Word Count: ~1,430
Summary: As with most things, it’s just a matter of perception. AU.
Notes: Written for challenge #26 on redisourcolor. I used the words automatic, shuffle, and kaleidoscope, the phrase there you go again, and this photo. I have to say, too, I’m typically not an AU sort of person at all, but the picture made me think university and professors and then...this kind of just happened! *_*
“The trees are half dead.”
Ianto’s voice is low and gravelly from lack of sleep, and maybe a little from the general malaise that seems to have seeped into his limbs as of late. He blames the frigid weather, not Jack. Not really, anyway.
He adds a belated “sir” to the end of his observation, and watches the older man’s eyebrows raise a little as he continues to stare out of the smaller of the two windows of his office, down onto the lawn, with its tree-lined path below. The light is a dull, early grey; it doesn’t reach past the ancient window frame, doesn’t touch the deep mahogany of the sturdy desk opposite it, or reflect off the rows of books that line the walls. Not yet, anyway.
“They’re also half alive, Ianto,” Jack says after a moment. “It’s all a matter of perception, wouldn’t you say?”
“All due respect, sir - it’s mid-October. Another month and the trees will be completely bare. Forgive me for calling it like I see it.”
He takes a sip of coffee, his first, and the warmth slides down his throat, singeing his insides and filling his nostrils with the rich scent of freshly ground beans.
“There you go again,” Jack says as he slips an arm around Ianto’s waist, firm and secure.
“Sorry,” Ianto murmurs half-heartedly, but he’s already setting down his cup of coffee on the wide sill of the window, and turning to face Jack, his hands moving to Jack’s chest. He locks his fingers around Jack’s braces, and tugs forward.
Jack’s soft smile as he allows gravity to take its course is so endearing, Ianto can barely suppress the wave of fondness that floods his body. It warms his cheeks and sends a flutter down deep in his stomach. Yes, this - Ianto’s head echoes with the affirmation as he presses his lips to Jack’s.
Jack yields in his arms, and for one brief, brilliant moment, it’s like their first kiss all over again - they’re back in that lecture hall, with its constant shuffle of students coming and going. It’d been just after the changing of afternoon classes that day, right at the start of the quarter. Jack had left on sabbatical months before. Ianto hadn’t the slightest idea when, or if, he’d be returning.
His fingers had been covered with a light layer of yellow chalk dust; he’d been busying himself with erasing the long chalkboard at the front of the room when he’d heard his name.
The kiss that quickly followed, fervent and powerful and enough to leave his knees weak for the rest of the day, had somehow made up for everything that had been lacking since Ianto had started this particular chapter of his life.
In the pub it had been quick and dirty and amazing and he hadn’t even asked for Jack’s name. It was something that Ianto had never done before, and can’t imagine he’d ever do again. He’d had no idea at the time who Jack was, of his position, or of the fact that they were, in fact, employed by the same institution.
And then came the knowledge that Jack was gone, on unexpected leave to complete a research project in Cambodia, or Vietnam or some other exotic place Ianto had never visited, and frankly never wanted to. He could be gone months, or years, or he might never return. At least that was the rather coy answer a secretary over half his age had given him when he’d asked.
But then Jack had returned.
“I came back for you,” Jack Harkness had said, his voice quiet and purposeful, almost swallowed up by the cavern of the lecture hall, and muted by the endless rows of plush chairs.
Ianto didn’t believe him for a second, but he’d taken the bait anyway. He’d kissed Jack back when he could have just walked away, and Jack had yielded in his arms and all of the memories of that night in the pub had come flooding back, because of course, one night stand or not, it had mattered to Ianto.
He’d felt drawn to Jack, as ridiculous as it sounded, getting off in a pub bathroom with a complete stranger. But he’d felt an undeniable sense of purpose when he looked into Jack’s eyes. As if somehow, he was meant to be here. So no matter what Ianto had said, or what he’d told himself during the time Jack had been gone, that night had always mattered.
It matters now, too, of course, but it’s not as if he doesn’t have his doubts. Obviously, he’s the one with more to lose in this arrangement. He’s got no ties here, nothing keeping them from sacking him, if the whole thing goes badly. He’s never actually been bothered to read the University’s policy on relationships between staff across departments. That it getting out would somehow be apocalyptically bad, or at the very least, just plain laughable (Jack is extremely well-respected in his field, and in his position as Department Chair, after all, and Ianto is essentially a glorified Teacher’s Assistant) is an assumption he’s made on his own, he supposes. His own personal guarantee that this probably can’t go any further than it already has.
The fact that Ianto’s eyes flutter closed when Jack parts his lips deftly, and that he finds himself scrabbling blindly against the windowsill as a low moan escapes from his throat when Jack deepens the kiss is automatic, a conditioned response born out of a great deal of practice. He’s been here a hundred times before. A hundred and one, maybe. He’s sure he could locate the coffee cup and move it out of the way before Jack topples it over and onto the hardwood floor with his eyes closed, but just in case, he cracks one eye open anyway.
From this angle, the thick glass of the window reminds Ianto of the lens of a kaleidoscope, bending and warping the images outside into something far more fascinating than what’s actually there. It’s thicker in some places than in others; the branches of the trees lining the walkway blur and sway in front of his field of vision. Ianto closes his eyes.
Jack tastes like coffee. Like his coffee. The coffee he’d learned how to brew in Jack’s absence because a colleague had mentioned once that he thought maybe Jack had acquired an affinity for slow roasted Brazilian beans after an extended trip he’d taken almost a decade ago. It was the one piece of information Ianto had allowed himself to acknowledge. Everything else—the articles online announcing Jack’s appointment to the department, his publications, the abstracts of his current research—Ianto forced himself to ignore all of it. He wasn’t obsessed, just interested. As it turned out, he hadn’t really needed the coffee to win Jack over, but it did have its benefits all the same.
Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. These are the days wherein Ianto’s schedule allows him to show up to Jack’s office in the early hours of the morning, before classes begin, to brew their morning coffee. Generally speaking, Ianto can’t think of anywhere he’d rather be.
Jack’s body is pressed against his – he can feel the firm lines of his chest, the stubble-free smoothness of his cheek, the rather intoxicating scent of his skin. Ianto’s back is pressed half against the wall, half against the windowsill, and suddenly Ianto wants someone to see them, for the news of their entanglement to reach the wrong ears after all. The self-destructiveness of the thought sends a jolt of urgency right down the length of Ianto’s spine. He shudders, and Jack chuckles into his left ear, low and comfortable, like he knows exactly what Ianto’s thinking.
“Ianto Jones,” Jack says against Ianto’s ear. Ianto swallows. His lips feel swollen. His heart, too. He blinks.
“What would I do without you?” Jack murmurs, and his eyes turn dark for a moment, searching Ianto’s face. Ianto wonders what he’s looking for. If he’ll find it.
“Let’s hope we never have to find out,” Ianto says, looping his thumbs around Jack’s braces again, this time low, his thumbs just above Jack’s waist so that he can feel the muscles of Jack’s stomach tense under his fingers as he pulls him close.
“Okay,” Jack whispers, and to his surprise, Jack’s arms tighten around his waist. “Okay,” he says again, and Ianto just closes his eyes to stop the room from spinning off its axis. He takes a breath. And then another.