A/N: Thank you to Jusmine for the awesome beta job.
If you haven't already read it, this is a companion piece to my one-shot Dancing Sorrows, which you can find on my profile.
Summary: Ian's life depends on him keeping a tight leash on his emotions. But maybe a little dancing would be worth enough to let it go. Companion piece to Dancing Sorrows, in Ian's POV. Jack/Ian
Ian smiled as he stepped into the living room doorway to see Jack Starbright, two left feet and a disdain for the classical dancing...dancing what he deduced to be the waltz. Though he couldn't be too sure.
Jack whipped around, dropping her arms, at his voice, startled. Even if he didn't have training in reading faces, he'd always know what Jack was thinking – she wore her heart on her sleeve. And clearly, she hadn't heard him.
"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. Probably so Jack can have some dancing room.
"Any particular reason?"
Jack sighed. "No, no."
"…you know you're a terrible liar, right?" he asked.
"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 turned to the stereo, where the classical music was emanating from.
"Can I see?"
"Your dancing?" Ian added.
There was a pause, as she kept facing the stereo. "Why?"
"No reason, that I care to share."
He smirked slightly, as she stood up.
"Fine," she grumbled, 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.
He watched her movements carefully. They were rather choppy, but she at least seemed to know what she was doing. He knew she had a background of extensive dancing classes in the States, and that usually meant she picked them up very fast. So he'd guess she hadn't been at this for long.
Smiling, he remembered his own troubles learning this dance from John as he carefully and silently stepped towards Jack, who was already losing herself to the dance.
Her eyes widened when Ian was suddenly in her arms and dancing with her, and she faltered. He nudged her foot a few times, and they were quickly back in step – and Jack was much smoother, now that she had a real partner.
"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."
Which wasn't untrue – he'd had to learn to dance in order to blend in at social functions he was spying on, and upon seeing how interested women there became in him with his dancing skills, he took a much broader interest in it. John had been onto something as far back as their teen years in his interest in dancing.
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, apparently still having trouble with getting them exactly 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, and Ian smiled again, as she gave him a slightly speculative look, and slightly dazed at that.
"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."
Right. He still didn't get why Americans didn't just call it football like the rest of the world.
He thought back to his original question.
"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. Heart on her sleeve. "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."
Now he was surprised. Jack…well, she had quite a temper – usually with Ian, himself – but she rarely ever resorted to actual violence.
"You hit him?"
She grinned. "I actually used the karate moves you showed Alex."
He laughed, gently nudging her foot in the right direction. He always found it funny that she caught onto individual, if rather sporadic, karate moves fast, despite her nonviolence. "Rather ironic. Dancing is supposed to be for romance."
She laughed bitterly. "What would you know?" She muttered.
He frowned, hands tightening. He knew she thought he was heartless – she said so, often enough – but he did know about this.
"I may 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." Unlike you.
"But that's what love is."
His frown went into a straight line – his defensive expression, he knew, but also his saving grace.
"Love…it's a lot of things-"
"How would you know? You've just got a heart-shaped stone painted red."
Ian stiffened. Christ, that was harsh, damnit. He found himself surprised to still be redirecting her feet, but he started speaking again, anyway.
"One of the things love is, is painful, and draining. And as such, pointless."
Jack actually yelped, and stepped back a moment, staring up at him.
"Yes. After all, either when they leave or get torn away, it only hurts."
She searched his face for something – he didn't know what – and he mentally steeled himself against this. Years of beating down his emotions with a chair and whip has given him a lot of practice in keeping his emotions on a tight leash – or at least, the manifestations of his emotions.
"Love isn't about when they're gone," Jack said. "It's about when they're here."
As if she didn't realize what 'being here' entailed.
"Yes – worry, overprotection, mutual ignorance, caring beyond your capacity to do so-"
"You're an idiot."
He blinked in surprise. This wasn't the first time she'd called him out like this. But he still found himself surprised every time she did.
"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!"
He didn't miss the moment of hope flashing across her face, as he paused, remembering all too well what being 'connected by the heart' had done.
"Yes…it is…and that connection is what rips your heart out in the end."
