AUTHOR NOTES: This is the last chapter of this fic, and of this series. Some of you have been asking me if I'll be writing anymore from this Series and the answer is I don't have any multi-chapter fics planned for the moment, but there will be a couple of one-shots no doubt. Look out for a Christmas one coming along very soon. I'll label them all as belonging to the 'Footprints in the Sand' series so you'll be able to identify them. Thank you to all of you that have stuck with this, and commented all the way through. It means a lot. :)
Unspecified Time and Date
There was an unhealthy whine to the little boy's voice, which never boded well. It was going to be one of those questions.
Finlay Lloyd looked over the top of his newspaper down at his son who was sat on the floor in the living room, browsing through old photo albums that his wife Beth had dragged down from the attic earlier on that morning. She was in a spring-cleaning mood, even though Finlay had reminded her it was in actual fact summer. He'd gotten a glare for his troubles and boxes shoved into his arms that he was told to sort out while she was out that evening with friends.
"Who's who?" Finlay asked, leaning forward on the couch so he could see the photo his son was looking at more clearly. The little boy picked up the album though, dragging it across the floor and climbing up onto the couch beside his father before pointing at the picture again.
Finlay set his newspaper aside. "Well you know who that is on the right don't you? Granny's got a picture up on her mantel with him in."
"Is that Great Uncle Ianto then?" The boy asked, fingers that Finlay hoped were clean, moving over the image of his 'Uncy Yan'.
"It is," Finlay confirmed before he pointed out the boy in the middle, "and that's me in the middle when I was a bit younger than you are now."
"Who's that then?"
Finlay smiled, almost rivalling the grin that was smiling out at him from the page. "That is Captain Jack Harkness. Or Uncle Jack to me, even though he and Uncle Ianto were never married."
"Is he still alive?" The boy asked, eyes moving to the other pictures on the page of his great Uncle Ianto and his father building pebble sandcastles on a beach in Aberystwyth.
Finlay frowned. It had been years since he'd heard from his Uncle Jack. They'd kept in touch long after his Uncle Ianto had died, but then he just sort of vanished off the face of the planet one year and Finlay hadn't really thought to question it. He must ask his mother if she still heard from Jack.
"I don't know, he'd be very old now if he was still around." Finlay replied, continuing to look at the pictures as his son continued to flick through the album. It was like a flicker book, watching himself grow up very quickly. He could remember sitting on his Uncle's living room floor adding to the photo album when they had a quiet moment, his Uncle's neat handwriting adorning the margin's until it suddenly changed, became his own wobbly handwriting and his Uncle seemed to disappear from the photos all together.
"Do you still miss him? Is that why you named me after him?" Ianto asked, looking up at his father with wide innocent eyes.
"I do," Finlay smiled nostalgically down at his son, kissing his forehead, "He and Uncle Jack used to take me and your Aunt on lots of adventures, they used to tell great stories as well."
"Can you remember any of them?" Ianto asked, glancing up at his father briefly but he was back to being engrossed in the photos in front of him that now depicted Jack, Ianto, his mother, his little sister and himself all holding ice creams as they smiled for the camera. At least that was what it had meant to depict, what the photograph had actually caught was his Uncle Ianto with ice cream on his nose, flapping his hands wildly, his Uncle Jack laughing heartily, his mother rolling her eyes while smirking, his little sister turning to crawl into Uncle Ianto's lap and himself still staring resolutely at the camera as if by sheer willpower he could make the photo presentable.
"Any of the stories?" Finlay asked as he watched his son turn the page, unearthing more memories. "Of course, I think Uncle Ianto wrote some of them down," Finlay said, reaching for the box with one hand to drag it closer to the sofa, "why, would you like to hear one?" Finlay asked as he delved into the dusty depths of the box.
Ianto nodded, turning to look at his father expectantly, "Does it involve dragons and sword fighting, and ninjas, and pirates?"
Finlay laughed. Ianto reminded him so much of himself as a child sometimes. "There's no ninjas or pirates, but there's fighting and mythical creatures."
Ianto settled back into the couch, pulling the photo album with him. Finlay noticed that his Uncle Ianto was no longer in the pictures and Uncle Jack, when he was evident in pictures, seemed to linger in the background like he didn't quite know what he was doing there anymore.
"Can I get one with lots of blood and gore and death?" Ianto asked, a hopeful look on his face. Finlay sighed, he knew just which story to tell. The last one he remembered his Uncle Jack telling him.
"Once Upon A Time," Finlay started.
"Lame." Ianto interrupted, turning back to the photo album.
"It gets better, now do you want to hear this story or not?"
Ianto shrugged non-committaly. Finlay took that as an indication to continue.
