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we should just kiss like real people do

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It was the end of a long, long week for the team, and as soon as they'd finally gotten rid of the last of the disasters the Rift had spat out one after the other, they'd all ran back home without a second thought — all except for Ianto, who'd stayed behind under the excuse of 'finishing up' the cleaning of the Hub. He'd been at it for several hours now, and he was starting to be so exhausted he could barely see what he was doing, but he simply couldn't go home.

After the horrors he'd witnessed these past few days, he knew he wouldn't be able to sleep peacefully. Of course, it wasn't like he'd seen similar things before, but it didn't ever make it any easier.

He was bent over one of the workstations, squinting at a document in a desperate attempt to decipher it to file it properly when he heard footsteps behind him. Was Jack—?

He shook his head, the momentary happiness at the thought of Jack quickly morphing into a sharp spike of disappointment and longing and hurt when he remembered that his boyf— his coworker couldn't be here. Jack was gone, off to all kinds of adventures across time and space, and none of them had mattered enough for him to consider taking them along.

The person Ianto had heard step into the main part of the Hub was Juette, who looked just as tired as Ianto felt. As he got closer, Ianto noticed that his friend hadn't changed out of the blood-soaked black jeans and the tattered shirt he'd been wearing during the day.
"You shouldn't be here," he said, unknowingly echoing Jack's words from all those months ago.
- "I know," replied Ianto.
- "Have you— have you been here since we came back? Did you not go home?"
Ianto shook his head. "I wouldn't sleep," he said. "Might as well be useful here."

The silence that followed was slightly awkward, and Ianto felt he had to fill it. "Tea? It's a bit late for coffee."
- "No, thank you," Juette said before letting himself fall onto the ratty couch next to the Autopsy Bay. Ianto followed, sitting next to him.

Juette opened and closed his mouth a few times, seemingly unsure of how to express his thoughts. "I couldn't sleep either," he eventually confessed. "It's— when I close my eyes, I just— all I can see is—"
- "Yeah," Ianto breathed out. "I see it too." He understood all too well.

They'd spent most of the evening tracking down the source of mysterious power outages in the city, eventually finding out that they'd been caused by a kind of fungus that had taken residence in a transformer substation. They hadn't expected to find someone there — a woman, an electrician who'd been sent to fix whatever was wrong with the station — and they hadn't expected that the fungus would've entirely overtaken her body. Like cordyceps on insects, had muttered Juette. She couldn't have been there for more than a few hours, but already her body had rotten, barely being held up by the glowing mycelium that had grown through her muscles and organs. She lunged at Juette, and he'd had no choice but to shoot her. The bullets tore through what was left of her flesh, pushing her back, but they didn't stop her. Once he ran out of bullets, Juette grabbed Ianto's gun from his hand, firing again and again and again — but even after emptying two clips into her skull and chest, she was still alive, thrashing desperately on the ground. Juette stared at her for long, long minutes as blood oozed out of her body and she still didn't die. Only when Owen injected a powerful poison into the mother plant did the woman come to a standstill. Juette was still looking at her, unable to tear his eyes away. Ianto had guided him away once everything had been over, as he'd been too shocked to move.

"Does it... does it ever get easier?" Juette whispered. His hands were shaking.
Ianto glanced at him for a second before answering. "...No. No, it doesn't."
Juette sighed. "I thought so."

Ianto didn't say anything, instead choosing to look at Juette again. The harsh neon lights of the Hub were framing his face like a halo, his dark eyes glossy with unshed tears, and Ianto found that his friend was... beautiful.

All he wanted was to take his pain away and make sure he was never hurt again.

He leaned in, softly kissing him.

There were no fireworks, no great explosion of desire, only a warm feeling of complete rightness, like this was where he was meant to be, what had been missing. And he knew right there and then that he was in love with Juette, no matter how much he'd tried to deny it before.

The kiss had only lasted a second, and when he pulled away, Juette was staring at him with wide eyes.
"I'm sorry," said Ianto. "I shouldn't have. Not without asking."
Juette's gaze dropped to Ianto's shirt collar. "No, it was— I didn't not like it," he said, his face heating up. "Enfin— I mean, I liked it."
- "You did?" Ianto said, his disbelief obvious.
- "Yes," Juette replied with a slight nod.
- "In that case... May I?" Ianto asked.
Juette nodded again, and Ianto used one hand to gently tilt Juette's head up and kiss him again.

The second kiss didn't last any longer than the first, but they didn't pull away as quickly, so their faces stayed only inches apart. Ianto let his hand fall back onto his thigh, not wanting to push his luck.

It took a moment for Juette to gather the courage to slowly put both his hands on Ianto's shoulders and initiate another kiss. He was so hesitant, so careful, Ianto couldn't help but be endeared. He kissed back just as gently, letting his partner set the pace.

When Juette cupped his face with his hands, he jumped slightly, surprised. Juette immediately pulled away.
"Is something wrong?" Ianto asked, confused.
- "No, I just thought you— I thought I did something you didn't like," said Juette, equally as confused.
- "Oh, no," reassured Ianto. "It's just that your hands are cold, it surprised me a little." He smiled. "I really— liked what we were doing."
Juette smiled back, and Ianto leaned in to kiss him again. He ran his hand through the other's hair; it was soft and silky, and just long enough for him to twirl a strand of it around his finger.

After a few minutes, they broke apart to stare into each other's eyes. Juette laughed softly, stroking Ianto's cheek. Ianto smiled and looked around the Hub for a short instant and— he saw Gwen.

She turned away as soon as Ianto noticed her, and he quickly got up to follow her. He caught her wrist to keep her from leaving, and she looked back at him. She seemed embarrassed.
"Ianto, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to intrude. I thought you were home."
- "I know, I know," said Ianto, picking up a pile of documents from the desk next to them and organising them as they spoke. "Just... don't tell anyone, please."
- "I don't think they'd be too surprised, you know."
Ianto paused in his filing. "What do you mean?"
"Well, you two seem to have gotten closer lately," she said. Ianto raised a disbelieving eyebrow. "You seem to be always close by whenever he's around. And you often exchange looks and smiles," she continued. "As a matter of fact, you're the only person he actually looks at."
Sometimes Ianto forgot they'd hired Gwen for her perceptiveness. He had no idea it had been that obvious to her.
"I think it's sweet, don't get me wrong. It's refreshing to see you two so happy."
Ianto smiled a bit self-consciously. "Thank you."
- "Well, I'll leave you to it," said Gwen. "I'll just write my report in the conference room." She turned around and left.

Ianto couldn't help the pang of disappointment in his chest when he realised Juette had left. He'd probably been a little scared by Gwen's sudden appearance, but Ianto still wished he'd stayed. He didn't know if what happened today meant anything to his coworker — he hoped it did. He wasn't sure he was ready for another arrangement like the one he'd had with Jack before the man had left. He did want something, but he wasn't sure what. Maybe he'd ask Juette about it when he reappeared later on during the day for work. For now, all he had was the soft, warm feeling in his chest at the memory of their kiss, and he would cherish it for as long as he could.