Title: A Perfect Pleasure
Authors: Analine and Sariagray
Spoilers: assume the whole series
Warnings: Some mild sexual concepts. Language. Also, smoking!Ianto and some smoking!Jack.
Disclaimer: We do not own Torchwood. We do not make money off of Torchwood. This is for entertainment purposes only.
Summary: Jack had spent the better part of an hour absently tapping the corner of the rectangular box against the top of his desk before slipping the parcel into Ianto's coat pocket. It was a perfect fit.
Author's Note: This was co-written with the lovely Sariagray over on LiveJournal. :) This was supposed to be a relatively short, smoking-centric piece, because we like the idea of Ianto smoking SO MUCH, but then Ianto started talking and Jack started thinking and we couldn't shut them up, really.
A Perfect Pleasure
"A cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can one want?"
- Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
Jack had spent the better part of an hour absently tapping the corner of the rectangular box against the top of his desk before slipping the parcel into Ianto's coat pocket. It was a perfect fit.
Now, he waits.
There are twenty cigarettes per pack. It isn't simply memory that brings this fact to mind; it says so right on the box. Twenty cigarettes and suddenly the only thing on Jack's mind is whether Ianto will smoke as many as possible at once or draw them out, long and slow, one cigarette a night for twenty days.
"Where are they?" he had caught Ianto muttering last night as he frantically searched through kitchen drawers.
Ianto had looked beyond disheveled in the dim glow of the track lighting; he hadn't even bothered to turn on the overhead lamp. His hair was mussed to the point of distraction; it looked as though he had been pulling at it for hours. There was a long tear down the side of his dress shirt and he had rolled up the sleeves in haste – the right was situated just above his elbow, while the left hung mid-forearm. His tie was missing.
It was only curiosity that had stayed Jack's eager hands and mouth.
"Where'd what go?" He leaned against the counter, raised an eyebrow.
Ianto's head jolted around to face the (admittedly welcome) intruder, his eyes startled.
"Jesus, Jack! Ever heard of knocking?"
Jack watched, intrigued, as Ianto let a long breath, watched him run a hand over his head, anxiously, and lean back against the kitchen sink, hands on his hips. Ianto was adorable when he was exasperated like this, but of course, that was hardly the point.
He tried for his most charming smile. "Why would I knock when you were so kind as to give me a key?"
Ianto rolled his eyes, but Jack just grinned back at him.
"Right, so you walk in here unannounced in the middle of the night, and somehow it's my fault?"
Ianto was smiling now though, just a little, which Jack took as a good sign.
"I just thought I'd stop by, make sure you were okay," Jack offered, carefully. "That was a pretty nasty fight out there. You left before Owen could examine you, too."
"I'm fine," Ianto said quickly. "Just need..."
Jack raised his eyebrows, watching Ianto's attention shift to the last drawer he'd been looking in before Jack interrupted him.
Ianto sighed, and fixed Jack with a long look. "A shower, okay?"
"Think you'll find the soap in your kitchen?"
"Well, it seemed like you were looking for something, is all..."
Ianto shook his head. "You're impossible, you know that?"
Jack just raised his eyebrows, waiting.
A few beats passed before Ianto met Jack's eyes again.
"I was looking for my cigarettes, okay?"
Jack blinked. "Since when do you smoke?"
"I don't," Ianto smirked, shrugging. "Well, I haven't for awhile, anyway. But I thought…." He glanced back at the drawer, distracted again, "that I had an emergency pack somewhere in here."
Jack offered to help and, as frequently happened when Jack volunteered his assistance, Ianto soon forgot that he had been searching for anything.
And so a pack of cigarettes in its perfect cellophane wrapping has found its way into Ianto's coat pocket. It is a small concession to make, this acceptance of a vice, but Jack intends to do it with as much style as he can muster.
Jack smirks to himself as he thinks about the purple and white box. He isn't being completely altruistic, of course. There is something so intriguing about the sight of Ianto's long fingers delicately balancing a cigarette, languidly drawing it to pursed lips, eyes closed against the writhing smoke.
He can hear the familiar rustling noises of Tosh tidying her papers, the definitive metal-on-metal clang of Owen's implements being tossed carelessly away, and Gwen's not-so-subtle cough of boredom. All of the usual signals. He glances at the clock and smiles. And he waits.
"It seems that someone seems to think I've taken up smoking again," Ianto says, his voice deliberate and calm, back propped up against Jack's office door.
It's officially after-hours now, and Jack couldn't be happier to see him, even if he is a little surprised.
Ianto smirks, and Jack can't help but chuckle.
He'd underestimated Ianto, clearly. It wouldn't be the first time though, so he's not sure why he's surprised to see Ianto striding over to his desk, jacket in one hand, and a suspicious looking package in the other. So much for surprises.
"So I guess you figured out those were from me?" Jack says, folding his arms a little defiantly over his desk, papers shifting guiltily underneath his shirtsleeves, reminding him of what it was that he was supposed to have been doing all day today, instead of what he actually had been doing.
It's been so long since he'd last bought cigarettes though; he'd been a bit taken aback by the vast array of choices. The fact that it had taken him half the day to make his decision was hardly his fault.
