Author: sariagray Artist: thebuttonontop
Chapter: Stave Five of Five + Epilogue (Complete)
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: ~2200/~200 for these chapters, ~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: And it is done. Look for the .pdf to be posted sometime tomorrow. I love you all dearly and hope you have the happiest Christmas ever (and if you don't celebrate, have the happiest Saturday ever!).
(Stave One) (Stave Two) (Stave Three) (Stave Four)
Yes! and the blanket was his own. The bed was his own, the room was his own. Best and happiest of all, the Time before him was his own, to make amends in.
His momentary elation was shattered as the image of Ianto, cloaked in Death, rose up in his mind. He dwelled on it but a moment before letting it fade; there was work to be done. He rose from his bed and, turning on the nearest lamp, consulted his watch. It was going on half seven. In the morning, he hoped. Christmas morning, at that. Dressing quickly, he acquired his coat and left the Hub via the Tourist Information Office.
Stepping into that room, he allowed himself a chuckle at Ianto’s attempt to liven the place up for the holidays. A few strings of blinking red-and-green lights decorated the walls and a miniature Christmas tree, with appropriate miniature ornaments, stood on the counter. Looking closely at the ornaments, his heart almost stopped. Scattered amongst the classic baubles, there rested a tiny stethoscope, computer, coffee cup, heart, and what looked suspiciously like an attempt to be a Bristol Beaufighter. Toward the top, there was even a small pterodactyl. Jack was simultaneously touched at the gesture and amused that there really were ornaments for everything.
“I suppose you want me to take it down,” a familiar voice spoke, the tone somewhere between resigned and harsh, causing Jack to look up into the shadows of the room.
“Ianto,” he whispered. So soon after his dream, the very real form in front of him startled him with relief. He mentally shook himself to regain control. “What day is it?”
“December 25th. Christmas,” Ianto replied cautiously as he stepped forward in concern; not remembering the date was never a good sign when one worked for Torchwood.
Jack grinned, which frightened Ianto more.
“Is everything all right, sir?”
As soon as he heard Ianto distance himself from the relationship they shared, Jack knew he was still in trouble. Work to be done in spades, he reminded himself. He watched as Ianto crossed to the tiny tree and moved to dismantle it, eyeing Jack warily the whole time.
“No!” Jack cried. “Leave it! And everything’s fine. In fact, it’s wonderful. Come on, there’s a tree downstairs that needs finishing. Is anything open today? I need to get presents. And food. What does everyone like? Something has to be open.” Jack paused and looked at Ianto with such awe and reverence, the Welshman trembled. “You’re alive.”
He pulled Ianto close and held him tight, kissing his temple in a manner that meant more in that moment than any passionate press of lips.
“I thought I was, but now I’m not so sure,” Ianto responded, confusion etching strange grooves in his voice.
“I’m glad you’re here. We’ve a tree downstairs that needs decorating.”
Jack tugged insistently at Ianto’s hand.
“And the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day,” Ianto muttered as he followed Jack back into the Hub.
“What was that?” Jack called.
“Nothing! Did you want cocoa, then?”
Ianto would later swear that Jack’s face never exhibited more childish glee than at the moment. He finally let himself smile at the change (if it was something alien, it could wait until after Christmas to be sorted, thank you very much) as he went to prepare the beverages. He even chuckled as he heard Jack hum I’ll Be Home for Christmas.
When the tree was finally finished to both of their exacting standards (Jack insisting it look haphazardly cheerful, Ianto more concerned that it appear neat and not result in a safety hazard), Jack left Ianto to a series of tasks. He had shared his plans and was assured by Ianto that, despite being off-the-cuff like all of Jack’s plans, this one was decidedly good. The first task on the agenda was to inform Tosh and Owen that their presence was not required barring the end of the world; he was so happy, in fact, that he refused to retort when Owen snarked something about antlers and shagging.
Meanwhile, Jack sped the SUV to his daughter’s house, the meticulously wrapped presents he had intended to post crowding the back seat. As he pulled up the drive, tyres crunching against frostbitten leaves, dirt, and gravel, the front door to the house opened and Alice stepped out. She paused for a moment, letting Jack park, and then walked toward the vehicle with her arms folded over her chest.
“I thought you weren’t coming,” she said flatly as Jack bounded out of the SUV.
“Managed to get the time off.” He opened the back door. “Want to help me bring these in?”
She nodded and he handed her half of the packages, both struggling under the cumbersome shapes as they proceeded to the house.
Stephen was sat in front of the television watching as an array of popular Christmas characters paraded across the screen, singing familiar songs.
“Happy Christmas!” he called to his grandson.
“Uncle Jack!” the boy cried in response, scrambling to his feet and running to hug the man. “You made it!”
Jack laughed. “And I’ve brought presents.”
Alice and Jack placed the presents around the tree as Stephen excitedly showed off the gifts he had already received. Jack was grateful that he had purchased him no duplicate presents. As soon as the packages were all arranged, Stephen rushed toward them.
