When in Rome

by silversolitaire [Reviews - 17]

Printer
  • Adult
  • Explicit Sex
  • Angst, Slash

Author's Notes:
The story of how this fic happened is actually rather funny. I was talking to my partner in crime, Kris, praising the benefits of the Torchwood fandom. I said finally you can whip out all those cool alien cliché fics again like you get in Star Wars and Star Trek all the time. And then I proceeded with sketching out the lamest cliché idea I could come up with and suddenly said, "You know what? Why don't I just write it? Finally gets that Torchwood fic out of the way I've been itching to write for a while now." And so I did.

And it only goes to show that I once again manage to turn even the smallest plot bunny into a 30 pages behemoth. When I planned this, it was going to write a cute little 8-pager or so, I swear!

Deepest thanks go, as always, to my dearest friend kribban without whom none of my fics would happen like that. If it wasn't for her constant encouragement and comments I'd probably still be dicking around with page 1. So, if you like my fics, it's all because of her, really. Thanks also go to lemurjoe who betaed this story on his birthday!

When in Rome
by Silver


Jack lowered the ray gun and looked at the mess with a grimace. Alien gut was splattered all over Roald Dahl Plass.

"Okay, this isn't exactly the effect I had expected from this gun," Jack said with an apologetic smile as he turned to his team who was standing a couple of feet away, staring in horror. "What?" he asked at their horrified expressions.

"Did you have to, you know, completely obliterate it, Jack?" Gwen asked carefully, being the first one to speak, as usual.

Frowning, Jack slipped the gun into the holster. "No, of course I didn't have to. I could have just let an alien from an unknown race run rampage in Cardiff together with the box of alien artifacts of unknown effect it grabbed from the table on its way out after someone failed to close the cell door properly."

Owen cleared his throat audibly. "Right. I say this was appropriate, considering our guns didn't seem to have any effect on it. Jack had no choice. And who would have expected the alien to literally get blown to smithereens from this thing?"

"Exactly," Jack added defiantly. He turned to Ianto who appeared on the plaza through the lift, carrying a trash bag and a resigned expression on his face. "Ianto! Just the man I need!" Jack said cheerfully as he walked towards the other man. "We need to get this mess cleaned up fast before someone sees it or else we'll have a lot of retconning to do tonight."

"Right away, sir," Ianto said in his usual deadpan way as he bowed down to pick up pieces of gut.

"Wait, I'm going to help you," Gwen offered.

Ianto flashed her a quick smile. "No, thank you. I'm fine, really."

Jack stepped aside and let the other man do his job. "Okay, we should pick up the artifacts in the meantime," he said to Gwen and Owen, gesturing towards the objects scattered all across the plaza. "Make sure to get everything." He touched his headset. "Tosh? I need you to get a full inventory of the content of this box."

"No problem, Jack" Tosh replied through the earpiece, typing away on her computer.

Holding the box open, Jack counted off every object that was placed into it one by one. When nothing else came, he said, "Okay, Tosh, this is all."

"There's still one piece missing," she replied. "It's... an oval device, about twenty centimeters long, with a round and green, shimmering application in the center."

"Okay, guys, you've heard her. Start looking for it," Jack said as he put the box aside to join the search.

"I think I've got it, sir," Ianto said, pulling something out from under a particularly large piece of gut. He wiped it off with his hand and held it out for Jack to get.

"Well done, Ianto!" Jack said with a smile and walked towards him to retrieve it. Suddenly, his smile froze and he stopped dead, staying rooted to the spot. Behind him, Gwen gasped and Owen took a step forward.

"What is it?" Ianto asked, looking back at the team with a confused expression on his face.

"Don't... move..." Jack said, holding his hands out in an appeasing gesture.

Ianto gave an uneasy laugh. "You're making me nervous." He turned around and saw a huge gaping hole having opened up right behind him, a bright vortex spinning inside of it. "Oh God, what is this?" he gasped, trying to move away. That caused him to lose his footing and he fell.

"Ianto!" Jack yelled, rushing forward. He tried to reach for the other man's flailing hands to stop him from falling into the hole but couldn't get a hold of them. The device slipped from Ianto's fingers and landed on the tiled ground with a clatter. Then the hole closed with a hollow sound, swallowing the other man along with it.

"No!" Jack hit the solid ground with his knees, brushing his hands frantically across the stone surface as if he could coax it to open up again and release the man it had just taken away. Gwen appeared at his side, brushing her hair back.

"What happened, Jack?" she asked breathlessly.

"I don't know!" he snapped back angrily. He got up and looked around. His eyes fell on the device Ianto had dropped and he grabbed it, turning it in his hands.

"Maybe we should be careful with this..." Gwen suggested next to him. "We don't really know what it does. Maybe it's malign. It could have..." She left the rest of the sentence unfinished when Jack shot her a burning glance. "I'm sure he's fine, Jack," she added hastily.

Not gracing her with a reply, Jack touched his earpiece. "Tosh, get all the scanners ready. I'm coming in with an alien device that needs a full check ASAP." Not waiting for the others, he took the lift downstairs and handed the device over to Toshiko who was already waiting for him.

"What happened?" she asked as she tried to catch up with his long strides.

"I'm not sure," Jack replied grimly. "This thing did something and it opened a portal of sorts, some kind of wormhole, and it swallowed Ianto."

"What?" Tosh stopped, staring at him. "How did that happen?"

He shot a frustrated glance back at her. "Just get to work, please? I suspect this is some kind of traveling device, maybe a transporter. I need you to confirm this and ideally find out which destination it was set to. Can you do that? And make it fast. We have no idea where it took Ianto and how long he can survive there."

Obviously convinced, Tosh nodded and scuttled off to her workstation. Jack watched her for a moment to make sure she gave the task the priority it needed, then, when he was convinced of it, he disappeared into his office.

Once the door was closed behind him, he drew a shuddering breath and rubbed his hands across his face. This was bad. He'd seen other men disappear through unknown portals before and the outcome almost always had been unpleasant. He pulled his hands off his face and slipped out of his coat which he tossed carelessly across his desk.

He craved a drink, but he needed to stay focused now. If Tosh was successful he'd have to be ready to take action immediately. So he went over to the safe, punched in the code and opened the heavy door. He pulled out a box stacked away in the back of the vault that contained his personal effects.

One by one, he pulled out things that he hadn't looked at in ages, it seemed. Memories of a life long past. He rummaged through the box without allowing himself but a moment of nostalgia until he found what he had been looking for. He placed those things on the desk, then snapped the box shut and stored it in the safe again.

Yanking open his office door, Jack strode out into the main area, pleased to find every single workstation occupied with someone working on the computer with grim determination. "Found anything yet?" he asked into the round.

"I've found a couple of entries in the archive inventory that suggest similar devices like the one we're examining right now," Gwen proclaimed proudly.

"Good! Have you grabbed them yet?"

"Er..." Her eyes shifted to the side. "I would have, but they're in the archives and only Ianto knows the codes of that one. And you, of course," she added quickly at Jack's murderous glance.

"Well, then give me the inventory number already!" Jack barked as he went to the archives. He retrieved the boxes Gwen mentioned and took them back to the workstations. Opening the first box, he took out the device stored in there and turned it in his hand. It did indeed look similar to the one that had taken Ianto away.

"Here, Tosh, can you make anything of that?" Jack asked, handing it over to her.

Turning around in her chair, Tosh looked at it. "Oh! Yes, I remember this! Suzie had worked on this a while back. I seem to remember..." She manipulated the device a bit. It started to make a whirring sound and the round application slid back, revealing a panel underneath. "See?" she said triumphantly, holding it up.

Jack took it back from her and inspected it. "You think you can do that with the other one, too?"

Tosh nodded, betraying the slightest trace of insecurity. "I think I can, but I'd like to short-circuit it before, just to make sure that I don't accidentally start it..."

Waving impatiently, Jack said, "Just do whatever you need to do and make it quick. And don't break it!" He turned and saw Owen sitting on his workstation, quite relaxed with his feet on the desk, playing some alien version of Solitaire that they had found on the computer of some stranded spaceship once. "Don't you have anything useful to contribute?" he snapped at the other man.

Owen shrugged, unimpressed. "You've already got two very competent young ladies working on the problem. When, or should I say if Ianto comes back, I'll be sure to direct my immediate medical attention on him and patch him right back up. Until then..." He moved a stack of cards and cursed when he game-overed.

Jack was just getting ready to unleash all his pent-up anger on the other man and tear him a new one when he was interrupted by Toshiko's gleeful whoop. He immediately abandoned all plans of Owen torture and rushed over to her workstation. "What have you got?"

"I've managed to go around the apparatus' power supply and open the panel. Then I've hooked it up to my computer and am currently in the process of running the data through the universal decoder. It's already retrieved a set of useful coordinates and the translation should come through any minute now..." Something popped up on the computer screen. "There it is!"

"Yes!" Jack leaned in and looked at the coordinates. His heart made a quick jump in his chest when he recognized the quadrant. "That's good news. If it's what I think it is then the planet should have a similar atmosphere to Earth. At least we know Ianto's okay in that aspect then. Run a check on the planet."

Toshiko nodded and typed in a couple of commands. The information scrolled past the screen and Jack read it attentively. "Tosh, that was great work," he praised as he finished reading. Then he leaned in and placed a noisy kiss on her lips. "Thank you!"

"Hey, what about me?" Gwen complained as she jumped up, blocking Jack's way back to his office. "It's me who found the matching artifact after all!"

Jack grinned and pulled her in for a quick kiss as well. "Happy now?"

"Exceedingly."

Quirking an eyebrow, Jack turned to Owen. "I'm not kissing you though. You haven't contributed anything."

"Thank God for that!" Owen replied, raising his hands.

Still laughing, Jack walked back into his office, grabbed his coat from the desk and loaded the pockets with the items he had selected earlier. Then he picked a ray gun from the armory and fastened it to his belt. When he turned back to the door he found Gwen standing there, watching him.

"What are you going to do now, Jack?" she asked, her arms crossed in front of her chest.

"I'm going to follow Ianto through the portal and bring him back, of course," he replied as he went through his desk drawers for suitable ammunition for the gun.

"Don't you think that's a little... dangerous?" she asked. "What if you can't come back?"

Jack shot her an amused glance. "Oh please. I've been stranded on deserted space stations, traveled through different galaxies and time. Do you really think a planet a mere couple of thousand of gigameters away is going to keep me there for long? I'll figure something out. Don't worry." He gave her a confident pat on the shoulder as he walked past her.

"In my absence, Gwen will be second in command," he said as he pulled the utility belt from the wall and fastened it around his waist.

"But I'm second in command!" Owen complained, pulling his feet off the desk.

Jack turned to him with a careless shrug. "I know, that's a bummer, isn't it?" He laughed at Owen's glare. He halted at Tosh's workstation. "Is the transporter ready again?"

"Yes," she said, making a couple of quick adjustments on her keyboard. "One moment." She disconnected the device from the circuit and checked it once more. "I haven't changed any of the settings. It should still be programmed to take you to the same location. Judging by the data that was on it I assume it's some kind of transporter that traveling merchants use to find planets similar to their home planet so they can travel safely."

Jack took it from her. "Thanks, Toshiko."

"Um, I've also made a memory point for this location. If you don't lose it and it doesn't run out of energy it should take you back here without troubles."

He flashed her a grateful smile and slipped the transporter into his pocket. Then he walked to the lift. Gwen appeared by his side and he gave her a questioning glance.

"I'm just going to make sure your departure goes according to plan," she explained as they rose with the platform.

"You really needn't be so worried," he said to her as they stepped out on Roald Dahl Plass. "It's not the first time I've done something like this. I'll be fine."

"I know... I mean, I don't know, but I assume you know what you're doing. But what are you going to do if something goes wrong? What if you encounter a hostile race?"

Jack gave her a lopsided grin. "I think I can deal with that. Adapting has always been my strong point. You know what they say. 'When in Rome'..."

Gwen's smile showed her insecurity. "But still... Please be careful, Jack. And bring Ianto back to us safely."

He sighed and drew her into a hug. "I will, Gwen." Then he released her and stepped away from her. "Stand back now," he called as he pulled the device out. He hesitated for a moment, turning it in his hand, then touched his earpiece. "Erm, Tosh. I forgot to ask how to work this thing."

Her chuckle rang in his ear. "Just brush your finger across the green tile counterclockwise to go into this direction."

"Okay." He gave Gwen a last look, making sure she was in safe distance. Then he initiated the transporter. It started to vibrate and the tile began to glow, giving the optic impression of a whirl turning counterclockwise. Then a matching vortex appeared right in front of him.

He winked at Gwen one last time, then he tucked the device safely away into his belt pocket and plunged forward.

For a moment, he felt as if every cell in his body was being stretched and compressed at the same time as the bright light whirled around him, robbing him completely of every sense of time or orientation. He couldn't even tell how long this had been going on when all of a sudden it stopped and he hit a sandy surface face first.

He groaned and scrambled to his knees, waiting for the nausea and dizziness to subside. Several times he felt like retching, but he managed to suppress it. This form of space travel was most likely ranking in the top three of the most inconvenient ones he had ever experienced.

Cautiously, he opened his eyes and immediately noticed the purple tinge of the atmosphere. The climate was warm and the sandy ground suggested that's the way it usually was. He took a deep breath, filling his lungs with suitable oxygen and he registered with relief that their information on this planet had been correct.

Then he got up, still feeling a little shaky on his legs. He turned around and stood face to face with three aliens pointing with spears at his chest. Technically, I'm the alien, he corrected himself mentally as he put on a smile that he hoped would be recognized as such and took a moment to look at the three creatures.

They had humanoid physique with the exception of their skin having a similar purple hue as the atmosphere around them. Their eye were dark and oval, without anything white in them betraying the direction they were looking at and making it very hard for Jack to read emotions in them.

All three of them wore their long, glossy, black hair in some kind of traditional style it seemed, combed back and wound into intricate braids at the back of their necks. The fact that they all wore the same kind of outfit suggested that they probably were guards of some sort.

The left creature began to talk and the sound was an incomprehensible screech to Jack's ears. He'd heard weirder languages before and yet he couldn't even begin to guess what they were trying to say. He tried to reach into his right pocket, but that set the other two into motion immediately, saying something in an unmistakably harsh tone while threatening with their spears with more insistence.

Jack raised his hands in an appeasing gesture. "Whoa, careful. I just want to get out my translator." When he got no reaction, he said the word 'translator' in every alien language he knew until he thought he saw comprehension dawn in the other ones' eyes.

Very carefully, he moved his hand down to his pocket again, fully aware of the guards' attentive eyes on him. His fingers found the universal translator and he pulled it out slowly, showing it to the guards before inserting it into his ear.

A crackling buzz shot through his ear and made him wince as the translator began searching for the right frequency. When it stopped, he said, "Do you understand me now?" He noticed the hallow way his own voice resounded in his head, telling him that the translator worked.