Ianto taps the edge of the package on Jack's desk impatiently.
"You're the only person I know who would actually encourage someone to smoke in this day and age, Jack."
"What? We all have our vices right?"
Ianto lets out an undignified snort. "Some of us more than others."
"I'm not saying I want you to start chain-smoking or anything..." Jack briefly considers this image, and then stops, because honestly, that might be kind of well, nice. "I just wanted you to have some on hand," he finishes.
Ianto is silent, watching Jack with what looks a lot like amused interest. It's nearly impossible to tell what he's really thinking.
"For emergencies, you know?" Jack offers, tentatively.
"Right," Ianto says, nodding. "Sure."
He's staring at Jack pointedly.
"What?" Jack says, squirming a little in his chair.
Ianto narrows his eyes. "You're sure there isn't some other reason you bought these?"
For a split second, Jack freezes. It is hardly noticeable, and then his face breaks out into a grin that is quickly suppressed into a mask of innocence.
"Another reason?" he asks, all over-exaggerated naivety.
Ianto shakes his head slightly, but it's more indulgent than rueful. "Right. Well then." He lays his jacket on a chair and leans over the desk slightly; Jack's breath catches in his throat, but he's good at masking.
Ianto fondles the pack absently. Jack watches with intent, gulps, as Ianto carefully unravels the cellophane wrapping. He lifts open the lid, tugs away the foil, and deliberately pulls free a cigarette. Rolling it gently between his fingers, he fixes Jack with another pointed look.
"Stopping by tonight?" he asks, eyebrow cocked and a knowing smirk firmly in place.
Jack breathes, nods slowly, then grins. "Yeah. I just might."
As if he might have gone anywhere else.
Ianto's smirk transforms into something more like a smile and he nods as though a matter of great import has been officially decided.
With that, he straightens, adjusts his tie, and grabs his jacket. He shoots Jack one final look, a promise, and walks out. He is halfway to the door when he turns around and frowns.
"But finish that paperwork, first."
Jack finishes his paperwork in record time. Well, he supposes finishing might not be the right word, but... There were, of course, things that could wait until tomorrow and things that definitely, definitely could not.
As he drives over to Ianto's flat, he honestly has no idea what to expect. He's used to having the upper hand, but with Ianto, that sort of thing just doesn't seem to apply.
Ianto is confident and vulnerable and everything that Jack knows he is too, somewhere deep down, all at the same time. It's utterly mysterious, and utterly fascinating. He couldn't resist even if he wanted to. And the thought of Ianto's perfect exterior, his squeaky clean image being invaded by something as simple as a cigarette-and Jack can see it, pursed between his lips, can see Ianto's fingers rising to his lips as he inhales, and the smoke curling around his mouth, dancing in the air between them... Add all that and, well, Jack really can't resist..
He drives faster, speeds around corners, breezes past houses, whole neighborhoods, until finally he's in front of Ianto's flat.
His heart is thumping hard in his chest. He feels a little silly, really - it's not like they haven't done this a hundred times before. It's not like Ianto hasn't given him that same look, the one he'd given him back in his office, the one that promised so much, with so little, on so many nights, just like tonight. This is different though, this is something new.
And Jack can't wait.
He opens the door and steps over the threshold just in time to watch Ianto strike a match. It flares brightly for a moment before Ianto cups his hand around the flame, bringing it to the cigarette dangling between his lips. He shakes it out with a solitary, deft movement and drops it into a clean crystal ashtray.
"I thought you'd have a lighter. Maybe a nice old Ronson," Jack observes by way of greeting as he hangs up his greatcoat.
"A Dunhill," Ianto smiles and takes an emphatic draw on his cigarette. "Silver Rollagas. Lisa confiscated it years ago. I haven't yet figured out what she did with it."
Jack eyes him warily and drops into the comfortable armchair by the window. Ianto's face now in profile, he watches the blue grey smoke float up toward the ceiling. It's dim in the living room, dark enough to set off the bright orange embers at the tip of the cigarette. Jack reluctantly tears his eyes away for a moment to nod at the sparkling ashtray.
"She didn't take that?" he asks.
Ianto smiles contritely. "It had been repurposed as a votive holder."
There's a fondness to Ianto's voice, and less pain, so Jack allows himself to laugh. "Did you have a cigarette case, too?"
"Yeah," Ianto nods and brings the cigarette back to his lips.
He squints slightly when the smoke gets close to his face, Jack notes, and he never quite fully closes his eyes – it sharply defines his cheekbones, as if they needed it. As Ianto inhales, the tip glows brighter. Slowly, he removes the cigarette from puckered lips and leans over to give a sharp flick to knock the ashes into their receptacle.
"A 1930s Felinore," he elaborates, jolting Jack from his musings. "I had to sell it when…."
Jack nods when he catches Ianto glance at the cigarette resting between his fingers. His expression is soft, maybe a little melancholy, and Jack wonders if perhaps buying the pack had been a bad idea.