“Breakfast first,” Alice admonished cheerfully before turning to Jack. “You’ll stay?”
“Absolutely,” he smiled and gathered his daughter into a hug, kissing her on the cheek in the process.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
Ianto was rather pleased with himself. It had been a difficult task to find and prepare foods that would constitute a Christmas feast, but he had managed just that. It had only taken stops at four different locations scattered throughout the area, but he was finally back at his flat with bags of groceries, simmering pots, and a turkey in the oven. He checked his watch. Only an hour left before Jack arrived to pick him up. Less than three before Jack’s plan was put into place. He bustled around the kitchen, humming happily, if disjointedly, about his work.
Jack turned the key in the lock of Ianto’s door and stepped into his flat as quietly as he could. The smells of cooking accosted him and, despite the large breakfast upon which he had feasted only a few hours before, his stomach growled desperately. He snuck into the kitchen and watched as Ianto cooked and packed with determined focus.
As he rested against the wall, he cleared his throat and chuckled as Ianto jumped.
“Yes, smart thinking. Startle the man holding a big kitchen knife.”
“Sorry,” Jack grinned and went to him.
Ianto at least had the presence of mind to place the knife back on the cutting board before being swept into Jack’s arms for a lingering kiss that made him melt (though he swore to himself that it was just the heat and humidity of the kitchen that caused the reaction).
As they pulled away, Ianto glanced at the clock.
“Thought you might need help.”
“Thank you. Did you find anything open?” Ianto asked as he went back to the task at hand.
“Yeah, a few stores, actually. The economy’s so bad, many were open. We’ve time to wrap them back at the Hub. Not your present, though. That’s later,” he winked. “Oh, and I picked up the coats and things, dropped them off at the shelter.”
Ianto laughed. “You’ve been busy, Father Christmas.”
Jack grinned and grabbed some containers that had already been packed to take them to the SUV. He kissed Ianto’s cheek as he stepped out.
It hadn’t been difficult for Ianto to convince Tosh to come in. She even answered the cl with, “End of the world, then? I’m on my way,” thus drastically limiting the extensive tale Ianto had spent the afternoon concocting.
Owen, while not impossible to persuade, put on a decent show of being inconvenienced, muttering all the while. Ianto let him and remained silent so as not to blow his cover. It didn’t help that Jack was making ridiculous faces at him all the while.
Now came the hard part. Gwen.
“Ianto?” she answered the phone. “Is everything all right?”
“We’ve got a situation. We need you down here.”
“The rest of you can’t handle it?”
“I wouldn’t’ve called if we could,” he said, pitching his voice bitterly, trying not to laugh at Jack’s poor attempt at a Gwen impersonation.
“Is it really that serious?”
Getting annoyed, Jack grabbed Ianto’s mobile.
“Gwen, we need you down here. Now. Bring Rhys; we’ll need him, too,” he bellowed angrily into the phone before ringing off.
The two men looked at each other and fell gracelessly into fits of laughter. As they calmed down, they clung to each other and looked around the Hub. For a dank dungeon, it appeared rather cheery. Garland and lights were draped around the walls and the meal Ianto had prepared was assembled buffet style on the boardroom table. Jack had even used alien tech to keep it warm, though Ianto insisted there were probably less dangerous ways in which to do so. Given pride of place in the center of the spread was Ianto’s miniature tree (“Best ever,” Jack had insisted as he pressed his lips to Ianto’s forehead).
The larger tree in the main section of the Hub was trimmed to perfection, a multitude of well-wrapped gifts scattered artfully underneath. Jack had even managed to find (with Ianto’s knowledgeable assistance) an old Victrola and Christmas records to go with it. They tested it and found that the sound was more resonant and powerful than anything played over a computer, and it filled the Hub with scratchy, sonorous warmth. Ianto turned it back off and Jack went to the lift to wait, his arms folded across his chest and a scowl on his face.
A few moments later and the lift began its groan of descent. Ianto grinned; despite not being able to see his coworkers arrive from his station by the Victrola, he could accurately imagine their expressions. Tosh would be concerned, Owen would be frowning contritely, Gwen would look simultaneously peeved and anxious, and Rhys would be staring in wonder while trying to maintain a look of frustration.
That they all came down together was no surprise to Jack; he knew his team well and suspected that they had all gathered to complain and speculate before arriving.
“About time,” he growled. “The world is damn near ending and, what? You have to finish your Christmas dinner before deciding to show up?”
Tosh simply bit her lip and made a dash to her workstation. Jack stopped her with an outstretched hand.
“Bloody Hell, Harkness,” Owen complained. “It’s only been a quarter hour since Teaboy called. What do you want?”
“I expect you all to be at the ready in case of emergency, Owen. We don’t have the luxury of sitting around all day!”
Rhys was about to say something in response, his face growing red with anger that was decidedly not feigned, when Jack broke out into an easy grin.
“Which is why we’re all going to celebrate here!”
Music began to play, a light-hearted rendition of Jingle Bells performed by harp, dulcimer, and violin.
