the distribution of light and shade in a picture.
Painting . the use of deep variations in and subtle gradations of light and dark, esp. to enhance the delineation of character and for general dramatic effect.
a sketch in light and dark.
Jack dragged his suitcase through the terminal, trying his damndest not to cry. Stupid fucking airport baggage handling bastards.
He flagged down a taxi, gave the name of the hostel he'd reserved and sat back and tried to relax as Cardiff city began to unfold before him. He wasn't able to concentrate long enough to take much of it in, though. With a self-deprecating sigh, he opened his camera bag.
He stared at the crushed scraps of metal and black plastic that had been his first and only camera. At least he'd managed to salvage most of his film, he thought.
The cab pulled to a stop, and Jack clumsily made his way through all the different forms of currency tucked into his wallet. He finally found some legal tender and handed it over. "Keep the change," he said, not properly realising he'd just left a fifteen quid tip, and climbed out.
The hostel was pretty small, and Jack agreed to do catering in the morning to contribute to his indefinite stay. He made sure the other staff were well aware that he might leave with less than five minutes notice, if any. Sometimes, he knew where he had to be, and other times he knew when he had to be leaving.
He pretended it was something pretentious and artsy, saying that as an artist, as a photographer, he had to keep constantly moving, keep his eyes well and truly open. When the North wind told his spirit it was time to leave, to find somewhere new, that's what he'd do. He spun a globe, and wherever his finger landed was where he was headed next. New photographs to be taken, new magic to capture.
That's what he pretended it was.
Really, he left the moment he knew he was becoming attached to one place.
He couldn't settle. He couldn't be still.
He'd managed to sell a few limited prints at his last haunt in Ankara and made an okay enough amount. He used most of it to buy a new camera – one that used real film, not crappy digital storage – and the old guy in the shop had assured him they could develop it for him for cheap if he showed them the loyalty card he'd dropped into the bag. Jack had considered him a moment, then handed over the film that he'd managed to salvage from his first camera.
"Think you'd be able to do anything with this?" he'd asked, hopefully.
The technician took the roll through the door marked 'Development Lab and Dark Room', then returned. "I think it's mostly salvageable," he said. "I'll have my son look at it. He's good with cleaning up exposed films. IANTO!" he yelled through a ribbon curtain dividing the front of the little shop with the back. "I left some film in the dark room – look at it!"
The curtain swilled a little, and a pale young man with dark smudges on his nose and cheeks darted through the shop and into the dark room before Jack could properly tell what he looked like. There was an awkward moment as the older clerk drummed his fingers on the desk and Jack shifted his weight from foot to foot, unsure if he should be hanging around or not.
The clerk's son poked his head out of the dark room, gave his father an affirmative nod and retreated again.
"He'll be able to do something," confirmed the clerk. "Maybe come back tomorrow to check on his progress, I'd think."
"Thank you, sir," Jack grinned. "I'll be sure to drop by."
Hoping the Ankara frames could be saved, Jack left the shop in search of new photos to take.
The rain was strangely beautiful in Cardiff, Jack decided.
He took random snaps, pointing his camera directly up at the sky as the rain fell vertically down onto his lens. He looked around him, his eyes drinking in the sights of Roald Dahl Plass, looking for those strange little pieces of everyday magic that everyday people took for granted. He watched a little girl in wellies that lit up in several colours jumping into puddles by the large, mirrored, towering fountain and smiled to himself.
Slinging his bag down onto the floor, he crouched beside it started rooting through to change the filter. Done, he stood back up again and tried to deduce which of the adults milling around were the little girl's parents. She started yelling at her Mammy to look, and a woman turned around to watch her jumping into the puddle as water splashed everywhere. Jack hurried over.
"Excuse me – Excuse me, ma'am?" he called, attracting her attention. "Hi – this is going to sound really weird in this day and age, but can I take a picture of your daughter jumping into the puddle with those boots?"
The woman stared at him. "Ya'what?"
"I'm an artist. A photographer. I have ID, and I have consent forms if you wanna do that. I just want her to jump into the puddle so I can get the rainbow lights in the soles of her boots reflecting off the rain and the splashing water. Please?"
"Just the boots?" the woman repeated.
Jack nodded. "If you give me your address, I'll send you a print. Or I can tell you the shop where you can pick it up from. Free, obviously. I mean … the shot might not work. I use thirty-five millimetre, still. Really there's only one or two chances we can take. I'd just love to get this shot. Please?"
"Hmm. Okay, then," she nodded. "Molly!" she called, and the little girl bounded over. Jack explained to her what he wanted her to do and she happily grabbed his hand and tugged him back to the water tower.
"Just pretend I'm not here," Jack told her, lying down on his belly and propping his elbows on his bag. He checked his filter and his film and got himself into position. "One … two … three … Jump!"
Molly jumped with a squeal of delight, and Jack quickly discovered he hadn't really thought this shot through properly as he was splashed with the dirty rainwater.
Ah well. He was wet anyway.
"That was excellent, Molly!" he grinned. "Wanna do it again?"
Molly nodded, and they did it two more times. Jack decided that was all the chance he could take with his limited frames just as the camera began to whirr and wind, the end of the film reached. He gave Molly's mother his card and the card for the development shop.
They left him by the fountain, trying to shelter his camera as he put a new roll of film in. He hung around the bay, taking pictures of waves and lamplight through the sheets of rain that were now soaking him to the bone and decided to call it a day. He put his camera away carefully and headed toward the little shop to check on his film and hand over his newly complete one.
The bell tinkled as he entered, and he paused to look around. There was nobody behind the counter, so Jack wandered up to it and pressed the little old-fashioned metal desk bell a couple of times. The door leading to the development room opened, and the owner's son poked his head into the shop.
Jack got a proper look at him, and felt his mouth go dry and his blood run south.
He stepped into the main area behind the counter with a polite smile full of humble charm, with sharp blue eyes and chocolate-coloured hair. "Evening," he said. "Yours were the totally screwed up still lifes, right?"
Jack nodded. "Right. Screwed up?"
"They were screwed up," he told him proudly. "I'm managed to save all but one. Here." He crouched under the counter and pulled out a wallet of average six by eight photographs. "They're very good. Professional, are you?"
"For holiday brochures?" he asked.
Jack's mouth dropped open. "No! I'm an artist!"
"Oh … Sorry. I was going to say they're too good for brochures. You have … You have a talent for capturing light."
That made Jack grin, leaning on the counter with his elbows as … his name was something … started laying out the photos for him to examine. "Light is my obsession," he told him enthusiastically.
"Why wouldn't it be anyone's?" replied … something. The pretty guy with the deep voice, Welsh vowels and porcelain skin. "Light is the whole reason we can see anything, and the whole reason you can preserve the world you see so that we can see it too. How did you get the moonlight to do this on these ruins?"
"Well … erm?"
"Ianto … I … I can't rightly remember right now. I probably wrote it in my journal."
"I think these are amazing," Ianto admitted. "All I did was pull out the information and develop them. How can you make light do this without post-production or editing? It's amazing. Where were they taken?"
"Turkey," Jack smiled. "Forty-two degrees C in the shade. I thought I was gonna die. The first ones are the marble city of Ephesus and the surrounding areas, the rest are the Apollon temple in Didyma, and then these here are the beach resort of Altinkum, about an hour from Bodrum."
"I've never left Cardiff," Ianto murmured, his eyes drinking in the exotic pictures. "If these were in a brochure, I know I'd be going," he smiled.
"I've been travelling the world since I was eighteen," Jack said.
"How long will you be staying here?"
"Until I run out of pictures to take."
"Is that your policy?" Ianto asked. "Stay until you run out of things you want to take photos of?"
Ianto's eyes dropped to the pictures on the counter again. "How could you ever stop taking pictures in a place like that?" he wondered.
Jack watched Ianto's face as his eyes dreamily wandered over the photographs. "You wanna go for a drink some time?" he asked before he'd properly thought it through.
Ianto's eyes widened, and he furtively glanced over at the ribboned curtain that led to the back of the shop. "I can't," he whispered, biting his lip. "My dad would kill me."
"I can have you home by bedtime, I promise," Jack grinned.
"No … I mean … He's not a particularly open-minded person. He'd kill me if he found out I … went for drinks with a guy like you."
Jack tried not to look hurt. He swallowed. "How about I show you my other photographs from around the world some time?" he offered. "Surely your father can't begrudge you that?"
"I don't … I don't wanna … I mean … I'm sorry. No."
"I'll bring some to the shop, then?" Jack tried.
"You don't need to do that. Please."
Jack regarded Ianto a moment, stood behind the counter, resisting from hugging himself. He took his latest film canisters out of his pocket and set them on the wooden top. "Can you develop these for me?" he asked.
Ianto fumbled for an order envelope. "Harkness, isn't it?" he asked, though he'd already written it. He put the canisters into the envelope and added them to the pending pile. "Should be done tomorrow afternoon." He folded his arms, still staring at the pictures on the counter, avoiding Jack's eyes.
Jack breathed out heavily. "Thanks," he said, and started gathering up the photographs. "I'll decide which of these I'll need making into large-scale prints and get back to you."
Ianto nodded, interested on the wooden grain before him and not much else.
Backing out of the shop, Jack left him to it.
He decided that Ianto would be his non-art related personal Cardiff Project. He'd love 'im and leave 'im, but he'd be glad he took the chance. Besides: it'd be fun.
Of course, he'd have to prise him out from behind the counter first … but the shy ones were always the best challenges.
Turning up his collar, Jack headed back to the hostel, only to pause when a hand landed on his shoulder. He turned, and found Ianto stood there in the pouring rain.
"I forgot to ask you to pay," he said, a little too innocently.
Jack smiled. "Oh?"
"I'll go and look at your photos. Tomorrow is my evening off. I'll meet you around the corner after you pick up your pictures at about one. I couldn't say in the shop 'cause my Dad …"
Jack nodded. "Okay, sure."
"Erm … but really … You have to pay now."
Ianto led him back to the shop, they settled up, and Jack left feeling considerably lighter both in pocket and in heart.
