Jack knocked on the door for the third time and tried to wait. Yet again Ianto didn’t answer. He just couldn’t have done anything stupid, could he? Jack was really hoping he’d gotten past that. Two days of watching him, trying not to get noticed, and all he’d seen was Ianto looking a little more relaxed. This was getting ridiculous.
Jack opened the door (it wasn’t locked?) and stepped inside, instantly surrounded by the dark and cool instead of the smog and sunset of the city outside. Jack didn’t even know why he was here; he could have just asked Ianto how he was feeling at the hub. Maybe it had something to do with watching the stars go by through Ianto’s bedroom window while the man slept warm in his arms and left the tentative feeling of comfort… but he was going to pretend that didn’t exist. Emerging from his reverie, he started walking down the short hallway again his ears beginning to catch faint music, and then froze when he finally saw Ianto.
Ianto had his eyes shut, head tilted back, and mouth in a smile so much just for himself Jack almost felt like he shouldn’t look, but it was too beautiful not to. In the background wordless music played, like the tracks part to rap and Jack located speakers that had been screwed into the wall. He was dressed in what was about as far from the professional suits as one could get; the black outfit looked like something from a cabaret, something a dancer would be wearing. The long hands that dealt with all the alien shit so efficiently, that Jack had seen curled between their chests in sleep were gloved in tattered leather and each holding long metal rods that were lit on each end with fire. Jack had to remind himself to put that on his list of “things I did not suspect about Ianto Jones”.
The rods were being spun around in skilled circles, fire curling and sparking of onto the cement floor and trailing around his still-too-slender frame. He had obviously done this before. The fire rods spun up high over his head and then slowly down to trail around slender feet in leather high heeled boots; hypnotic if there ever was. It cast the light and shadows into high definition on Ianto.
Suddenly Jack knew exactly why he was there. He stalked over silently, like a predator, caught both Ianto’s wrist over the man’s head, still holding fire, and kissed him. Possessively. Ianto was frozen against him, still as stone, even his mouth that was being kissed. His eyes remained shut, and Jack could feel something cold start to squeeze around his heart then Ianto tilted his head back, just a fraction, but it deepened the kiss, his mouth opening to Jack's touch.
They stopped when they ran out of air, lips coming apart soundlessly.
“Did that have a reason? Or did you just do it?”
Jack fought down his first response of “how the hell do you sound that calm when I just kissed you and you’re wearing what’s practically a corset and just about nothing else?” and instead said, “I’ve always loved playing with fire.”
Ianto smiled, spinning a rod in each hand in a slow rhythm as old as time. “So do I.”
Ianto’s eyes were burning at Jack, something in them pressing him back. He stepped backwards a ways and lay down on his back, resting his weight onto his elbows and watching. Ianto continued to dance, seemingly ignoring him, but every once in a while the fire-rods would be spun above him closer and closer as Ianto moved, trailing past his skin close enough to feel the heat.
They didn’t speak for a while, Ianto dancing soundlessly and Jack staring, keeping his expression calm even though his heart was racing way too fast. He finally broke the silence when the track ended.
“So where did you learn to do that?”
“I danced in a cabaret Fridays and Saturdays when I was in university. I didn’t have enough money to put myself through so I had to have a night job as well as a day one.”
“It’s not in my record. I lied at the interview.”
“Ah. You’re very good. Not very many people can lie to me without me noticing.”
“I lied to Yvonne’s goons. You didn’t interview me. You just took one look and said I was hired.”
“Yeah, that’s right. Forgot about that.”
Ianto threw him a sidelong look that made Jack's breath catch before rolling his eyes and walking over to where a gallon jug had gone unnoticed until now. He blew the flames out on one rod then dropped it, smoking to the floor, before blowing out one end of the other and holding it like a torch.
“What are you doing?”
Ianto smiled, wicked, something dark and playful in his eyes, and Jack thought this must be how he was before Torchwood destroyed his life.