"Never mind," Ianto says, but the darkness in his eyes passes after a long moment, replaced with something lighter, still introspective, but less melancholy - nostalgic, maybe.
Jack just watches Ianto, watches his fingers, his lips, the rise and fall of his chest, the smoke billowing out, dissolving.
"Thanks for these," Ianto says after another long moment. He meets Jack's eyes as he taps the packet with his finger.
Jack just nods, not really sure what Ianto wants, what he wants him to say.
"Lisa didn't like me smoking," Ianto says, taking a slow drag and exhaling into the space between them. "Obviously." He pauses, shaking his head, and then fixes Jack with a long look. "She didn't like a lot of things about me."
Jack blinks, considering this. "Really? I thought you were..."
"Oh, we were," Ianto says, but his smile is soft, sad in a way that Jack's not used to. "We were fine. She was great." He pauses. "Sometimes I just wonder if we would have lasted, is all. You know what they say, people don't really change, right?"
Jack just nods. Doesn't he know it. He shifts a little in his chair. "Yeah."
"She used to say I never talked to her."
Ianto gives him a sideways smile, a little sheepish, and Jack smiles back at him. "I've definitely heard that one before."
Ianto chuckles, then taps out his ash into the ashtray, his fingers moving with deliberate precision.
"Did you though? Talk to her?" Jack asks, curious.
"No, of course I didn't," Ianto says, as if it should be obvious.
"Still, there are worse things, right?" he offers.
A shadow passes over Ianto's face for a second, almost imperceptible in the dark room, and Jack wonders for the second time tonight if he's made a mistake here.
A second later, Ianto is shaking his head, mask slipping back into place. "I don't know why I'm talking about this. You didn't come over to hear about Lisa, after all."
Then Ianto smiles, a bit self-deprecating, as he finishes off the end of his cigarette, snubbing it out into the ashtray and letting out a long plume of smoke in front of him that lingers in the air, hovering between them like a ghost.
Jack watches it dissipate in the air, though it never clears completely; the room is hazy. Ianto rises and crosses the room to open the window. Jack watches this, too, and, since Ianto is close, reaches out to grab his wrist.
"You have no idea," he says softly, somewhere between a question and a statement.
Ianto frowns at him, then nods. He unlatches the lock and pushes the frame upwards. A cool draft wafts in and seems to sweep away the smoke. It apparently takes the memories, too, because Ianto sits back down and smiles slightly as he picks up the pack again.
"Why Silk Cuts?" he asks after a moment of silence.
Jack grins and shrugs. "The package looked nice. Distinguished." Not that this had anything to do with the selection, but Jack isn't about to admit that.
Ianto shakes his head, and there is affection in his eyes. He opens the pack again, fiddles with the cigarettes (Jack is sure he's lining them up symmetrically, but he can't tell from this angle), and finally pulls one out.
He puts it to his lips as he fixes his eyes on Jack. With deliberate movements, he removes a match and strikes it against the box. The flame casts a strange glow on his face, and his eyes seem to spark. He lights his cigarette with a fluid grace, shakes the match out again, and leans back on the sofa.
He has kept his eyes on Jack the whole time. It isn't scrutiny, but the role reversal makes him shift uncomfortably, like he needs to find something to do with his hands. It's hardly unwanted attention, though, and so Jack smiles.
"Why'd you start?" he asks, his fingers tugging at a loose thread on the arm of the chair.
Ianto's eyes go a little wide at the question, and he dips his head slightly. Jack senses his mood, knows he will be indulged tonight, so he plans to take full advantage.
"My father," Ianto says, and like always, there's a hint of sarcasm in his tone, barely noticeable, but Jack has always picked up on it.
He recognizes it, identifies with it, maybe. That need to distance yourself from something so close you know you can't really escape it, save for drowning it in irony.
"Oh yeah," Ianto says, raising his eyebrows, eyes flashing a little. "Like a bloody chimney."
Jack watches Ianto shrug, exhaling smoke through his nose a bit defiantly.
"I thought I hated him," Ianto says. "Cigarettes were about the only thing worth stealing from him."
"Did he ever catch you?"
Ianto doesn't say anything for a minute, and Jack just stares at the smoke as it hovers in the air in front of Ianto's face, before drifting out through the window into the darkness.
Jack's not so sure anymore what his intention was, coming here, but watching Ianto now, his slow deliberation, his careful execution of words, he wonders if he didn't give Ianto those cigarettes as a sort of peace offering, as an opening, an invitation, for Ianto to do with as the moment struck him. Jack wasn't the type of man who pried, especially with someone who kept himself wrapped as tightly as Ianto usually did, but he wondered now if that innocent little package hadn't been a different sort of proposition than he'd planned on at first.
"All the time," Ianto says finally. "I think I wanted him to."
Jack nods."How old were you?"
"The first time?" he asks, exhaling slowly.
Then, unexpectedly, he toes off his socks with dexterity, and Jack is briefly distracted by Ianto's extremities wiggling free from their constraints, just hanging out there between them, reminding Jack that they really, really need to do this more often. And not just because of the obvious allure of naked appendages. Jack likes this version of Ianto a lot, all bare feet and relaxation, trusting him with his secrets.
