Author: sariagray Artist: thebuttonontop
Chapter: Stave Three of Five + Epilogue
Characters/Pairings (not chapter-specific): Jack/Ianto, Gwen/Rhys, Owen, Tosh, Alice and Steven Carter, John Hart, Estelle, Grey, Franklin/Wife, Rhiannon/Johnny, Mica and David, OCs
Rating: PG13 throughout.
Word Count: ~2300 for this chapter, ~10,000 for the story in its entirety.
Spoilers: The whole series, as certain characters are used. Most aspects of plot, however, are not spoiled.
Warnings: Occasional language, minor sexual innuendo, some relatively dark themes. Angst and fluff fluctuate throughout.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fan fiction and artwork. No monetary compensation has been or will be garnered from this endeavor. This is purely for entertainment purposes and is no way intended to disrespect the creators/owners of Torchwood, Charles Dickens, or any of the other pop-culture references throughout the story.
Beta: Thanks to thebuttonontop for dealing with my bipolar attitudes about this story, listening to me whine, and cheering me on all the while (in addition to providing very pretty pictures!). My unyielding gratitude also belongs to badly_knitted for a much needed Brit-picking and thorough cleaning-up. Without you both, this story would still be kicking around, disjointed, in my mind somewhere. Also, thanks to my mom, for encouraging this shenanigans (i.e. calling me up during its early stages to offer suggestions and making me read it aloud to her…even if she did laugh uproariously at my ridiculous phrases).
Author's Note: This was written as a holiday gift to all of you wonderful people. thebuttonontop and I are so grateful for your friendship, support, and the general sense of community that we have found through the medium of fan fiction, Torchwood, and all that that entails. I didn't once suspect, when I sat down to watch "Everything Changes", that it would lead me here (and hey! Everything did change!). But I'm glad it did. So thank you all and Happy Holidays. We really hope you enjoy this!
A/N 2 :A new chapter will be posted every couple of days, ending on Christmas Eve, and a pretty, full .pdf version will be posted on December 25th for anyone who wants it.
(Stave One) (Stave Two)
"Wake him up!”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Fine. I’ll do it. JACK!” Owen bellowed.
Jack sat up, startled, and looked frantically about the dark room. His breath came in short, sharp pants and he instinctively reached to his side to grab for Ianto’s arm (his usual response to waking from a nightmare), only to find the small bed empty.
“I warned you,” Tosh muttered.
“What’s going on?” Jack demanded his mind registered the faces before him. ”Is something wrong?”
“No. Well, nothing end-of-the-world, but-“
“We’re here to show you what a bloody arse you are,” Owen finished bluntly.
Tosh slapped his arm lightly in chastisement and looked at Jack. He was clearly perplexed, but surprise was worrying away the haze of sleep. He blinked at them as though uncertain how to respond.
“What Owen means is that we’re here to show you how things are going on presently. How the outside world spends Christmas,” Tosh calmly explained.
“Yeah, we were chosen to be your guides because we weren’t doing anything important enough,” complained Owen.
“What were you doing?” Jack asked, still a bit off-kilter.
“Well - er, I was reading. Owen was probably drinking. Now hurry. We haven’t a lot of time.”
They each grasped one of his hands and made as though to pull him off the bed. As they did so, the Hub disappeared and the trio tumbled into the streets of Cardiff. It was daylight, though the air was misty cold and the area was completely barren of life. It looked rather post-apocalyptic and Jack tensed.
“What happened?” he breathed.
“What happened?” Owen repeated, laughing caustically. “It’s Christmas! The shops are closed, people are with their families. That sort of thing. You know, what normal people apparently do?”
“Oh,” Jack responded, his body relaxing. “Where are you taking me?”
“You’ll see,” Tosh smirked.
As they walked the lonely way in silence, their steps indenting the frost, Jack began to recognize the path. Wreaths hung joyfully and welcomingly on doors while lights sparkled in windows as if the gilt lettering of a personal invitation. It was nice to see and soothed the chill from his bones. If they took a left ahead, which they did, that would place them directly in front of Gwen’s flat.
“Wait a minute.” Jack stopped in the middle of the road. “We can appear wherever you want us to, right?”
The pair nodded.
“Then,” he continued, “why are we walking?”
Owen shrugged. “Tosh insisted.”
“I wanted you to see how peaceful it was. Quiet, still, calm. No aliens or guns or death,” she shrugged and blushed before grabbing his arm.
Jack could feel the sensations of elevation and they quickly appeared just inside Gwen’s door. He shook his head to dispel the dizziness caused by the sudden movement. He could hear the sound of cookware rattling and felt his mouth water at the savory smells of roasting poultry and herbs. Then the door behind them opened and the three jumped, hustling to the side as Rhys burst in.