The little shop came into view, and Jack grinned at the sound of the tinkling bell and at Ianto looking slightly grubby again impatiently bobbing from foot to foot behind the counter, waiting for him.
"Hi," he said.
"Hi," Ianto replied. "Harkness, isn't it?"
Jack nodded, and Ianto crouched down and produced the six by eights as he had done before.
"I can't believe how exotic you managed to make Cardiff look," Ianto was saying, standing up and handing over the envelope. "Do you display your work?"
"I do personal galleries now and then," Jack shrugged. "I mostly sell to collectors, or hotels looking for something to stick in their restaurants or whatever."
"Must be a hard living."
"I'm lucky I have my family's fortune to pay most of my way. I'd have starved otherwise."
"I wish I could see how you do it," Ianto admitted.
Jack lifted the camera around his neck. "It's just sorta … point and click," he grinned, then blinked as his finger accidentally hit the shutter release. "D'ohhhhh," he sighed.
"Wasted," tutted Ianto.
"We'll see when you develop it. Anyway … I have to go. I have an appointment in Newport."
"Ah. Lucky you."
"Indeed," nodded Jack, and set some more canisters on the counter. Ianto raised an eyebrow at them, and Jack just smiled. "Cardiff is full of light," he shrugged.
"Cardiff is grey."
"Develop these," Jack grinned, tapping one of the canisters. "And you can see Cardiff how I see it."
Ianto smiled back, and they just smiled at each other for a moment. Eventually, Ianto broke eye contact. "Hurry up," he said. "The sooner you get out of my shop, the sooner my shift finishes."
Jack chuckled. "See you around, Ianto."
Five minutes later, they were both huddled around the corner. Ianto checked behind them, then tugged Jack by the arm toward a taxi rank. He gave the name of Jack's hostel and finally relaxed once they were on the way.
Jack guided him up to the large room he was sharing with eight others and tugged out his photo album. Ianto sat next to him on his bottom bunk, and for three hours he listened raptly as he stared at photographs of Cairo, Shanghai, Paris, Stockholm, Las Palmas, Tokyo, Helsinki and what seemed to him like a million other places. He saw Jack's techniques growing and developing page after page, seeing the world beyond Cardiff how Jack saw it.
They came to the end, and Ianto seemed disappointed. "That it?" he asked.
"Well, there's a lot of failed shots," he replied amusedly. "They're destroyed," he added.
"Oh. Can I ask you something?"
"Are you really so lonely?"
Jack stared at him a moment. "What?"
Ianto's brow furrowed, and he opened the album again, flicking through the pages so that Jack could see. "This is the world you see. This is your world … and in not a single one of these pictures is there another person."
Jack stared at the page Ianto had paused on. "I'm … I took a picture of that little girl yesterday."
"You took a picture of the lights in her boots through the splashes. You were interested in the light."
"Light is my obsession."
"Do people not have light? I think they do."
"They do … but …" Jack flipped over the page, staring at his pictures. "I travel alone," he said. "I'm always alone. That doesn't mean I'm lonely. Besides – live subjects don't keep still. I prefer subjects that keep still."
"Light isn't still at all," Ianto frowned. "Light is constantly moving."
"Light has a different form of movement."
"You don't keep still, either," Ianto pointed out. "You've shown me today how you bounce from place to place. You'd up and leave me before I was even dressed if the feeling took you. Why should your subjects be still?"
"I'm not good a photographing people."
Ianto 'mm'd, then returned his attention to Jack's photographs. "I bet you could take some beautiful portraits," he mused.
"Are you a photographer?" Jack asked, realising he'd never actually bothered to find out before.
"Me? No. I just … point and click," he smiled.
Jack smiled back, and he held the eye contact for a moment longer than necessary. His eyes dipped to Ianto's lips purposefully, and a little sliver of pink tongue darted out to wet them. Leaning forward, he pressed their mouths together in a chaste kiss, lingered a moment, then allowed them to part.
Ianto's cheeks were flushed as he turned his face away, breathing out as if exhilarated. Jack slid an arm around his shoulders, then kissed his cheek. "Let me see you again?" he asked.
"Tomorrow afternoon?" Ianto suggested. Jack nodded, resting his cheek on Ianto's shoulder.
"You don't have to leave yet, do you?"
"Good," Jack grinned, then jumped down from the bunk and grabbed Ianto's hand, tugging him down, too. He shoved his photo album into his cage under the bunk beds and secured it with his padlock before grabbing his rucksack and dragging Ianto out of the room by his hand.
"Where are we going?" Ianto asked.
"To take some photos," Jack grinned, not letting go of his hand as they left the hostel. "Where do you wanna go?"
"I dunno. Cardiff's just … the same over and over."
"It's not," Jack insisted. "Come on – where should we go?"
"Erm … I don't know. I really don't."
"What do you do in your spare time?" Jack asked.
"I play rugby …"
Ianto pointed in the general direction of his local patch of rugby grass and Jack instantly started dragging him along. He gave a few directions, and eventually they came to the empty and exceedingly muddy splotch of rugby-ruined land.
"Perfect," Jack grinned, and he pulled open his rucksack. He took out his camera and gave it to Ianto to hold, then pulled out a medium-sized sheet of plastic blue tarpaulin. He lay it on the ground, then got down onto his belly and looked through the lens at a slodge of mud. "Okay … find me the filter numbered #42b," he instructed. Ianto rooted around.
"How the Hell am I supposed to find it in here?" he asked. "They're not even in holders … just … thrown in- Oh. Here we go." He handed the filter to Jack, and it was skilfully slotted into the holder. A photograph was snapped, and Jack got himself up to his feet and looked around. He headed toward what he called 'the big white 'huh'' and started snapping away at it. At one point he was on his back, his camera pointing vertically up at the crossbar for whatever reason.
In the end, Ianto just waited by the edge of the pitch for him to return from examining a bench. "I think I prefer looking at the finished product," he admitted as Jack returned in need of another roll of film.
Jack chuckled, quickly changing the cartridge. "Wanna take some?"
Ianto shook his head. "I don't want to waste your film."
"Come on. I waste loads of film."
Ianto shook his head again. "They'll be rubbish. Just pictures of stuff."
Jack considered him a moment. "You said people have light, right?"
"Yeah," Ianto agreed.
Pushing his camera into Ianto's hands, he looked at him seriously. "Capture mine," he said.
"Really. I can't."
"Look through my filters. Look through my lens. Then forget about them all and close your eyes and picture me in your head. That's what you need to capture. The memory in a physical image, not just what you see in front of you. Then … point and click."
"Try? For me?"
Ianto swallowed, and Jack watched him bite his lip then glance away. He opened Jack's rucksack and rooted through, pulling out a few filters, fitting them to the camera, peeking through then changing his mind. Eventually, he mixed two together.
In the mean time, Jack had phased out, lost in his own thoughts as he watched a droplet of water drip down from a blade of grass into the mud.
"Done," Ianto announced, and Jack looked up.
"You took the picture?"
"I took two. The first was an accident."
"Oh. That's fine." He accepted his camera back, detached the filters and carefully put them back in his bag. "The sun's setting," he commented. "Wanna find somewhere else?"
Ianto nodded. "How about a pub?" he suggested. "I'm starving."
Jack's stomach rumbled in surprised agreement, as if it was so involved with Jack's work, too, that it forgot it needed food. He let Ianto lead him to his local pub, where Ianto was greeted by name and people whispered about Jack. Ianto ignored them, sitting them down in a booth.
"Today's been so much fun," he smiled.
"Really? I thought you were bored stiff, if I'm honest." Jack sipped his pint.
"If it was anyone else, I probably would have been."
Jack smiled, and Ianto smiled back.
"I know your type, y'know," Ianto said eventually, his gaze lowering to the table. "I've been loved and left before, Jack. But … I keep letting it happen. I'm … I want you to know that I don't expect you to stay or anything. I'm not looking to tie you down. I know I'm just one in a long, long line, and that's okay."
Jack regarded him a moment. "Wow," he said eventually. "I wish everyone in every city understood me like you."
"I'm not saying I understand. I'm just saying I accept."
"Either way, I suppose it makes it easier for both of us."
"It's hard for people like you to leave?" Ianto asked curiously.
"We can't help it," Jack admitted. "It hurts when you've been with someone, but … if your heart can't settle …"
"Do you think it ever will?"
Jack shrugged. "Maybe. Or maybe some day I'll just bring my heart with me. I don't know. The future is unknown."
Ianto nodded. "How it should be."
Jack nodded too.
They didn't speak much for the rest of their date, consumed by their own thoughts and the need to satisfy their hunger. Jack started snapping photos of beer glasses and condensation, and Ianto watched him amusedly.
"'Ere, Ianto," called the landlord. "Get ya crazy fella outta here before I break his camera. My other regs are getting uncomfortable."
Ianto tugged Jack out from under one of the tables and guided him outside, apologising to the others. They decided to get separate cabs, and Jack hesitated a moment before opening the door for Ianto to climb into his. He gently laced his fingers through Ianto's hair and guided him closer, kissing his mouth and this time allowing their tongues to touch. They parted with difficulty, and Jack waved Ianto off with a distracted sigh.
He hoisted his rucksack onto his shoulders and climbed into a cab of his own.
"You're keeping us in business," grinned Jones Senior from behind the counter as Jack fought his way through the rain and into the shop.
Jack just grinned back, bringing his plastic wallet out of his coat plus a couple more containers of film. "I need these blowing up to the biggest size you do," he said, pushing the wallet with the six by eight prints and their originals across the counter. "And these just need developing, if you will, sir."
"Certainly – I'm guessing you want to pick up yesterday's?"
Jack nodded, digging cash out of his pocket ready. He accepted the envelopes, flicking through them both, then frowning. "There's three missing," he said.
Jack nodded. "Maybe they didn't come out," he tutted.
"If there was something on the film, my Ianto would have pulled it."
Jack 'mm'd. "I've been coming through here every day, nearly. He's probably lost track of which pictures go where," he smiled, then shrugged. "Or maybe he's trying something."
"He hasn't stolen them," Mr. Jones said, accusingly.
Jack's eyes widened. "No, I wasn't saying that. I wouldn't bring my frames here if I didn't trust him with them."
