Owen's voice came over the headset. "You've still got five minutes until two. No way is that collar going to let you strip someone naked!"
"It sure as hell isn't going to stop me," Jack answered, ripping off Ianto's tie and giving his shirt similar treatment.
Buttons went flying all over the elevator and Jack cursed loudly as the collar realized that short shocks were not deterring him and had started delivering a steady and increasingly-intense current.
"Damn you, I'm not even thinking anything lecherous!" he protested.
Ianto was struggling with his belt-buckle, understandably eager to shed pants with a lapful of corrosive alien goo. Jack batted his hands away and put more than a year of practice to good use, whipping off belt and pants in one practiced motion and tossing them into the corner of the elevator to smolder and smoke harmlessly.
A quick check of Ianto's boxers was agonizing, but satisfied Jack that they had not made contact with the goo. They could stay. Which, for the first time in his life, was a relief.
"Damn it, I'm helping the man!" he protested as he ran his hands over Ianto's chest, looking for damage. "Are you hurt?" he asked breathlessly, his vision starting to go faint.
"Just my face."
Jack took Ianto's chin gently in one hand, tilting his head to examine the cheek more closely.
"First degree. Nothing some antibiotic cream won't fix in a few days. You'll be fine."
"Good. What about you? Are you hurt?"
"Nothing that won't heal," Jack assured him, collapsing forward into his arms.
"Jack? Jack!" Ianto called, reaching for his neck.
The elevator door chose that minute to pop open on the ground floor. Owen was standing there, and he watched the nearly-naked Ianto, with Jack sprawled all over him.
"Knew you wouldn't wait one second past two o'clock," Owen scoffed.
"He doesn't have a pulse," Ianto grumbled, gently transferring Jack to the elevator floor and kneeling over him. "Your damned collar killed him." His watch alarm went off. "But he won the bet," he added with a bitter smile, pulling the collar off Jack and tossing it to Owen. "Maybe you should go a month in it. Little self-denial's good for the soul."
"I didn't mean the thing to kill him," Owen protested, kneeling next to Jack and feeling for a pulse. "How long has he been gone?"
"A minute or two." Ianto shook his head. "I've seen him electrocuted before. He should be back by now."
"Give his body a minute to reset," Owen directed, but he looked genuinely concerned. "Are you hurt?" he added to Ianto, not tearing his eyes from Jack.
"Minor burn on my cheek. Nothing that won't heal."
"Jack! Ianto?" Gwen called racing to join them with Toshiko at her heels. "Are you okay?"
"Owen's little dare killed Jack," Ianto grumbled, pulling the older man's head into his lap. "We're just waiting for him to wake up."
"Your face," she said.
"It's nothing." He batted her questing hands away, all his attention on Jack.
The other four watched with baited breath, until Jack's eyelids fluttered.
"Oh, thank God," Gwen murmured, echoing what they were all thinking.
"Body's upstairs," Jack whispered to them. "I'm going to leave disposing of it to you, Owen. Then you can start your paperwork."
The others laughed. Even Owen smiled, looking genuinely relieved.
"Are you okay, Jack?" Ianto whispered, grasping his shoulder.
"Fine," Jack assured him, slowly sitting up. His eyes fell on the collar near Owen's feet. "It's off?"
"It's off, Jack," Toshiko assured him, gingerly picking up the collar, holding it well away from her body. "I'll make sure it goes with the other restricted items right away."
"Thank you, Tosh." He climbed to his feet, offering his hand to Ianto and helping him to his feet. "Right, then. That's everything settled. Owen, you and Gwen can handle disposing of the body. Tosh, you deal with the shock-collar. I'll see you all in three days. Maybe four. Ianto, you're with me!"