The left guard exchanged a look with his colleagues, then he nodded. "Yes, we do. Who are you?" His voice sounded tinny and strange as it was being processed through the translator.

Jack quickly scanned the area, trying to quickly collect any kind of information that might help his cause. He noticed that there was a city not far away from where he had landed. This was most likely where they had taken Ianto. Judging by the way this small spot he was standing on was set up, it suggested that it was some kind of landing platform intended for space travelers to land on. The presence of the guards in this relatively godforsaken place and the fact that he had come here with a merchant's traveling device meant that they were actually expecting this to happen.

"I'm here for business," he said firmly, putting on an air of authority that he hoped would impress the guards.

The left guard exchanged another look with his fellows, then asked, "Are you here for the auction?"

Praising himself for his intuition, Jack replied, "You bet I am. I'd like to speak to the person in charge. And make it quick. The trip has been quite unpleasant and I'm longing to wash away the dust with a stiff drink."

The guard lowered his spear a little. "Of course. I'll need to see your documents of authorization first though."

Jack cursed inwardly. "Excuse me? Is this the way you people treat traveling salesmen? If you're not interested in doing business with me I can leave again right away." He took out the transporter.

Pulling his spear back all the way now, the guard tilted his head apologetically. "I understand your position, but since the auction is a big event we have to make sure that only registered members of the Galactic Merchants Union take part."

"Ah. I understand that of course," Jack replied with grandeur while his mind was racing for any kind of information he could remember about the GMU. He'd come across it at some point during his training, but who was to say what exactly the proper documentation looked like in this time and galaxy?

Casually, he reached into his pocket, looking for the psychic paper he had thought to bring along. He pulled it out. "Here you go," he said as he handed it over to the guard, hoping that the guard's expectation would amend the psychic paper sufficiently to pass as relatively recent documentation. Just to be on the safe side though, he slipped his hand under his coat surreptitiously and closed it around the handle of the ray gun.

His concerns proved to be unfounded though when the guard gave the paper a mere passing glance before handing it back to Jack with a nod. "All right. Follow us then."

Jack did as he was told and followed the three men down the path towards the gates of the city. He made sure to take a good look around, noting possible escape routes and registering any kind of information that might prove to be helpful later on.

They stopped in front of a tall door. One of the guards, Jack already had forgotten which one of them it was, stepped forward and knocked at the door solemnly. It opened slowly and Jack was motioned to enter with the guards following him closely.

The room appeared to be some kind of office, as it was dominated by a large desk and the walls were covered with shelves filled with scrolls. Jack stayed behind as one of the guards approach a person sitting behind the desk and exchanged a couple of sentences, looking at him occasionally. The man nodded and the guards bowed simultaneously and retreated.

Standing up from his chair and walking around the desk, the man said, "I'm glad you've managed to come. I am Colpar, the manager of Kerlosh. I hear you've come to participate in the auction?"

Considering his answer for a moment, Jack decided on a different approach. "Captain Jack Harkness, pleased to meet you. Actually, that is only partially true. First and foremost, I have come to rectify a rather unfortunate situation."

The manager looked at him for a moment, then nodded slowly. "I see. I've already anticipated this. You're here for the other member of your species that arrived here two days ago."

Jack hoped that his emotions weren't showing on his face. For one, it was the surprise that apparently two days had passed here during the short time it had taken them to figure out the device and for Jack to arrive. And then there was the immense relief to hear that Ianto was indeed here, paired with concern for any possible complications that may arise.

He forced all of it back into the corner of his mind. "Exactly. There has been a small accident with the transportation device that has caused Ianto to be brought here."

The manager frowned. "What is a Ianto?"

"Ianto is the reason I'm here."

"Ah." The manager nodded understandingly. "So Ianto is your word for slave?"

It finally began to dawn on Jack what kind of auction was taking place here. He felt a knot form in the pit of his stomach and he quickly amended his strategy accordingly. "Right. He's a very important member of my staff, you see, and I'd very much appreciate it if you'd just hand him back over to me so we could be on our way back home."

The manager's face darkened. "You're asking for a lot, Captain. He's already been included in the line-up for tonight's auction and there has been eager interest in him because of his unusual looks and physique."

"Yes, I realize that," Jack replied politely. "But certainly as a mercantile civilization you will respect property and accept my claim over him. I cannot let you resell him again as he already is part of my estate."

Those impenetrable black eyes rested on him thoughtfully, making him feel the tiniest bit uneasy inside. Yet he returned the glance evenly and confidently.

"Of course," Colpar said slowly. "We certainly respect property claims."

Jack stopped himself just in time before breathing a sigh of relief. "Most obliged. If you'll show me the way so I can collect my, eh, slave then?" He turned into the direction of the door, but halted when he noticed that the manager didn't move. "Is there anything wrong?"

"Certainly you'll be able to provide proof of your claims, won't you?" the manager asked politely, his purple hands folded it front of his body.

Of course, it couldn't have been that easy, Jack thought with resignation as he turned towards the manager again. "And what kind of proof are we looking at?"

*******************************

It seemed to Jack as if the corridors just kept going on and on as he followed Colpar and the palace guards into the bowels of this place. He had lost track long ago and buried all hope of ever finding his way out of there alone. So trying to escape like that was out of the question.

And since apparently the Kerlosh were polite but not dumb, he had been forced to hand over his transporter and weapon before even being allowed into this area. So it looked like he'd be forced to play by their rules to get Ianto and himself out of there. And what set of rules they were...

Finally, they stopped in front of a door with a sign on it. He couldn't read it but it most likely was an ongoing number since it looked very similar to ones on the dozens of doors down this corridor. Prison cells, he thought bleakly.

He watched Colpar pull out a key from under his robe and considered for a moment whether it'd be possible to steal it later, but dismissed the idea again when he realized that the key got authorization from the manager's thumb print.

The lock clicked and the bolt at the door moved. Then one of the guards pulled it open and let Colpar pass. Jack felt his heartbeat quicken when he followed the man inside.

The cell was mostly empty with the exception of colorful large pillows piled up in a shallow pit in the center of the room and a screen in the corner of the room. There was no sign of Ianto anywhere. Jack gave the manager a puzzled look.

"He's hiding behind the screen again," Colpar explained.

As if on cue, a roar rang out and someone came charging from behind said screen, rushing towards the small group. Jack took an involuntary step to the side at the first shock. Then he realized a couple of things very fast. One, this person running towards the guards was most certainly Ianto. Two, he was stark naked. And three, one of the guards had raised the spear and aimed it straight at Ianto's chest.

Reacting instinctively, Jack grabbed the other man by the waist and pulled him against his chest roughly, nearly toppling them both over from the force of the impact. "Ianto, stop!" he yelled as he turned the struggling man in his arms.

"Jack?!" Ianto said, incredulous, and immediately stopped struggling.

Casting a quick look over to the manager, Jack was well aware of the curious and inquisitive eyes on them. So he didn't waste another second and pulled Ianto close to him, capturing his mouth in a passionate kiss. He felt the other man stiffen in his arms and he squeezed the wrists tightly and pressed them against his chest as he turned them both around to block off the view with his back.

"Just play along," he whispered when he pulled back for a moment to catch his breath. He could sense that Ianto prepared to ask more questions, so he covered his mouth once more, this time meeting considerably less resistance. When he felt that Ianto's response was sufficient, he turned them again and deepened the kiss skillfully for the benefit of the audience.

When he finally pulled away, Jack registered not without a twinge of pride that Ianto's face was flushed and his breath had quickened as he stared at him with questioning eyes. Jack ran his hands across the other man's chest in an instinctive gesture to assure himself of Ianto's sound condition and became once more aware of his unclothed state. His skin was cold to touch and he felt an undeniable shiver wherever his hands brushed across.

He turned to the manager with an angry stare. "Why is my slave naked?"

Colpar looked at him with unmistakable confusion. "But... he's a slave. Why would he need clothes?"

Cursing colorfully, Jack pulled off his coat and wrapped it around Ianto's slender frame. "That may be the custom for your species, but we obviously aren't used to this. My slave could have taken seriously ill." Jack realized that he wasn't just putting on a show, but was genuinely upset at the idea of Ianto having been forced to spend days in this room, completely naked.

He willed down this inappropriate emotional response and added, "In addition to that, I do not care for the guards' wandering eyes ogling my property like that." The guards in question reacted with obvious embarrassment and averted their eyes.

"I would like to have a bit of private time with my pet now," Jack said to Colpar. Sensing the other man's opposition to his proposal, he added, "This is all very unusual for him. I need to prepare him so he understands what's going to happen."

Reluctantly, Colpar nodded. "We shall return to collect you in an hour then."

"Thank you." Jack waited for the door to close behind them before he reached up to his ear and yanked the translator out of it, slipping it into his pocket. He looked at Ianto and saw the utter confusion on the other man's face.

"What the hell is going on, Jack?" he whispered, his eyes darting towards the door nervously.

"I'll explain it to you. Come." He grabbed Ianto by the elbow and led him towards the pit of pillows, urging the man to sit down. Then he took a seat very close to him, putting a possessive hand on his shoulder.

"I know this is weird to you, but just accept this as necessary, okay?" Jack said in a soothing voice, rubbing a hand across Ianto's shoulder. "I'm fairly certain they are watching us this very moment on the CCTV. I know I would. They might have audio, too, so you may want to watch the tone you use. They won't understand what we're saying or else they would have used translation devices on you before."

Ianto swallowed nervously. "A-all right, Jack." He licked his lips. "Is this why they seem to be able to understand you? Were you using a device like that?"

"Yes. I've used these things before when I was traveling to other planets more often. They form something like a perception bubble around the person wearing it, if you want to call it that, that gives the people in range the impression of understanding what's being said to the other person. A bit like converting brainwaves..." He shook his head impatiently. "But never mind that now."

Ianto nodded hesitantly. "So, what exactly is happening here?"

Jack hesitated for a moment, not sure how to start. He lifted his hand and brushed it across Ianto's cheek gently in an intuitive gesture that he came to regret the same instant when he felt the other man flinch.

"Ianto," he said in a pleading tone. "I really need you to stop doing that if we want to make it out of here together."

"If you'd just tell me what's going on here I might have an easier time understanding what all of this is about!" Ianto replied heatedly. "Do you have any idea what it feels like to be stranded on a foreign planet, surrounded by creatures speaking in a tongue I can't even begin to understand, being stripped naked and having no idea what's going to happen to me?"

Jack couldn't help but grin. "Actually yes, I do."

"Well, good for you." Ianto pressed his lips together and looked to the side.

Frowning at the obvious cold shoulder he was being shown, Jack decided that he needed to be a bit more assertive if he wanted their act to work. Ianto would just keep acting like that, betraying the fact that they weren't indeed much more than colleagues.

So he grabbed Ianto's shoulder roughly and pulled him down, placing his head into his lap. He felt Ianto's resistance and hushed gently, putting one hand against his head that would look like a caress to the cameras, but really was meant as a restraint.

"Listen, Ianto," he said calmly as he leaned close to his ear. "Just accept for now that I know what I'm doing. I'm going to explain a couple of things to you now and while I'm doing that I can't have you freak out or else the guards are sure to come back in here any moment and drag me away from you and then things are definitely going to take a turn for the worst. Do you understand?"

He felt Ianto nod under his hand and relaxed, removing the restraining hand and instead placing it lightly on the other one's hip. He shifted a little to get more comfortable, cradling Ianto in his lap.

"Good. Now listen. When you wiped off the alien device, you apparently set off the transportation mechanism and it took you here. It only happened a couple of hours ago, but apparently time moves differently here which is why you feel as if you've been trapped here for days."

He let his hand wander up Ianto's side casually as he was talking. "Lucky for us, you dropped the device when you fell into the vortex. That allowed us to figure out where you went and for me to follow you there."

"You came to save me," Ianto whispered against the cloth of his pants.

Jack smiled, running his other hand through the lying man's dark hair. "Yes, Ianto. Unfortunately, things aren't quite as easy. Turns out that you've followed a trading route and ended up on this planet, Kerlosh, which seems to be big in the business of slaves."

Ianto tensed under his hands. "Slaves?"

"Sssssh... yes. And it just so happens that around this time a big auction is taking place here and apparently you have made quite an impression on them. You've been added to the line-up and been made one of the main attractions." He felt the other man jerk and held him down with his arm. "Easy, Ianto. That's not all yet and I need you to stay calm."

He took a deep breath. "Quite obviously, I neither have the money nor the weaponry to be able to spring you from such a situation. At least not in the timeframe we've been given. By the time I'd be back from acquiring the necessary funds or help, you'd be sold off into some harem God knows where in the galaxy."

A strangled gasp escaped the other man's lips and Jack petted his head gently. "So I've asserted my claim over you. I've told them that you weren't available and that I was your master. This seems to be the only concept they really grasp. Fortunately, they were inclined to honor my claim."

Ianto sighed in relief. "Okay. And this means?"

"This means, in order to make this work, we have to play our part. If we don't, there's a very good chance they're just going to add you right back into the line-up and throw me into jail. Or worse."

"Okay... so do I have to call you 'Master' and walk three steps behind you?"

"Yes, something like that." Jack hesitated. "There's a little more to it."

"And that is?"

Jack took a deep breath. "The auction is taking place tonight and a large crowd is expected to be there to participate. Not just because of the auction, but also because of the festivities taking place afterwards. Apparently it is tradition here that after the auction the masters celebrate their new purchase in a ceremony, introducing their slaves into society. It's a bit like an initiation rite and a big thing here. People come from all over the place just to see this."

The tension shot back into Ianto's body.

Trying to get this over with, Jack continued. "Because of the big stir you've caused, people are going to expect to see you and there'll be quite a commotion if you're not there. So, in order to have them agree to my claim over you and as a proof that we indeed belong together, I had to agree to participate in the ceremony together with you."

"Oh God..." Ianto whispered. "And what kind of ceremony is that exactly?"

"It's... a mating ceremony."

"What?" Ianto surged up, almost knocking his head into Jack's face as he spun around. He scrambled away from him, eyes widened in panic. "You cannot be serious! You mean mating... as in sex? In front of everyone? With you? I can't believe you agreed to this! Are you crazy?!"

"Ianto, please! Calm down!" Jack pleaded, as he followed the young man across the pillows. He reached out for him.

"Get away from me!" Ianto yelled, raising a hand.

Seeing as there was no other way, Jack plunged forward, grabbed the other man by the wrists and twisted his arms around, rendering him immobile as he threw him down on the pillows and covered his body with his own. "Stop struggling!" he ground out through gritted teeth. "Do you want them to come in here and separate us because they think you're trying to attack your master?"

The body went limp underneath him.

Ianto turned his face to the side and stifled a sob. "Oh God... this is a nightmare."