"Then what were you saying?"
Jack shrugged. "Maybe the pictures didn't come out so he's having a play to see if he can pull a better image?" he suggested.
Mr. Jones' expression softened. "Yeah, that's my Ianto," he nodded.
They settled up, shook hands and Jack left the shop. He got around the corner and took out his phone. 'I have three pictures missing. What's the ransom?' he typed out, sending it to Ianto. A couple of moment later, he got his reply.
'Dinner tonight? Dress smart.'
Jack grinned, replied with an affirmative and set off back to his hostel.
"Well?" Jack smiled, sitting back in his chair as the waiter walked away with their order.
Ianto sighed, then reached into his blazer's inside pocket. He brought out the photos, and set them on the table. Two of them were of Jack, the ones Ianto had taken by the rugby pitch. The other was the one of Ianto in the shop that Jack had accidentally taken while demonstrating 'point and click'. Jack stared at the latter a moment. "Fuck me, I took a decent picture of a human being."
"You didn't. It's awful. I look such a mess."
"You don't. Look at you – you're glowing."
"I look like a ghost. My skin is practically translucent."
"Don't be daft. I bet if I could get you under some decent, natural lighting ..."
"You don't take pictures of people," Ianto reminded him.
"I wanna try," Jack pouted.
"Find yourself a model," Ianto mumbled, staring at the table.
"I have," Jack grinned, his eyes travelling over Ianto's face and down to his hands as he tucked the pictures into his coat pocket. He reached over to where Ianto's hands rested and held one gently in his own, examining the back of it.
"What are you doing?" Ianto asked, though he still let him continue.
Jack shrugged, letting go of it. "Nothing."
Ianto's eye narrowed at him as he took his hand back. "What were you doing?"
"Nothing," Jack repeated with a laugh. He let out a breath, leaning back in his seat and stretching. "Where are our drinks?" he wondered aloud.
Ianto was staring at the back of his own hand. "Huh?"
"Just wondering where are drinks are. What are you doing?"
"I'm trying to figure out what your were doing."
"You're really cute when you're confused."
Ianto rolled his eyes, tucked his hands under the table where neither of them could see them and roved his eyes around the room in search of a waiter carrying their drinks. When they finally arrived, Jack gulped down half his orange in one go.
"So," he grinned. "What are your plans for the future, then?"
"Just the shop, really."
"I mean … Future future. Long term future."
"Yeah, so did I."
"Just … the shop? Oh."
Ianto's eyebrow raised.
"Not that there's anything wrong with that," Jack hastily added. "It's a great shop. Best I've ever been to … It's just … I thought you maybe … I dunno … You wanna see the world, don't you?"
Ianto's eyes dropped to the table. "Yes. But I'm needed in the shop."
"Take a holiday," Jack suggested. "Two weeks once a year – you can be afforded that, surely?"
"I can't afford it all," Ianto sighed. "Even when Dad leaves the shop to me … Photograph development isn't really that big a business any more, now that everything's going digital. Add to the fact that huge chains like Tesco and Boots got in on the act, and why would you go to a little independent place tucked away where you can't really find it when you can drop your film off, do your buying in then get the prints on the way out?"
Jack nodded sympathetically. "It's getting so expensive," he agreed. "So few places have my proper film, or the amenities with which to develop it. That's why I searched out your little place – I figured you'd understand why I use thirty-five mil' and haven't succumbed to digital."
"Digital is lifeless," Ianto scowled. "So you plugged your camera in and hit print. Big fucking deal."
Jack chuckled. "I see photographers taking a million pictures of the same thing on digital cameras, not even bothering to set up a shot or use a filter 'cause they know that one of their frames will be decent – and if it's not, they could always edit it later on."
Ianto sighed heavily. "The art form must evolve somehow, I suppose," he conceded. "Digital or not, you can still see real talent when it's there."
Jack nodded, leaning back a little as the waiter placed their starters before them. They lapsed into silence for a moment as they ate, until Jack decided to try again.
"So … Are you sure you won't pose for me?"
"Pretty damn sure."
Jack pouted. "Please?"
Ianto pushed his food around his plate. "No."
"Where will I find somebody else who's so much like you people might think it is you, then?"
Ianto shrugged. "I dunno. Put a card in the Post Office window or something."
"WANTED: One cute, young, male, Welsh life model for internationally renown artistic photographer. Clothes optional. Will that do?" smiled Jack.
Ianto shrugged again. "Whatever floats your boat."
Jack nodded thoughtfully, then continued eating his meal.
"Whaddya think?" Jack asked, wandering into the studio space with arms out stretched.
"Spacious," Ianto nodded, looking around him at the open-plan accommodation and wiggling his toes. Jack had made him leave his shoes at the door, and seeing the studio he completely understood."Much more you than the hostel, at any rate."
"Figured I'd be staying longer than I thought – and I needed to get away from the snoring."
The studio consisted of two distinct rooms: the bathroom, and the living area. There was a large, empty section near the huge, arching windows that dominated the wall on the right, a modern kitchen to the left and, on a slightly raised dais directly before them, Jack's bed.
"It's very … white," Ianto observed. "How are you going to keep it clean?"
"I got me a housekeeper," Jack grinned.
"She's also agreed to pose for me."
"How did you find a housekeeper?"
"Post Office window," Jack shrugged. "She's called Gwen, and she's cute as a button."
"Are you trying to make me jealous?" Ianto asked, and Jack widened his eyes innocently, stepping closer and looping his arm around Ianto's waist to pull him in close and press their bodies together.
"Me?" he breathed. "Never …" He pressed his lips to Ianto's, slipped his tongue into his mouth and kissed him slowly. He ran his hands over and down Ianto's back, sliding lower to settle on his hips and squeeze gently. Carefully, he pushed his hands underneath Ianto's jacket and traced his waistband until he could touch his erection through his tight trousers. Ianto's breath hitched, and he pushed his hips forward into Jack's hand.
Jack broke the kiss, touching their noses together. He listened to Ianto's shaky breaths for a moment. "Come to bed with me?" he asked.
Ianto's eyes were dark and shining as he stared back at him for a prolonged second. He nodded, breathing deeply, and Jack led him by the hand to his bed. He guided Ianto down until he was lying on his back, and Jack covered his body with is own, kissing him deeply and feeling his legs wrapping around him.
They rubbed themselves together in a slow, steady rhythm as they made out lying on Jack's bed, their heavy breathing loud in their ears. Jack finally managed to locate where his hands had wandered to and began pulling Ianto's neatly knotted tie loose, tossing it aside before beginning on his shirt buttons.
"When did you last do this?" Jack muttered into the soft, exposed skin of Ianto's neck.
"I've never done it," Ianto replied, pressing his lips to Jack's shoulder.
Jack raised his head. "I thought you said … there were others?"
"There was one other," Ianto confirmed. "And that 'other' was a woman."
"Ahh," Jack smiled. "You're bisexual."
Ianto shook his head. "Nope," he shrugged, running a hand up Jack's arm and resting it by his neck to tug him in for a kiss. "I'm just Ianto," he said, and pressed their mouths together.
Jack kissed hungrily, finally getting Ianto's shirt open and tugging it from his arms. He knelt up between Ianto's legs and pulled his own t-shirt off over his head, throwing it aside then pressing them together again. He rocked his hips gently, and Ianto gasped and bit down instinctively. Jack grunted, giving him a playful nip in return before shifting his weight so that he could begin unfastening Ianto's trousers.
He lay beside him, pushing the front of Ianto's boxers down, lifting his head away from the kiss so that he could look him in the eye as his fingers got tantalisingly closer and closer to Ianto's erection. Ianto's eyes rolled shut when finally Jack took hold of him and stroked him, his hands gripping Jack's biceps painfully.
"Oh my GOD! Ianto?"
Jack froze at the yell, and Ianto sat bolt upright.
There, in the doorway, lollipop in one hand and can of coke and shopping bag in the other, stood Jack's housekeeper. She stared at them both, then realised she should probably peel her eyes away. "Ha … Erm … Sorry," she mumbled awkwardly, though a girlish giggle managed to escape as she turned her back and headed to the kitchen.
Ianto was bright red.
"It's just Gwen," Jack tried as Ianto hurriedly got himself dressed again, not quite looking Jack in the eye. "I'll get her to leave."
Ianto shook his head. "Moment's gone, Jack … and I need to get going, too."
"I know her, Jack," Ianto whispered. "She knows my Dad! Oh God … My Dad's going to kill me …"
He headed straight out of the door, picking up his shoes on the way and not looking back. Gwen wandered back over from the kitchen. "Sorry," she repeated.
"I wouldn't have come in if I'd have known."
There was a short silence, then Jack clapped his hands together. "C'mon, Gwen. We've got work to do. I'll get set up, and you can go in the bathroom to get yourself ready or whatever."
Gwen nodded, sucking her lollipop as she made her way to the bathroom to make sure she was presentable. She returned only in the dressing gown Jack had left for her.
"Where do you want me?" she asked, lollipop still in hand.
"Stick hold of the lolly," he decided, pulling one of the dining chairs across. "Robe off, and sit here."
Gwen grinned, sitting by the huge window. "It's a good job I'm an exhibitionist," she said. "These will be exhibited, won't they?"
"Hopefully," Jack nodded, messing with his camera. "Okay – I've only got four rolls of film, so please: keep still, and do as I tell you, okay Gwen?"
Gwen nodded, and Jack took a deep breath.
Time to get the experiment started …
Jack passed Molly and her mother on their way out of the Jones' shop. He grinned at them as they went past with their canvas print and said his 'good mornings' before entering to the sound of that familiar tingling bell.
"Knock, knock?" he called into the shop, and Ianto poked his head out of the development lab. His cheeks coloured slightly.
"Heya, Jack," he mumbled. "Your … Erm … Your pictures are ready. I managed to do them without Dad seeing, so … Yeah."
"Did Gwen … y'know. Tell him?"
"I'm guessing not," Ianto said, crouching down to retrieve the photos. He put the envelopes on the counter. "Just call it twenty-five quid, okay?"