Ianto took a mouthful of whatever was in the jug, but he didn’t swallow. He turned away from Jack, held the burning rod up to his mouth and blew.
A stream of flame shot past his lips and curled into nothing in the cold, unheated air.
“You can breathe fire?”
“Yes. I learned in the village, when I was very small. One of the older boys was trying to make me drink kerosene. I had a match. He was lucky it had snowed, I set his clothes on fire.”
Jack laughed, seeing the image of a bully frantically rolling in the snow and Ianto with that tiny self-satisfied smirk on his face.
“What made you remember all this?”
“I’ve been unpacking boxes of my university things. Found this box and got distracted.”
There was silence for a moment, then Jack asked, “Want a hand?”
It had gotten dark by the time they finished the last box that Ianto had said he could help with. There was a pile of cardboard boxes on the floor below them and the rubbish pile that Ianto was going to give to a shelter somewhere, had grown quite large; containing several baseball caps, cracked orange dishes, and many clothes and shoes that a glance showed Ianto could and would no longer wear.
What Ianto was left with was disturbingly little, just some jeans and plain t-shirts and the suits he wore to the hub combined with the other meager possessions in his house. It really didn’t add up to much.
Ianto suddenly sat back on his heels; boots discarded long ago, and said, “I’m hungry.”
“You sound surprised about it.”
“I eat when the clock says I should, but I’m almost never hungry.”
“You should go eat something then.”
Ianto stood and walked towards the ladder, still wearing the costume that had been teasing Jack unfairly all evening, and climbed down, Jack following behind him.
When they reached the kitchen, the fridge didn’t faze Ianto this time. He opened it and pulled out two bottles of juice and plastic wrapped sandwiches he obviously made so he didn’t have to cook.
He offered one of each to Jack who joined him at the little steel table, even though Ianto hadn’t offered and was already devouring the sandwich and whatever mystery vegetable was in it. He finally broke the silence.
“So you’re a vegetarian now?”
“Cannibals will do that to you.”
There’s silence for another moment and this time it’s Ianto who breaks it.
“You’re awkward today. Why?”
“Many reasons. Not least of which is that you’ve been wearing a corset the entire time I’ve been here and self- control takes concentration.”
Ianto rolls his eyes in a way that’s entirely too sarcastic.
“That would be the first thing you’d think of.”
“Honestly, it’s hard not to.”
There’s silence for a while.
“Why do you keep coming here?”
Ianto’s staring at him, clearly not going to take anything but an answer.
“Torchwood destroys people. Takes away everything they have, sucks out anything it can use and leaves them with an empty head or locked up somewhere, screaming at things no one else can see.”
Ianto’s frozen where he is; hands clenched on top of the table.
“You’re the only survivor of Canary Wharf still sane and sober and I’d like to keep it that way.”
“You know I was going to shoot myself the other time you followed me here. If I was going to commit suicide now I would have done it already and you wouldn’t have found the body.”
That part of Ianto’s job remained between the two of them. The fact that the corpses left by weevils and other alien dangers always conveniently disappeared seemed to escape the other’s notice. That and the fact Ianto was inhumanly good at it.
“I know. It’s important that if you’re sticking around you actually have a life. It was pretty pathetic on my part to not know where you live. And I’ve noticed you always drop the sarcastic personality when you’re at the hub. Is that how Yvonne ran things?”
“Yvonne wasn’t much of one for sarcasm.”
Ianto smiled and Jack glanced at his wrist-comp “watch”.
“It’s almost ten. I should go, you need to sleep.”
Ianto stood and they headed for the door. “And you don’t?”
Ianto shook his head and opened the door for him but caught his arm before he walked through.
“Thanks for the company and the help Jack. It’s nice.”
He let go, Jack walked out and the moment broke.
Jack didn’t notice until the door was shut that that was the first time Ianto had called him Jack.