"I know..." Jack dragged a gentle hand across the other man's cheek. "I wish I didn't have to do this to you, not like this. But believe me, there was no other way. Even if I had somehow managed to convince them of the eligibility of my claims they still would have insisted on our participation in the ceremony to keep up the image to the outside. There just has been too much publicity around this already."

Looking at him with burning eyes, Ianto hissed, "Oh yes, I bet you've tried everything you could to prevent this from happening."

Jack stared back at him in disbelief. "You think this is how I had envisioned getting into your pants for the first time?"

"So you admit having thought about it before!"

"Well, of course I have! I'm only human!" Jack sighed when the silent accusal wouldn't leave Ianto's eyes. "Ianto, please believe me this. If there was anything I could do to spare you this, I would."

Ianto didn't reply, just looking to the side. Jack allowed him that moment to gather his thoughts. Finally, he turned his head back to him and asked with a forcefully collected voice a couple of pitches higher than usual. "So, this 'mating ceremony'? What exactly does this entail?"

Jack sighed. He knew the next part would cause another breakdown for sure. "They've let me watch footage from previous ceremonies since they expected me to be unfamiliar with their customs. In the ceremony, the master and the slave both step out on stage in ritualistic gowns. Then the master lays the slave out on a traditional bed and, er... goes to work."

Ianto stayed silent for a moment. "Goes to work? As in, kissing, groping, public nudity?"

"Yes, something like that. And of course the master will be expected to, eh... assert his dominance over the slave by..." Jack didn't know how to say it any better, so he just decided to say it as it was. "By fucking him."

"On stage," Ianto inquired calmly.

"Yes."

"In front of a horde of gaping aliens."

"I'm afraid so."

"I see."

Jack blinked. "You're taking this surprisingly well."

"Oh, I'm trying to be economic with my emotion. Since every time I thought this couldn't possibly get any worse, you've proven me wrong. So I'm waiting for things to get worse. Besides, the way you're holding me pinned to the ground makes it somewhat difficult to react in a way other than biting or headbutting you and I'd like to reserve that for more desperate measures."

Relieved at the return of sarcastic Ianto, Jack smiled down at the lying man. "Well, I thank you for not headbutting me."

"Don't mention it."

They stayed silent for some time until Jack started feeling a bit silly still holding Ianto in that grip, wary of another possible outbreak. Then Ianto finally began to speak. "So, how do you plan on resolving this issue?"

Jack frowned. "What do you mean?"

Ianto sliced him a cold look that gave him the chills. "Quite obviously, this proposal is absurd to the extreme. There is no way I'm going to agree to this. You have to think of something else."

Of course this couldn't have been that easy, Jack thought with a sigh. "Ianto, please. Consider this for a moment. I've told you the ramifications of this situation. There's no way out of here except through that ceremony. It's a relatively small price to pay in regards to the fate that awaits you otherwise."

"That is easy for you to say! You've had plenty of experience, with alien races, with situations like this, with... with sex! You're apparently just taking this in your stride, but I..."

"You think I'm happy with the idea?" Jack interrupted him gently. "I really wish it wasn't so. But believe me, it could be worse."

"Oh really?" Ianto exclaimed heatedly. "And what could be worse than being forced to strip naked in front of a large audience and let my... my boss touch all my private parts and... oh God!" Ianto's cheeks began to flush. "I'm not doing this!"

Jack felt his frustration level rise, but he forced it down. Getting angry now wouldn't exactly help warming Ianto to the idea. "Ianto, please listen to me. I've told you that there is no other way. If you don't comply and they see through us they're going to drag you off and there will be no way I can help you then. You're going to get sold off to some alien slave master and he will take you away. Do you understand that?"

Ianto stared back at him defiantly. "I'm not doing it! I'm rather willing to take my chances with the guards then! I'm sure I can somehow manage to escape and..."

"Haven't you looked around? You'll never make it out of there alive! You've already almost gotten yourself killed with that little stunt you pulled earlier!" Jack sighed. "Ianto, please let me help you."

"Some kind of help that is!"

"Ianto, accept it. You are going to get fucked within the next 24 hours. It can either be me or someone else. It's your choice. What do you prefer? Doing it once with me and be done with it or have some spongiform alien with tentacles rape you every day for the rest of your most likely considerably shortened life? Hm?"

He could see how the defiance drained from Ianto's eyes and it was being replaced by pure and utter panic. He started struggling again, although only weakly, writhing underneath him. Reaching up, he gently cupped Ianto's face and forced him to look at him.

"Ianto," he cooed softly, his breath brushing across the other man's face. "I'm not going to let this happen, do you hear me? You can trust me on this. I'm going to take care of you, as long as you let me."

Tears welled up in Ianto's eyes and spilled down his cheeks. Jack brushed them away gently with his thumbs.

"I can't do it," Ianto choked out, staring up at him with glittering eyes. "I... I just can't. This is so humiliating..."

"I know," Jack whispered. He gathered Ianto into his arms and sat back, pulling them both into a sitting position. He held him in his arms like a rag doll, rocking gently as he rubbed a hand down his back. "Just let it all out. Let go of it now so you can be strong later."

"I've never done anything like this," he heard Ianto whisper. "I'm not used to this. I'm not even used to getting naked in front of people." He sobbed. "The only person I've ever gotten naked with was Lisa and even then it was in the semi-darkness of our bedroom..." A shudder racked through his body. "Oh God... please don't make me do that!"

"It's not up to me, Ianto..." Jack said gently, sifting his hand through the other man's hair. Ianto started crying harder. "See it this way... at least it'll be with someone you know and trust. I know it's just a small comfort, but I swear I'm not going to hurt you. This is why I need you to work with me, Ianto. I can't do this without you."

"But I don't know what to do..." Ianto whispered, his hands coming up and digging into Jack's shirt.

Jack laughed softly. "Believe me, I know. And unlike some slave master, I'm going to be gentle with you and make sure that you're having a good time."

Ianto made a choking sound. "But I don't want to have a good time! I don't want this to happen at all! Not like this..."

"Sssssssh..." Jack ran his hand down Ianto's back. "Of course not. And if it wasn't like this I would take my time to court you gently. I'd ask you out for dinner and we'd talk about work and our lives, get to know each other. And slowly, gently, I'd get you to accept me into your life and eventually into your body."

"Really?" Ianto murmured, stilling holding onto Jack's shirt.

"Oh yes. I pride myself of being quite a good lover, don't you know that?" He laughed softly. "So, of course it's a matter of principles that I'm going to make you have a good time. If you just let me..."

"I can't... I really can't..."

"Just once, Ianto. It's all you have to do. Then we'll both be free to walk away from here and I promise I'll deal with it the way you want me to. We'll never talk about this again. I'll never touch you again if you don't want me to. I'll make it up to you. Anything. Just let me help you now."

Jack could sense Ianto's resistance slowly trickling away and resignation taking over. He closed his eyes in a silent acknowledgement of relief as he hugged Ianto against his chest tightly.

"I don't know what to do," Ianto repeated stubbornly.

Carefully, Jack disentangled their limbs and pushed Ianto away so that he could look into his face. His eyes were slightly reddened from the crying, but he looked otherwise composed.

"That's okay," Jack said with a smile. "I do." He put a hand on Ianto's shoulder and registered with satisfaction that the other man didn't flinch this time.

"So... what do you suggest we do now?" Ianto asked, swallowing nervously.

Jack considered the question for a moment. "I think we should get used to each other's bodies for now. We have to put on a convincing show, after all."

The crimson tint appeared on Ianto's cheeks again. "So you mean, like, get naked?"

"That would be a start." He could sense Ianto's resistance flare up again. "Relax. I won't do anything you don't want, okay? I just want to give you a chance to get used to me. It's for your own benefit after all."

Ianto nodded bravely. "Okay... so what do I do?"

Jack gave him an encouraging smile and moved to the side. "Just lie down for now and let me explore you. Is that all right with you?"

Ianto just nodded this time and did as he was told, lying back on the pillows.

"Good," Jack murmured as he stretched out next to the other man. He placed his hand on Ianto's stomach, feeling the other man's muscles tense under the fabric of his coat. "See, that's the kind of reaction I'm hoping to get rid of. After all, we want to give the impression of knowing each other's bodies truly well."

He grabbed the seam of his coat and pulled it away gently, exposing Ianto's naked form. Hands flew up to halt his, but Jack brushed them away gently. "Sssssh, it's okay. I'm just looking at you," he cooed as the pushed the coat away, baring Ianto completely.

"But this is so embarrassing," Ianto sobbed, covering his face with his hands.

Jack didn't reply anything to that at first, but just let his gaze wander across the naked body spread out before him. He felt his throat tighten a little at the sight. He had always thought Ianto was cute, but seeing him like this now made his blood rush to all the wrong places. He shifted a little to hide his reaction. There was no point in freaking Ianto out all over again.

"You're beautiful, Ianto," Jack whispered, just barely grazing the skin with his fingernails as he moved downwards across the stomach. "You've got soft, white skin that is smooth to touch, slender limbs and a generally pleasing physique. Why would you be embarrassed?" He circled Ianto's navel playfully with a finger.

Reluctantly, Ianto removed his hands from his face and looked at him. "I... I don't know. It just feels strange."

Moving closer, Jack leaned over Ianto's ribcage and placed a tender kiss right above his sternum. He felt the breath hitch in Ianto's chest as he did so and smiled, rubbing both his hands across the other man's ribs. "Does that feel strange, too?"

Ianto shook his head. "N-no... it doesn't."

"And this?" He closed his mouth over one of Ianto's perky nipples and sucked at it gently once before releasing it and circling it with the tip of his tongue.

A soft moan was the only reply he got this time. "See? That is why there's nothing to be ashamed of. Even if you were one of those fuzzy-haired Ancorians I'd still love doing this just to hear you moan like that and see that expression on your face."

Ianto's eyes fluttered open and Jack could see unmistakable arousal smolder inside of them. It wasn't without a twinge of pride that he took notice of that. He moved up and placed a gentle hand against Ianto's jaw. Then he tilted his head a little and drew him into a slow and soulful kiss.

Without breaking the kiss, Jack ran his hands down Ianto's side until it came to a halt above the protruding hipbone. He let it rest there casually as he pulled his lips away from Ianto's and moved downwards, placing butterfly kisses across his chin, down the throat over to the collarbone. Once there, he rubbed his nose gently across it, nuzzling the soft skin there.

Ianto responded with a soft whimper and an arch of his back, but made no attempt otherwise to help or hinder his exploratory caresses.

Twisting his lips into a wolfish smile, Jack put his mind to turning this whimper into a groan as he let the hand which had been resting on the hip drop into Ianto's lap seemingly at random. He felt the other man stiffen in his arm.

Pressing his face into the side of Ianto's neck, he murmured against his skin, "Have you ever had a man touch you like this?"

He hard Ianto draw in a shuddering breath before shaking his head weakly, "No..."

"Do you want to?"

A gasp. "I don't know..."

Jack licked the skin at Ianto's throat where his pulse was rushing like a torrent, tasting the faint traces of salt. "Do you want to?" he repeated.

A violent shudder went through the other man's body. Then he said, his voice barely a whisper, "Yes..."

Smiling against Ianto's throat, he deftly pushed his legs apart and wrapped his hand around the straining erection he found there. He felt the muscles in Ianto's throat move as he swallowed nervously. He began rubbing gently and was rewarded with soft moaning.

"Do you like my hand on your cock?" Jack whispered into Ianto's ear after he'd been massaging the other man for a while, drinking in his moans through the soft kisses he had placed on his lips between licks and nibbles. His hand was moving across the tender skin with ease, slick from the other man's precum.

"Oh God... yes," Ianto sobbed, his eyes still squeezed shut as if he didn't want to see him. It bothered Jack a little bit, but he had decided to accept it for Ianto's sake.

"Would you like to feel my mouth?"

Ianto's eyes flew open and he looked at Jack in shock. "What?" he croaked.

Jack gave him a lazy smile. "You heard me. I'm offering to suck you off. How about it?" He gave Ianto's erection a squeeze.

"Ah... I... I don't know..." Ianto's eyes had a feverish gleam in them as he looked at him. "Do I have to... I mean, do I have to... you..."

Jack reached up and stroked Ianto's cheek gently. "I told you, you don't have to do anything. This is all about you. I'll be more than happy to pleasure you for as long as you want me to. See it as my way of leveling the field." He grinned. "So, how about it?"

Ianto licked his lips nervously. "I... I don't know."

Rolling his eyes, Jack asked, "Okay, are you absolutely opposed to the idea of me going down on you?"

A furious blush appeared on Ianto's cheeks and he shook his head. "No... I'm not."

"Then let me know when you change your mind." With that, he settled between Ianto's legs, grabbed his erection and guided it into his mouth. His content sigh mixed with Ianto's strangled cry as he felt the familiar weight resting on his tongue. It'd been a while since he had last had a cock in his mouth, but he still loved that first moment best when his throat was stretching and trying to get used to the size.

He placed his hands gently against Ianto's stomach and started moving his head up and down slowly, applying just enough pressure with his cheeks to achieve the perfect suction. Judged by the sounds Ianto was making already and the way his stomach was twitching, Jack could tell this wasn't going to last very long. Almost a pity, he thought, as he closed his eyes and enjoyed.

True to his prediction, it didn't take long and Ianto arched his back, his failing hand finding a hold in his hair and tugging at it almost painfully as he let out a liberating groan and spilled himself with his cock deeply lodged inside of Jack's throat.

Jack drank the offering greedily, only realizing now how much he had been longing to do that. Almost reluctantly, he pulled off before Ianto was spent and caught the final spurts in his hand and let the come trickle down the twitching erection and into the crack below.

He moved back up and gathered the panting man into his arms, kissing the top of his head as he allowed him a moment to catch his breath and return to reality. He played with Ianto's nipples in the meantime, enjoying the way goose bumps appeared around them when he licked them and then blew across them while he waited for Ianto to calm down.

After a while, he felt Ianto's hand in his hair and he turned his head. "Hm?"

"That... that was amazing."

Jack smiled and leaned in to kiss him. "See? Sex with me isn't all that repulsive."

Ianto blushed. "I didn't think it was. It's just..."

"I know," he interrupted him gently. He put his hand over Ianto's spent cock in a possessive gesture. He sensed surprise in the other man, but no discomfort. That was good. He moved his hand downward and let his fingertips rub across the entrance there.

"Jack...?" Ianto asked, confused but unresisting.

"Ssssh, I'm still exploring," he said soothingly. He circled the taut opening there, slicking it up with Ianto's own come. Then he pressed forward carefully, merely breaching him with his fingertip.

Ianto gasped, but didn't say anything.

"Hmmm... you've never had anyone inside of you, have you," Jack murmured as he ran his tongue across Ianto's cheek.

Ianto moaned. "No..."

Pressing in gently, he murmured, "Let me tell you, it's a marvelous feeling. To be filled, completely, and so close to the man above you. You can feel everything, every rush of the pulse, every twitch, every thrust..." He pushed his finger all the way in. "It's glorious."

