Note: I hid 22 titles of Christmas songs in this story. There is a list of them at the end so you can check if you found everything
It was the end of November. This time of year had crept up on Rhys again. Hadn't it been summer just recently? But now, if you drove just a bit outside Cardiff, you were greeted by a white winter wonderland. Children pleaded: "Let it snow!" And when it did, they left their X-boxes and built Frosty, the Snowman.
The shops were decorated nicely with silver bells and lights and the sellers told everyone: "We wish you a merry Christmas!"
And Rhys had no idea which present Gwen would like.
Last Christmas he had gotten a bottle of perfume on the 24th of December. There had been no time in the weeks before Christmas, as work was very busy. Everyone wanted their deliveries in time. But he had seen that Gwen only feigned her joy. "Smells very good!", she'd told him with a bit too much enthusiasm, and then gave him a very thoughtful and personal gift. He'd never felt more ashamed.
That's why he wanted to have THE perfect gift this year.
But who could he ask for advice? None of his friends seemed to know about women and gifts. Maybe one of Gwen's friends? Since she joined Torchwood, she was more there than at home. One should assume that they knew her well enough to give him a little hint. But who should he ask?
Jack? Did they even celebrate Christmas, wherever he came from? Rhys was doubtful.
If Owen was still alive, he surely would have lots of ideas – playing cards with naked men maybe, or a hot policewoman's uniform, which would be more a gift for Rhys, then. After Owen's and Tosh's death Rhys had spent a lot of nights with Gwen on the couch, listening to all her little stories, when she couldn't sleep. To celebrate Christmas without her friends surely would be hard for her.
The only one left was Ianto, then. Rhys often had no idea what this quiet young man was thinking, but it was obvious that both Gwen and Jack always listened when he said something.
When they spent their usual Friday at the Bowling Center, Rhys took the opportunity to talk to Ianto in a corner. "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas", he started, then he did not know how to continue. But Ianto seemed to have telepathy among his many talents.
„You don't know which gift to buy for Gwen", he stated, while doing his shoelaces. He then looked up to Rhys. Rhys merely nodded. Ianto seemed to consider the question carefully.
"I do have an idea but it won't be an easy task", he warned. Then he explained further what he had in mind. Rhys was astonished. He never would've thought that Gwen would like something like that. But surely it didn't hurt to try it out?
When he came home the next evening Gwen already was home. That did not happen very often. And she had been busy. The flat smelled wonderful. "Are those biscuits?" he asked and gave Gwen a kiss. Gwen kissed him back passionately and if they weren't careful, the biscuits would burn. For a moment Rhys was tempted to not care, but then he remembered Gwen's gift. There weren't many days left till Christmas Eve.
So he withdrew carefully. „I have some work left to do", he told Gwen. He really felt sorry when he saw her face. They usually did not lie to each other.
Gwen lost her temper. „For once I came home early to spend time with you, and you have to work?"
„And how often did I eat alone while you were busy catching monsters?", Rhys yelled back. He actually didn't want to fight, but it was true. If they compared who waited more and longer for the other, he surely would win.
"Good, if you're busy, then I can go and catch a few more monsters, as you put it!" And the door closed after Gwen. Rhys sighed, switched off the oven, then went to the next room and got out all the tools he had gotten from Ianto. He also had explained how to use everything. Rhys was determined to finish what he started.
It became a very silent night for him.
Finally the Holy Eve arrived. Rhys looked around the decorated flat. Mistletoe and holly really do look wonderful, he thought. He peered at Gwen who dreamily looked into the candle flames.
„Santa Claus is coming to town", he teased her. „Have you been good so you will get lots of gifts?"
Gwen looked at him as if awakening from a dream. Then her eyes became even bigger than they usually were. „Oh holy night!", she stammered. „I… I have to go. Torchwood – don't wait for me!" And again Rhys looked at a closing door. 'It's cold outside', he thought, 'couldn't Jack let them at least have Christmas off?' Funny, he actually hadn't heard Gwen's mobile phone ring.
When Rhys awoke on the morning of the 25th of December, he saw many little Suzy Snowflakes dancing outside their window. The snow, which had thawed once already, was coming back. They would indeed have a white Christmas.
