A/N: Set a few years pre-canon.
Summary: Start with a grieving man. Add a touch of broken heart. A hearty dose of Steps 1-2-3 and a bit of two left feet. Sprinkle in some lies, and top with tension. Serve on ice. Starring a secret spy and his housekeeper.
Jack whipped around, dropping her arms, at Ian's voice in the doorway. Damnit, she hadn't even heard him come in.
"Um…hi, Ian. Welcome home."
He smiled. "What are you doing?" he asked, amused.
She blushed slightly. "Dancing."
"Trying to, anyway," she said. "Waltz. Except, well, I suck at it."
Ian laughed a little as he set his brief case and suit jacket down on the armchair, which, like all the rest of the living room furniture, was pushed back to the edges to give Jack some room to move.
"Any particular reason?"
Jack sighed. "No, no."
"…you know you're a terrible liar, right?"
"Yeah, I've noticed," Jack said wryly. She sighed again. "I'll fix the furniture-"
"Why are you trying to learn how to dance?"
"No reason…that I care to share," She said.
For a moment he watched her, and she felt rather awkward, so she headed to the stereo, intending to turn the music off.
"Can I see?"
She froze, finger a hair's width away from the button.
"Your dancing?" Ian added.
She shut her eyes. "Why?"
"No reason, that I care to share."
She could hear the smirk. She could always hear the smirk.
"Fine," she grumbled, mentally steeling herself for humiliation as she stood up fully and moved to the center of the bare room. She waited for the music's tempo to match, arms raised, and started moving.
When she was a kid, she thought the waltz was rather boring. And, in way, to watch the waltz, yes, it was.
But to actually dance a waltz was an entirely different thing. There was an inherent grace about it, and a unique touch to the dance, despite the uniformity of its steps.
The dance itself wasn't interesting to watch. But the people dancing it often were.
She followed the steps from memory, shifting her arms in midair around an invisible partner-
-until suddenly, she had a visible.
Her eyes widened, and she faltered, when Ian was suddenly in her arms, dancing with her, smiling. Miraculously, they managed to get back into step.
"You know how to dance?"
"Well, I was required to learn, once, for formal functions at work. Soon, I learned that women seemed to love dancers, and took a broader interest in it."
She smiled at his joke – delivered deadpan and bright – and said, "Well, certainly one of your more interesting talents, Mr. Perfection-At-Everything."
He laughed, occasionally redirecting her feet. "Well, dancing certainly has a broad array of uses."
Another smile, and she looked down at her feet again, trying to get them to move right.
"Look up, Jack."
Her head snapped up again, as he continued. "The thing about the waltz is that you can't spend it looking at your feet. You have to keep your chin up, and let your feet work of their own accord."
She nodded, but still worked to keep her feet moving.
And bizarrely…Ian was helping her.
Ian Rider was teaching her how to dance. Holy shit…
"So," Ian said after a moment. "Where's Alex?"
"Sleeping over with a friend – some soccer game…uh, football, tomorrow. Won't be back 'til tomorrow night."
Another cryptic smile.
"And why are you trying to learn to waltz?"
She jutted her chin up sharply.
"Because I can."
"Someone insult your dancing skills?"
He shook his head. "C'mon, Jack – who?"
She bit her lip, before saying, "I asked out a guy in the class next door to my legal-logic class. Went fine for a couple days…then, one day, there was a formal dinner party a friend was holding – sometime next week – and he laughed at me when I asked him to teach me. And when I sucked at it…laughed at me some more. So I hit him and came home."
"You hit him?"
She grinned. "I actually used the karate moves you showed Alex."
He laughed, gently nudging her foot in the right direction. "Rather ironic. Dancing is supposed to be for romance."
She laughed bitterly. "What would you know?" She muttered under her breath.
Ian's hands tightened on her waist for the moment, before saying, "I maybe not be romantic…but I know love."
"Of course you do…" Jack said, but said no more. "Yet for some reason, you can never show it."