Drawing a gasping breath, Ianto laughed nervously as his fingers dug into Jack's shirt. "Then why not switch positions if you're so fond of it?"

Jack chuckled. "I'd love to, but for now we have to do it this way. But if you ever want to try..." He pulled his finger out and pushed it back in, slowly.

"Jack!" Ianto moaned, his eyes resting on him, large and trusting. It made his heart beat faster.

He leaned in and brushed a soft kiss onto the other man's lips. "Just relax. I'm just stretching you a little bit." He slipped a second finger in and waited until Ianto loosened again before he pushed in deeper. "This is just for you."

After a couple of more strokes, he added a third finger and then let them rest deeply inside of Ianto's warm body. Jack watched his face carefully, looking out for any signs of discomfort, but there was none. In fact, he could swear there was a distinct expression of hunger in Ianto's eyes. A hunger he had no intention of satisfying now.

"See?" he murmured. "You'll be able to take me tonight and it will be even better than this." He pulled out and savored the little sigh of complaint that escaped Ianto's lips. He pulled Ianto close with a laugh and relished in the way the other man melted into his embrace.

"That wasn't so bad, was it?"

"No, it wasn't."

A shudder went down Jack's spine when he felt Ianto's lips against the skin of his throat, unmistakably placing a kiss there. He felt his smile falter when the need to roll Ianto over and bury himself inside of him became almost impossible to resist. He willed it down with all his might and closed his eyes in a plea for strength.

Jack sighed. "I have no idea how much time has passed," he said regretfully. "They might arrive here any moment now." He felt Ianto tense up again in his arms, clinging onto him desperately.

"Don't leave me alone with them," Ianto pleaded.

"I know... and I wish I didn't have to. But we'll have to part for a couple of hours before the ceremony. It's part of the tradition. But I swear to you, after that, I'm never going to let you out of my sight again. Okay?"

"I'm not ready yet!" Ianto said frantically, tearing at his shirt.

"Calm down, Ianto," Jack said gently, smoothing the other man's hair. "Tell me what more you need to feel ready."

"I don't know... I..." He looked up at him. "Show me your body. You said you were going to level the field and yet you haven't taken off a single piece of clothing yet!"

Realizing that Ianto was right, Jack still couldn't hide his surprise. "Are you sure?" he asked gently.

"Yes!" Ianto confirmed with resolve.

Putting on a dazzling smile, Jack moved off the pillows and got up. "Very well then," he said as he reached for the buttons on his shirt. "Do you want a show or should I just strip?"

Ianto returned the smile a little insecurely. "Just... just show me."

Complying, Jack started unbuttoning his shirt. When that was done, he pushed down the braces and pulled the shirt off unceremoniously, tossing it on the floor. Then he reached for the hem of his undershirt and pulled it over his head, exposing his naked chest.

All the while acutely aware of Ianto's eyes on his, he began undoing his pants. They dropped to the floor and he stepped out of them and kicked them to the side. After pushing off his shoes and pulling off his socks only his snug boxer briefs were left. His throbbing erection was showing no doubt through the cotton fabric as he put his hands on his hips.

"You realize I'm hard for you," Jack warned Ianto gently and received a shy nod as a response. Taking that as an invitation to go ahead, he hooked his thumbs into the waistband of his briefs and pulled them down, exposing himself in his full glory to the other man's curious eyes.

If Ianto was taken aback by anything he saw, he didn't show it. Instead, he pushed himself up on his elbow, scanning him thoroughly with his eyes.

Jack suppressed the urge to crack jokes and say clichéd lines as he endured the scrutiny patiently. When Ianto seemed to have satisfied his curiosity, Jack sat down next to him, making sure not to touch him unnecessarily in case it wasn't wanted. "Happy now?"

Ianto didn't reply anything at first. Then he said quietly, "You're big."

"Nothing you can't manage, I assure you." Breaking his resolve, Jack reached out and placed his hand against Ianto's cheek tenderly. "I'm not going to hurt you," he promised once again.

"I know... it's just... I'm still a bit weirded out."

"Don't be." Jack pulled his hand back and looked and Ianto. "Do you want to touch me?"

"What...?"

"Maybe you'll feel better if you get a feel for me." He moved his thigh a little to give Ianto a good view.

The red on the other man's cheeks intensified again as he peered over cautiously, obviously torn between the urge to avert his eyes bashfully and wanting to look. "Okay," he whispered then, much to Jack's surprise. Ianto sat up and reached out for him, hesitantly placing his hand onto his erection.

Jack bit back a gasp as he stared down at Ianto's hand, somehow mesmerized by the view. He barely dared to breathe, as if he didn't want to scare off a shy animal.

Slowly, Ianto's hand wrapped around his cock and let it run all the way across his length in an endearingly innocent way. When he reached the glistening tip, he rubbed across it with an exploratory thumb before squeezing it gently.

This time, Jack couldn't suppress his moan and he put a halting hand on top of Ianto's. "Careful, you might not want to touch it too much or else you're in for a surprise," he said with a strained laugh.

"Sorry." Ianto pulled back his hand quickly.

"No, it's just..." Jack searched for the right words and then sighed in defeat when he couldn't come up with anything more clever. "You're really sexy," he said almost apologetically.

Ianto responded to the compliment with a small smile and a blush.

Sighing softly, Jack pulled him close. "Ianto, they're going to come in soon."

He felt the other man shift in his arms. "I know."

"Will you be okay then?"

"I don't know... I hope so."

He gently kissed Ianto's hair. "Good. Just remember that it's important to cooperate with them and things will work out fine. During the preparations..."

Ianto tensed. "What preparations?"

Jack cursed himself silently for not having anticipated that reaction. Making out with Ianto had clearly messed with his sense of judgment. He tried damage control. "Well, I told you there would be a traditional approach to this. They're going to clothe you in proper garbs, give you ritualistic washings and prepare you..."

"See? I knew it," Ianto interrupted him dryly. "It is getting worse."

"It's not that bad... just a little preparation for the ritual and the coupling. It'll be for your own benefit, after all, to ensure that the intercourse won't cause you discomfort."

Ianto laughed without humor. "Of course, that's easy for you to say. You won't have alien hands all over you!"

"At least they won't touch you too intimately," Jack tried to show the positive side of this. "They're going to respect the property claim of the new masters. This is all meant to ease things for the slaves."

"Oh! Well that changes everything of course," Ianto replied sarcastically.

Any other reply was prevented by a sound at the door. Ianto's eye widened in panic and he quickly pulled the coat around his body as he scrambled to the side, pressing against Jack who had jumped to his feet.

Jack merely turned towards the door and looked at the manager and the guards with his hands on his hips.

Colpar said something incomprehensible and it reminded Jack of the translator. He raised a finger to ask for patience as he grabbed his pants, took out the little earplug and inserted it.

"Now, would you mind repeating that?" Jack said once the translator had found its frequency again. He felt Ianto's shoulder against his thigh and placed a comforting hand on the other man's head.

"I said, your time is up," Colpar repeated patiently, his dark eyes scanning Jack's naked body curiously.

Not letting this faze him, Jack returned the look calmly. "Already? We've barely gotten started, as you can see."

An unreadable expression hushed across Colpar's face. "You'll be given enough time to enjoy your slave later. But now I must ask you to leave and allow my staff to prepare your slave for the ritual."

"Of course." Feeling slightly guilty over it, Jack freed himself from Ianto's grasp and started dressing again. His eyes searched for the other man's as he did so, sending him a silent look of support. "I have to go now, my pet. Promise me to be good," he said, knowing that the others would be hearing this as well as they had moved well into the range of the translator.

Ianto reacted with a panicked look.

"You'll be fine, Ianto." Turning towards the manager, he said, "I trust that he'll come to no harm while in your care."

Colpar smirked. "Your Ianto will be in good care."

Recognizing his name, Ianto jumped and up flung himself into Jack' s arms. "Please, Jack, don't leave me!"

It nearly broke Jack's heart that he had to do that. He freed himself from the other man's grasp and pushed him roughly back onto the pillows. "Now be a good pet and do as your master tells you," he said coolly as he turned to leave.

"Jack!" Ianto cried out behind him and tried to follow him, but he was intercepted by the guards.

Gritting his teeth, Jack forced himself to walk away from the cell, ignoring Ianto's desperate pleas.

*******************************

As they were walking through the vast foyer of the building, Jack stayed in grim silence, trying to force down the feeling of having let Ianto down. It was for his own good, he told himself, yet he couldn't help worrying. What if Ianto didn't play along and reacted panicky again? He had seen how quick the guards were to punish rebellious slaves. He didn't want Ianto to get hurt.

"Your Ianto will be safe," Colpar said next to him.

Jack gave him a surprised glance. He hadn't expected the manager to be so emphatic of his troubled thoughts. "I trust he will be," he replied with a forced smile. "I just worry that he'll have a hard time adapting to your customs."

"I understand that and this is why I've instructed the guards to exercise utmost care with him."

Just hearing this made Jack's knees weaken with relief. "That is good to hear," he said.

They stopped in front another door that Jack hadn't seen before. As if on its own, it opened. "I'm sorry that I have to leave you on your own for a while," Colpar explained as he motioned for Jack to enter. "Unfortunately, the day of the auction isn't the best time to entertain guests, so I have important business I need to tend to. I will try to finish soon. You may wait in my quarters in the meantime."

Jack entered the spacious quarters and looked around. He could tell Colpar was an important man. He headed for one of the settees in the center of the room and flung himself onto it. He had barely gotten comfortable when the door to an adjoining room opened and a young man entered, carrying a tray with glasses and a bottle containing some nondescript liquid.

The man didn't say a word nor made eye contact as he poured Jack a glass and put it in front of him.

"Thanks," Jack said with a charming smile that went unnoticed. "What's this?"

He didn't receive a reply as the man continued to move around in the room performing his tasks. Jack followed him curiously with his eyes, wondering about the position of this man. Normally he would just go ahead and ask, but somehow he couldn't think of the right way to phrase such a question and he had the distinct feeling it would be left unanswered anyway. So he sipped his drink in silence while the man left again as silently as he had appeared.

Jack was considering his second glass of this stuff when the door opened and Colpar entered. "My apologies for keeping you waiting."

"That's quite all right. I had fun watching your employee in the meantime."

Colpar gave him an odd look. "Employee? Oh, you mean Rikshi. That was my slave."

Jack sat up and put the glass aside. "So, how does this work with you guys. Does every one of you own a slave?"

Taking a seat on a chair close to him, Colpar replied, "Pretty much. Once a man has reached a certain status that allows him to support a slave, he acquires one."

"I see..." Jack drawled, watching Colpar closely. "And what is the job description for such a slave?"

The manager shrugged. "Oh, you know. The usual. Keep company, help with minor tasks around the house, provide sexual relief."

"So, basically like a one-sided relationship sort of thing."

Colpar frowned. "What do you mean?"

Jack made a vague motion with his hand, "Well, this sounds like what most people have with their partners only that they usually reciprocate."

The manager stared at him in utter confusion. "What a strange concept! Why would you want to do that?"

The sheer absurdity of this conversation made it hard for Jack not to start laughing. "Wouldn't you sometimes enjoy some kind of companionship? Get a response out of your partner, share your thoughts, your laughter, joys and sorrows... Know that he actually cares about what's going on in your life?"

"Is that the kind of relationship that is customary on your planet?" Colpar asked with obvious interest.

"You bet!"

A thoughtful expression appeared on Colpar's face. "I've seen how you act around your slave." He blushed as he added, "I was watching you on the surveillance for a while... I must say, I was a little surprised. Here, it isn't custom to orally gratify your slave."

Jack could hardly hide his grin. "Oh, but that is such a pity. You really should try it some time. It's amazing when your partner starts losing control and bucks and moans, all because of you."

The purple shade on Colpar's cheeks intensified. "But isn't that... terribly distracting?"

Now Jack couldn't stop the laugh any longer. "Oh please! Why else would you want to have sex? Only when you go at it with such abandon that it blows your mind and you can't remember where you are, that's when it's really worth it."

Colpar swallowed dryly. "Well... that certainly is a unique concept."

The door opened again, and Rikshi came in with a steaming cup of tea and placed it wordlessly in front of Colpar. Jack noticed the way the manager's eyes rested thoughtfully on the young man, and he added with a grin. "It's definitely worth it."

*******************************

A couple of hours later, Jack was standing in some kind of backstage area, as they would have called it on earth. The richly decorated robe he had been given was surprisingly comfortable, falling loosely down his shoulders and parting at the front. He had gone through all the required steps of the ceremony with Colpar kindly providing explanations along the way.

Sometime during the ritualistic washing where he had joined other aspiring masters in a luxurious pool he had figured out that apparently this species only knew one gender and traditional roles were defined by your social status rather than your sex. Watching them, he had suddenly realized how much he missed traveling through space and exploring other cultures.

Now he was standing there, arms crossed over his chest as he watched yet another ceremony drawing to its end. There hardly ever was any variation to it. The two participants would step on stage and receive a polite applause from the audience. Then the slave would assume his position and then the coupling would begin.

Colpar hadn't been kidding when he said that participation of the slave was considered a peculiar concept in this culture. The slaves never seemed unwilling or uncomfortable, but they didn't actually show enthusiasm either. Jack found that dispassionate and boring to watch.

"You'll be next," Colpar said behind him. Jack hadn't even heard him approach. "Are you ready?"

Jack turned around. "As ready as I can be. How come the audience hasn't fallen asleep yet?"

Apparently, Jack's irreverent questions had stopped surprising Colpar long ago, and he simply replied, "People are here to witness the ceremony and see these young men get introduced into society. I'm sure they're enjoying themselves." And with a surprisingly mischievous smirk he added, "Besides, everyone's at the edge of their seat for your performance anyhow."

Jack laughed out loud. "Then you'd better start handing out the popcorn because I intend to put on one hell of a show!" Colpar reacted with a chuckle.

Sobering a little, Jack made a vague motion across his shoulder. "You know, Colpar. I don't get it. All the slaves that I've seen so far seemed okay with this. How come you even have the need for these cells downstairs, the guards, the very situation I and Ianto are in now."

Colpar stepped next to him and looked onto the stage. "What you see here is the selection of the best," he said slowly. "Not every slave makes it this far. When they enter training, many have a hard time at first accepting their position in society. Then they need to be broken. Sadly, some of them never resign to their fate."

Jack frowned. "And that doesn't make you feel strange? Forcing someone into a position?"

The manager cut him a sidelong glance. "We all have our positions in life somehow. Does it really matter how we're forced to assume them? We're helping these young ones to find their way and in the end they thank us for it, because this is how they can rise in status and become more than just mere servants."

"I guess..." Jack replied reluctantly. He didn't want to get into a debate on principles.