“I’m home,” he called as he bounded toward the kitchen. Tosh, Owen, and Jack pursued him there.
Rhys hugged Gwen from behind, all bouncy, cheerful exuberance and nodded to the oven before kissing her cheek.
“Goose?” he asked, backing away to take off his coat.
Gwen shook her head, giving him her best apologetic look.
“I could only get today off, and when we finally got out last night, there weren’t any left. It’s just chicken.”
Rhys schooled his scowl into a smile and returned to wrap his arms around her.
“And a better Christmas chicken there never was.”
She laughed and swatted at him.
“Jack wants me in early tomorrow, so we’re eating a bit sooner than planned.” She frowned and continued softly, as if to herself. “And I’ve promised to help Ianto take the tree to the incinerator. Jack didn’t think much of it.”
“Bloody Jack!” Rhys exclaimed, giving up all pretenses of good-nature. “I wish I had him here. I'd give him a piece of my mind to feast upon, and I hope he'd have a good appetite for it.” He stormed out of the kitchen.
She made as if to go after him and then stopped herself, well used to this routine by now. A few moments later, Rhys reappeared with a contrite look and a quick apology.
“I’m sorry. He just…he treats you all like you’re machines. Nobody knows it better than you do.”
“Ah, that’s where you’re wrong.” She offered him a smile in acceptance of his apology and he looked at her questioningly.
“Well,” he said after he realized no answer was forthcoming. “I’ll put on some music, yeah? We’ll have a proper Christmas yet.”
Jack watched as Rhys turned on the stereo and Gwen returned the kitchen.
“Rhys!” she called out to him in exasperation. “How the bloody hell do you make gravy?”
The man laughed and bounded to meet her.
“Oi, you’ll burn the whole flat down! Let me. Relax, love.”
Gwen grinned her gratitude and sat at the table, chatting and joking with him while he finished preparing the meal. Occasionally, one would catch a lyric from the songs playing in the living room and would sing, slightly off-key, to the feigned chagrin of the other.
Jack watched them intently as though completely fascinated with the simple, warm domesticity on display. Tosh and Owen focused their own attentions on Jack.
“He’s so happy to have her with him for any amount of time,” Tosh gently prompted. “He’s so grateful.”
Owen simply scowled at the Captain pointedly.
“But,” Jack started and then shut his mouth. He nodded instead and made to turn back to the scene.
“Nope. We’ve got places to be,” Owen said, taking his arm.
This time, they flew. It felt like flying, anyway, with the cold crackle of wind biting at his cheeks. It was a great surprise to Jack, while listening to the moaning of the gale, to hear a lighthearted laugh. It was a much greater surprise to recognize that laugh as his own grandson's and to find himself in a bright, dry, gleaming room with Tosh and Owen standing by his side.
The room had been decked out in Christmas finery. A tree stood in the middle of the parlor, the majority of its decorations crafted by the tiny hands of a child (and they were all the more magical for it!). Some, he recalled while he took note of them, had been made by Alice when she herself was a child. It warmed him unexpectedly to see that she had kept them.
Tosh and Owen began to walk into the kitchen and he followed after them. They stood in the doorway, Owen resting his hand affectionately on Tosh’s shoulder for the briefest of moments. As he approached, they made room for him to enter.
Stephen was sitting at the table, his hands cupping a warm mug of cocoa while his legs dangled and swung excitedly from the chair. Alice was checking the turkey in the oven, leaning over to baste and prod at it. Jack wondered if her mother had taught her that, had spent Christmas day in the kitchen by her side showing her how to best prepare a holiday feast.
“But why does he have to work on Christmas?” Stephen was asking her, his eyes staring into the cup he held.
“Because he has a very important job, love. He does work that protects everyone.”
“Like a constable?”
“Like a constable,” Alice agreed, turning around to smile at her son as she wiped her hands on a towel. He smiled back.
“I asked Father Christmas to bring him something,” Stephen said after a few seconds of silence. “Do you think he will?”
“I’m sure of it. But only if Uncle Jack’s been as good a boy as you’ve been,” she winked at Stephen and he giggled.
Owen, however, was in a near hysterical fit of laughter. “Looks like you aren’t getting a thing, then.”
Jack silenced him with a look.
“I miss him,” Stephen confessed.
“Me too, love. But we’ll see him soon. I promise.”
It didn’t look like she meant it and her sad eyes broke Jack’s heart. He’d have to be sure to come out here and see them both before New Year’s. He promised himself that he would as he walked over to ruffle Stephen’s hair, before remembering that he couldn’t.
“Come on,” Tosh said softly. “One more place to visit.”
This time Jack grabbed her hand before she could make a move of her own. She smiled at him while Owen grasped his shoulder and then everything faded into a blur.