Jack's eyes narrowed. "No looking through them or anything?"
Ianto hugged himself. "No. I saw enough already." His eyes raised and locked with Jack's.
"I think Gwen could always do with a second glance over." Jack picked a random envelope and removed a picture. "I'm glad you suggested I get a model to pose for me – look at the way the light just shines out of her eyes … She was very good at keeping still, too."
"I'm very pleased for you."
Jack regarded Ianto a moment. "Have I done something wrong?" he asked.
Ianto shook his head. "It's not your fault. Only, I can see it in the pictures. You like her."
"Yeah – I'm still a man, Ianto. And she's … look at her. Nothing happened. I didn't even flirt once she took her clothes off."
"If you want to do more prints of Gwen, you're going to have to go elsewhere. They're not even tasteful, Jack. If my Dad finds them, he'll kill you – and then he'll kill me for developing them."
"'Tasteful'?" Jack repeated. "It's the female body, Ianto. It's not my fault if you're embarrassed by it."
"I'm not!" Ianto insisted, his voice raising slightly. "You think some artistic shots of a naked woman embarrass me? I work in a photograph development lab! You'd think people thought nobody could actually see their photographs given some of the stuff that's come through here! But there's artistic shots, Jack, and then there's the outright lewd."
"You're talking like I gave you porn!"
"You practically did give me porn! I was half expecting you to turn up in a frame with her, or have to red cross a few because of condensation building up on the fucking lens!"
Jack's mouth opened and closed. "What's this about, Ianto?"
"Gwen! I've known her since … And to see what you made her do?"
"I didn't make her do anything! She pretty much posed herself! What's wrong with you? You understood my work – now what? Are you jealous of her?"
"What? No!" Ianto spluttered, folding his arms tightly.
"You are, aren't you? I bet you even fucking like the shots – I bet you think they're as beautiful as I do. You're just jealous because it wasn't your in them. Well – I asked you, didn't I? You turned me down, told me to find somebody else. It's your own fault that I actually fucking did."
Ianto stared at the counter top, and Jack could see his eyes shining and turning a little red. Ianto nodded, agreeing with Jack that it was his own fault.
Jack drew himself up to his full height, clutching his envelopes. "I'll let you know if I can get these exhibited," he said. "Don't worry, I won't come to you for screen prints. Maybe I'll see you around somewhere. Goodbye, Ianto."
Jack marched out of the shop, dimly aware that as he did so, Jones Sr emerged from behind his ribboned curtain.
He let the door slam shut behind him, and didn't look back.
Jack felt particularly under dressed.
The committee sat in the room behind him, poring over his Gwen photographs and muttering to each other as they assessed whether or not they would let him into the exhibition. He tried to listen through the thick, wooden fire door, but couldn't hear a thing. He could just see them through the little windows.
With an impatient sigh he threw himself into the chair in the waiting area. His legs jigged up and down as he willed the wait to be over, and as he tried not to think about the people perusing his work in the room next door, his thoughts drifted to more personal, recent events.
Jack couldn't stop kicking himself over Ianto. They'd both overreacted, and both had too much stubborn pride to apologise any time soon. Jack supposed it didn't really matter much. He was running out of pictures to take in Cardiff, and promised himself until the end of the exhibition, if he got a slot in it, before he would take off.
His landlord might be annoyed that he'd only spent about a week thus far in his studio loft, but Jack had forewarned him about his flighty nature so he couldn't complain too much.
The door to the room opened, and Jack was beckoned back in.
Taking a deep breath, he sat in the chair opposite the committee's long desk and waited.
"Mr. Harkness," began the chairwoman, Ms Hardman. "I have to say, we're impressed."
"Really? That's … that's good."
"- while your work demonstrates excellent technical skill, we find some of it very … scientific."
"Scientific?" Jack repeated.
"This female model," indicated Ms. Hardman. "How did you meet her?"
"She's my housekeeper."
"I see," she nodded. "Does she inspire you, Mr. Harkness?"
Jack held eye contact with her a moment, then admitted defeat. "No. No, she does not."
Ms. Hardman smiled at him. "You understand your work needs your heart in it, too. These are beautiful pictures, Mr. Harkness, but that's all. I just see a female model, because that's all you saw."
Jack's eyes slid closed in disappointment. He nodded, agreeing with her. He was about to thank them, when Ms. Hardman continued.
"However," she smiled, pushing a couple aside. "We would very much like to set up another meeting in three week's time, if that's possible?"
Jack blinked. He'd been mentally booking his plane tickets to Vegas. "Oh?"
"Tell me," Ms. Hardman said, sipping her glass of water and setting it carefully back down again. "Who is this male subject?"
Jack's mouth dropped open slightly. "That's … That picture shouldn't be there … He's … He was … We had a … Y'know …"
A chuckle reverberated from the committee, and Jack decided to just shut his mouth.
"We, the committee, think you should maybe try a session with him."
"But … the exhibition is about women …?" Jack frowned.
"We have an upcoming gallery next month. I think your use of light and appreciation of the human form will fit right into it, and we'd love to display your work – if you can produce the work, obviously."
"Next month will be your … the Christmas gallery? Won't there be like … a lot of influential people there with cravats and tie pins and … the Christmas gallery."
"We know talent when we see it, Mr. Harkness," nodded Ms. Hardman. "The Christmas Exhibition is a showcase of the best work we've seen all year. If you can do what you did with your display in Shanghai – make your viewers see your subjects the way you do, show them the way you see them …"
"You saw my show in Shanghai?" Jack blinked. "That was in a café that was constantly empty. I sold the prints for loose change."
Ms. Hardman nodded. "I know. But please remember, Mr. Harkness: we're going out on a limb, here, holding the December slot. If we don't submit your work, we don't have anything as yet to submit. Please be aware that we will have a back up photographer should you fail to pull through."
They called the meeting to an end, and it wasn't until Jack was out of the door that he realised there was no way in Hell he was going to admit to Ianto what had happened. He'd find someone else who he fancied, and he'd take their picture instead.
He didn't have to swallow his pride just yet.
"It's not my fault, Gwen!" Jack sighed for the millionth time. She was having none of it.
"I quit!" she yelled. "Both the posing and the cleaning! Fuck you!"
Jack sighed again. Never mind.
Cardiff was choking him. He needed to get out. He needed to leave. Part of him just wouldn't let him, though. If he could just hang on three weeks, get his work into the exhibition, see whether it sold on the opening night, then he could head to the airport feeling like everything was done and tied up here.
He checked his watch.
His first of today's auditions would be arriving soon, so Jack checked to make sure the bathroom was presentable, then made up a pitcher of orange juice. There was a knock on the door, and Jack crossed over to it. He was greeted by a pretty boy, wearing a v-neck t-shirt that showed off far too much chest and hair so saturated with hair gel, it was solid.
Jack swallowed. "Sorry, you're not what I'm looking for," he told him, and shut the door.
The next guy was the same, and the boy who looked around fifteen in the skinny jeans was a 'no' at the door, also. Jack sat forward on his sofa, playing with his camera in his hands. His eyes drifted down the accidental picture of Ianto in his shop that might actually have been the image to make his career. He picked it up, examining it; the way the light seemed to radiate from Ianto rather than bounce off as it had done with Gwen, the way his eyes shone with laughter and affection rather than hunger and lust.
There was a knock at the door, and Jack dropped the picture back onto the table to answer it. "John?" he said, almost not believing his eyes.
"So it is you," grinned John Hart, leaning nonchalantly in the door frame. "I've come to audition, since you're apparently after people now. Fed up of shiny stones?"
"Never," Jack grinned back, standing aside to let him in.
"You're settled here, then?" John asked, looking around.
"Nah. I just needed some space while I was here."
"I thought I was going to … But then the pictures suddenly ran out."
John nodded, throwing himself down onto the sofa. "This the Cardiff Project, then?" he asked, picking up the photo of Ianto.
"Give that back," Jack said hurriedly, snatching it and tucking it into the toast rack he was using to keep his photographs.
John looked at him funny. "What was that about?" he asked.
"Photographer and subject confidentiality," Jack muttered. "Orange juice?" he offered, changing the subject. "You can't stay long, by the way. I have other auditions."
"I just wanted to see if it was really you," smiled John, waving away the offer of a drink. "And since you're busy, maybe we should hook up later on? Catch up on old times in Paris?"
John left shortly after, and Jack leaned on the door. Maybe he could ask John to pose for him …
He'd be more than willing, Jack was sure.
The rest of the day was tiresome. Nobody fitted the bill. They were too perfect, too full of themselves, too desperate to bed him once they saw him. Jack bit his lip as he showed the last one of the day the door. He supposed he could take some practice shots of John, see how they turned out.
He sank into his sofa, turning to put his feet up and stretching out. His mind prickled, and he slowly began to admit to himself that he wanted Ianto.
Not just for his pictures, but for the company, and the kisses, and … Hell, it'd be nice to actually have sex with him. Originally, the words 'make love to him' had crossed Jack's mind, but he resolutely ignored them in favour of stretching again and listening to his back pop.
He considered going over to Ianto's shop to test the water. Maybe if he did explain the situation with the gallery to him, Ianto would be more amenable to the idea of posing and Jack might even forgive him for being weird over the Gwen photos.
Mind made up, Jack slung on his coat and headed to the little shop across town.
"Knock, knock?" Jack called into the shop, and to his disappointment Jones Sr appeared from behind the ribboned curtain. He swallowed as he was recognised, and a very angry expression greeted him.
"Come back, have you?" Mr. Jones ground out.
"I came to … I have … I …"
"Ianto doesn't want to speak to you."
"I'd like him to tell me that himself," Jack replied, gathering his resolve.
"Ianto!" Mr. Jones called.
"I don't want to speak to him." was called back.
"There you go," Mr. Jones shrugged. "Now, do you have pictures to pick up, or do you need to be on your way."
"Look, Mr. Jones: I know you don't approve of the fact that I'm a guy, but I really, really need Ianto's help. That's all, I promise."