"Around here, people would consider the way you treat your slave highly inappropriate. But I think it'll be a refreshing change to the usual routine. Anyway, I should be going." Patting his shoulder, Colpar wished him good luck and went to talk to the master of ceremonies to give some final instructions. A couple of minutes later, Jack was motioned to follow one of the assistants to enter the stage.

He didn't feel nervous at the prospect of soon baring it all in front of a large audience. He'd done worse. But the thought of facing Ianto soon gave his stomach a peculiar squeeze. He just hoped that the other man had pulled through the rest of the day okay and that he'd manage to master this final part.

Waiting at the assigned spot, he heard the MC talk to the audience, but he couldn't understand what he was saying as he was out of the range of his translator. He tried to peek past the props to see if he could spot Ianto yet, but it was futile. Quite obviously, they really didn't want the participants to see each other before the ceremony.

The MC left the stage and someone made a gesture at Jack to proceed on stage. He took a deep breath and did as he had been told. For a moment, the bright stage light was blinding him and he squinted, casting a furtive look into the audience. He saw endless rows of curious faces, looking at him in rapt attention. Admittedly, that was a little bit weird.

A movement on the other side of the stage made him turn his head and he saw Ianto standing there, looking at the audience in horror. He wore a robe similar to his, only less embellished, and he had tried his best to pull it around his body so it closed all the way and didn't reveal anything. That made him look a little silly and Jack felt a smile tug at the corner of his mouth.

That smile was soon wiped off his face when he saw that Ianto took a nervous step backwards, obviously about to lose his battle against his flight instinct. Quickly, Jack stepped into the center of the stage and held out one hand towards the other man, giving him a confident smile.

As if only seeing him now, Ianto looked over to him and relief, hope and fear were painted across his face all at the same time. He hesitated just for a moment before he moved towards him and took his hand, returning the smile with difficulty.

Jack could tell how nervous Ianto was by the way his palm felt moist and cold against his own. He gave Ianto's hand an encouraging squeeze as he pulled him closer.

"How are you feeling," Jack asked softly.

A pained expression hushed across the other man's face. "As expected," he replied with a strained voice. Then his eyes darted to the side nervously. "They herded us in some large room, Jack!" he hissed under his breath. "Slathered us with soap, hosed us off like cattle, all the while playing some weird music. And then... oh God." He closed his eyes at the memory. "They made me bend over and injected something into my... my..."

Jack pulled Ianto close to his chest and rubbed his back gently. "It's okay... it probably was just some lube to ease entry."

"It feels strange," Ianto insisted, sounded rather angry than desperate. He pulled his head back and looked at Jack with glittering eyes. "Right, let's get this over with."

Smiling softly, Jack took a step back and put his hands on Ianto's shoulders. "Your wish is my command."

Right then, somebody in the audience choose to cough and that broke the moment, immediately wiping the look of grim determination from Ianto's face. He looked towards the audience again, licking his lips nervously. "Oh God, I can't believe this is happening..." he mumbled.

Quickly, Jack put a hand against Ianto's cheek and turned his face back at him gently. "Look at me, Ianto. Focus only on me, okay? Can you do that?" He held Ianto's glance as he took a step closer until their lips almost touched. "I'm here... just me. Now close your eyes."

Ianto did as he had been told and Jack closed the distance between them, capturing his lips in a passionate kiss. Ianto stayed rooted to the spot, barely responding to the kiss as Jack leaned in, his hands still resting on Ianto's shoulders. Jack attributed this to the nervousness, but he was confident that he'd be able to elicit a reaction out of the other man soon.

Running his hands down the other man's sides, he grabbed Ianto around the waist and pulled him close against his body, letting him feel the beginning growth of his arousal through the thin layers of their robes. He pulled his mouth away and breathed hotly into Ianto's ears, "I'm hard for you again, Ianto. Or maybe I never stopped wanting you once I had felt your body writhe under my touch, heard your beautiful moans..."

Ianto responded with the tiniest whimpers and Jack used that to pull him into another devouring kiss, this time pushing his tongue deeply into the other man's mouth, tilting his body back even to deepen the kiss.

In an effort to keep his balance, Ianto's arms shot up and found rest on Jack's shoulders and then it only needed another gentle stroke of Jack's tongue against Ianto's to cause him to moan deeply and sink against his chest.

A murmur went through the audience when Jack pulled the pliant body of the other man into a lustful embrace, kissing him with imperturbable idleness. When he finally pulled back, Ianto's lips were glistening from their mixed saliva and the heated flush across his cheeks bore witness to his budding arousal.

Watching Ianto closely, Jack moved his hands up and slipped them underneath the hem of the other man's gown, slowly pushing the silky fabric off his shoulders. Ianto's eyes shot open and a panicked expression flickered across his face as his hands moved to stop him.

"It's okay, Ianto," Jack whispered softly, halting his hands anyhow. "Remember to focus on me." He leaned in and pressed a gentle kiss on the piece of skin he had exposed. Ianto's eyes fluttered shut again and he sighed softly when Jack rubbed his lips along the soft skin of his neck, nuzzling the hair behind his ear. He pushed the rest of the fabric out of the way, causing the robe the slip off half-way.

Ianto gave a little sound of protest, but Jack silenced it with a quick kiss before he turned his body in his arms. He moved them both until his back was facing the audience, blocking Ianto from the curious eyes. Placing featherlike kisses down Ianto's neck and spine, he removed the rest of the robe and let it pool around Ianto's naked feet.

Reaching up, Jack pushed his own robe off his shoulders unceremoniously and let it join Ianto's on the floor. Then he wrapped his arms tightly around the other man's body, crossing them in front of his smooth chest as he pressed his face into the nape of his neck.

"Keep your eyes closed," he instructed, his breath brushing across the downy hair. He drew in a deep breath, getting a lungful of Ianto's intoxicating scent and for a moment he felt his head swim with the wealth of emotions crashing down on him and he had to fight for his composure to keep himself from flinging Ianto onto the bed right there and ravishing him.

"Are you ready for me?" he moaned, betraying his own arousal. He felt Ianto nod faintly and smiled. "Good. Then come... move with me, one step at a time." He guided Ianto towards the bed in front of them. Looking it over quickly, Jack registered with distaste that it clearly was meant for sex only. It was built in a way that made just lying down flat on it nearly impossible as the cushions arranged on it seemed to suggest that taking your partner from behind was the usual way to go.

Grimacing, Jack stepped forward, grabbed the offending pillows and tossed them to the side. That elicited another surprised gasp from the audience.

"What are you doing, Jack," Ianto whispered, his eyes still squeezed shut tightly.

"Just making things comfortable for us," he explained as he smoothed the silky white sheet out across the new and improved bed. "Now come..." he murmured as he grabbed Ianto by the elbows and steered him gently towards the bed. He led him up the one step that raised the bed to allow a better view and then guided him backwards until his back touched the smooth surface.

Once Ianto was spread out across the cool sheets, Jack followed him, covering half of his body with his own as he lay down as well. He slid a little to the side, keeping himself up with one elbow as he further shielded Ianto's lying form from the onlookers. Gently, he ran his fingers through the other man's soft hair.

"Relax..." he whispered as he noticed how tense Ianto was.

"I don't think I can," was the hoarse reply.

Jack leaned down to kiss Ianto gently once more, running his hand across his smooth chest and rubbing over the jutting buds playfully. A shudder went through the other man's body. Slowly, Jack let his hand slide down Ianto's stomach, still taut with tension, until he found his cock, limp and heavy against his thigh.

Drawing a small gasp from Ianto's lips, Jack cupped it with his hand and began rubbing it slowly as he moved his mouth away to let his tongue run across the defined lines of his cheekbones. Soon, he felt the cock grow against his palm and he circled it with his fingers, giving it a couple of insistent strokes.

"Hmmm..." Jack hummed softly into Ianto's ear. "I say I know a good way to relax you..." He gave Ianto's erection a squeeze and soaked up the moan that it tore from the other man's lips with a flick of his tongue. "I could rub you like this... nice and slow... until you start making those beautiful sounds again. Would you like that?"

As expected, Ianto didn't reply to that. He kept his eyes shut, as if he was still following Jack's order, but the furrowed brow had smoothed long ago and had now made way to the most delicious expression of delicate pleasure. When Ianto's tongue slipped out of his mouth for just a brief second, moistening his lips, Jack could hardly keep himself from swallowing him whole.

"You're a little cock-tease, aren't you..." Jack said lightheartedly as he continued to stroke Ianto slowly.

This time, Ianto reacted and his eyes shot open, zooming in on him indignantly. "What?"

Jack chuckled. "You heard me. I think you like it that I'm pleasuring you so thoroughly but you never think about poor, achingly hard Jack here..."

A hint of confusion mixed with resentment flickered across Ianto's face. "That is not true!"

"Is it now..." Jack murmured as he abandoned Ianto's cock abruptly and moved downwards with his hand, brushing the other man's balls on his way down. Then he slipped one finger casually past Ianto's tight entrance. He savored the surprised gasp as he kept pushing in slowly.

"Hmmm, now I can see what you mean," he whispered in surprise as he moved his finger around inside of Ianto, feeling the unusual smoothness of movement the alien lube allowed. It felt warm and perfectly natural around his finger and suddenly he couldn't wait to slip his cock into that. He added a second finger to the first and slid in and out again, marveling at the sensation.

"Jack!" Ianto protested with a strangled groan.

"Oh, right!" Jack forced himself off the subject of fantastic alien sex inventions. "Where were we... ah yes. You're a cock-tease."

"I am not!" Ianto bristled at him.

"You realize that's a bit of a moot point, considering you're lying here spread out in front of me looking good enough to eat."

"Well, I'm not the one stopping you. You're welcome to satisfy your needs whenever you're bloody ready," Ianto declared, his eyes sparkling up at him.

Jack smiled a slow smile as he slid between Ianto's legs. "I thought you'd never ask."

Panic flickered across Ianto's features again when he realized what Jack was about to do. He lifted his hands and placed them against Jack's chest, but he didn't actually resist when Jack moved on top of him.

The smile turning sensual, Jack framed the face below him with his hands and slowly lowered his mouth onto Ianto's. He kissed him with unhurried patience, allowing the man beneath him to get used to the sensation of feeling his weight.

After a while, when he felt Ianto relax, he moved his hands away and used one to brace himself against the mattress while he ran the other one down their sides and slipped it between their bodies, grabbing his cock and aligning it carefully. Then he waited for Ianto's approval as he hovered above him, his breathing strained, clinging onto the last thread of self-control that he had.

Ianto must have sensed his distress because he opened his eyes and gazed up to him, a brave sparkle lighting up in the depths of his widened pupils. He reached up and placed one hand against Jack's cheek and gave him just the tiniest hint of a smile, a silent invitation to proceed.

Feeling himself weaken with relief and gratitude, Jack sank down on Ianto, descending upon him with all the passion he had been forced to restrain until now, as he pushed his tongue deeply into the other man's mouth, kissing him with abandon. At the same time, he pushed forward with his cock, slipping into the well-prepared entrance with ease.

He felt Ianto stiffen underneath him for just a second when the head of his cock breached him, but then he moaned into his mouth passionately, holding onto his shoulders as if it was the only thing keeping him from drowning.

When Jack was fully sheathed, he halted for a moment, struggling to make himself breathe again. He pulled his mouth away and pressed his forehead tightly against Ianto's, his hands buried in the silky hair as their rapid breaths intermingled. He felt his self-restraint slip through his fingers by the second.

"God... Ianto," he moaned, squeezing his eyes shut in a bid to regain his control, but he soon realized that everything was starting to get too much. He felt Ianto hot and tight around his cock, sensed the forceful thudding of the other man's heart close to his own, heard those lovely keening sounds and tortured moans that seemed to escape Ianto's mouth unchecked now, and felt as if he wasn't going to be able to stand this much longer.

But then he heard Ianto's faint voice against his ear, whispering, "Please Jack... stay with me. I don't know what to do..." and it cleared his mind almost instantly.

He lifted his head and looked down into Ianto's face, drawing a strengthening breath. "I'm here," he said with confidence, smiling at Ianto as he pushed a strand of hair out of the other man's wet forehead. "Are you ready?"

Ianto nodded.

"Good. Then hold onto me and..." He let the rest of the sentence trail off as he began the first thrusts, slowly moving his hips against Ianto's thighs. He gritted his teeth as the exquisite sensations increased and he briefly wondered if this was any thanks to the special lube that made him feel as if he was melting into Ianto with every stroke.

Breathing heavily, he settled for a steady pace, all the while caressing Ianto's face and watching him for any sign of discomfort, but all he saw was a feverish hunger in the other man's eyes that seemed to mirror his own.

In fact, he felt as if this hunger for Ianto and the body beneath him only increased with every stroke instead of rushing him towards relief. No longer able to resist, he pressed one hand against Ianto's shoulder and arched his back, giving him the leverage to drive into the other man's receptive body with one especially deep thrust.

Ianto responded with a surprised, but clearly lustful cry that shook him to the core. That sound seemed to have had a similar effect on the audience which he had almost forgotten about at this point until a stunned whisper traveled through the room.

Jack could tell how this threatened to break the mood by the way Ianto tensed up again all of a sudden, his eyes shooting to the side. "Nonono, stay with me," Jack whispered hotly against Ianto's ear, nudging his face into the other direction. "Just pay attention to my voice, my body... I'm the only one you should feel now."

He trailed a shivering hand through Ianto's hair, registering with surprise just how much this situation was taking out of him. To hide the fact his hands were shaking, he slipped them under Ianto's shoulders and pulled him close, pressing their chests so tightly together that he soon no longer could tell whether it was his or Ianto's heart that was drumming in his ears. He felt a shudder go through Ianto's body that continued to travel down his spine.

When he moved again, Ianto reacted with a long-drawn moan and he shifted his legs, wrapping them around Jack's hips and fusing them together even more. Jack groaned in response and buried his face in the moist bend of Ianto's neck where he drew in the other man's scent greedily with every breath.

For a moment it was his turn to cling onto Ianto, fearing he'd get lost in this sea of sensuality, but then he was yanked out of it by the searing sensation of Ianto's fingernails digging into his back. Involuntarily, he threw back his head, arched his back and groaned so loudly that he was surprised by the way his voice echoed through the room. He froze for a moment, stunned at his own outbreak. Ianto looked up at him, equally surprised.

"I'm... I'm sorry..." Ianto whispered breathlessly. "I don't know what's gotten into me."

As his mind began to clear again, Jack became aware of the excited chatter that had started to go through the room. Ianto must have noticed it too as his arms tightened around Jack's waist nervously.

Jack laughed shakily. "It's okay..." He rubbed a thumb across Ianto's cheekbone. "You need to relax."

"That's rather difficult considering the situation...."

Jack leaned down for another kiss. The noises became increasingly difficult to shut out.

"My God..." Ianto whispered against his cheek. "There must be thousands in this room..."