"I guess I was about twelve?" Ianto says, freeing Jack from his reverie."What?" he asks, curiously, his eyes trying to follow Jack's gaze, and failing when Jack catches him halfway.
"Nothing," Jack says, shaking his head, smiling. "Go on, please. I'm intrigued."
Ianto smiles, nods, bows his head a little. He gestures with the cigarette slightly, as though it were conducting an orchestra, and it dawns on Jack that the cigarette shoulders his burden, freeing him from his masks and trappings. It is as though the flame feeds on insecurity and worry rather than oxygen.
"I had stolen a cigarette from his pack. He must've counted them, because he barged into my room when I was halfway through smoking it." Ianto's voice is quiet and his eyes a little distant, but his face is relatively relaxed. He flicks his cigarette into the ashtray absently and almost misses. "And he sat down on my bed, handed me an unopened pack, and told me to smoke the whole thing."
Jack raises an eyebrow and Ianto takes the opportunity to tuck his feet underneath him. He looks comfortable, completely at ease for a split second, and Jack wishes that he had a camera; he wouldn't even mind the scowl it would put on Ianto's face if he could just capture this moment. Just one picture.
"Well," Ianto continues and takes a luxurious drag that is contradicted by the flint-and-steel of his eyes, "I smoked the whole fucking thing. It –" He cuts himself off, gulps, closes his eyes. "It just made him angrier. I'd wasted his whole pack, after all."
When he opens his eyes again, he looks so hurt that Jack's heart stops. He rises from the armchair, crosses over to Ianto, and gently plucks the cigarette from between his fingers. Ianto stares at him, his brows furrowed in confusion, and Jack wants to laugh. Instead, he raises the cigarette to his lips and pulls on it for a moment. His eyes flicker closed in something like pleasure; he'd forgotten just how good it could feel, especially without the guilt and worry.
Ianto's face lightens with the ghost of a smile and Jack sits next to him, close and almost protectively. When Ianto reaches to take back the cigarette, Jack shakes his head.
"Mine," he proclaims with a playful growl and nods suggestively toward the pack with a grin.
"They were yours," Ianto corrects, a small smirk creeping onto his face. "Until you gave them to me. You can keep that one though," Ianto says, gesturing to Jack's hand, and reaching for the pack. "More where that came from, right?"
Jack watches the smile on Ianto's face brighten into something more like himself again.
"Nah," Jack says. "It's more fun watching you."
Ianto's smile softens a little. "Is that so?" he says, and their fingers brush together lightly as Ianto takes back his cigarette from Jack, and brings it to his lips, inhaling deeply.
"Yeah," Jack says, and watches Ianto close his eyes, with something like reverence for those soft eyelids, those dark lashes against Ianto's smooth, pale skin. "It is."
"I know that's why you bought these," Ianto says after a moment, lips pursed just so, cigarette balanced delicately between them. "You wanted to watch me."
"I did," Jack admits, shifting so that he's facing Ianto on the couch, one arm thrown back over the back of the upholstery, close to Ianto's shoulder, but not quite touching. "But now, I kind of want to hear more about your father."
Ianto shrugs, a little defensively, and Jack touches his fingers to the shoulder closest to him, lightly. Ianto suddenly looks so young. Too young, Jack thinks, watching the tension in his hands, his fingers as he raises them to his lips.
"What do you want me to say?" Ianto says, a plume of smoke escaping from his lips in a rush. "That I hated him and he hated me and then he died before I had a chance to show him who I really was?"
"So you didn't just think you hated him?"
"What does it matter?" Ianto says, cigarette forgotten, ash collecting on the end as it lies slack between his fingers. "I was a kid."
"And then he was gone."
"Yeah," Ianto says quietly, and then a second later, he curses under his breath, as the ash falls from his cigarette to the floor, just missing the couch, and he scrambles for the ashtray.
Jack raises an eyebrow as Ianto leans his cigarette against the crystal edge and brushes away the ash until it disappears, a barely noticeable grey smudge.
"This," he mutters as he picks the cigarette back up and puts it to his lips, a little flustered, "is why I don't smoke indoors."
"Doesn't seem to have stopped you," Jack points out, smiling.
Ianto nods and leans a little into Jack. "I make occasional allowances. What was I saying?"
"You were talking about your father," he answers and rests his hand lightly, comfortingly, on Ianto's arm.
"Right," Ianto takes another drag, flicks it with careful attention into the ashtray, and sighs. "Why do I feel like I'm talking to Freud?"
Jack raises his hand to his chest in mock offence and gives a little gasp. "Freud? I'm far more attractive and I don't have a ridiculous accent."
"Don't you?" There's a twinkle in Ianto's eyes, a smirk on his lips, and Jack laughs.
"Besides," he continues, "if I were Freud, I'd be asking you about your mother."
"Point. And there isn't much to say about him. He worked, came home, drank. That was all his life ever was and I think I hated him for that the most. Family was just part of the daily monotony for him."