Four pairs of eyes stared at him unflinchingly, shock writ upon each of their faces in unique ways. Owen in particular looked like he was about to administer a battery of tests to check both Jack’s physical and mental condition before Ianto appeared, brandishing a tray of glasses filled with creamy eggnog.
“Not spiked,” Jack informed ruefully. “Just in case there is an emergency.”
They watched as Ianto set the tray down. Finally, a realization dawned on Gwen and she grinned broadly.
“I don’t know how you talked him into this, Ianto, but well done!”
“Oh, no,” he replied, holding his hands up in the air, palms out. “It was all his idea.”
Jack beamed as Rhys laughed heartily and Gwen gaped.
“Either way,” Rhys said as he approached the drinks and took one. “I’m not going to complain. C’mon, love, enjoy his good mood before it runs its course!”
As the team acknowledged his wise advice and did just that, Tosh noticed the tree. She gasped and covered her mouth in surprise.
“Like it?” Jack asked her and winked.
Jack kissed the top of her head affectionately and watched with pride as the others drew their attention to the bedecked conifer. The four circled it in awe and, as they exclaimed over its decoration, he approached Ianto whose face glowed with the same level of pride.
“Thank you,” Jack murmured before kissing him softly.
“Presents! There are even presents!” he heard Owen shout, more in consternation than glee, for he was beginning to worry that Jack had been possessed by a Christmas demon-alien-spirit thing.
Jack turned back to his team and laughed. “Yes, but eat first!”
They looked at him in confusion and the two conspirators ushered the remaining team into the boardroom where more exclamations of surprise and joy were uttered.
“Is it…safe to eat?” Gwen asked, remembering with trepidation the last time Jack had made a meal for them.
“Ianto made it,” Jack informed them happily. There was a collective sigh of relief as everyone grabbed plates and made for the food like a
plague of happy locusts.
As they did so, Ianto pulled Jack aside.
“I’m supposed to be at my sister’s in an hour or two, but I’ll be back after to help you clean up.”
Jack bit his lower lip with such uncharacteristic uncertainty that Ianto was startled.
“Is…is the invitation still open?”
“The -? Yes! Yes, of course. I…I would like you to come.”
“Good,” Jack smiled and kissed him. Ianto returned the kiss as though no one else were there. In fact, only when a roll made contact with Ianto’s head did either man remember where they were.
“Oi, get a room!” Owen shouted with a surprisingly good-natured smile as the others laughed happily.
“On it!” Jack jokingly made to pull Ianto out of the room. “Bring your plates. Ianto and I have to leave for a bit in an hour, so I want you to open presents now.” He didn’t have to tell them twice for they scampered out of the room faster than any emergency had ever prompted.
As they lagged behind, Ianto tugged on Jack’s arm for his attention.
“Before we go,” he began with a plotting smirk, “we’ve got to find a way to get Tosh and Owen together under some mistletoe.”
Jack laughed his agreement. Ianto left his side to join the others in gathering around the tree, seated on the floor like excited children.
Owen said something to Ianto that Jack couldn’t quite make out and the group laughed as Gwen propped herself against Rhys. Owen then handed Tosh a package, wrapped in unfamiliar paper that Jack was certain he hadn’t used. Her face lit up and Gwen shot her an excited smile. As Ianto began to hand out other packages, Jack intently watched as his team, his friends, his family, relaxed and enjoyed themselves.
“Will our benefactor be joining us, then?” Rhys called out, grinning.
Jack returned the grin and approached the group to sit behind Ianto, who leaned appreciatively back into him.
“Happy Christmas,” he said cheerfully to cover the contented wet shine in his eyes.
“Happy Christmas,” they chorused, not quite in unison but with matching genuine, bright smiles.
He glanced around once more at the tableau before him and knew that this would be an image he’d carry throughout all of time.
The Hub had been (mostly) cleaned up the night before. It was half ten and the others were finally strolling in, having been given permission to arrive later in the day.
After Jack and Ianto, who had spent the night at Ianto’s flat, Owen was the first to arrive. He still retained a bit of a smile as he walked to the refrigerator.
“Oi!” he cried out. “Ianto! Where’s the Venechyfrla sap? And my pizza?”
“Was it in a glass?” Ianto asked, approaching from behind.
“Yeah, why? What’d you do with it?”
“I didn’t do anything. But there’s an empty glass in the sink.”
Jack strode in. “What’s wrong?”
“It seems,” Owen began, a suspicious scowl breaking out on his face, “that someone drank the sap from the Venechyfrla plant I was saving. Harkness?”
Jack blanched. “That wasn’t milk?”
“No! And it’s highly hallucinogenic!”
“Well,” Jack shrugged. “That explains a lot, then.”
Ianto and Owen eyed him curiously before Owen stormed off, muttering something about how nothing was safe from Jack’s appetites.
“Do I want to know?” Ianto asked warily.
Jack considered the idea for a moment. “Nope,” he decided and kissed him quickly before retreating to his office in haste.
Ianto benevolently thought it best to let this one go, what with the spirit of Christmas and all.