Gently, Jack ran his hand down Ianto's cheek and he replied, "No... don't think about that. Try to think of something else..." He placed tiny kisses all over Ianto's face as he talked. "Imagine us both to be somewhere else. What you're hearing is just the faint whisper of the wind in the leaves. Can you imagine that? A small hut at a lake... the water so still that it looks like a mirror, reflecting the sky. There's reed sticking out of the smooth surface like little hairs and every now and then the wind brushes across the water and causes a little ripple."

He pressed a kiss against Ianto's temple as he continued to slowly move inside of him. "Do you see it?"

"Yes..." Ianto whispered back passionately. "What kind of place is this?"

"It's where I grew up ..." Jack murmured, suckling on the soft skin of Ianto's neck. "A small log cabin where there's a fireplace. The logs crackle in the fire and it's the only light in the room, shining on our naked bodies as we lie entwined on the bearskin in front of it. I'm kissing every inch of your chest that's glistening with your sweat... sweat that I made appear there. It tastes so good..."

"Ah..." Ianto's hips bucked against his. "Tell me more," he gasped.

"Of course I'm going to suck you off," he continued as he moved one hand downwards to rub Ianto's erection in time with his strokes. "I know you like that... I know exactly what you like and I just love tasting that magnificent cock of yours. And you love giving it to me, don't you."

"Yes..." Ianto moaned, his fingers digging into Jack's shoulders once more.

"And then, once I've satisfied my hunger on you, I'm going to flip you over and make you ride me nice and slow so I have lots of time to admire your body on top of me."

"Jack!" Ianto buried his face against his shoulder, moaning loudly.

Increasing the strength of his thrusts, Jack continued, "Or maybe I'll spread my legs and let you take me, let you pound me just like I'm doing it with you right now. I bet you'd love giving it to me hard and fast, wouldn't you?"

When, instead of giving a reply Ianto merely groaned against his shoulder, Jack knew it was going to be over soon. He stopped his gentle coaxing and instead focused on bringing Ianto over the edge. Soon, he felt the other man tighten beneath him and he groaned, refusing to ease off even though it would have been so easy to let go.

"J-Jack..." he heard Ianto's strained voice close to his ear. "I'm, I'm... W-what should I do?"

If Jack hadn't been holding on for dear life himself, he probably would have laughed now. Instead, he just rubbed his lips against Ianto's neck and whispered, "Just let go. I'm there to catch you."

And then Ianto did it. He tensed up, seemingly frozen in time for a moment, his mouth wide open in an expression of awe, his eyes briefly locking with his before sliding shut. And then he just screamed, a scream that could have sounded horrifying to anyone who was missing the context, but right now it sounded to Jack like the sweetest music for it matched the triumphant shout that rippled through his own chest as he drove himself into Ianto one last time before collapsing heavily on top of him.

Jack had no idea how long he had been lying there, panting and basking in the afterglow of an earth-shattering orgasm, before he finally had the mind to pay attention to anything around him. Only faintly he began to register the sound of roaring applause as he lifted his head tiredly to look at the man beneath him.

Ianto offered a pitiful image with sweat glistening on his face and hair sticking to his forehead in cute little curls, but a blissful smile played around his lips. His eyes were closed and he was breathing evenly which made Jack wonder whether he had fainted. At any rate, he wasn't really approachable anymore.

Considering the commotion in the audience, that probably was a good thing. Turning his head to the side, Jack saw the MC walk on stage and address the audience. He used that moment of diverted attention to slip off Ianto's body and grab the robe from the ground, spreading it out over him. Then he picked up his own and wrapped himself into it.

He looked around and when he was sure that nothing else was expected of him, he gathered Ianto in his arms together with the robe on top of him, and carried him off the stage.

Colpar met him at the side, a benign smile on his face. "Well done," he said. Giving Ianto a worried look, he added, "Is he okay?"

Hugging Ianto close, Jack nodded. "Yeah, he's just exhausted." He laughed shakily. "So am I, to be honest."

Colpar tilted his head understandingly. "Having witnessed the, eh, effort you put into it earlier I have anticipated this. I have taken the liberty to have rooms prepared for you and y... Ianto. They are free for you to use if you wish."

"Thank you," Jack said, genuinely grateful. He let Colpar lead him to his rooms. Once they had entered, he headed for the large bed straight away, placed Ianto on top of it and checked him over once more, running a gentle hand through the other man's hair. Then he straightened up and looked at the manager.

"The bathroom is to the left, the slave's room is through this door," Colpar explained, pointing at the door to the side. "But I assume you will find it should you need it."

Jack nodded. "Do you think it'll be possible to have our clothes sent to our room soon? I have the feeling Ianto would prefer his own clothes."

"Of course. I'll see to it." Colpar turned towards the door, but hesitated for a moment. "There will be a banquet later on to celebrate all new unions. You and your... companion are invited to join, if you wish."

Jack raised a surprised eyebrow.

Laughing softly, Colpar explained, "I have done a little bit of research of your culture and I suppose this is what you would call this kind of arrangement you two have, wouldn't you?"

"Yeah, I guess," Jack replied slowly, not sure what to think of this.

"Don't worry," Colpar said with a smile. "That was just to satisfy my private curiosity. I haven't discussed this with anybody else. You're free to leave anytime you please." Then he left the room.

Jack immediately returned to the bed and sat down on it carefully, putting a hand on Ianto's chest.

Groaning softly, the other man stirred and opened his eyes. He immediately started looking around. "Where are we?" he said hoarsely as he tried to get up.

"Ssssh, it's okay," Jack replied, pressing against Ianto's chest to keep him on the bed. "We've been given a room so we can wash up and relax. After that we can leave."

"Can I sleep too?" Ianto mumbled groggily.

Jack smiled softly. "Yes, you can."

"Good..." He yawned.

Gently, Jack ran his hand through Ianto's hair once more. "Maybe you want to take a shower first?"

Ianto opened his eyes again, hesitating for a moment. "I'd like that but I don't think I can move."

"Need some help?"

"That'd be nice..." Ianto mumbled drowsily.

"Okay then." Jack hopped off the bed and took Ianto around the wrists. "Come on, move."

Making feeble sounds of protest, Ianto dragged himself off the bed and allowed Jack to pull off both their robes and lead him over to the bathroom. There he collapsed on the neared stool.

After a quick check around, Jack figured out how to work the faucet and soon got a steady stream of warm water. Then he pulled Ianto up again, wrapping his arms around the other man's waist to support him. "Here, put your arms on my shoulders, like that. Yes."

He directed them both to stand under the warm shower, just enjoying the gentle massage of the water for a while. Then he reached for what he hoped was something similar to soap and began lathering Ianto up with it. The other man purred appreciatively when Jack rubbed across his back and side, washing away the last remains of their encounter.

Afterwards, he wrapped Ianto in a large towel and led him back to the bed where he curled up immediately and was snoozing away five seconds later.

Smiling at the sight, Jack returned to the bathroom and finished washing himself. He was just leaving the bathroom with just a towel wrapped around his hips when he heard a polite knock at the door. He found a couple of servants standing in front of it. One was carrying their clothes, the others brought in trays of food which they placed on a nearby table before disappearing again.

Jack hadn't realized just how hungry he was until he had smelled the food. He lifted the lid of one plate curiously and felt his mouth water as he drew in the rich scent of the exotic food. Over at the bed, he saw Ianto stir and slowly rise to his elbows.

"Are you hungry?" he asked, stepping to the side to give the other man a better view on the table.

"Yeah..." Ianto replied faintly, still looking a bit dazed.

Putting a small selection of the different dishes on a plate, Jack carried it over to the bed and placed it next to Ianto who was sitting up and started chowing down the food hungrily.

"When's the last time you've eaten something?" Jack asked with a frown.

"Don't know," Ianto replied, his mouth full of food.

"Didn't they feed you?" Jack said incredulously, feeling his anger flare up.

Stopping mid-eating, Ianto swallowed quickly before he said, "No, that's not it! I just couldn't bring myself to eat anything... I was too nervous."

"Ah, I see." Jack forced himself to relax and picked something that looked like a chicken leg from the plate.

"Hey, get your own!" Ianto complained.

"What do you mean, get your own? Technically, this is the one I got!" He dug his teeth into the leg ostentatiously and tore off a big chunk.

Ianto laughed softly and didn't complain any further. After a while, he said slowly, "Jack..."

"Hmm?" He looked up, still chewing.

"That story you told me when we were..." He trailed off, blushing. "The one about the house at the lake..."

"Oh, that one," Jack said lightly, swallowing down his bite. "I made that up. That's not where I grew up. In fact, where I grew up was nothing like that. But I figured such an idyllic picture would help you relax." He took another bite. "What about it?" Just now he noticed the withdrawn expression that had crept across Ianto's face as he had talked. "Something wrong?"

Ianto gave him a shaky smile. "No, it's nothing. I'm fine!" Somehow Jack had trouble believing that, but he let it slip. They ate the rest of the meal in silence.

When they were done, Jack stretched out on the bed with a content groan. That was when he remembered the invitation. "Oh, before I forget it, Colpar has invited us to some banquet that's taking place now."

"Colpar? Is that this manager? Made friends already, haven't you."

Detecting the slightly hostile tone, Jack cast Ianto a careful glance. "Eh yes. He's been rather friendly, actually."

"Towards you, maybe," Ianto said darkly.

Quickly, Jack pushed himself up on his elbows. "Has he done anything to you?"

"No... not him specifically. It's just... I can't really bring myself to feel friendly towards these people. The last couple of days have just been too much."

Jack breathed out in relief. "I understand. And we don't have to go to that banquet if you don't want to."

Ianto laughed bitterly. "Considering everyone down there has seen me naked I really am disinclined to accept the invitation."

"Then we'll just have a quiet evening and recharge our batteries and tomorrow we'll be off again."

Jack stretched out on the bed again. For a brief moment, he wondered whether Ianto would be lying down next to him when he felt the bed shift and was surprised at his disappointment when he realized that Ianto had moved off the bed and was clearing away the dishes instead.

Assuming that Ianto probably needed to get that sense of normalcy in order to ground himself again, Jack didn't say anything and just let him work. He must have zoned out for a bit, because he snapped out of with a surprised snort when he noticed Ianto standing next to him a bit later.

Rubbing his eyes, he turned his head and looked at the other man. He was wearing the pinstripe suit again with which he had arrived here, looking every bit the valued employee of Torchwood that he was.

Ianto must have noticed the confused look Jack had given him since he offered as an explanation, "I just needed to feel my own clothes again."

"That's okay. You can sleep in them if you want to. I won't mind."

"Thanks. Maybe I will."

Jack could sense how awkward the other man felt around him. Sighing, he sat up and leaned his back against the headboard. "Listen, Ianto. What happened between you and me, it doesn't have to mean anything. It can just be something we had to do while on a bizarre undercover mission and once we've glossed it over in our reports we can file it away and never talk about it again. I promise you, I will never touch you again unless you want me to. I'll do whatever you need me to do to make you comfortable again, okay?"

Burying his hands in his pockets, Ianto nodded reluctantly. "I appreciate it, sir."

Hearing that 'sir' now stung a little in an odd way, but Jack refused to think about it. "Well, what do you say. Want to retire?"

"I think that would be a good idea." Ianto stayed rooted to the spot, looking around hesitantly. "There's another bed in the room next door, isn't there?" he said evenly, not meeting Jack's eyes.

"Yeah." Jack felt that odd feeling again and forced it down. "It's over there."

"I'll go there then," Ianto said softly and walked towards it. He turned once more at the door. "Sir?"

"Hm?" Jack raised his head, looking at him questioningly. "What is it?"

"Thank you."

Jack laughed, feeling just the slightest bit insecure. "For what? Ravishing you in front of a huge audience?"

Ianto winced for just a second before he shrugged. "Just... thank you." With that he disappeared through the door, leaving Jack behind with a world of confusing thoughts.

Usually after a long and exhausting day he could at least lie down for a bit and give his body rest, zoning out if he was lucky, but right now that seemed unthinkable. Every time he closed his eyes he saw Ianto standing there in the doorway, one hand in his pocket, looking at him with carefully measured reserve. It seemed so bizarre when he could still taste him on his lips.

His idea of giving this weird day the perfect ending would have been to spend the rest of it in bed, just chatting, maybe feed each other small bites of food and snuggle up comfortably, laughing about it all. Then Ianto would have gone to sleep and maybe he would have rested a bit too and the next day everything would have returned to normal.

Instead, Ianto had erected insurmountable walls around himself and made sure that Jack knew every second just how uncomfortable he felt with being around him. He wasn't used to that kind of a reaction from his lovers. Of course, Ianto wasn't really his lover and he hadn't exactly come into his arms on his own accord... And yet, Jack's ego demanded that Ianto at least acknowledged what a fantastic lay he'd been.

Jack gave up after half an hour of trying to rest and decided to check out the banquet after all. He got dressed in his usual clothes and left the quarters quietly to avoid disturbing Ianto. Then he made his way back to the main hall and let servants show him the way to the banquet from there.

As soon as he spotted him, Colpar rose from his pillow and approached him with a warm smile. "So you have decided to join us after all!"

"Yes, I've decided that it was too early to sleep."

Colpar cast a glance past him and asked, "Ianto didn't come along?"

"No, he's tired."

"Ah." An understanding smile spread on Colpar's lips.

"I hope that's okay? I wasn't sure whether an appearance as a couple was required."

Motioning him to sit down, Colpar said, "It is a little unusual for a new master to appear without his slave, but in your case things are different anyway." He passed a plate of fruits to Jack and added with a grin, "You've been the big topic of the evening."

"Really," Jack said dispassionately, popping a small round fruit into his mouth.

"Oh yes. Your performance has made quite an impression, I must say. As you recall, we usually don't do it quite like this. To us, coupling is merely a means to achieve relaxation."

"Oh, I found it quite relaxing, believe me," Jack interrupted with a laugh. He accepted a goblet from a servant and took a thirsty gulp. He had no idea what he was drinking, but the way it burned down his throat suggested that it was going to make him drunk very soon. That was exactly what he needed.

"The other masters will probably want to talk to you later and ask for your advice and to share some of your secrets with them."

Jack shrugged. "That's fine. I like sharing."

Colpar looked at him a thoughtfully. "Is everything okay? You seem a little bit... unhappy."

Surprised once more at the way Colpar was emphatic of his emotion, Jack tried to hide it quickly and said with a radiant smile, "I'm fine." He downed the rest of the drink in one go. "Long day, is all."

"And yet you're sitting here, drinking alone."

"I'm not alone, am I?" Jack said, waving his goblet at a servant to be filled again. When he saw Colpar calmly waiting for an answer, he sighed. "I have troubles sleeping. Nights tend to get long then. And Ianto preferred to be left alone for now, so I've decided to swing by here for lack of other things to do."