Jack nods at this in understanding; he's seen enough men fall into that trap. Hell, he's almost been there himself. It was a learned behavior, he figures, though Ianto didn't seem to be going that route. He watches as Ianto seems to ponder the pattern of undulating smoke against the faint moonlight coming through the window. It seems bluer, somehow. Jack considers that Ianto'd make a good father, if a little terrified, but what does he know?
"Do you want kids?" Jack asks, as though children were as simple as a cup of coffee.
The cigarette stutters to a halt halfway to Ianto's mouth. He is frozen in place, eyes blinking rapidly at Jack. Ianto's mouth is open a little, and Jack wants to kiss him more than anything, but he'd asked a question and it would be rude not to wait for an answer.
"I, ah..." Ianto hedges, eyes darting to the floor, and then back at Jack.
He brings the cigarette to his lips eventually though, and then sighs. "I don't know."
Jack smiles a little. "It's okay not to know, you're young."
Ianto shakes his head. "I wish everyone felt that way."
"Who else is asking?"
Ianto shrugs. "Anyone, everyone? Lisa used to bring it up, sometimes. I don't think she knew what she wanted either though."
"It's been my experience," Jack says carefully, "that it's the sort of thing that will happen if it's meant to happen, whether you want it to, or not."
Ianto just stares at Jack, but doesn't say anything, just takes another drag of his cigarette, allowing the silence to grow heavy around them.
"It's not like I think I'm going to end up like him, or anything," Ianto says finally. "But I look at Rhi's kids - my sister, Rhiannon - and they're great, but... I don't know. She didn't..." He pauses. "She didn't decide to have them, you know? They just happened.
"And I don't mean they were mistakes, or surprises, I just mean that she never thought about it. It was just get married, then have kids, you know? I think it was like that for my parents too, and that's how my sister and I ended up here."
"That works for a lot of people," Jack says. "But it doesn't have to be like that for you."
Ianto just nods, unconvincingly.
"And just for the record, I think you'd make a great father someday," Jack says, watching Ianto exhale slowly, and tap his ash out in the ashtray.
"Yeah, well, who knows if I'd be able to find out even if I wanted to, right?" Ianto says darkly, shaking his head.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means I'm not really in the right line of work for-"
"No," Jack says, his heart racing, as he leans over, and takes the nearly-finished cigarette from Ianto's hand, and crushes it into the ashtray.
He's not even sure why he does it-maybe he wants Ianto's full attention, or maybe it's something else altogether.
Ianto's eyes are filled with surprise as he stares at him, waiting.
"This…I'm not letting it destroy your life," Jack grumbles and runs a hand through his hair.
"You bought them for me." Ianto's voice is gentle, if a little confused, and he leans back slowly, his eyes never leaving Jack.
"Not the cigarettes. Me. Torchwood. All of it. Quit. Please, quit." Jack's eyes look a little wild, uncertain and glassy.
Ianto's face tightens, contorts in some combination of fear and anger. "I won't." He spits the words out like they're bitter and Jack sighs.
"I could fire you," he threatens, though it's half-hearted at best. "Make you forget the past few years, Weevils, the rift, me."
"And you don't think I'd come back?" Ianto asks, his voice suddenly soft the way it always gets when Jack gets into a particularly weighty guilt trip.
"Could send you really, really far away." Jack leans against Ianto, the panic in his eyes receding, and nudges his forehead with his nose.
"And who'd make your coffee? Owen?"
Jack just snorts at that and watches as the muscles in Ianto's face relax and then constrict again. It's a familiar reaction and Jack welcomes it, yearns for it, really. He kisses Ianto's temple softly and then sits up straight.
"Sorry," he mumbles and rubs at his eyes.
"Mind telling me what that was all about? What's going on?"
Without preamble, Jack grabs the pack of cigarettes and matches and hands them to Ianto. His motions are jerky, and Ianto frowns, but takes them anyway. He raises an eyebrow in question and Jack gestures rapidly at the pack.
"Have one," he insists and Ianto nods a bit cagily.
He pulls one out gradually and taps the filtered end against the box, more out of habit than practicality. He brings it to his lips where it rests, slightly off-center and at an angle. Tugging out a match, he swipes it quickly against the box and brings the flame close. The scent of sulfur permeates the air; it's a bit like damnation. Jack watches closely as Ianto watches him.
Ianto inhales rapturously, and it seems to instill a measure of confidence. "Well?" he asks, all quiet patience.
"I said I was sorry," Jack says, softly.
And Ianto just stares at him, waiting, as if he's trying to get inside his head, his heart, and Jack honestly isn't sure if he wants him to succeed or not. He has no idea why he said any of that, why Ianto is sitting here staring at him like he's some puzzle that needs to be figured out all of the sudden. It feels wrong, it's frustrating, and honestly, it's more human than anything Jack's felt in a long, long time.
"Talk to me, Jack," Ianto says, fiddling with the pack of matches between his fingers. He lifts his head, watching Jack expectantly.
"What do you want me to say?"
Ianto stares at him for a long moment, so long that Jack almost opens his mouth, almost tries to change the subject, even though he's pretty sure that particular trick doesn't work on Ianto anymore.