"I'm simply not the kind to wear my heart on my sleeve."
"But that's what love is."
"Love…it's a lot of things-"
"How would you know? You've just got a heart-shaped stone painted red."
Ian stiffened, but kept redirecting her feet.
"One of the things love is, is painful, and draining. And as such, pointless."
Jack actually yelped, and stepped back a moment, forgetting the dance.
"Yes. After all, either when they leave or get torn away, it only hurts."
She could see a long history of sorts in his eyes.
"Love isn't about when they're gone," Jack said. "It's about when they're here."
"Yes – worry, overprotection, mutual ignorance, caring beyond your capacity to do so-"
"You're an idiot."
He blinked in surprise. Her outbursts weren't a complete novelty, but they happened rarely enough to render him surprised.
"Love is about always having someone there for you-"
"-until they leave-"
"-and knowing some cares for you-"
"-until they turn on you-"
"-and caring for someone-"
"-until you're taxed beyond your ability to do so-"
"-and it's about being connected by the heart!"
There was a pause, the silence permeated by nothing but music, as she considered she might've finally gotten through to him.
"Yes…it is…and that connection is what rips your heart out in the end."
She stared at him, and slowly stepped forward again. For once, he was stiff and wary, his version of nervous (if Alex was anything to go by), as she reached up with her hand and cradled his cheek.
"What happened to you? You're not just cold…you're freezing. Like liquid nitrogen freezing."
"You're missing out," she said, pressing her palm into his cheek. "I'll be honest – I don't get how your skin can be so warm."
He smirked. "Regular exercise."
She ignored him. "I don't get how you're so warm and cold at the same time. Fire and ice."
"Poeticism becomes you, Jack. I think you should've kept up with the art degree you initially started with. It's not like laws are helpful, anyway."
She ignored him yet again, and asked bluntly, "So I take it you don't love Alex?"
Finally, he visibly tensed, his face falling as he stared at her with an unreadable emotion on his face.
Shock? Fear? Disbelief?
The music coated the pregnant pause, and she wanted to smile sardonically.
"Well? Do you care for him? Connect to him? Worry about him? For him?"
He didn't answer, before slowly opening his mouth.
Jack didn't think she'd ever heard the man so soft spoken. She could barely hear him over the so-soft tones emanating from the speakers.
She'd never seen Ian swallowing so nervously, either.
"I take it as a…yes, you do love Alex. Guess you can't help it completely, eh?"
He continued to stare, gaze growing colder by every second.
Finally. She's actually managed to render him speechless. She never thought she'd even live long enough to see the day.
"Are you sure it's so pointless?" she asked.
He swallowed one more time, before saying, "Yes. But it's unhelped, and rather rampant."
She sighed. "You must be good at that. Blocking love. I've never seen you bring home a date. Your sex life must be miserable."
His gaze switched from cold to amused as he latched onto the new topic. "Do you think I stay absolutely celibate? I spend half my life in other countries, for god's sake."
She rolled her eyes. "Of course, but that's lust. Not love."
"What's the difference?"
"Do you lust after Alex?"
His gaze turned cold against as her hand dropped back to her side.
"Ian…I mean it. Someone break your heart? Too many people died on you? What?"
"I…Jack, why are you so insistent on this matter? What's it to you?"
"I just think that for someone to think that for someone to think love is so pointless…I figure only a great deal of pain can cause that."
"Or a great deal of logic," he said. "After all…the Trojans fought a ten year war on love. On one stupid emotion, which is really just a bunch of neurochemistry targeted to ensure survival of the species."
"Love isn't just 'a bunch of neurochemistry to ensure the survival of the species'."
"Lust, to ensure procreation. Love for the young to ensure they live long enough to become adults. Caring for fellow human beings so there are enough of us to go around…"
Her mout was half open as she stared…well, now, nothing, as she closed her mouth. How the hell do you respond to that?
"It's more than that," She finally said. "Bonding. Connection."