"I understand." Colpar took the carafe from the servant who had approached them and filled Jack's goblet for him. "Sometimes, drinking helps."

Jack continued to drink quietly, looking around the room as he did. Everywhere, he could see people lounging around on pillows, chatting and laughing. They had changed their robes from the ones they had worn during the ceremony to less revealing ones. The robes weren't as uniform anymore, showing more of the person's individual taste. Each pair wore matching clothes, but the different social standing was still apparent.

Servants moved around between them, offering drinks and food and it was usually the slave that accepted it, handing it to the master then. He couldn't suppress the image of Ianto curling up against his thighs, handing him a sweet fruit with a smile... He swallowed thickly.

"So, how does that society of yours work?" Jack asked casually, starting to feel the effects of the drink.

Colpar smiled. "That's a rather broad subject, isn't it?"

Jack shrugged, taking another gulp. "Well, let's start with the obvious then. You don't find mates from what I've seen, other than this slave-master thing you pull off. You have sex for relaxation, but nothing else it seems. Don't you ever get lonely? How do you guys procreate?"

A smile tugged at the corners of Colpar's mouth. "When we wish to procreate we initiate the appropriate procedures. But I doubt you want to get into details there, do you."

"No, not really," Jack confirmed dryly.

Colpar chuckled. "People in your society are mostly self-reliant. We don't see a need to permanently tie our lives to that of our peers."

"And yet you have slaves."

"I know what you're getting at, but a slave is just a possession. We keep them for as long as they live, but you don't tie your life to something you own. We find satisfaction in personal success, furthering our career and social standing. We socialize when we have need for company, but return to the privacy of our homes when we've had enough. We see to our physical needs when they need to be taken care of, but they're not the focus of our attention."

Jack sighed. He thought about the young man in his quarters, probably sleeping right now and trying to forget what happened today. "Maybe you're doing it the right way then. Saves you a lot of troubles."

*******************************

A couple of hours later, Jack stumbled back into his room. At some point, he had lost count over just how many drinks he'd had. After the others had become aware of his presence, he had soon been surrounded by people eagerly congratulating him to his smashing performance and bombarding him with questions. He had been pleased with being the center of attention and finally receiving the attention he had thought he'd deserved.

Sometimes, his translator hadn't been able to keep up with all the input and he had just flashed a radiant smile response. But perhaps it had also been the drinks he had been forced to have with every single one of them. Not that he had really minded since he had started to develop a taste for their style of liquor.

By now he felt as if he had answered every possible question concerning sex to a crowd that had enthusiastically soaked up every word of his. It had surprised him a bit just how little these people seemed to know about the basics of sex and how readily they had accepted his advice.

He had made it a point to share his wisdom with them on how to give your lover the most pleasure, stressing how important it was in order to receive even better results next time. After all, a satisfied lover was more likely to return for more and even if not, the memory of your encounter would linger.

Then a large-bellied Kerlosh had approached him and jovially slapped his back, complimenting him on his excellent purchase. His laughter had been jarringly loud when he had proclaimed that he already had put in an offer for Ianto and had been heartbroken to hear that he already had been taken. Listening to that, Jack's smile had slipped away from his face. He had excused himself soon after.

Now he was drunk enough to finally pass out on the bed. He tried to kick off one of his boots, but the spinning of the room prevented him from succeeding. So he decided to just make it to the bed and collapse on it as he was. He ran into a chair on his way across the darkened room and knocked it over. Biting back a curse, he rubbed his aching thigh.

He had just found the bed and plopped down on it with a content sigh when he heard the door open. A second later, light filled the room. He groaned and covered his eyes with his arms. When nothing else happened for a while, he carefully pulled his arm off and squinted into the light. He saw Ianto standing next to the bed, dressed in his vest and trousers and looking down on him calmly.

"What do you want?" Jack said slurrily, only realizing now how difficult it was to speak.

"I was just checking what the noise was."

"That was me, coming home stinking drunk."

Ianto gave him a mild smile. "So I have gathered." He walked around the bed and sat down at the end of it. Then he started untying Jack's boots.

"What are you doing?" Jack asked, squinting to overcome the blurred vision.

"I'm helping you out of your clothes so you can retire, sir," Ianto said politely, pulling off the first boot.

There was that 'sir' again, Jack thought with a twinge of annoyance. He pulled his other leg out of Ianto's lap. "I don't need your help," he said grumpily.

Casting him a lenient look, Ianto grabbed the leg and put it back across his lap. "Yes, you do." He continued unlacing the boot.

"Oh, for fuck's sake!" Jack snapped, tugging his leg back once more. "Quit acting like a slave!"

Ianto stopped and cast him a carefully guarded look. "I'm just doing my job, sir."

"Well, you're off the clock. Go back to bed." Jack turned to the side.

Reluctantly, Ianto got up. "I'm sorry, if I upset you, sir."

"What? What are you talking about?"

Burying his hand in his pocket, Ianto shrugged. "You seem to be upset with me."

Jack sighed and turned back on his back, propping himself up on his elbows. He hadn't meant to let it his inner turmoil show. He had meant it when he had said to Ianto that it didn't have to mean anything. And yet he wished it had, at least a little bit. "I'm not upset with you... I'm upset with the situation, I guess." Groaning, he let his head fall back on the pillow. "I shouldn't have drunk so much. God knows what it'll do to me in the morning."

Ianto hesitated for a moment. Then he said softly, "At least let me help you out of your shirt, Jack. Otherwise, you'll look like a tramp in the morning."

Realizing that Ianto probably wouldn't ease off until he gave in, Jack sighed in defeat. "Fine."

He watched Ianto sit down next to him and unbutton his shirt. The other man was focused on the task and he was still avoiding looking him into the eyes. Jack hadn't bothered to put on an undershirt when he had gotten dressed and so Ianto revealed his naked chest once he had finished opening the shirt. Jack could see the look that flickered across Ianto's face briefly as he ran his eyes across his chest and swallowed thickly before pulling the shirt off.

Jack reached out to put his hand against Ianto's cheek, but pulled back again when he saw the withdrawn expression on the other man's face. He sighed. "If I had known this really was going to be the last time I get to touch you I would have kissed you more..." he said quietly before he could stop himself.

Ianto blushed as he got up quickly, taking the shirt along with him. He began folding it neatly and put it down on a chair. When he turned around again, his hands were shaking a little. "I..." He faltered, grappling for words. Then he just said, "Good night, sir," and disappeared in his room.

*******************************

When Jack rose from his drunken stupor the next morning he had no idea how long he'd been out. Judged by the way his mouth was dried out he probably had been snoring the entire time. As he slowly sat up, he realized that he was feeling surprisingly rested and not hung over at all. Apparently, next to the lube, this liquor was yet another fascinating alien invention. Humans had no idea how much advancement they were still lacking.

Ianto appeared next to him before he even had had the time to look around. "Good morning, sir," he said, offering him the steaming cup he was holding. "Servants were here earlier. I have no idea what else they were saying, but they brought breakfast. I figured you could use a nice cup of tea," he explained. Then he added with an apologetic smile, "At least I think that's what this is. I'm sorry I can't offer you any coffee."

"That's fine, Ianto," Jack said softly as he swung his legs out of bed and sat down on the edge. "Have you had a good night's rest?" he asked pleasantly as he took a sip from the cup.

"After I had returned to bed, I've had a good rest, yes."

Only now Jack remembered last night to its full extent and he flashed a rueful grin at Ianto. "Right. Sorry about last night. You really didn't have to."

Ianto shrugged. "That's okay. I didn't mind."

Jack finished his tea. "And how are you feeling otherwise? You're not too..." He made a vague motion towards Ianto, briefly wondering if he should even address the issue since they had just found a good way of pretending nothing had happened.

Predictably, Ianto turned crimson and mumbled, "I'm fine. Thank you, sir," before returning to the table.

Sighing softly, Jack rose from the bed.

"Your shirt and coat are on that chair," Ianto said, not turning to look at him.

"Thanks Ianto," Jack replied and got dressed. When he threw on his coat, he noticed slightly the different smell on it. It was a mix of Ianto and the distinct heady scent of sex. He swallowed thickly. "Are you ready to leave?" Jack cleared his throat when he noticed how hoarse he sounded.

"Now is as good as later," Ianto said, slowly turning towards him. He had managed to retreat into his shell completely again and was the textbook example of calm composure.

"Good. Then let's drop by the manager's office and pick up the transporter and then off we go." Jack stopped at the door, hesitating for a moment. "Remember our act when we walk out of here, okay?"

Ianto's face darkened. "Is that really necessary?"

Jack sighed. "I honestly don't know. I know Colpar probably won't mind if we act like colleagues rather than master and slave, but I have no idea how the others will react. I'd rather not take any chances."

His face softening again, Ianto nodded. "All right."

Jack put his hand on the doorknob. "Just... I don't know. I forgot to pay attention to the other masters and slaves last night. Just walk a bit behind me, I guess." And then he added a little wistfully. "Just pretend like you're feeling comfortable around me."

"I am comfortable," Ianto objected, standing next to him. He jerked when their arms touched.

Liar, Jack thought as he opened the door.

They walked down the hall together. Jack noted with satisfaction that Ianto made an effort to walk a couple of steps behind him, folding his hands demurely in front of his body. The sight made him grin, so he quickly turned his head. Ianto had seen him anyway.

"Next time we end up in a situation like this, I get to be the master," he said quietly behind him.

That comment made Jack laughed out loud, causing everyone in the foyer to turn and look at them. When they were recognized, whispering started traveling through the hall as they crossed it, following them until they had reached Colpar's office.

Slipping back into his role of the overbearing merchant, Jack haughtily announced to the guards at the door that Colpar was expecting him and walked inside. He just saw Colpar drawing away from Rikshi as he entered. The manager turned towards the door, his cheeks flushed and his hair disheveled and out of its usual order.

"Oh, it's you!" he said breathlessly. Behind him, Rikshi quickly pulled his robe over his shoulders before disappearing silently through the side door.

Unable to hide his grin, Jack said, "I see you've taken some of my advice to heart."

Colpar's flush deepened. "I have to admit, after our conversation last night I felt a little... inspired."

"That's good to hear," Jack said pleasantly, sparing the other man the embarrassment of imparting details. He turned towards Ianto, "Ianto, this is Colpar, the manager."

Ianto cast them both a dubious look. "I've had the doubtful pleasure before," he said shortspokenly.

"He said he's pleased to meet you in person," Jack translated to Colpar. To Ianto he said, "He's been of great help to us." He received a glare from Ianto in reply.

Having returned to his usual dignified form, Colpar walked towards them with a warm smile. "I have to admit, I'm saddened to see you leave. But I can tell Ianto doesn't want to stay here much longer."

"Can you blame him?" Jack asked, dropping all pretense.

"I suppose not. Our way of life isn't made out for everyone."

"And to be honest, I prefer ours." Jack grinned.

Giving him a meaningful look, Colpar said, "And I can see why."

Jack laughed and patted the manager's shoulder affectionately.

Colpar walked around the desk and retrieved the transporter from a drawer. He handed it to Jack with a wistful smile. "It was good meeting you, Jack Harkness. I've learnt a lot from you."

"Thank you," Jack replied. "I should say arriving here has definitely made for a couple of fascinating experiences for me too." He gave Ianto a covered glance which stayed unreturned as the other man was busying himself with trying to ignore their exchange.

"I guess we should be on our way then," Jack said with a sigh and stepped up to Colpar to hug him. He could feel the manager stiffen in surprise before returning the embrace clumsily. Smirking inwardly at the other man's reaction, he decided to take it a step further and pulled back, placing a friendly kiss on Colpar's lips.

"This is how we say good-bye where I come from," he said with a grin at the other one's shell-shocked expression.

"I'll remember that should we ever have the pleasure of receiving a diplomatic delegation from your planet then," Colpar replied, still a little flustered.

Jack laughed and turned to leave. The look on Ianto's face made his smile falter a little, but he managed to keep it in place as he said his last good-bye to Colpar before ushering Ianto out of the room.

"I had no idea you both were so close," Ianto said dispassionately as they made their way back to the platform where Jack had arrived the day before. All around them, people were preparing for their departure. They exited the city gates.

"This is how I say good-bye to a friend, that's all," Jack replied lightheartedly.

"I'll keep that in mind," Ianto replied dryly. He stopped to look at the couples of masters and slaves walking towards their spaceships or waiting their turn at the transportation platform. "Do you think this is a good way?" he asked quietly as he glanced out into the open field.

"You mean the master and slave thing?" Jack asked, joining him in his observation.

"Yes... I wonder if these slaves are happy."

Jack shrugged. "They probably don't know better."

"Better than who, Jack?" Ianto said, giving him a probing look. "Us? Come to think of it, our relationship isn't much different, if you want to call it that. The only difference is that I get paid for doing what I do and I don't have to be available to you sexually."

Raising his eyebrow at him, Jack replied, "So are you saying if we were to have sex regularly, we'd be no different than them?"

"I don't know. Would we?" Ianto looked at him evenly.

"I'd like to think so!" Jack said, feeling a little indignant at the suggestion. "I'd always make sure you'd enjoy it and I'd never force you to do something you don't want. With me, you can be yourself. I'm not telling you what to do outside of your job description. And you have the right to leave anytime you please, should you find that working with me isn't possible anymore."

"So..." Ianto said slowly. "If I were to decide that I can't work with you anymore after all, would you let me go?"

Jack felt a sharp twist in his chest at the thought of it, but he managed to cover it up. "Of course. If you really wanted to leave, I'd let you."

"That's good to know," Ianto said and walked towards the platform which had just been vacated.

Jack followed at close distance. Once they were on the platform, he pulled out the transporter and activated it. "Maybe you should put your arms around my waist before we get in," he suggested. At Ianto's skeptical expression he added, "I can only hope that Tosh's instructions for this thing were accurate, so I want to make sure we don't get separated when we go through the vortex."

That seemed to have convinced Ianto as he nodded and stepped closer, wrapping his arms around Jack's waist and putting his face against his shoulder. Jack sighed softly as he reciprocated, pulling Ianto further into the embrace. Then he lifted the transporter and turned the dial clockwise.

"Hang on!" he said as the vortex appeared, then he pushed them both forward.

Once the twisting and twirling subsided, the first thing Jack noticed was Ianto's firm body underneath his. The second thing he noticed were cool plates of stone under his palms and the tang of salty seaside air. A couple of seagulls were crying in the distance. He raised himself to his arms, looking down on the man beneath him.

Ianto returned the glance with flushed cheeks and disheveled hair, breathing heavily.

"That seems strangely familiar, doesn't it?" Jack said with a grin. He chuckled when Ianto predictably reacted by pushing against his chest and struggling out of his position. He sat back on his heels in a random bout of mercy and let the other man scramble to his feet.

"Looks like everything worked out," Ianto said, brushing the dust from his hopelessly ruined suit in a graceful motion.