"You..." Ianto pauses, swallows, hands the pack back to Jack and looks him square in the eye.
The movement is jarring, and Jack stares down at the packet in his hands, feeling a little foolish.
"You bought me these," Ianto says, sharply, gesturing to the pack in Jack's hands. "Why?"
"You know why," Jack says, but his voice isn't as sure as it should be, as he wants it to be.
"No, I really don't."
"Well, neither do I," Jack snaps. "Maybe it was a mistake."
"Yeah? Why?" Ianto asks, and his voice is calm enough, just a simple question, but his eyes are all over the place. Angry, hurt, scared-Jack can see it all, but he still has no idea what to say.
Ianto takes a long, deliberate drag from his cigarette. His eyes flicker from the smoke, to the window, back to Jack's face. Waiting.
"I don't know," Jack says honestly.
"Okay, fine," Ianto says. He leans into towards Jack, eyes flashing.
"I disagree, okay?" Ianto continues, and there's a slight tremor in his voice-Jack feels it in the pit of his stomach, knows that suddenly this isn't just about a pack of cigarettes. "If I'm allowed to have a say in it, of course."
"Because from where I'm sitting it wasn't a mistake," Ianto says. "I asked for this. I wanted this." He brings the cigarette to his lips, tips his head back and inhales, slowly. "I came to you. Remember?"
Jack allows himself a tiny smile. "You bet I remember."
Jack watches Ianto squeeze his eyes closed tight, as if he's trying to keep his composure.
"And if you..." he swallows, lets out a breath, "if you fire me, or retcon me, I meant it when I said I'll come back. It won't work."
"I know," Jack says, softly. "Trust me, I know."
Ianto nods, but he looks so tired, worn out and well-used. "Why suggest it, then?"
"I just want you safe."
Jack isn't looking at him, though. Instead, he's staring out of the window. He can see the moon out of the corner of his eye. It hovers just to the left of the heavy blue curtain and it is much easier to speak to.
"From?" Ianto watches intently, glances out the window at the moon, and sighs. He stares at his cigarette, cross-eyed, for a moment.
"Torchwood," Jack shrugs. "Aliens. Death."
"Sending me away won't keep me safe from any of those things."
"Me," Jack says, barely a whisper, and turns back to look at Ianto like it's the hardest thing he's ever had to do. "Safe from me."
Ianto stares at him for a moment and holds out his hand. "Hi. I don't think we've met. Ianto Jones. My girlfriend was a partially-converted cyberwoman for months."
Jack blinks once, twice, then gives a nervous chuckle.
"Besides," Ianto continues, perhaps a bit too brightly, "little late to worry about keeping me safe from you now, don't you think?"
The air in the room is growing cold, Jack notices. The window has been open for a while now and the temperature outside has dropped drastically. The curtain shifts. He shivers slightly, glances around the flat for a throw and even contemplates getting his coat. His muscles twitch in anticipation of standing up but it dawns on him that it may not be the best option right now. Instead, he frowns at Ianto in confusion. And maybe he's a little hurt, too.
"What'd you mean?"
He tries to make his voice as casual as possible, but it sounds a slight too desperate and far too defensive even to his own ears. The silence seems to drag on and Jack can feel his stomach plummet and he absolutely hates it because none of this was ever, ever supposed to happen. He wasn't supposed to – but it's well beyond speculation now and he's utterly helpless. Ianto looks uncomfortable; he's fiddling with his cigarette like it's the most interesting thing in the room. Maybe it is, and that's the problem.
Jack stands, despite his better judgment, and mentally damns his insecurities for forcing his mouth open. Damns his emotions for giving him the insecurities in the first place. He doesn't look, but he can almost hear Ianto go completely still behind him.
"Jack," Ianto says eventually, and his voice sounds strange, strained and wrung out, and Jack's hanging on his every word-he can't help it, even though he hates that it matters this much, part of him hates that he's even here.
Part of him just wants to go, too, wants to grab his coat and walk out, wants to stop thinking about cigarettes, and Ianto's father, and what kind of father Ianto would make if he hadn't taken it all away from him already, and just... Dammit, Jack thinks. He wants more than anything to run away from this, but he can't. His feet feel as if they're rooted to the floorboards.
He can't go anywhere when Ianto is looking at him like that.
Ianto is sitting up, leaning forward, staring up at Jack.
"I just meant," Ianto says quietly, deliberately calm, an odd contrast to the emotions Jack can see flickering in his eyes, just below the surface.. "I've made my choice. That's what I meant."
Jack forces a smile. "That makes me feel a lot better, thanks."
"And of course I don't need to be kept safe from you," Ianto says quickly, as if this should be obvious. "That's ridiculous."
Jack searches his face for some doubt hidden there, some deep-seated resentment, anything. He's not sure what to think when he comes up completely empty.
"I'm dangerous," Jack says, finally, in what feels like some kind of last ditch effort at full disclosure. "It would be in your best interests to remember that. I'm not like you."
Ianto looks hurt for a second, and then masks it with a laugh. He brings the forgotten cigarette to his lips, and inhales deeply.
