Notes: The full oneshot for #58 from 'Snapshots of Smiles'. Requested by Storms-Are-My-Nature, figaro2, DarqueQueen7, JANTO-FOREVER, toobeauty and Englishpudding.

Disclaimer: I do not own Torchwood and I am not making any profit from this work.

Excuses

Jack knew he shouldn't have kissed her. It had been just one of those things: they'd been in danger, there was adrenaline everywhere, they were thankful to be alive, he was thankful she was alive - because let's face it, Jack's deaths didn't mean much in the grand scheme of things - and Ianto hadn't been there to kiss.

Even Jack knew a lame excuse when he heard one.

It wouldn't have been so bad had Ianto and Owen not forced open the grate at that moment, and hadn't caught them snogging. She had climbed out instantly, hating the dark, dank and dirty space, and Owen had laughed at Jack and said he'd been dumped in favour of supposedly fresh Welsh air instead.

Ianto hadn't said anything.

Jack didn't know if his actions fell into 'stupid Jack' or 'really stupid Jack' until they got back to the Hub and Ianto broke out the coffee mugs. And when Jack had leaned to kiss Ianto on the cheek, as was customary thanks for him these days, he was neatly sidestepped and Ianto promptly vanished into the archives for the rest of the afternoon.

"You cocked up, mate," Owen said wisely.

"I only kissed her," Jack said defensively.

"Oh, yes," Owen said. "Moron," he added after a short pause. "If I'd kissed another girl - hell, another anybody - and Katie caught me, I'd be a eunuch before I could offer the excuse of checking her temperature."

"That's an excuse?"

"It was in medical school."

Jack decided not to pursue that line of conversation, and backtracked a bit: "I only kissed her," he repeated. "That doesn't mean anything."

"Nice little chaste peck, I might agree with you," Owen allowed. "But spit-swapping? You have to like someone - or be drunk - to want to drink their spit, Jack."

Put like that, Jack didn't even like the idea of kissing at all.

"He's pissed off at me, isn't he?" he said.

"Yep," said Owen.


Pissed off had been putting it lightly. By the end of the day, Ianto hadn't let Jack within three feet of him, hadn't stayed still long enough to get any kiss on the cheek at all, and hadn't offered any physical contact whatsoever. And for a man like Jack, it was wavering remarkably close to torture.

When he realised that Ianto had gone home for the night without even saying goodbye, Jack voted to screw the whole Rift-and-Hub deal and follow him. Tosh, putting on her coat as he came bounding down from his office decked to go, gave him a sympathetic look, then frowned and said sternly:

"Don't remove one foot just to put the other in, will you, Jack?"

He didn't know what she meant, told her so, and left.


Ianto had not been pleased to see him. He'd caught him just finishing off dinner and watching the last ten minutes of some cop drama from the States, and readying himself to go out to the Rose and Crown for the pub quiz that, Jack discovered that night, Ianto and Owen were frequent winners of.

"You're angry with me," Jack said, in the doorway, and Ianto snorted, letting him in.

"What gave you that idea?" he demanded angrily, and dumping his plate in the sink to be washed later. "I'm about to go out. You can walk and talk."

"It was just a kiss."

"Last I was told, exchanging bodily fluids are not done by random acquaintances unless there are significant amounts of alcohol involved, Jack," Ianto said snippily. "You can't tell me the air in that pipe was that foul."

"Well, no, but...I didn't mean to kiss her."

"Oh, your lips and her lips just sort of shot together and met in the middle with a wet smacking noise?" Ianto quipped. "I see. How perfectly ordinary. All is forgiven then."

"Really?"

"No."

"Look, it was just...we felt lucky to be alive after that thing had chased us through the bloody sewer, you know, and she was there, and I was all hopped up on adrenaline, and you weren't there, and..."

"Oh, I see, so your kissing her is my fault because I wasn't in the sewer with you?"

"That's not what I said!"

"It's what you implied."

"Look, kissing isn't such a big deal where I'm from!"