Jack took a moment to look around, taking in the familiar sight of Cardiff Bay. "Yes..." he drawled, feeling strangely melancholic. Before he could say another thing, Tosh and Gwen came running towards them from across the Plass.

"Jack!" Gwen shouted as she arrived next to him. "Are you okay?"

"Yes, I'm fine." He got up and tossed the transporter at Tosh who caught it with a surprised yelp. "Everything went just great. The transporter was programmed perfectly. Good work, Tosh."

Blushing, Tosh nodded in reply.

"Oh, Ianto! I'm so glad you're okay!" Gwen breathed out as she dragged the other man into a fierce embrace.

Ianto hesitated for a moment before placing his hand reluctantly on Gwen's back, patting it. "Eh, thanks, Gwen," he said.

"We didn't expect you back so soon," Gwen continued as they walked towards the lift. "You were only gone for half an hour! When we got the alarm that there was a space traveler coming through we picked up that it was you, but we thought something must have gone wrong with you returning so quickly after your departure."

After overcoming his initial surprise, Jack reminded himself of the fact that time seemed to be moving faster on Kerlosh. "Yeah, that's a bit odd, actually..." he started, but Ianto fell into his word.

"He found me right away when he came through the portal. It was no big deal at all."

Jack looked at the other man in surprise. Once they had reached the Hub, he held Ianto back before he could follow the two women. "Why the lie?"

Ianto shrugged. "It's easier to come up with a story for half an hour than for an entire day. Saves us a lot of uncomfortable questions."

Letting his hand drop away from Ianto's arm, Jack said with a frown, "Yes, sure..." He watched Ianto walk across the grid into the main area. Owen pulled his feet off the desk when he saw him approach and tossed a bundle towards Ianto who caught it effortlessly.

"Owen, leave Ianto alone," Jack said automatically as he joined them. "His day's been tough enough."

Owen gave him a mocking look, chewing on his biro. "Why? He's only been gone for two hours or so."

Right. He'd almost forgotten again. "Well, going through portals can be pretty exhausting when you're not used to them, so leave him alone. Your laundry can wait until tomorrow and if it can't I'm sure I've got some spare change for you so you can take it to the launderette yourself."

He registered Ianto's grateful look as he dropped the bundle back into Owen's lap who glared at him in return. Then he watched Ianto disappear into the kitchen. "So, anything interesting happened while I was gone?" he asked into the round and received a puzzled look from everyone.

"You were gone for half an hour. What should have happened then?" Owen asked finally.

Blast it! "Right. The portaling has messed with my sense of time," he explained, earning an understanding nod from the others. "But a lot of things can happen in half an hour! Think of it... in thirty minutes you can get married and divorced again in Las Vegas. Or bake muffins. Or watch one episode of Sex and the City. Or single-handedly overthrow an alien invasion and send them packing through the rift again." That had managed to turn the expressions on their faces back into ones of utter confusion. "So, what time is it now?" he asked quickly.

Gwen glanced at her wristwatch. "It's almost five."

"Well, I doubt we'll get a lot more done here today, so why don't you call it a day and go home for a fresh start in the morning."

"Excellent!" Owen exclaimed as he jumped to his feet. He fished for his jacket which was buried under a stack of pizza cartons and flung it over his shoulders. "See you around then!" He sauntered towards the exit.

Gwen and Tosh were still looking at him when he turned towards them. "And you two?"

"Uh, I was actually still finishing the report about the incident earlier with the escape..." Gwen said.

"Leave it. There's time for it tomorrow."

"But, Jack..."

"Go home, Gwen. Spend a quiet evening with Rhys. I'm sure he'll appreciate that." He gave her an encouraging smile which seemed to do the trick. She got up and grabbed her handbag. Tossing a final worried glance towards the kitchen, she finally left.

That only left Tosh to deal with. When he turned towards her he saw her looking at the file she had opened on her workstation. It was information on Kerlosh. When she turned to look at him, she that little frown creasing her forehead that always betrayed that she was on to something.

"What's wrong, Tosh?" he asked even though he already knew what it was.

"It says here that this area of space causes time to move faster on the planet. It's like the relativity theory in action... backwards. An object traveling at the speed of light would experience only a few seconds compared to countless years on Earth. Same thing here, except instead of moving faster, we're moving considerably slower. That means that while you were gone here for half an hour, probably... a day or so would have passed there."

He crossed his arms in front of his chest. "That's right."

"So... why is there inaccurate information in the database?"

"There isn't."

Her frown deepened. "But why would Ianto then say that..."

"Tosh," he interrupted her calmly. When she looked up at him, he said, "Just drop it. That's the way Ianto prefers it."

She blinked. "But why..." She stopped. "What happened, Jack?"

"Nothing that concerns you or Torchwood."

Detecting the finality of his statement, Tosh nodded in defeat. "All right. I guess I'll go home then. I think there's an interesting documentary on Discovery tonight." She grabbed her coat and laptop and made a quick exit.

That left him and Ianto alone in the Hub. As if on cue, the other man appeared at the stairs, looking around the Hub in confusion. "Where's everyone?" he asked, nonplussed.

"I sent them home early. I didn't feel like dealing with work anymore today."

Ianto's eyes narrowed. "You did that on purpose," he said accusingly.

Jack blinked in confusion. "What? Of course I did. You think I'd send them home by accident?"

"That's not what I meant!" Ianto walked down the stairs, an accusing expression on his face.

Suddenly, Jack was feeling very tired of to all. He sighed. "You think I sent them home so I can drag you to my quarters and pick up where we left off yesterday?"

Ianto hesitated. "Well... didn't you?"

"I just thought you'd appreciate a bit of peace and quiet from their inquisitive looks. I know I do. Go home, take a shower, do whatever you want. I don't care." With that, he left the other man behind and walked into his office. He saw Ianto look at him through the closing door, a tormented expression on his face. Then he turned on his heels and walked back up the stairs.

Sighing deeply, Jack considered pouring himself a scotch whisky but decided against it. He didn't need to get anymore maudlin than he already was. Instead, he settled for retreating into his quarters. That would also have the benefit of getting out of Ianto's face who quite obviously was still feeling on edge about the entire situation.

He took off his coat and hung it on the clothes hook. Then he opened the latch and took the ladder down to his quarters. There, he headed straight for the shower to wash off the metaphorical dust of the road. As he stood under the steady jet of the shower, he let his mind wander, ruminating the past day.

It was hard to believe that for him and Ianto an entire day had passed in which so much had happened, things that might change their relationship forever, and yet to everyone else they had hardly been gone. It made everything feel almost unreal, like a weird and crazy dream and he still felt a little confused shortly after waking up from it, but soon it'd all be forgotten.

But he didn't want to forget.

As he shampooed his hair, he thought about how he had helped Ianto get cleaned up after the ceremony, remembered the way his skin had felt under his roaming palms as he had spread the soap over every inch of his body. He remembered the little sighs of contentment Ianto had given as he had rested against his chest tiredly.

And then, of course, he remembered the softness of Ianto's lips as he had drawn cries of pleasure from them when he had lost himself inside of his body. He remembered the taste of sweat where he had licked his skin, the scent of his aftershave mixed with soap and shampoo, the breathless whisper of his name...

Jack groaned when he felt his body respond to the memory. He quickly turned the handle on the water tap and gritted his teeth at the ice-cold water now drumming down on his back, immediately erasing any trace of growing passion he could have experienced.

He left the shower when he started shaking, his teeth clattering while he toweled himself off roughly. When he was tolerably dry, he slipped into his bed, pulling the blanket up over his body to get warm again. He didn't know how long it had taken him to shiver the warmth back into his body.

At some point he was lying under the covers, just zoning out, hoping for the day to draw to an end. He tried to punish himself with thoughts of Ianto's icy behavior, the way the other man had tried to keep his distance and show Jack that his advances were unwanted. He couldn't really blame him. He practically had forced himself onto Ianto. No wonder he was feeling uncomfortable now.

He was interrupted in his unpleasant thoughts when he'd heard the sound of the latch being operated.

Pulling the cover off his face, he saw Ianto climb down the ladder. He stopped at the bottom of it, looking around the room first before spotting Jack in his bed. The faintest blush appeared on his cheeks as he approach the bed slowly.

"Ianto," Jack said, pushing himself up on his elbows. "Is something wrong? Why didn't you go home?"

Ianto just stood there for a moment, looking as if he didn't even know where to put his hands. Then he decided to just press them stiffly against his thighs, making him look as if he was standing at attention. It was a slightly comical sight considering the circumstances.

"I was going to catch up with the filing," he explained. "I'm not really tired. Strange sort of jetlag, I suppose."

Jack blinked. "Okay? And do you need me to sign anything? Can't that wait until tomorrow?"

Ianto shook his head. "No... I..." Jack had never seen the other man this lost for words and it was starting to worry him. "I was in the archives, sorting through some files... and then I heard you starting the shower. Heard you move around in your quarters. I started thinking about what you were doing right then, under the shower..."

He swallowed. "And then I dropped a rather big file which is probably going to take me weeks to get reorganized. It just slipped out of my hands. And that made me realize that it's probably always going to be like that from now on."

A feeling of dread was starting to ball up in Jack's stomach, but he didn't dare to interrupt the other man.

"No matter what I do, no matter what you do, I'll always be reminded of what happened between us whenever I see you or even sense your presence in the same building. I'll always be reminded of your hands on my body, your lips... of us..." A crimson tinge crept across his cheeks. "So I did some thinking..."

Jack closed his eyes for a moment. He was going to say it any moment now.

"I don't think I can do this..."

He frantically thought what all of this would entail. He'd need to retcon Ianto then, of course. Standard procedure. He'd give him a good life. Maybe he'd make for a good Maitre D', or maybe a personal assistant. He was reliable and trustworthy enough for other government work, too. It wouldn't be hard. Soon, Ianto would go about his daily life, content with having forgotten about all of this, about Torchwood, about aliens and time rifts. And about him. The thought seemed unbearable to Jack.

"So... I've come to decline your offer. Respectfully."

Jack froze for a second. He'd been holding his breath, waiting for the final blow, and then this. He breathed out slowly. "What? Which offer?"

A shy smile played around Ianto's lips. "You know... your offer of never talking about this again. Of never touching me again..." Interpreting Jack's dumbfounded expression correctly, Ianto added helpfully, "I don't want that."

It took Jack a moment to process this. "Are you sure?" he said then, his voice barely a whisper.

Instead of an answer, Ianto reached for his jacket and started unbuttoning it slowly, his eyes never leaving Jack's. Slowly, he peeled out of every layer of his clothes until he stood in front of Jack completely naked. "I'm very sure."

Jack was in an upright position in an instant and reached out for the other man. Grabbing him by the hips, he pulled him close. His lips touched the soft skin of Ianto's stomach and he pressed a kiss on the spot right above his solar plexus where his pulse was thudding. He felt Ianto's hand in his hair, his long fingers raking through it, and looked up with a smile. His heartbeat sped up when Ianto returned the smile and leaned down to kiss him.

Wrapping his arms around the other man as they kissed, Jack pulled Ianto onto the bed and on top of him. Not breaking the kiss, he ran his hands down Ianto's sides, simply enjoying the feeling of his body so close.

After a while, their lips finally detached and Jack ran his hand through Ianto's hair with a smile. "So, am I correct to interpret the fact that you're lying in my bed naked as you actually wanting to pursue a sexual relationship?" he asked teasingly.

Ianto rolled his eyes and grinned back. "Maybe I would have used a bit more poetic term for it, but that is the essence of it, yes."

Jack leaned in for another quick kiss. When he pulled back, he licked his lips thoughtfully and drawled, "Hmm... so by your definition does that make you my slave now?"

The other man's face darkened immediately and Jack pulled him close with a soft laugh. "Oh relax," he whispered into his hair. "I was just joking! If anything, that would make me your slave, because I would do anything to keep you in my bed."

Ianto lifted his head and looked at him, raising a questioning eyebrow. "Really?"

"Oh, absolutely!"

Ianto's lips twisted into a mischievous smirk. "In that case..." He leaned in and whispered something into Jack's ear.

A matching grin appeared on Jack's face. "Your wish is my command!" he said and rolled Ianto onto his back. Then he reached for the nightstand and grabbed the purple colored bottle he'd placed there earlier. "Good thing I thought to bring this souvenir then. Didn't think it'd come in handy this soon..."

*******************************

Epilogue

Tosh frowned when she read the information on her screen. "Jack?" she called over her shoulder.

"What is it, Tosh?" he said as he appeared at the door to his office.

"I'm not sure... I think we've just received a report from that planet you and Ianto were stranded on last year. It was washed through the Rift."

Jack was next to her in an instant. "Really? What does it say?"

"I'm not sure... I scanned it in and ran it through the universal translator. The translation is a bit dodgy but it looks like it's some piece of news about the election of the new chancellor of Kerlosh. It summarizes the past fifty years of progress in the effort to reform the social structure of the Kerlosh society, spearheaded by the great reformer Colpar who has now been elected."

"Colpar!" Jack exclaimed in surprise. "I didn't think he'd still be around!"

Tosh look at him curiously. "Well, looks like the people there have a longer life expectancy. Anyway, it says that the chancellor's key achievements were the abolishing of slavery and the introduction of registered companionships. In his inauguration speech he commemorated the day that laid the foundations for these reforms fifty years ago."

Jack couldn't help but grin. "Well, that's good for them then!"

Turning in her chair, Tosh gave him a questioning glance. "Fifty years in Kerlosh time would be... about one year of our time."

Trying hard not to laugh, Jack just nodded. "Yes, but that would be a huge coincidence, wouldn't it? Really, the report could be centuries old."

Tosh nodded knowingly. "Of course, I have considered that. But I have reason to believe the report has been written rather recently. Especially since the holiday is called 'Harkness Day'."

Now Jack couldn't stop the laugh from bursting out of him. "Well, what do you know. Strangest coincidences happen..." Still laughing, he turned around and walked towards the conference room. He found Ianto standing in the kitchen, preparing coffee.

"Mmmmh, just the thing I need," he purred as he brushed past Ianto, his hip pressing into Ianto's behind intimately as he grabbed his steaming mug.

Ianto turned to him as he was sipping his coffee, an amused smile on his lips. "I picked up a couple of interesting bits from your conversation with Tosh," he said, casually trailing a finger down Jack's braces.

"Oh?" Jack put the mug down and gave Ianto a playfully curious look. "And what would that be?"

"What was that about a sexual revolution that started in Kerlosh fifty years ago?" He laughed softly when Jack just grinned in reply. "Really, Jack, some people would be content with just showing their receptionist-slash-secretary the wonders of sex. But you always think on a larger scale. You have to overthrow existing social structures and teach an entire planet."

Jack just shrugged in reply as he pulled Ianto close to him. "Well, you know what they say. When in Rome... teach the Romans to do it your way!"

~ The End ~