"I'm not afraid of you, Jack." He fixes Jack with a stare that could set ice crystals on the windows of the hot house in seconds. "It would be in your best interests to remember that."
"I'm also," Ianto says, exhaling smoke through his nose, and looking up at Jack, "not afraid of dying. In that sense, you might say we are alike."
And suddenly Jack is barely listening. He's angry. Angry at Ianto for talking about death like it's nothing, like he could possibly, possibly understand what it feels like, knowing that every last person, everyone you know, everyone you love, that they're all going to die, and that you're going to have to watch them, maybe even be responsible for-
"You don't understand," Jack says, still lost inside his head. "I've watched so many people die."
"You're right. I don't understand," Ianto says, sounding as defeated and as frustrated as Jack feels. "But neither do you."
Jack opens his mouth, closes it, opens it again, and then gives up the exercise entirely. It hangs partially open, suspended, and he stares at Ianto as though seeing him for the first time. Ianto takes another drag of his cigarette and a calm expression slips effortlessly over his features. It frightens Jack more than anything else he's seen Ianto do that night.
"Yes?" Ianto asks and the words are poised, graceful.
There is a thundering silence as Jack searches for words.
"Maybe you're right," he says, finally. "Maybe I don't understand. There's a whole lot about you I don't think I'll ever understand." He pauses, watches Ianto intently as he flicks his cigarette into the ashtray, and softly sighs. "But that doesn't mean I'm not going to try."
"To understand you."
Ianto smiles at him as if Jack were a toddler who had just figured out that the square peg fits in the square hole. It's patronizing and a bit ridiculous and Jack cherishes it. For once, he feels as though he's done something right; he can barely resist the urge to cheer.
The curtains twitch and swish as a breeze flutters through the window; Ianto's smile softens and his eyes lose their condescending edge.
Jack leans over and carefully pries the half-finished cigarette from between Ianto's fingers. He rests it between his own fingers and cups Ianto's chin with his free hand. His gaze flits across Ianto's face until they rest on his eyes.
It sounds like a plea trying to disguise itself as an admonishment. Smiling and without looking, Jack rests the cigarette in the ashtray. He tries not to laugh when Ianto's eyes slide to the table.
He tries to stop himself from pressing his lips to Ianto's forehead, too, knows the confused expression it will bring to Ianto's eyes, and more than that, he knows that not everything can be fixed like this, but part of him is yearning for contact, for this connection. He does it anyway.
He feels Ianto's eyes flutter closed, feels him suck a quick breath into his lungs and hold it, silently.
"I'm sorry," Jack breathes against Ianto's lips, against his nose. Their faces are too close; their foreheads keep bumping together with every breath. "I'm sorry that I don't understand. I should."
He brings his other hand to Ianto's neck to steady him, and instead of flinching, like Jack had been afraid he might, Ianto leans into his touch a little, and releases the breath he's been holding. Jack can feel his shoulders depress a little as he releases the air, and then rise up again as he inhales, slowly.
Carefully, Ianto places his hand over Jack's where it's resting against his neck. Jack closes his eyes. The warmth and weight of Ianto's hand is distracting, almost soothing.
"I want to," Jack says earnestly. "I want-"
"Jack," Ianto says, and it's less of a plea this time, and definitely not an admonishment. "It's okay," he says, and when he speaks, he rubs his thumb over the outside of Jack's wrist, and it's like they're caught up in some kind of rhythm that Jack can't hear but can feel from somewhere deep inside of him, pulling them along, some sort of current underneath all of this.
"I want you to understand, too," Jack says softly."I know," Ianto says, and Jack isn't sure what this particular intonation of Ianto's voice is suggesting, but there's authority there, and when Ianto says, "I do understand," Jack almost believes him.
"I just want…" Jack says, and then stops, because this current is pulling him under, and because he really doesn't know the right words to use to finish that thought, which is so stupid, so completely unforgiveable, really, but-
"I know," Ianto says again, and then, softer, "Me, too," as he presses a firm kiss to Jack's lips.
The cigarette resting in the ashtray billows smoke for a moment before it puts itself out, some mechanism designed to keep houses from burning to the ground. It gives off a last huff, a brief flash, and ceases to burn.
They don't notice, though, or if they do, they don't care. The feel of Ianto's lips against his own sends Jack reeling with a desire that transcends taking him to bed (although there is that, too; there is always that).
He cups Ianto's cheek and then his hand travels to the back of his head. He won't relinquish those lips, the addition of smoke combining with more familiar flavors; it's like a missing ingredient and it feels strangely perfect.
Leaning Ianto back so that his head lays against the armrest doesn't take much effort and, though their legs are at awkward angles, it's comfortable to be just like this, slotted together. It's far less domineering than it is protective and for once neither of them attempt to assert control. They kiss softly, languidly, as though they have all of the time in the world. As if there wasn't the risk that Ianto might never see next week or that Jack wouldn't get called away tomorrow for months. They kiss as though they lead completely ordinary, normal lives.
A breeze blows through the room and the cigarette rolls a little to the left, then back again. Ianto's hands cup the sides of Jack's face, grounding him, as their lips slide together.