She sighed. "I thought you just had a cold heart, not a dead one."
"Are we really going to resort to petty retorts like that?"
She glared. "How you ended up taking care of Alex is completely beyond me. The one thing Alex really needs is the one thing you can't give him."
His gaze turned cold again.
"How dare you…" his voice held a venom Jack didn't know Ian was capable of, the cold, almost accusatory glare pinning her to her feet.
He turned sharply on the balls of his feet and bent to pick up his briefcase to which Jack took a step and pushed down on it.
"Alex needs you to care about him, not just for him."
"I do," Ian said, pulling on his 'formal' voice as he stood up to face her. "Now where near like a normal family, but I do."
"Then how come Alex once had to ask me if you loved him?" she asked.
Ian stared at her, his composed face falling, his mask slipping leading Jack to remember why she'd never told him about it before. Oh, well – too late, now.
"Did…did he really?
She nodded. "When he was a lot younger. A bit less than a year after I first started working here, taking care of him."
He continued to stare at her, and with a bizarre jolt, she realized he was silently begging her to tell him that it wasn't true. Well…
Too bad, Ian.
She swallowed again, both of them standing full upright, and a little closer together. "I know you love Alex. But he doesn't, not always."
He stood up, too, but for once, Jack wasn't intimidated by his stature.
Jack didn't move when Ian stepped forward towards her, hesitant, and wrapped his hands around her shoulders.
But that was mostly because of the alien look of desperation on his face.
"What did you say when he asked?"
She smiled softly.
"So you do have a heart."
His hands tightened. "Jack…"
"I told him…I told him that you did love him…you were just afraid to show it, and didn't know how."
Jack was honestly shocked at the look of both surprise and relief in his eyes.
"…thank you," Ian said after a moment.
"I take it I was right?"
He blinked carefully, and the hands on her shoulders tensed slightly as he nodded – just once.
Though she decided not to show it, she was relieved, too.
She tilted her face and refocused her eyes onto his face as a whole, being that it wasn't even a hand's length away from her own.
"Still think love is pointless?" she asked quietly, just loud enough to be heard over the music, and not a decibel higher.
He continued to just stare, reminding Jack eerily of the identically blank look Alex got on his face when he was bewildered. The proximity of Ian's face magnified it.
And it was then that she realized just how close to her, physically, Ian was.
He seemed to realize this, too.
"No," Ian said. He swallowed again. Swallowed. "Not as…much…"
And the next moment, Jack became absolutely, positively sure that Ian was human when he leaned down and pressed his lips to hers.
For a moment, she was frozen, purely out of shock and surprise more than anything else.
But he pulled away, nonetheless.
Apologetic. Nervous. Awkward.
None of them looked…they all looked so strange on Ian's features.
"Jack…Jack, I'm so sorry-"
She got her voice back.
"Don't be. You needed it. We both did. And it's refreshing to remember you're human." She paused, the music still playing, and she just repeated, "We both needed it."
He stared at her in the slight daze (Ian, dazed!), as she could see the little calculator in his head working the gears.
"Maybe we still do," he said, slowly, carefully, like he was taking a big, huge risk…which she knew he was. And she also knew he actually wasn't that big a risk taker.
Smiling jut slightly – and wondering if this was how it felt to have the upper hand, like Ian always did – she nodded just once.
Just like Ian.
Figuring that he was actually…afraid…to make a move, she stepped carefully forward, as if he were a wounded animal. She suspected inside, he was, and gave him plenty of chance to back away.
Nor did he protest when Jack cupped her hands around his face, pulled it close to hers, and kissed him again.
This time, things went far more smoothly, as he fell into the kiss.
Funny. She didn't know why, in particular, but she hadn't pictured Ian as the kind to kiss with his eyes closed.
After a moment, their lips fell apart, again, and she found herself staring into his eyes.
They were still a little cold, as Ian always would be, but they were also…searching. But at first, she didn't realize what.