Rhys bent over Gwen who was still asleep, and gave her a kiss. "Get up, get up and see - it's a marshmallow world!" Then he opened a window, got some snow from the sill and threw this improvised snowball after Gwen. Who said "Ew!" and run out of the sleeping room.
Rhys ran after her as he did not want to miss the big moment. Gwen already had found her lovingly wrapped present. Still clad in her pajamas she sat down at the ground and started to unwrap it. Rhys sat next to her and put an arm around her. Then they both looked at page after page of the photo album he had cu t, decorated and glued on so many evenings.
The pictures showed Gwen and him, sometimes her parents or their friends, and memories of many nice moments, which already had been forgotten, returned. Often, when Rhys had accidentally cut his fingers while creating it, he hadn't believed that a woman like Gwen would be impressed by such a simple thing, but when he now saw her happy eyes he knew that all the hard work had not been in vain.
On the last page he had added a travel voucher. It had been ages since the two of them had spent a nice holiday somewhere. Surely they would find a nice place to go.
When Gwen had reached the last page, she just quietly lowered her head, instead of enthusiastically thanking him. Rhys had no idea what triggered this odd reaction. He was even more confused when she rose and got out her gift for him.
While he opened, he kept looking at Gwen, but her face was an unreadable mask.
When he finally opened the box, he couldn't help but laugh out loud. Apparently that was the last thing Gwen expected, and when he saw her mouth hanging open, he only laughed more. It took a long time till he caught his breath. Torchwood, ha! Someone obviously had gotten a very last-minute present yesterday evening!
But Gwen really seemed close to tears. "I'm sorry, since we're only three of us at work we can hardly cope, the rift has been like crazy the past months, and I always thought there still was time, and then it suddenly the Holy Eve had arrived and…"
Rhys took Gwen in his arms. "Come on, it's not the end of the world, all I want for Christmas is you!", he tried to cheer her up. The smile still played around his lips. "Let's have breakfast, our parents will soon arrive."
Then he put a piece of chocolate into his mouth.
A few hours later both of them were running through the flat like headless chickens while trying to bring some order into the chaos. "Have the candles been lit?", Gwen asked, while Rhys tried to put the wrapping paper into the bin. The door bell already was ringing. Outside stood parents and parents-in-law, loaded with parcels and packets, wishing "Merry Christmas everybody!" The flat suddenly was filled with laughter. As much as annoying they could be sometimes, Rhys couldn't imagine being able to have a wonderful Christmastime without the family.
Everyone praised the photo album and his creativity, and Rhys felt a bit embarrassed. He was waiting for the bell to announce that the turkey was finally finished.
Half an hour later he was put out of his misery. He carved it and gave everyone a piece on their plate. After doing some Christmas crackers and putting on the obligatory paper hats, they started with the meal and all the bowls and extra dishes.
Only when the Queen did her usual Christmas speech on the TV they went quiet for a while to listen. "During Christmas we all should think about the people who are alone", she said. "Do they know it's Christmas? Why don't you invite your neighbor to spend the evening with him? Nobody should be alone at Christmas time. Happy Christmas!" Afterwards someone sung „Ave Maria".
Some time later, – Rhys just had gotten a big spoon full of Plum pudding – his mother asked in all innocence: "What did Gwen actually give to you, Rhys?" He took some time to think of an answer, then announced: "She gave me so much that I couldn't wear it all at once!" He grinned at Gwen, who turned a bit crimson.
Luckily nobody asked for details and the conversation went on to new topics.
But Rhys still was grinning. Of course he never would tell anybody that Gwen had bought him two of those gift boxes with a tie and fitting socks.
But he would have blackmail material for the whole next year!
And here are all the songs used - have you found them all?
01 This time of year
03 Let it snow
04 Frosty the snowman
05 Silver Bells
06 We wish you a merry Christmas
07 Last Christmas
08 It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
09 Silent Night
10 Mistletoe and Holly
11 Santa Claus is coming to town
12 Oh Holy Night
13 It's cold outside
14 Suzy Snowflake
15 White Christmas
16 t's a Marshmallow World
17 All I want for Christmas is you
18 Merry Christmas everybody
19 Wonderful Christmastime
20 Do they know it's Christmas?
21 Happy Christmas
22 Ave Maria
Maybe somebody wants to sing with me? No? Thought so ;)