She stared at him, and slowly stepped forward again. He kept an instinctively wary gaze on her hand as she reached up and cradled his cheeks, the warmth a soft comfort he found himself missing, somewhere in the deep recesses of his mind. The part he kept in a DNA-lock safe and covered with a radiation blanket.
"What happened to you? You're not just cold…you're freezing. Like liquid nitrogen freezing."
Hm…she wasn't usually the metaphorical type.
"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, rather amused by her continued poeticism. "Regular exercise."
She ignored him. "I don't get how you're so warm and cold at the same time. Fire and ice."
Fire and ice. The story of his life.
"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?"
Ian froze, staring at her. Damnit – they both knew his one weak spot: Alex.
Of course he loved Alex. Just…
He didn't answer, and he could swear he saw a flash of triumph in her eyes.
"Well? Do you care for him? Connect to him? Worry about him? For him?"
Feeling his mouth go dry (when was the last time that had happened? Near as he could remember, it probably involved someone holding a gun to his head…possibly more than that), he struggled for an answer, even as he opened his mouth.
Shit. Why'd his voice come out so soft? He could barely hear himself over the music from the speakers.
And why was he swallowing? Yet he couldn't make himself stop.
"I take it as a…yes, you do love Alex. Guess you can't help it completely, eh?"
He kept his neutral gaze on her, trying to get it more and more blank, as she nonchalantly voiced his greatest weakness into the heavy air between them.
"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."
Mm…quite the opposite, actually.
He smiled, amused, as he latched onto the new, and much safer, 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?"
He mentally shuddered at the image his mind kindly provided, using some actual imagery from a rather horrifying mission from a few years ago as a template.
Her hand dropped, as did the expression on her face, and his emotions matched.
"Ian…I mean it. Someone break your heart? Too many people die on you? What?"
Why did she care?
"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."
Oh, how right she was. Why the hell were women all so intuitive? It wasn't fair.
"Or a great deal of logic," he said. Because, well, that was true. "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."
Yet again, a bit of truth. Because, really, love was just a lot of neurochemistry. And hormones. Which was neurochemistry.
That's all love was.
That's all his greatest fucking weakness was.
"Love isn't just 'a bunch of neurochemistry to ensure the survival of the species'." Jack said, unsurprisingly. Still holding on to her self-delusioned view of the world.
"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…"
There. The entirety of love in three sentences. He should get a Nobel Prize for this.
Her mouth was half open as she stared at him.
Okay, so maybe not.
"It's more than that," She finally said. "Bonding. Connection."
She sighed. "I thought you just had a cold heart, not a dead one."
He certainly felt himself go cruel at that.
"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."
For a moment, he mentally froze.
How the hell would she fucking know what they needed? She certainly didn't know what Ian had to go through, Alex's life, genetics – their futures. She knew nothing.
"How dare you…" he spat, glaring at her, not caring at the surprise and fear on her face.
He turned sharply on the balls of his feet and bent to pick up his briefcase, planning fully on locking himself in his study for the weekend and drowning himself in Scotch. First the rough mission, and now Jack and her goddamn conversation on love and Alex and-
He found himself surprised when Jack's slender hand was pushing his briefcase back down.
"Alex needs you to care about him, not just for him."
What did she know?!
"I do," Ian said, pulling on his blankest voice as he stood up to face her – absolutely neutral, and cut-off. What love did to you, in the end. "Nowhere near like a normal family, but I do."
"Then how come Alex once had to ask me if you loved him?" she asked.
He couldn't have heard right.
Ian knew he didn't hold affection for Alex in the normal way, but damnit, Alex knew that Ian loved him…right?
Alex couldn't possibly…he shouldn't have ever…
"Did…did he really?" he asked. Alex…oh, god, Alex….
She nodded. "When he was a lot younger. A bit less than a year after I first started working here, taking care of him."
And there was no word about this for that long?
Oh, god, what did she say?
Please, Jack, just tell me you're joking…Alex knows I love him…always has, always will…right? Please, Jack, tell me you were lying!
She swallowed again, both of them standing full upright, and a little closer together in the process. "I know you love Alex. But he doesn't, not always."
He stared at her again. This wasn't…
Jack didn't move when Ian stepped forward towards her, hesitant, and wrapped his hands around her shoulders. He needed to know this was real, and not just some awful fucking nightmare.