"Once upon a time there was a King called Ianto who lived in his castle with Sir Jack, his most favoured Knight, as well as his family, Princess Rhiannon, Princess Rona and Prince Finn."
"Does that mean I'm the King then?" Ianto asked, turning to look at his father, suddenly interested in the story again now he appeared to be in it.
"It's technically your great Uncle who's King and you may not be so willing to be King Ianto when you find out what happens to him."
"Oh," Ianto said, bowing his head slightly in disappointment.
"They all lived happily in a castle in Wales, and always would do, or so they thought. Sir Jack had a terrible secret though and he knew that one day King Ianto would have to make a terrible sacrifice in order to save his family and his kingdom. Sir Jack knew that King Ianto would die in battle to save his nephew, Prince Finn,"
Finlay could still remember the day like it was yesterday when his Uncle Jack had sat on the edge of his bed, eyes red ringed from crying, trying to explain in his own unique way why Uncle Ianto was dead, and Finn had wanted to rage at him for sugar coating it with fairy tales. But something struck Finlay as he retold the tale of his Uncle's downfall to his son with the same icing on top – all those fairytales that his Uncle Ianto and Jack had spent years telling to Finn and his sister hadn't been fairy stories at all. Every one had been true, every single one had happened, and Jack hadn't been sugar coating Uncle Ianto's death, he'd been reassuring Finn that Uncle Ianto had died a hero, had died protecting what he loved the most – his family. He could also distinctly remember Uncle Jack's parting words before he left.
"It doesn't hurt any less when you're a grown up."
"Ianto!" Finlay called, turning in a circle in Bute Park, searching blindly for his son. He'd just vanished, one minute they were feeding the ducks and the next minute.
No reply. But as Finlay turned one more time, drawing the looks of passers by he caught a flash of a blue coat he remembered so well.
He stopped in his tracks, watching as a familiar face moved through the crowd towards him, shocked to find him no older than when Finlay had last laid eyes on him, years previously. There was no smile on his face.
"Uncle Jack?" Finlay asked, a confused tone to his voice as Jack stopped in front of him.
"What are you-? How?" Finlay flailed for words for a moment, hoping that Jack would jump in with an explanation. "I've lost Ianto."
A smile flickered onto Jack's face, showing crows feet round his eyes now that seemed to sparkle with as much life as Finlay remembered. He shook his head once, still smiling.
"Look at that, the boy's gone." Jack said softly, his tentative smile now beaming, reaching his eyes and lighting them up.
"Yes!" Finlay yelled, frustrated, he didn't care that people were staring now. "My son is gone!"
"No," Jack shook his head again, "you, you grew up." Jack reached out a hand for Finlay's cheek, his thumb running down it in a soothing gesture of comfort. Jack's hand slid down from his cheek before it was resting over Finlay's heart. Jack closed his eyes and Finn was getting frantic now, he didn't have time for sentimental reunions.
Finlay spun on the spot as he heard Ianto calling his name behind him. He swung round to find his son standing there looking up slightly wide eyed at his father like he'd been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
"Oh thank god," Finlay knelt down, hugging his son close to his chest. "Don't you ever do that again!"
"Sorry," Ianto apologised, looking over his father's shoulder at the very familiar face before him. Yet as Finlay swung round to regard Jack again he was gone. Finlay searched fruitlessly through the crowd but there was no sign of Jack anywhere.
"Where've you been?" Finlay demanded, turning back to his son, sudden anger outweighing his worry.
Ianto shrugged non-committaly again, looking confused. "Nowhere, just here."
Finlay frowned, watching his son for a long moment before he decided not pursue his questioning. He wanted to spend more time searching for his Uncle Jack again, but it seemed far too odd for Jack to be back exactly the same as Finlay remembered him over thirty years ago. He sighed, pulling himself to his feet, before grasping Ianto's hand in his own, certain that he was never going to let go of him again.
"Come on let's get home to your Mam, she'll be wondering where we've got to." Finlay said as he led the way out of the park.
"If we lived in the park we wouldn't have to go home, 'cause then we'd always be at home." Ianto piped up after a moment, following his father obediently across the manicured lawns towards the wrought iron gates. Finlay chuckled before he turned to look at Ianto.
"Maybe this is home," Finn whispered conspiratorially. "Maybe this is where King Ianto's castle is."
Ianto laughed, "Maybe that's why they had huge gates to get in, but the castle is guarded by magic powers so no one can see it and it only comes out at night so that –"
Never grow up. Finlay thought as he listened to his son rambling on about King Ianto's magical castle as they walked back towards the city centre to get the bus home.
Never ever grow up.