Then it hit: a cue. He didn't know what to do.
Smiling, she used her hands around his face to carefully pull him towards the couch, sitting them both down, taking charge.
For the first time since she'd known Ian – oh, god, years – she was seeing him be…insecure.
Ian Rider. Insecure.
Does not compute.
And yet here she was, seeing it right in front of her.
Yet…yet, right in front of her, she could see that aforementioned procreation instinct taking over.
Sans actual procreation, of course.
His hands finally came to life, sliding along the couch and coming to a rest on her hips, holding them tightly.
Her lips finally parted, their tongues meeting, and damn, Ian tasted sweet. Like a coffee shop pastry with fruit in it, and a touch of Scotch – his favorite.
She wondered if she tasted like the cookie dough she'd had earlier.
Her hand slid downward, over his neck, onto his strong, broad shoulders. Why a businessman needed to be as fit as he was, she'd never know, but for now, she wasn't complaining, as she pushed him down onto the couch, Ian pulling her closer by the hips.
Somehow, she knew she should be having more sense, that she should be asking herself what she was doing.
But goddamn, she didn't care.
Besides, after getting her heart broken, this felt great.
And Ian felt so, so good…even through his shirt, she could feel the strong, rippling muscles underneath, against her hands, as his own roved over her soft curves.
It's not like Ian was complaining. She knew he was enjoying this – she could feel the physical evidence of that against her thigh.
She unbuttoned and tugged off his business shirt, tugging it off, him only pulling his hands off her long enough to chuck it to the floor, before he started working on the buttons of her own shirt, getting them all, pushing it back and over her shoulders.
Jack nearly shivered as his hands slid slowly down her bare skin, her own feeling through the thin, skin tight white tee-shirt, pulling it out from his pants, sliding her hands up his stomach-
-she knew Ian was fit, but a six pack? Really?
Oh, well – all the better.
Arms coming up long enough to let her pull that off, too, her pulling off her own shirt, leaving only her bra, she found him kneading her waist divinely as she groped her way over occasional scars, passing them over in favor of the hard muscle beneath her fingertips, until it was below her own chest as she was laying on top of him, her legs around his hips, their lips locked again, this time more rough, more primal, more…
She never got how, in the movies, people could just randomly call out names in the middle of something like this. They must all be with bad kissers. But not Ian.
His lips could only belong to Adonis. Or Cupid. Or some ancient deity of love and romance. Or sex, either one.
Her hands cradling the back of his head, she gyrated her hips, digging into his-
-oh, she could definitely feel that he was enjoying this-
-and sank her knees around him, pinning him to the couch, wrapping herself around him.
She moaned into the next kiss, her tone matching the music still playing in the background, and he did much the same, his grip on her hips tightening dramatically, pulling her impossibly closer, pressing her whole, soft body against his hard one.
Hard being quite a key term, here.
Their jaws finally released, in favor of mouthing, lipping, tonguing, her mouth practically worshipping his delicious neck as he used his hands to return the favor, firm thumbs circling, massaging his way down her stomach, her abs, her pelvic bone, down onto her more erroneous areas-
"Ian!" she gasped as he hit a sweet spot, arching her back, digging her hips into his almost painfully.
"Mm…" he moaned appreciatively into her ear, his warm breath tickling her nerves.
"Ian…" she panted out. "Please…"
A moment later, Ian suddenly froze, which Jack greeted with a slight whimper.
He was abruptly using his thumbs to push her up, slightly, so they could both get a nice, full view of each other – and each others' faces.
"Jack…" he looked regretful, already, even as he spoke. "Do you want this, or need this?"
"Does it even matter?"
"I this it does, Jack."
She took a deep breath to answer.
"Do you still think love is pointless?"
A/N: Did Jack want it or need it? Did Ian still think love's pointless? Did they go through with it?
You tell me.
This story now has a companion piece, Of Words and Hearts, to be found on my profile. Same story, but Ian's POV.