He didn't care, for once, about his heart being on his sleeve – or anywhere else. Alex was the last thing, and most important thing, he had in his life. He wouldn't think to do anything for Alex, national security be damned.
Oh, god. Alex needed to know what it all meant.
"What did you say when he asked?" Ian said, hoping his voice wasn't actually as raspy as it sounded to him, in his ears.
She smiled softly.
"So you do have a heart."
His hands tightened. "Jack…" Don't stall, just tell me!
He needed to know, now, and he needed to fix things, because he couldn't stand the thought of Alex not knowing.
"I told him…I told him that you did love him…you were just afraid to show it, and didn't know how."
He felt…relief, oddly enough, flood through him. So Alex…Alex knew. That Ian cared. Ian did love him.
"…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. Because she was.
He hated that she was right, but she was right. He couldn't afford to show his heart on his sleeve, but he had one, that was for sure.
She seemed relieved, too, and Ian could tell, being how close their faces now were.
"Still think love is pointless?" she asked quietly.
I don't know.
He continued to just stare, not sure what he could possibly say.
It was then that he realized how close to her she was – and from what he could see, she reached this conclusion at the same time he did.
When was the last time…he'd never been this open, before. Never been this close. Not quite physically…but he'd just revealed his worst fear and greatest weakness to the fucking au pair and he couldn't care less. He felt no need to.
God, it'd been so long since he'd been like that – able to be so close, close where it mattered, to someone.
"No," Ian said. He swallowed again. Swallowed. What was his problem with the swallowing? But he knew. "Not as…much…"
To just be close to someone…connected by the heart, like Jack was saying.
To just be close…for once in his life…
For some reason, only part of him was surprised when he leaned down and pressed his lips to hers.
He'd forgotten what a real kiss felt like.
She was frozen, and a moment later, Ian, the rational MI6 agent that kept a tight leash on his emotions, realized just how slack that leash had become.
He tightened the hold as he pulled away.
She looked as shocked as he felt.
"Jack…Jack, I'm so sorry-"
"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."
No, no, no, no, no! He couldn't allow this to happen. Bad things always happen when you let yourself become close to someone.
But it was worth it.
Or maybe not.
He wanted it to be, that much he knew.
And the look on her face.
Maybe the leash could use a little slack.
"Maybe we still do," he said, warily. God, this…he'd had to risk bombs, risking being hit by bullets point blank, risk death, risk torture, risk falling from the highest of heights, risk national fucking security…he risked his own life on an almost daily basis. And yet, he couldn't help but feel like this was the biggest risk he'd ever taken in his life.
She was smiling, slightly, when she nodded just once.
But god…he couldn't move. How ironic – he could easily run miles while running from bullet sprays and could jump off cliffs hundred of meters high, yet he couldn't move the quarter meter needed to kiss her again.
She seemed to understand. She slowly moved forward, making Ian wonder if she wanted him to back away, or was just giving him a chance to, but he didn't move.
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.
He shut his eyes. He knew he preferred kissing this way, letting himself run on nothing but the feel of lips, alone. But his job didn't usually allow for this luxury.
And yet he could do it without thought with Jack.
After a moment, their lips fell apart, again, and was staring into her eyes, wondering what she saw in his.
He wondered what he was doing. The mechanics were easy enough – he wasn't exactly a saint – but…there was so much behind this…he didn't know if he could handle it.
Smiling, she used her hands around his face to carefully pull him towards the couch, sitting them both down, taking charge. He didn't care.
For a moment, he reflected to the time he lost his virginity. Shit, had he even been in fifth form by then? But, despite the fact he'd gained much confidence and power and strength and experience since then, he felt just as insecure as that very night, so long ago.
Was there such thing as an emotional virginity? He certainly felt like it.
But as she kept looking at him, the aforementioned neurochemistry clouding her eyes, he remembered: the mechanics of this were easy enough.
His hands finally came to life, sliding along the couch and coming to a rest on her hips, holding them tightly. So soft, the gentle curves betraying the harsh temper and personality underneath.
Though her hot temper and hot skin matched almost perfectly.
Her lips finally parted, their tongues meeting, and damn, she tasted sweet. Like…cookies? Oh, right, boyfriend troubles. Women seemed to adore cookie dough in these situations. Why, he would never know.