Mr. Jones turned a very angry colour. "Excuse me?" he growled through gritted teeth. "I'm not sure what my Ianto's been telling you, but I don't give a shit if he's with guy, a gal or a fucking hermaphrodite. You, my son, are an artist. Worse than that – you're a travelling artist. That is why Ianto knew I wouldn't approve. You quite happily broke his heart with your flighty affections and your 'free spirit', and nobody takes my boy for granted. Nobody."
"I'm so sorry," Jack sniffed, his eyes stinging. "I never meant-"
"Never meant to hurt him? My arse! You knew you were leaving – you think he didn't admit it all? You think he didn't tell me not to blame you for leaving? You think he didn't tell me that he thinks he's 'okay' with you leaving? That he's okay with you messing around with the Coopers' girl?"
"Nothing happened between Gwen and me!" Jack insisted. "Nothing! I swear. I came to apologise for thinking letting her pose for me was a good idea, and to tell him that I destroyed the cells and most of the prints. I've come to grovel."
The door to the development lab clicked open, and Ianto emerged. "It's okay, Dad," he said, folding his arms and leaning on the closed door. Mr. Jones looked between them both, then sighed.
"Ianto," he sighed. "Wasn't your mother and Lisa warning enough?" Ianto ignored him, and his father threw his hands up. He turned and entered the development lab, probably picking up where Ianto had left off.
"You didn't have to destroy the pictures," Ianto mumbled. "They were beautiful. You were right, obviously. I was … y'know …"
"Gwen has the ones she liked," shrugged Jack. "I have no other use for them."
"Weren't you entering them for an exhibition?"
Jack shifted his weight from one foot to the other. "They turned down the Gwen lot."
"Oh. I'm sorry."
"They liked one of the, though," Jack began carefully. "The one of you I took accidentally. It was in my portfolio, and they liked it. They said that if I can get you to do a sitting, I might get the Christmas exhibition."
"You came back … to use me?"
"Even if you don't pose for me and I lose the slot … I want you back, Ianto. I miss you."
"Get used to it," Ianto sighed. "You're leaving soon. I can feel it."
"I only want to leave because without you there's no use staying. There's no more pictures to take. Cardiff's turning grey."
"Cardiff was always grey."
"When I had you it wasn't."
Ianto was silent a moment, then ran his fingers through his hair in exasperation. "But there's no point, Jack. You're going to leave, so … so pursuing this is pointless, and harmful to us both."
"Come with me."
"What?" Ianto blinked.
The door the lab popped open. "What?" echoed Jones Sr.
"Come with me," Jack repeated, firmer.
"Can't ..." Ianto stammered. "My Dad … the shop …"
"You can," his Dad cut in.
"Enough, Dad!" Ianto snapped, and he disappeared back into the lab. Ianto returned his attention to Jack. "I won't leave him, Jack. I won't."
Jack swallowed. "Then … as a parting gift … One night?" he asked.
Ianto shook his head. "Don't make letting go harder than it has to be."
"Please … Just go."
"Fine," Jack nodded. "Well … Just so you know … I'll be leaving in three weeks, maybe sooner. Depends how the auditions tomorrow go."
"I need somebody to pose for me," Jack explained. "Somebody … I don't know. Somebody who I see differently than I do the rest of the world."
"Hm. Good luck," Ianto nodded.
"Thank you. So … I'm going now."
Jack tried to say it back, but the words wouldn't come out. Instead he simply turned and left.
He didn't look back.
John was AWOL, and Jack just wanted the day to be over with. He'd pretty much come to the conclusion that he wasn't going to find anybody because he was too hung up on Ianto, but supposed he'd best see the rest of his applicant wannabes out of politeness before asking John to do it.
Of course, John's phone wasn't being answered at the moment. At least Jack still had time to locate him.
There was a knock at the door, and Jack plastered on a smile to go and answer it. Less than a minute later it was closed again, and Jack was leaning against the door, glad that by his count that was the last one and he could stop saying 'no' and seeing hopes dashed so low. He was about to push himself away from the door when there was another knock, and Jack could barely be bothered to put his smile on before wrenching it open a little too forcefully.
"Not interrupting, am I?" Ianto asked, peering past Jack to see if he had a visitor. Jack swallowed.
Jack stepped aside to let him in, his eyes sweeping up and down the finely tailored three piece suit he had elected to wear.
"Are you all-all right?" Jack asked, his mouth too dry.
"I left a tie here," Ianto explained, crossing over to the little photograph studio set-up Jack had cobbled together for testing shots, should any happen. "Been busy?"
"Mainly opening the door and closing it again," Jack admitted.
"Oh. I'm sure you'll find someone."
"Yeah," Jack nodded. "So … ah … What's with the posh suit?"
"Ran out of clean clothes. I've been busy seeing somebody behind my father's back rather than my share of the housework."
"Was the somebody worth it?" Jack asked.
"I'm not sure," Ianto admitted, turning to face him. "I went to his studio pretending I'd left a tie and we just sound up speaking in vague metaphor for five minutes."
Jack felt himself smiling, and he took a few steps closer. "I'm sorry."
"It wasn't you," Ianto said, shaking his head. "I was an idiot. Stupid and jealous, because you never take photographs of people and then you chose to take hers."
"I know. I brought you a gift to apologise." He help up an origami box he'd clearly made himself. Jack took it from him curiously and opened it.
"A new filter," he grinned. "Excellent."
"I made it myself," Ianto mumbled, colouring a little. "It's a contrast filter. It works best in black and white, so I brought you some rolls of black and white film, too, if you wanna try it."
Jack's grin widened, accepting the little carrier bag. "I've never properly experimented with grayscale images, if I'm honest. I like colour."
"Well … you said Cardiff was grey, is all."
Jack nodded. He had.
He fiddled with the strap on his watch for a moment. "Would you like some orange juice?" he eventually managed to ask.
"Please," Ianto smiled. "Mind if I use your bathroom?"
"Go ahead," Jack shrugged, testing his pitcher of orange juice and grimacing. It had gotten old. "I'm gonna make up some more."
The door to the bathroom clicked shut and the lock slid across, so Jack busied himself with getting some juice made up. He set the fresh pitcher on the coffee table and sighed, leaning back with his hands above his head wondering what Ianto really wanted.
The bathroom door opened, and Jack leaned forward to hold up Ianto's orange juice for him to take.
He very nearly dropped it.
Ianto emerged from the bathroom nervously, wearing only the dressing gown Jack had left there. They both swallowed, and Ianto's cheeks flushed slightly pink. "Where do you want me?" he asked.
Jack crossed the room to him. "Ianto ..." he breathed. "Are you …?"
Ianto nodded. "You said you needed me. You said … for the exhibition."
Jack nodded. "You don't have to do it if you don't want to."
"Just tell me you need me, Jack," Ianto said, his eyes shining, creasing in the corners.
Swallowing hard, Jack nodded. "I need you, Ianto."
Ianto drew in a shaky breath. "Where do you want me?" he repeated.
"The bed," Jack replied hoarsely, turning to go and fetch his camera. He hesitated a moment, then picked up the filter and film that Ianto had brought.
Ianto was probably wondering what the Hell he was doing as he made his way to Jack's bed. He perched on the end, holding the dressing gown around him, and Jack noted the tense set of his shoulders and the way his eyes resolutely remained on the laminated floor.
"Okay?" he asked him.
Ianto nodded, raising his head to look at Jack stood before him and towering. He held Jack's gaze as he ran his fingers down the opening in the dressing gown, undid the belt and then pulled it slowly apart to reveal his body. He let it slide down his arms until he was no longer wearing it, just sitting on it. "Am I okay?" he asked.
Jack sank to his knees, drinking him in with hungry eyes. "You're perfect."
"I'm sorry about the … Well, I am naked and you're staring at me like that and-"
"I want you to be hard," Jack breathed, and he leaned into Ianto's neck, inhaling deeply and kissing and nipping gently. Ianto's pulse was thudding fast beneath his lips and Jack knew his blood was no longer prioritising his brain as both their cocks began to grow. "Lie back," Jack whispered into Ianto's ear. Ianto nodded, and leaned back, allowing Jack to pull the dressing gown out from beneath him. Jack crouched by the foot of the bed, the shot he needed forming in his mind and the perspective was perfect.
"Relax," Jack coaxed gently. He reached out to move Ianto's cock better into shot, and Ianto moaned gently. "It's called posing, but you don't need to pose at all, Ianto. Just look at me, look at me and pretend I don't have the camera. Look at me like you would then."
Jack snapped a couple of pictures, then gave in and crawled up the bed to lie beside Ianto. He pressed their mouths together passionately, forgetting about his camera for a moment, feeling Ianto's fingers curling into his t-shirt.
"You're tense," Jack observed, his hands running over the taught muscles of Ianto's shoulders.
"Just a bit shy," Ianto admitted, his eyes darting to the abandoned camera by the pillows.
"Would it be easier for you if I were naked, too?"
Ianto nodded, lying back to watch as Jack knelt up and pulled off his t-shirt then his socks, jeans and underwear. He lay on top of Ianto, pressing them together and pulling Ianto's legs around him. Jack felt hands in his hair as they kissed some more, running his own hands down Ianto's thighs and back up to his buttocks. The chill of Ianto's heels on his lower back made him shiver in delight, before he hesitated in disappointment as Ianto pushed his shoulders away gently.
"You're supposed to be taking pictures," he reminded him.
Jack nodded. "Just … erm … We're setting up the shot," he grinned, then dropped his head to press one more kiss to Ianto's lips.
Willing is breath to come back, Jack reached again for his camera, wound on the film and swallowed. He stared at it a moment, then glanced up at Ianto. "I don't know where to start," he admitted.
Ianto scratched his head. "A portrait?" Ianto suggested. "A head shot?"
Jack nodded. "Okay … What do you suggest?"
"Point and click?"
Chuckling, Jack sidled closer and kissed his mouth, pushing him gently to lie back. He straddled Ianto's hips, raising his camera. "Pretend the camera's not there," he repeated.
"That's not easy."
"You'll get used to it, I promise," Jack assured him, rearranging the covers and pillows around Ianto's head.
Ianto squeezed his eyes shut. "What if the gallery don't like this set of photos, either?"