Jack's body feels light. Even all tangled up with Ianto's ankles and elbows, with his shoulder wedged into the corner of the couch like this, he feels almost weightless, and if he's not careful, he thinks he might actually laugh, right into Ianto's mouth, right into this kiss, just at the sheer impossibility of it all. That someone can still make him this happy to be in his own skin, that even for a moment, he could feel so unburdened, despite the fact that he knows all those things are still there, all the things that will ruin this, someday... He knows that they haven't gone anywhere, but right now it doesn't matter.
The strange weight of their conversation before, Ianto's lips pursed tight around cigarette after cigarette, blue-grey strands of smoke curling up and out of the open window. It all fades away, blends into this moment, this kiss.
He doesn't deepen the kiss, doesn't have to, because Ianto is right there, and his lips clearly aren't going anywhere. Just for a second, Jack allows himself to think back... Past decades and decades of memories, before Torchwood, and the Doctor, before any of this. To a time when life got shorter every day, not longer.
It's a sort of innocence, a sort of blind trust, he supposes, to be able to lose yourself in something so completely. To allow something like this, even for a moment, to be the most important thing.
There's a certain clarity in it too, Jack thinks, remembering a first kiss, several lifetimes ago, rain streaming down his face, huge wet beads of water-the storm had caught them by surprise. He still remembers her smile. The remarkable, unfamiliar softness of her lips.
Ianto shifts under him, and the memory is gone in a flash. There's a brief break in contact, as Ianto moves a shoulder, a knee, before their lips slide together again.
He doesn't feel the cold, hasn't for a while, and Jack is fairly certain that Ianto doesn't either. A naked foot tangles with his own, shod in thick, solid leather, and he actually does laugh. It's a soft chuckle, sweet and affectionate, but Ianto still pulls back slightly, a playful frown on his face.
Jack grins at him, genuinely pleased with…everything.
"I remember a time when you weren't so forward," he announces, a touch of nostalgia in his voice.
Ianto snorts derisively, but his eyes gleam. "And I remember a time you weren't so sappy." He stretches his neck slightly, as much as Jack's proximity will let him. "And if you wouldn't mind, I'd rather not have to explain to Owen why I have a sudden stiff neck. You know how he gets."
With a nod, Jack shifts over and sits up, right on Ianto's legs.
"That's helpful," he mutters sarcastically, and Jack laughs.
And maybe it isn't quite how he had expected (or even wanted) the evening to go, but it would be a lie to claim that he isn't pleasantly surprised and happier for it. If that doesn't sum up his relationship with Ianto, he has no idea what does. He freezes suddenly, a strange portrait of distant eyes and smiling lips, as the realization hits him.
"What is it?"
The low voice, full of concern, and perhaps a good dose of apprehension, interrupts his thoughts and he turns, startled, to the source.
Jack leans forward a little, presumably to place a placating kiss somewhere in the vicinity of Ianto's face, and he's greeted by Ianto's finger instead, raised in front of him in protest.
"I'll take what's on your mind this time, instead, okay?" Ianto says, and his voice is light, but his eyes are still dark with apprehension. Jack knows that look well, and for once, he thinks maybe he'll just tell Ianto the truth.
Jack's heart does a quick jump as he takes Ianto's hand in his, ignoring Ianto's eyes as they widen a little in surprise.
"Honestly? I was thinking about how happy I am when I'm here with you," Jack says lightly, surprised by how easily the words roll off his tongue.
Ianto looks a little shocked at first, but quickly schools his face into a smirk. "I see the new, sappy Jack Harkness hasn't left yet."
"Nope," is all Jack says, and even though there are about a hundred other things he could - should - say, instead he just stares at Ianto, at the features of his face, the curve of his cheekbones, the shape of his eyes, and turns his palm over in his hand, feeling the hair on his arms rush up to attention. "Not yet."
"Good," Ianto says quickly, before his free hand comes up to wrap around Jack's chin, and to Jack's startled look of confusion, he just says, softly, "Because I don't think I want him to."
His face is so close that his warm breath falls against Jack's chin and lips, just a hint of the cigarettes lying forgotten on the table lingering in the space between them.
His eyes are open, not hiding a thing, as he presses his lips to Jack's. It's just a quick press of contact; Ianto pulls away before Jack manages to part his lips, even.
Jack just stares at him, waiting. Wondering, as always, what's coming next.
Ianto shifts his legs under him a little, and Jack shivers.
"Stay," Ianto says, leaning in close, and the words seem to float off his lips, lingering between them for a moment.
Jack doesn't say anything, just nods, his eyes never leaving Ianto's face as he twists his legs around for a second so that he can wrench off his boots and socks, dropping everything to the floor in front of the couch with a satisfying smack of leather against wood.
"That's better," he says, and tucks his feet up and under Ianto's thighs.
He leans his head back against the couch and flashes Ianto an indulgent smile. When he sees a mirror image of that smile reflected on Ianto's face, he feels a rush of warmth wash over him, despite the draft from the still-open window behind them.
"Now, where were we?" he asks, though he's pretty sure he already knows.