They alighted from their flight in front of a rough house with which he was entirely unfamiliar. He did, however, recognize the car in the driveway. His stomach lurched for a moment with a feeling he didn’t wish to acknowledge and he squeezed Tosh’s hand.
“It’s his sister’s place,” she explained, amusement in her voice.
As they entered the house, Rhiannon was taking Ianto’s coat with a scowl on her face that was quite obviously an inherited family trait.
“Decided to show up after all?”
“Hmm,” he nodded. “Sorry, Rhi. Had to stay late at work.”
“Ah, well, in that case,” she rolled her eyes. “I’ll warm a plate for you. Johnny has the kids out. They should be back soon. Sit down.”
Walking into the kitchen and taking the chair that she had indicated, he seemed to relax a little. His sister was bustling about the small space, preparing him a plate of their leftover Christmas dinner. It was such a hodgepodge of foods that Jack couldn’t even begin to identify them all. The looks on Owen’s and Tosh’s faces indicated that they were just as perplexed.
“You know,” she was saying, “I said you could’ve brought him.”
“Brought who?” Ianto hadn’t been paying attention. Instead, he had been staring at the stove as though it were the most intriguing piece of benevolent alien tech he had ever seen.
“The Prince of Wales!” She shook her head, laughter in her rolling eyes. “Jack, you dolt.”
“Why would I bring Jack?”
“Because I told you to. And because you’re clearly thinking about him right now.”
He raised an eyebrow at her. “Oh? And how can you tell?”
“You’ve got that wistful, space cadet look on your face again.”
He blushed and dug into the food that she had set in front of him. She watched him eat for a few moments and then sighed dramatically after he finally slowed down.
“What?” he asked, setting his fork down on the plate politely.
“When did you last eat?”
“Six." He paused. “This morning.”
Rhiannon shook her head solemnly before questioning him further. “Why wouldn’t you bring Jack?”
“It’s not the sort of thing we do,” he stated bluntly.
“Is that so?”
“Well, it’s not the sort of thing he’d do. And he isn’t much a fan of the holidays.”
She harrumphed and crossed her arms over her chest. They stayed there while he finished his meal. When he had, she brought the plate to the sink. Ianto crossed the kitchen with her and leaned against the counter casually. As she was rinsing the dish clean, the front door opened and pounding, excited footsteps could be heard galumphing through the tiny house.
“Mum! Mum! Uncle Ianto?” he heard Mica call.
“In here,” his sister shouted back.
Mica bolted into the kitchen and almost ran straight into Ianto. She stopped short and stared unflinchingly up at him.
“Uncle Ianto, you brought presents, right?” she demanded.
He laughed as Rhi swatted her playfully with a kitchen towel.
“Yes, of course. They’re under the tree,” he promised, shooting his sister an amused look above the little one’s head.
Mica froze for a split second before changing course to the living room. As she ran, she shouted, “They’re under the tree! Hurry!”
Johnny came into the kitchen next, nodding to Ianto as he opened the refrigerator to remove a beer.
“Want one?” he asked.
After a moment’s hesitation, Ianto nodded. Johnny took a bottle, opened it and handed it to him.
“Where’s your bloke, then?” Johnny asked between swigs.
“Not coming,” he replied shortly as he walked into the living room to watch his niece and nephew open their gifts. Rhi looked pointedly at Johnny and the two followed him in.
Jack was watching with such focus, his eyes wide with awe and his lips frowning in frustration.
“What is it?” Tosh asked and rested a hand on his arm.
“I didn’t think he actually wanted me to come. He just told me that I’d been invited and then he dropped the subject.”
“Generally, you’re supposed to respond to invitations,” Owen said.
“If I knew he’d really wanted me to come, I would’ve. Really,” he protested as he continued to watch the family interact. Mica had crawled into
Ianto’s lap and he was reciting a Christmas story to her as her brother was opening his last gift.
“I’ve never seen him like this,” he whispered.
“Well,” Tosh muttered with an uncharacteristic snort, “maybe if you opened your eyes more often, you would.”
“Hey! That’s my line.” Owen’s face collapsed into a fake pout and Jack felt firmly chastised.
“I still have time to make it right.” He looked at them. “I do, don’t I?”
“I see an empty bunk in the future, a man alone nursing a missed opportunity,” Owen intoned, then paused. “But what the hell do I know?” He shrugged.
“Please, tell me there’s a chance!”
The strange bell he had heard earlier sounded once more. Jack looked about him for Tosh and Owen, but they weren’t there. As the last stroke of the chimes ceased to vibrate, he lifted up his eyes. There in front of him walked a solemn Phantom, draped and hooded, coming towards him like a mist along the ground.