"Then we can keep them for us," Jack shrugged. "In fact … We should take some especially for us …"
Ianto rolled his eyes and Jack snapped a photo. "Heyy," Ianto complained. "I wasn't ready!"
They stuck mainly to the bed, Jack capturing images of what seemed like every inch of Ianto's body. The effort that went into keeping Ianto's excitement maintained was beginning to drive them both insane until Jack got half way through their third roll of film and set the camera aside. "I have to fuck you," he panted.
"Finally," Ianto breathed.
They wrapped themselves around each other, rolling and writhing on the bed, tangling in the covers, kissing, biting, licking and scratching whichever bit of each other was presented. Jack fumbled blindly in his bedside drawer before yanking it out completely, breaking away from Ianto and hurriedly sifting through the mess on the floor.
He found what he needed, and Ianto rolled over onto his stomach. He gasped and groaned as Jack gently forced a wet finger inside him, listening to Ianto hissing through his teeth and watching his hips pressing down repeatedly into the bed, desperate for friction. He pushed up against Jack's finger, so Jack withdrew, added a little more gel to his fingers and gently worked two into him.
Ianto whimpered in a rather unmanly way, and Jack chuckled, feeling the thrum of Ianto's body as he finally pushed three fingers inside him and stretched him out properly.
"Oh God, Jack," Ianto gasped. "Oh God … I'm gonna …"
Jack pulled his fingers out as quickly as he could, and Ianto whined in frustration. He rolled onto his back and pulled Jack down on top of him by the back of his neck, clumsily kissing him. Jack pushed the foil condom packet into his hand, and watched as Ianto used his teeth to rip it open. His long, pale fingers removed the condom, and carefully felt their way down to Jack's cock.
"Oof," Jack grunted appreciatively. "Cold."
Ianto rolled it on, and Jack wasted no time lining himself up, ready to enter him. He hesitated and swallowed. "Ready?"
Ianto nodded. "Go on."
Jack pushed himself forward, and Ianto gritted his teeth and tensed. Jack paused, nuzzling against Ianto's ear. "Relax," he murmured, kissing the lobe. "It's all good. Relax."
He slid inside the rest of the way easily, and he bit back a long groan. He slowly began to gyrate his hips, feeling the chill of Ianto's heels pressing into his lower back and coaxing him in deeper, asking him to go faster.
Sweat broke out over their skin, and Jack could feel his heart hammering louder than it ever had before in his life as it tried to keep oxygen flowing around his body, making sure Jack wouldn't have to stop.
Ianto leaned up and kissed his mouth, wrapping his arms around Jack's shoulders. Jack pressed their foreheads together as they kissed and kissed, clinging onto Ianto's thighs as he began to rock both of their bodies faster, Ianto moving with him, tightening his muscles rhythmically and making Jack see stars.
With a bitten-back moan, Ianto's body tensed below him and Jack watched him come while holding his breath, hardly daring to breathe in case he took away from Ianto's moment. Ianto himself came back down with a gasp for air, his nails digging into the back of Jack's shoulders painfully. They shared a small smile, and Jack began moving again.
It only took a moment or so, and Jack followed Ianto over the edge. He collapsed on top of him, his head buried in Ianto's neck and breathing deeply. He rolled off, panting as he lay on his back. After a moment or so, he reached for his camera, snapped a couple of shots of Ianto in oblivious post-coital bliss and set it back down again. He pulled Ianto close, tucked his head under Ianto's arm, rested his head on his chest and closed his eyes.
They didn't need to say anything to each other.
Contentedly, they fell asleep.
They spent the next fortnight experimenting with their new dynamic as a model and photographer. Ianto got used to being naked around Jack and his camera pretty quickly, as Jack had promised, and Jack had gotten used to being constantly naked around Ianto, too. They hardly bothered to wear clothes any more unless they left Jack's loft.
Ianto walked through the door to Jack's home and set the shopping bags on the kitchen counter. He took the prints he'd managed to do the night before and smuggle out of the lab from his inside coat pocket as he felt Jack pressing up against his back.
"You did it?"
"Yep," nodded Ianto.
Jack took the pictures and started laying them out on the coffee table. "What did you think of them?"
"I think I look awful."
Jack blinked. "You look gorgeous – look at your skin there! And your eyes! The black and white was a good idea. It brings out your light perfectly."
Ianto's cheeks coloured. "I'm all pale and … I look … I dunno," he shrugged.
Jack ignored him, searching through the pictures and locating the obvious 'no's and tossing them aside. "What happened here?" Jack frowned.
"I assumed you'd gotten come on the camera again," Ianto replied amusedly. "Beer?"
He joined Jack by the coffee table with two bottles, handing one over. Jack accepted it and took a long swig. "The colour ones came out great, too. You're so cute here," he grinned, pointing to one of Ianto stood by the memorial in Cathays Park in the rain.
"I was cold, I was wet, and I was nearly crying because I wanted a pasty. How is that cute?"
"You're a more self-deprecating artiste than I am," Jack replied amusedly. "I think I should have full control over which pieces are submitted for the show set."
"No, no, no. Never let the subject choose. Golden rule."
"Written by whom?"
"And voted into officiation by whom?"
Ianto sighed. "Fine, it's your exhibition I suppose. You have full control. Just … don't pick the ones where I look fat, okay?"
"If I come across one, I'm sure I'll leave it out."
Ianto sighed again. Jack realised that clearly, Ianto thought he looked fat in all of them. Jack mimicked his sigh, then sipped his beer. "Wanna have sex?"
Ianto was already shirking his coat. "Thought you'd never ask …"
"So … John and I met in Singapore," Jack began awkwardly.
Ianto and John narrowed their eyes at each other over the booth's table.
"John's a painter. Graphic nudity, mainly, and sometimes gore and torture. We hate each other's work."
John smirked. "I'm more into raw realism," he said. "I show the world as it is."
"Whereas I show the world as I actually see it."
"Oh, Jack," John said, clicking his tongue. "Take that rose-tinted filter off of your camera for a minute and stop daydreaming."
Ianto cleared his throat. "You do realise that 'off of' is so painfully incorrect, it actually hurts my ears to hear it?" he scowled.
"Oh, get off of your high horse," replied John with an eye-roll.
"It's not hard to be perceived as on a high horse when faced with someone so simple," Ianto retorted.
Jack was beginning to think that introducing Ianto and John might have been a bad idea. He rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Now, now," he tried. "Can't you at least try to get along?"
"He uses extraneous prepositions!" Ianto argued.
"Hey, hey!" John interrupted. "It's not my fault we can't all have private educations," he scowled.
"I didn't have a private education," Ianto smugly replied. "I just actually paid attention while I was in my low-budget state school. What were you doing? Eating glue and using your ruler to saw welts into the edges of the desk?"
John's mouth pressed into a thin line.
That wasn't far off the mark to what he'd been doing, actually.
Ianto sensed John's hesitation and folded her arms. "I rest my case."
John glowered at him a second, then turned to Jack. "I don't like him."
"I don't like him," Ianto snapped.
Jack rolled his eyes. "No shit, Sherlock."
John shrugged. "Elementary, Dr. Watson."
Ianto tutted loudly. "Holmes never actually said that, y'know."
Jack slapped his forehead with his hand. "Right – if you two don't start making an effort, we're leaving."
There was a moment's silence around the table. Ianto and John stared each other out a moment.
"I'll get my coat then, shall I?" he suggested, getting to his feet.
Jack glowered at John, giving him a death glare, then followed Ianto over to the coat rack and out of the pub.
"Right," Jack breathed. "I think these are the ones."
Ianto looked down at the five pictures Jack placed before him. He nodded his approval, if a little reluctantly.
"You don't think these are right?" Jack asked worriedly.
"Only for petty personal reasons," Ianto assured him. "If it wasn't me naked in them, I'd probably be fanboying over them right now."
"I'm fanboying over the real thing," Jack grinned, sliding an arm around his waist to kiss his cheek. "Okay … I have the prints, I have my original cells. Are you sure you can get the screen prints without your Dad seeing?"
Ianto's father had come around to the idea of Ianto being with Jack now that it appeared Jack might be staying longer – and that if he did leave, the offer was open for Ianto to go with him rather than be left behind as just another lover. However, they hadn't quite broken to him the more adult nature of some of their photoshoots, and Ianto wanted to prolong it as long as possible.
"Erm … Ianto?"
Jack drew a shaky breath. "Can I ask a favour?"
"Depends on what the favour is."
"Can I borrow one of your suits for the meeting? I felt rather underdressed last time."
"No, you can't," Ianto replied, shaking his head. "You should go as yourself, Jack. That's who they're after."
Jack pouted, but conceded the point. "Okay," he agreed. "I'm getting nervous already," he admitted, looking through the prints again.
"I've been nervous for the last fortnight," Ianto smiled. "One more night, and it'll either all be over or all just beginning. Well … for me and my career as muse and model, anyway."
"You'll always be my muse and model," Jack promised.
Ianto raised an eyebrow. "Always? I doubt that."
"I told you I can't take good pictures of people. If I don't have you to photograph, all I have left is the rest of the planet. I'll be back to my hundreds of pictures with no people in it, just waiting until I come back to Cardiff to entertain you again. Unless, of course … you come with me?"
Ianto shook his head again. "I can't."
Jack just shut up. He sat down heavily and tugged Ianto's hand to make him sit next to him. "I'll take you for dinner tonight," he promised. "Somewhere swank."
"Can't we just order pizza or chicken or something?"
Jack shrugged. "Works for me. Can we eat it naked?"
"I thought we learned from that last time?" Ianto asked amusedly.
With a chuckle, Jack recalled the memory. "You're right," he nodded. "Bad idea."
After a small amount of bickering over pizza toppings before deciding on a half and half, they finally relaxed, took deep breaths and waited for the next day to finally come.
Jack was sat outside that room again, waiting for the committee to make a decision. The nerves bubbled up inside him and gave him far too much energy, and the woman sat behind the desk at the far end of the corridor kept giving him dirty looks in response to his rhythmically tapping fingers and feet.
Finally, Jack was called back in again.
He lowered himself into the plastic chair, preparing himself for what Ms. Hardman's answer might be.