"Oh, grow up, Jack!" Ianto exploded - badly timed, as he did it as they left the flat and startled his poor elderly neighbour back into her own flat with a frightened squeak. Ianto ignored her, though, and carried on. "You haven't been where you came from for a bloody long time! Learn to sodding well adapt!"

Jack bristled at that: "Look, Ianto, I can't just..."

"Yes you bloody well can!" Ianto ranted. "I come from a backwater Welsh village in the middle of sodding nowhere, Jack! Where I come from, you don't wear suits unless it's a wedding or a funeral, you don't speak English even if the person you're talking to speaks no Welsh at all, you don't miss church, and you most certainly don't have a fucking affair with another man!"

Jack stopped in the building entrance as though he'd been slapped, gawped, then glared and ran to catch up with Ianto.

"They are completely different situations!" he snapped.

"How, Jack?!" Ianto snarled, rounding on him. "How the hell is that?! They're just fucking excuses to behave the way you do! You'll snog anything that has a pulse and you don't care how it makes me feel! What the hell am I, Jack? Where do I stand with you? Because the way it looks to me is that I'm your bit on the side because you can't be bothered to go out and find a different one night stand every night of the fucking week!"

Jack reeled, then roared, at an equally loud volume as Ianto had worked his way up to: "You are not my bit on the side!"

"Funny, that's the impression I've been given from day one," Ianto snapped. "You don't give a shit about me beyond the times I'm in your sodding bed. The minute I leave you alone with her, you're helping her clean her tonsils. You flirt with anything that moves, then turn around and say 'oh, hey, it's not my fault, it's the way I was brought up'. Grow up, Jack!"

"Monogamy just isn't the norm in..."

"It's the norm here! It's the norm in the place and time you've been for the last two hundred years! Don't you think that that's enough time to adapt to it?!" Ianto snapped. "Or, if you can have the freedom, let me have it too! Stop expecting me to be at your beck and call every moment of the day and night!"

"I don't expect you to-!"

"Oh, right, that's why you insisted I change which dry cleaning service we use after you found out that the bloke behind the counter flirted with me occasionally? One rule for you, and another for me? It's got to stop, Jack! You've got the choice here. You learn to actually be monogamous, or I'll treat this relationship with the same open status that you seem to afford it!" Ianto snarled.

It was an ultimatum. Ianto rarely gave them out, but when he did, he was serious. The last time Jack had ignored an ultimatum, Ianto had stopped staying nights at the Hub with him.

But then...Jack didn't think he could obey that ultimatum. All this time had taught him that he couldn't change - he'd had the same argument countless times - but he couldn't stand the idea of Ianto with another man - or even woman, come to that. Even thinking about Lisa made him jealous, and Lisa was dead, for Christ's sake.

"Your choice, Jack," Ianto growled, his voice quiet and dangerous. "But until you let me know what your choice is - and stick to it - this is over. When you make a decision, I'm here. But I'm not playing the fool any more. I'm sick to death of not knowing where I am with you. I'm sick of not knowing whether to tell people I have a significant other or whether to tell them I'm single."

"You're not single," Jack bristled instantly.

"Neither are you," Ianto said. "And maybe it's time you remembered that. Or you will be."

With that, he left Jack on the damp, lamplit street and continued on his way to the Rose and Crown.


Owen came in early the next morning - mostly, Jack suspected, because the autopsy bay stashed the alien equivalent of a brilliant hangover cure - and was in a surprisingly good mood.

"What got you?" Tosh asked from the sofa, where she was happily munching on her Friday morning treat of a bagel from the bakery round the corner from where she lived.

"Pub quiz last night," Owen said. "Ianto and I teamed up with the barman and the pub manager and won forty quid each. Bloody fantastic."

"Nice," Tosh said appreciatively. "I take it you drank away the forty quid, though?"

"No way, that's going towards my new bike fund," Owen said. "Tell you what, though, Ianto was having a good night."

"Oh?" Tosh said.

"Yeah. Actually flirted back when the barman started giving him the suggestives," Owen snorted and laughed. "Bloody hell, I didn't know Ianto could flirt!"

Jack knew.

And he knew that it meant that Ianto's ultimatum had been deathly serious. Which meant that he had to work things out with himself.

Or it was over.