Her hand slid all over him as he leaned back carefully on the couch, pulling her closer to him, and on top of him, by his tight grip on her hips, as their tongues remained happily entwined.
And when some small part of him was yelling at him to stop and think, the rest of him shot that little bit. It'd come back – it always did – but he wanted it dead, for now.
If it was dead, the rest of him could resurrect and become alive again. Jack didn't even know what she'd truly done to him.
He knew thinking with his dick was rarely – if ever – smart, but quite frankly, his dick didn't care. It was hard as hell, and he was pretty damn sure Jack knew. Apart from the fact women always knew these things, it was pressing right into her thigh.
Not that he or his dick were complaining. The friction was maddening, but tantalizing nonetheless.
His hands were roving over her soft body, exploring every bit he could find and testing it out and gathering what he knew, and only fuelling all that neurochemical blood rushing south.
She unbuttoned and tugged off his business shirt, tugging it off, with 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 sunny, sunny shoulders.
Ian could feel Jack nearly shivering as his hands slid slowly down her bare skin, her own hands feeling through the thin, skin tight white tee-shirt, pulling it out from his pants, sliding her hands up an underneath.
The benefits of his lifestyle: incredible fitness led to irresistibility.
Arms coming up long enough to let her pull the undershirt off, too, her pulling off her own shirt, leaving only her bra, he found himself happily kneading her waist as she groped her way over his chest, thankfully appearing to not notice or care about the scars, passing them over in favor of his muscles, until his hands were below her own chest as she was laying on top of him, her legs around his hips, as their lips locked again, this time more rough, more primal, more…
God, she was a surprisingly great kisser. Not rough, not dirty, in this case, not even playful. But the sincerity was there, and the passion could not be denied.
Goddess of love…Aphrodite, right? Or was it Venus? Wait, no…oh, screw it – the goddess's name was Jack, and he was the simple Roman (screw MI6 and nationality) who got the chance of her audience.
Her hands cradling the back of his head, she gyrated her hips, digging into his own hips, and now his dick was definitely in charge of events, and Ian couldn't care less.
He was pretty sure he let that leash go completely, lost in the wind, when he let Jack lead him to the couch.
She sank her knees into the couch around him, wrapping herself around him, and Ian moaned, letting the warmth of all kinds envelope him. For the first time in a long, long time, his goddamned soul was warm.
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. Also unfair that women, as a fallback, could measure their men based on fucking erections, while men like Ian had only enthusiasm for measurement.
Their jaws finally released, in favor of mouthing, lipping, tonguing, her mouth practically worshipping his 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 what he knew would be her more erroneous areas.
"Ian!" she gasped as he got a sweet spot, arching her back, digging her hips into his rather delightfully.
"Mm…" he moaned appreciatively into her ear, because he'd be damned if he let her go without knowing how he felt.
"Ian…" she panted out. "Please…"
A moment later, Ian suddenly froze, which Jack greeted with a slight whimper.
Apparently, the little part of him that the rest of him was supposed to have shot was wearing Kevlar.
Ian had never worried about insinuations of taking advantage of Jack as her employer, as she was a fiery personality that simply couldn't be taken advantage of, and he'd never worried of actually doing so, unwillingly. Apart from hailing from Lawsuit Nation, she simply didn't tolerate things like that, paycheck or not.
But he still had emotional worries to reconsider. Because, goddamn, he saw on her face, when she was dancing, how much that college boy hurt her.
Besides…he couldn't use her because of his emotional needs, even if she was offering.
But if she was offering out of genuine…something…then it would be all right. But what if this was just passion of a broken heart, that was a convolution of parody in and of itself?
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. He needed to hear and see what she would say…
"Jack…" he was regretting this already, even as he spoke. "Do you want this, or need this?"
Oh, god, he didn't know if he could handle this.
"Does it even matter?"
I wish it didn't.
"I think it does, Jack."
She took a deep breath to answer, and he braced himself for the answer that might just break his heart. Again.
"Do you still think love is pointless?"
A/N: So, digame (tell me) – what're your thoughts? Still think they did (or didn't) go through with it? Have any of you changed your opinions since the last chapter?
Or, did this just reinforce what you had thought before?