"Mr. Harkness," she began, and Jack hoped it really was lightness he sensed in her tone. "I have to say, these really are vastly different to the tone of your previous collection. Perhaps you could explain what you were trying to achieve with …" She picked out a random one. "… this one?"
Jack swallowed. "I can't remember any more," he admitted. "I can remember the moment it was taken, but whatever was in my head at the time … I wasn't thinking about what the shot would look like. I was just thinking about the moment I actually took it."
Ms. Hardman nodded, and so did a couple of others.
"What's the story behind this one?" she asked, pushing forward the picture of Ianto by the Cathays Memorial.
"It was just an ordinary day," Jack shrugged. "It was dull and grey. Then Ianto got all excited about something, despite the rain, and ran off ahead. He looked back at me, and I snapped the shot. The picture came out so much brighter than its twin – the one without him in it. I must hold the camera differently when I point it at him – the light seems to bounce from the rain, the sun seems to seep into the picture just that little bit brighter."
Again, Ms. Hardman only nodded. "Why did you choose to do the nude pieces in black and white?" she asked. "Everything else you've ever presented to us has been colour."
"Cardiff is grey," explained Jack. "People assume that grey things are boring. I used the black and white film to show that in grayscale, light is more pronounced, and if you can see that light in the right way you don't need colour to see something as bright, or as beautiful, or as boring. The images are black and white because it shows how his pale, white skin really glows. It shows the sharp angles of his face and the dips and planes of his body through the deep shadows and brilliant highlights that are only possible to capture in black and white."
Ms. Hardman repeated her nodding gesture. "Well," she said with an air of finality. "I think we've seen enough."
Jack held his breath, his head spinning. He'd never wanted to be featured in an exhibition so much in his entire life.
"I think we can definitely find space for you collection in the Christmas Exhibition," she smiled. "We've got you some papers all drawn up and ready, and also details of our requirements for space, scale and curation. You'll be required to have your large-scale prints ready for hanging by next Friday, ready for the Saturday night opening. A cheque will be made out in your name at the front desk once you present your signed consent forms to the admin desk."
Jack grinned at her like a loon, springing to his feet. "Thank you so, so much," he babbled. "I mean really – this means so much to me. Really, really means so much. I can't believe it – you're all brilliant, all of you …"
He managed to hug them all before finally signing the consent forms and taking his copy and the exhibition guidelines. He was practically skipping to the front desk, slapping his forms down proudly as the receptionist went to fetch a supervisor to finalise the gallery's payment. Jack's eyes weren't bugging out of his head at the relatively small amount the gallery were paying him to display his work, but he didn't care. He was walking on air.
Deciding a celebration was in order, he quickly phoned Ianto to tell him the news.
Jack fidgeted, tugging at his collar. This time, he'd insisted on wearing one of Ianto's suits, and once he'd been talked around the idea Ianto had become very particular with how Jack was going to wear it.
"Stop messing," Ianto muttered into Jack's ear as they climbed the stairs to where the exhibition was being held, his hand tucked under Jack's arm.
"I can't help it. I'm trapped in a noose, here," Jack muttered back. He sensed Ianto's eye-roll as they approached the gallery, and Ms. Hardman appeared before them.
"Ah! Jack!" she smiled. "And this must be Ianto?"
Ianto nodded, offering out his hand for her to shake. Jack could sense her eyes examining him like they had his photographs, comparing the figure shown in them to the man stood before her. He wondered what she saw when she looked at Ianto's physical self compared to how Jack had shown him to her in the photographs.
She led them into the gallery, and they glanced over the other works on display.
"Wow," Ianto murmured under his breath. "Look at some of these …"
Jack pouted. "My prints are bigger," he said, petulant.
Ianto chuckled. "It's not the size that counts."
"You have the means to say that," winked Jack.
"Shush!" Ianto chastised.
"What? It's on the wall over there, if anybody wants to compare …"
Ianto sighed, then changed the subject. "Do you know any of these people?" he asked.
Jack had a quick look around. "A few. Some of them are critics, others are dealers. The rest I'm not too sure about. I haven't had an exhibition in a very, very long time."
Ianto nodded as they slowly gravitated to the corner where Jack's photographs were hanging, ominously alone. Ianto could barely look at them, his cheeks colouring. "I can't believe I let you do this," he groaned. "You didn't even get me drunk first." He'd admitted to Jack the night before wasn't too sure he wanted the pictures displayed any more. It had taken Jack a while, but eventually they got there.
"Nobody's coming to look at them," Jack observed, worriedly.
"That's bad?" Ianto asked, then gave him a playful nudge with his elbow. "They're probably just working their way down from January. The party only started two minutes ago. They need to stand and stare and 'hmmm' at eleven other months' worth of pieces before they get to yours."
"You're right, I hope," Jack nodded. "Shall we find champagne?"
"I'll need Dutch courage before my Dad gets here," Ianto agreed. "And maybe one or two mini-cheesecakes ..."
Fifteen minutes later, Ianto was stood opposite the June artist's pieces, frowning thoughtfully as he stared at a felt tip drawing of a rather childish tree with a mini chocolate cheesecake delicately perched between his fingers.
Jack appeared at his side, taking a break from mingling. "You like this?" he asked.
Ianto's frown deepened. "I don't get it," he said. "I could have done that. Why's it in a gallery?"
"Whether or not the observer would have been able to do it themselves isn't the point," Jack tutted. "It's whether or not they would have thought to do it themselves."
Ianto tilted his head to the side thoughtfully. "Hmmm," he nodded.
"C'mon," Jack chuckled, tugging him away. "I want you to meet my new friends …"
The gallery slowly filled up with all sorts of people – even Gwen responded to Jack's invitation and came to have a look. "Never knew you had it in you," Gwen told Ianto, standing before the set of pictures.
Jack smirked. "In that one, he didn't have anything in him."
Ianto whacked his arm. "Jack!" He glared at him, then turned to peer around the rest of the gallery. "My Dad's not here yet," he said, relieved. "I'm dreading it."
"You invited his Dad?" Gwen asked.
"He insisted on coming – and Jack wouldn't say 'no'," scowled Ianto, resting a hand on Jack's shoulder to help him balance as he got up on his tip toes. "He should be here by now. Maybe he couldn't find anywhere to park and gave up …"
"C'mon," Jack said, guiding Ianto away from his section of the gallery. "Let's find rich people to sweet-talk into buying limited edition prints."
Ianto groaned. "Jack …"
"We could even sign them," he grinned.
Ianto took another flute of champagne from a passing waiter, sipping it. "Can we just get this all over and done with?"
"This is our first show together," Jack sulked. "We should stay until the last guest leaves."
"What if the last guest is waiting for the last guests to leave and we wind up in a stalemate and trapped in this room forever?" Ianto asked worriedly.
"I think you've had enough champagne," Jack decided. "How many is that?"
"This is my fourth, I think."
"Knew I'd have to keep an eye on you," Jack smiled. "That's your last one, okay? I'm not carrying you home."
Ianto made an affirmative sound as he plucked another cheesecake from another passing waiter. Jack soon found himself absorbed in conversation about another artist's work, and Ianto stood at his side quietly, listening. They drifted through the event together, Jack answering all sorts of questions about his artwork that Ianto didn't even consider. He blushed a little when Jack returned to their little section with a rich-looking old man in a cravat who was perfectly happy to closely examine the prints of Ianto's naked self before moving to the fully-clothed outdoor ones.
Jack really did seem to talk about light and glow a lot, and eventually Ianto phased out, nodding in agreement whenever it seemed necessary. After nearly three hours on his feet, mingling through the crowd and feeling sick with too much cheesecake, he finally asked Jack if they could go home.
"All right," Jack conceded. "Maybe we can check on your Dad on the way. Find out what happened."
Ianto nodded, tucking his hand under Jack's arm. "So … when you say 'we' go 'home', you mean 'us' in your loft, do you?"
"Oh shush, you," Jack pouted. "You gotta admit, though: the moment you finish work you're 'round at mine until you need to be at work again …"
"And I have a drawer."
"You do," Jack agreed, then sighed. "This is new for me – you know that?"
"New? I thought you'd done a couple of exhibitions before?"
"No … I mean … The drawer … the 'us' home thing."
"Me too," Ianto shrugged. "And it's not like I've moved in. We've been together a few months, and we're guys. Our libido is too strong for us to be separate for too long."
Jack nodded seriously. "That's why you should come with me."
Ianto tutted loudly. "I told you, Jack: I won't leave my father – and most certainly not for a fling."
Jack tutted back at him, skimming the crowd to find Ms. Hardman to say goodbye. In the end he gave up and he and Ianto booked a taxi and headed outside to wait for it.
"Chilly," Ianto complained, rubbing his arms.
"Damn Cardiff," Jack agreed.
"Could be worse," Ianto assured him. "At least it's stopped snowing."
"Don't jinx it," Jack warned him. Headlights appeared at the end of the road, slowing to a stop by the gallery entrance. They climbed into their taxi.
"You heading straight to mine?" Jack asked Ianto.
"May as well. I'll ring my Dad from there in the morning. Knowing him he probably just forgot it was tonight and had his feet up watching G.O.L.D before having an early night."
Jack laughed, and gave his address to the driver.
They appreciatively shirked their coats as they entered Jack's warm studio loft, and Ianto yawned widely. "I want to make an outlandish suggestion," he began.
"Go on?" Jack prompted.
"How about we go to bed … and actually sleep?"
"I'm not sure I'm comfortable with that. It's a little out of my comfort zone."
Ianto grinned sleepily, but Jack conceded his point. They both stripped down to their underwear and crawled under the covers.
"Thanks for everything," Jack murmured as Ianto snuggled against his back.
"I'm already regretting it," Ianto muttered back, his eyes drifting shut.
Jack closed his eyes, too, and very soon they were both comfortably fast asleep.
The exceptionally loud hammering on the door was confusing for Jack. He cracked an eye open, squinting in the early morning sunlight. Assuming it was John, for it was he it was the most likely option to be, Jack didn't bother dressing after disentangling himself from a still thoroughly unconscious Ianto Jones and heading to the door.
His eyes were still pretty screwed up when he opened the door, and he stared at the young dark-haired woman stood there in confusion.
"Is Ianto here?" she asked.
"Huh? Yeah … Erm … Who are you?"
Jack didn't quite recall the mention of a sister. He turned slightly back into his studio. "Ianto!" he called. "Ianto – your sister's here."
There was a muffled and rather surprised sound from the bed, and wrapping himself in the duvet Ianto dragged himself over to the door. "Rhi?" he frowned, eyes half shut against the light and full of sleep.
"Ianto," she said, her voice flat. "Ianto … I think you need to sit down."
"I need to go back to fucking sleep," he scowled. "What do you want?"
"Ianto," Rhiannon growled, warning in her tone.
"Okay, okay," he grumbled, and retreated to the sofa and sat down. Jack moved aside to let Rhiannon in and she cast her eye over the place.
"Not exactly family friendly, is it?"
"It's a studio, Rhi. You're not supposed to move your family in."
"Looks like a shag pad," she replied disdainfully.
Jack grinned to himself. A glare from Ianto told him to keep his mouth shut.
Wishing he was dressed, Ianto beckoned Rhiannon to sit with him. She did so, letting out a heavy sigh. "Ianto … I have bad news …"
"You're pregnant again?" he guessed.
"Oh … What is it?"
Rhiannon took another deep breath and sniffed quietly. Ianto sensed her distress, leaning forward to offer the corner of his duvet cover for her to wipe her now streaming eyes.
"I had a call from the police this morning," she managed. "Ianto … Ianto …" She gathered her resolve. "It's Dad."
"I've been telling him to get his tyres changed for weeks," Ianto said despondently. "I should have just done it myself."
Jack put his arm around him and squeezed comfortingly. "It's not your fault. It was black ice – the car would have … er … It would have happened."
The snow fell thickly into the grave, and Ianto bit his lip so hard it bled a little. "What am I supposed to do?" he asked.
"I'm sure your sister will let you have the shop."
"He left it to her. She won't let go. She wants to turn it into a nail bar."
"What did he leave for you?"
"Just money – but I wanted the shop. I deserved the shop."
"I should pay you for posing for me," Jack suggested. "It'll help get you a shop of your own."
"I can't take your money, Jack."
"It's valid payment for valid employment."
Ianto turned away from the grave, and Jack followed him with the large umbrella. "I need to take a picture," he muttered.
It was an urge that Ianto had gotten used to automatically fulfilling. He paid no attention to the camera as he tried to look past it to Jack, and once it was lowered he hugged him tightly. "I thought he'd leave me the shop," he sniffed. "He said he'd leave me the shop. Why did he change his Will? Why?"
"When did he change it?"
"Just over a month ago, according to the solicitor. Only just made it past the twenty-eight day validation period."
Jack's phone interrupted them, and while Ianto composed himself he answered it.
"Harkness," he said, glad whomever it was hadn't rung only fifteen minutes ago. He made some affirmative sounds to the person on the other end of the line, then tried to draw the conversation to a close. "That's excellent – yes, I'll pick it up later. Okay. Goodbye." He hung up. "We sold prints of the black and white photos," he told Ianto.
Ianto nodded. "Good … Good … How much for?" He was flushed slightly – whether with embarrassment or the cold, Jack couldn't quite tell.
"Asking price," Jack smiled. "Two and a half grand a piece with the promise they will be signed, supplied with a certificate of authenticity and won't be reproduced on anything larger than a post card."
"That's good news," Ianto nodded, and they continued heading toward the black car waiting for them. "So … you'll be moving on soon?"
"In the next couple of days, probably."
Ianto nodded again. "Know where you're going?"
"No idea," Jack shrugged. "I figured this time I'd just take the next international flight out of this place."
With a grin, Jack held open the door of the car for him. "Y'know," he tried. "You could come with me."
Ianto hesitated, and his brow furrowed. He hugged himself slightly. "I can't," he said quietly, settled in his seat. Jack climbed in beside him.
"Why?" he asked, trying not to sound sulky or as if he was pressuring Ianto too much.
"I'm not ready to leave Cardiff yet." He stared past Jack out of the window, his eyes seeking out where his father now lay.
Jack squeezed his knee. "Ianto," he said gently. "I think you and I both know you've been ready to leave Cardiff for a long time."
Ianto sniffed, and a few tears began to escape before he could hurriedly wipe them away. "He's my Dad," he managed through a wracking sob. "My Dad …"
"I wanna be on the next international flight outta here," Jack grinned at the checking-in clerk. She smiled sweetly back at him.
"One moment, please, sir." She began typing at her computer, and Jack bounced from foot to foot, wondering where he was heading next. The clerk stopped her typing and plastered her sweet smile back on. "Our next departing flight that you are in time to check in for is the two o clock to McCarran International Airport."
Jack was grinning from ear to ear. "All riiiiiight," he practically cheered. "Las Vegas, here I come."
"Would you like me to book you a seat?"
"And when would Sir like to return?"
"Understandable. First class?"
"All the way."
She began her typing, not looking up as she requested his valid passport. He passed it to her, she checked it, and then took his card. The transaction went smoothly, and Jack accepted his tickets and boarding card eagerly before checking in his bag. He turned away from the check in desk and took a moment to look around Maes Awyr Caerdydd departures entrance one last time.
Still no sign of Ianto.
Jack had woken up alone that morning, and he couldn't find Ianto anywhere in the places he knew to look. He figured that if Ianto didn't want to be found, he probably wouldn't be – and most definitely not by a foreigner American who had gotten himself lost on a straight road.
With a regretful sigh, Jack hoisted his rucksack onto his back and headed toward the departures duty free. He browsed for a bit, not really looking at anything in particular and just trying to pass the time until he was called to his gate. He perused the stereotypically Welsh memorabilia, and in the end bought a shot glass with the Welsh flag transferred onto it and a black necklace with a little pewter dragon pendant.
He then went back and bought a cuddly stuffed dragon, and he named him 'Neville'.
Jack heard his gate called, and bit his lip. His heart leapt to his throat, and he stood on one of the waiting area seats to scan the crowd.
Jack decided to wait a bit longer, even though the sinking feeling in his stomach told him he was out of luck; Ianto said he wasn't coming, and Ianto stuck to his word.
He waited a bit longer, and a bit longer, until the cabin steward had to come and ask him personally to come and board the plane.
Jack swallowed, and agreed.
Sagging into his seat, Jack put his head in his hands. What was the point? He glanced at the empty aisle seat next to him, and felt even lonelier.
What was he doing?
Cardiff hadn't been choking him, Jack admitted to himself. Fear had. Fear that he might actually settle, that he might actually have found someone who he could give up his unpredictable and slightly crazy and juvenile life for.
And Ianto needed him.
Ianto was depressed. He was grief-stricken, and Ianto needed Jack to help him through it.
But Jack, as usual, had been too busy trying to get out and away.
"Excuse me," Jack called to the stewardess. "I need to get off this plane."
"I'm sorry sir, we've already begun the journey toward the runway."
"It's an emergency."
"Are you ill?"
"No … I … Erm …"
"I'm sorry, sir. If you could please fasten your seatbelt, we'll be taking off in around three minutes." She narrowed her eyes at the empty seat beside him, then headed back up the aisle and left Jack to it.
Jack bit his lip. He stood up. "This plane can't take off!" he shouted, and a mutter went around the passengers as they all suddenly paid attention. "We can't take off," Jack repeated. "There are no phalanges on this plane!"
There was a ripple of laughter from the other passengers, and one of them yelled. "Siddown, mate! We're going to Vegas!"
Jack slumped back into his seat, wondering how much trouble he'd get into if he told them he had a bomb. He heard footsteps approaching quickly down the aisle behind him, and wondered if the stewardess had come to let him off. Turning his head, he opened his mouth, then felt it go slack in shock.
Ianto grinned at him. "Sorry – I was in the loo. Then I heard some idiot shouting about there not being a single phalanx on the plane." He sat himself down in the seat beside Jack and strapped himself in.
"You … You're … You … How?"
Ianto gripped his arm rests as the engines began to rumble. "I was about ten minutes behind you."
"You never said anything!"
"It was funny watching you. Though … I was starting to think you wouldn't get on the plane."
Jack laughed, a slightly hysterical sound, but he was still delighted. "What made you change your mind?"
"I figured Dad changed his Will once he realised you'd take me with you – and that really, I wanted to go," he explained. "He gave Rhiannon the shop so that one day I'd take the plunge and hop on the next international flight out of Cardiff Airport. My ears hurt."
"Yawn," Jack instructed, then yawned himself. The contagion caught, and soon the whole plane was appreciatively yawning.
"So … What are we gonna do in Vegas?" Ianto asked.
Jack shrugged. "Whatever takes our fancy. I made an American-based contact at the gallery opening who says he might be interested in me doing some commissioned work."
Ianto nodded. "Cool."
Jack grinned. "Cool."
Ianto swallowed heavily as the plane straightened out. "I … uh …" He stared at Jack a second, and Jack's face softened slightly.
"Yes, Ianto?" he coaxed.
"Jack … I … I …"
He took a deep breath, then relaxed back into his chair.
"Jack," he announced bravely. "I think 'Neville' is a stupid name for a dragon."
Jack barked out a laugh, and Ianto sighed with relief that the awkward moment was gone.
Jack, however, wasn't letting it go just yet.
"Yes, Jack?" Ianto asked, accepting a complimentary pack of peanuts and popping one into his mouth.
"What will we name our children?" Jack asked innocently.
Ianto spluttered, choked, flushed bright red … and spent the next hour trying to convince the stewardess to let him off the plane.
Jack sat back into his seat and smiled to himself.
He realised that just because his heart settled, did mean he had to.
Besides, he was all for new experiences and adventures – maybe having Ianto around would make them all actually worthwhile.
Jack couldn't help smiling to himself.
He loved Ianto to bits, and relaxing back into his chair, listening to Ianto's babbling, Jack decided he would some day find the perfect way to show it.
I would be ever so grateful if you could go to:
and let me know what you thought of this story.
Thank you :)