Author's notes: Well, here it is. The next story in the series. I hope it doesn't disappoint. This takes place *much* later and it will be obvious fairly early on. Anyway, thanks to everyone who read "Christmas With the Jones." This is for ya'll. Don't be afraid to point out mistakes. And, oh yeah, you don't have to read the first one, but it would help a lot - there is a bit of carryover going on...Enjoy!
"That was Gwen," Ianto said, coming around the corner to check on Jack's progress. "Are you almost ready? She and Rhys are sitting at the pub waiting on us."
"Yeah, yeah," Jack waved him on. "I don't know about this, though." His eyes were sparkling, something Ianto had come to realize was Jack holding in a feeling he should just let out.
"Come on, they would have wanted us to celebrate their lives," Ianto stood behind Jack, folding his arms around the man. "You know that as well as I do."
Jack nodded, grateful for the warm arms encircling him. "I know." He sighed heavily. "But it still doesn't seem right."
Ianto met Jack's eyes in the mirror. "No, what happened wasn't right, nor was it fair. But to forget them isn't fair either." There was a moment of silence as the two looked at their reflections. "We look good." Ianto pointed out.
Jack chuckled. "I have ruined you, Ianto Jones." He turned to face him.
"You did no such thing." Ianto corrected, leaning to give Jack a gentle kiss. The watch Jack was wearing caught his eye. "You aren't wearing that are you?"
Jack looked at the offending timepiece. "I thought I would – what's wrong with it?"
Ianto wrinkled his nose. "It doesn't go – not with the cufflinks, not with anything."
"Then what do you propose?" Jack let his arms go heavy.
Ianto let go of him and went to root around in his drawer, finding a watch case in it. "Here's something – though I can't for the life of me remember why I put it in here." He opened the box. "Anyway, this would go good."
Jack raised an eyebrow at the offered watch. "Are you sure? It's not really my style."
Ianto glared at him. "Put it on. I don't want to be late."
Jack rolled his eyes. "Fine, but you owe me."
"Whatever, let's go." Ianto had the keys in his hands, jingling them.
Ianto parked and the two of them walked the short distance to the pub where the Cooper-Williams' were waiting. Ianto did one last check to make sure he had everything and reached for Jack's hand. Jack willingly took it.
"There they are," Jack pointed out as soon as they were inside. "Looks like they got started without us."
"You know Gwen," Ianto sighed. "A Welshwoman through and through."
"Yeah, look, Ianto, about that..." Jack started, but the other man knew what he was going to say.
"I know, Jack." He looked almost defeated. "It's hard enough to cope with – I promise no more than two drinks." Jack squeezed his hand. "Besides, someone will have to take your sorry ass home. All three of you. And I get picture rights."
"What makes you think I am going to drink too much?" Jack asked in a whisper as they walked closer to Gwen and her husband.
"Because Torchwood is going to buy round after round – until it doesn't hurt anymore."
"Ianto, there is not enough alcohol in the whole of Great Britain, let alone Wales to make the pain go away."
"But you can try." Ianto was serious, but plastered on a smile as they approached the table.
Gwen stood to hug the men; Rhys gave a formal nod. Jack and Ianto slid into the booth opposite the couple and there was silence again.
"What will you have?" Rhys asked, starting to stand.
"I'll get it," Ianto volunteered, putting his hand on Rhys' shoulder. "Torchwood is footing the bill anyway." He looked at what they were already drinking and indicated the glasses with his head. "More of the same?"
"Thanks, mate," Rhys said, picking up the drink and draining the last third.
Ianto nodded in his quiet way. "And you Jack? The same as them?" Jack didn't answer, he only stared at the table. Ianto didn't wait for him to snap out of it before he was on his way to the bar. Four pints later, he was on his way back to the table.
He sat down to Jack telling his favorite Owen story – the one where he had taken the medic on what amounted to nothing more than a glorified snipe hunt. It was during his first week and he was trying to test the man's combat reflexes.
"So I say to him – thanks, Yan – I say to him: Owen, I think I heard something around that corner." Jack smiled at the appearance of Ianto. "And what do you think he did?" Gwen and Ianto already knew the ending to the story, but kept quiet for Rhys' benefit. "That fool – he looks at me and says: Today is a good day to die...and he marches around the corner, all strut and no brains..." He took a long drink from the lager in from of him.
"That's an apt description of Owen," Gwen agreed, taking a drink of her own, not forgetting to raise the glass in a short toast to the departed.
"To Owen," Ianto muttered, unsure of what else could be said.
"To Owen," the group agreed.
Rhys knit his eyebrows together. "What about Tosh, she was quiet, wasn't she?"
The three remaining Torchwood members burst into laughter. "It's the quiet ones you have to watch," Jack answered. "She had a mean streak in her."
"She did?" Rhys was confused. He couldn't see the beautiful demure woman he had met on a few occasions as anything different than quietly understated.
Gwen nodded, smiling widely. "Oh yes, Rhys. There wasn't a week that went by that she wasn't pulling some trick on one of us."
"All true," Ianto took his first drink, noticing Jack watching him out of the corner of his eye. "One time, she called me over to look at something and, while I was reading, she stapled my tie to one of the files on her desk. My navy one with the dots..."
"And there was that one time she glued that scalpel to the autopsy tray. Owen spent a good hour reaching for it on mistake," Gwen put in.
"She time sealed my office once," Jack reminisced. "I think she did half of the things just because she could..."
"She would never do them out of hate," Ianto whispered. "She loved us too much."
"To Tosh," Rhys toasted, trying to lighten the mood a little, but everyone knew it was going to be a long night.
"To Tosh!" The cheer went up and Ianto noticed they would be needing another round.
Jack looked around uncertainly. He had no idea where he was and there was nothing familiar about any of the beings that were around him. Nothing from the manuals he had briefly skimmed as a Time Agent – at least nothing there had been pictures of. He was most assuredly in a bazaar of some kind; much like you would find in those old Indiana Jones holograms they would watch for giggles back in the early days of the agency. Blue tarps covered the sides of the endless lines of stalls to keep the dust out, and as a wind picked up from somewhere unknown, Jack was suddenly reminded of home. He paused, thinking that he caught a familiar smell wafting in his direction.
Jack brushed away the memory and looked around again, desperate for some clue as to where he had woken up. Still nothing came to him, so he sighed, held his head high and walked like he knew where he was. After peering at a few of the wares offered for sale, out of the corner of his eye he saw a female figure running toward him, her face covered. There were three men in pursuit of her, closing in fast.
Feeling his sense of chivalry getting the best of him, he casually leaned a little too hard on one of the food vendor's stalls and caused it to bow and collapse as the female ran by, cutting the men off from their chase. Without even giving it another thought, he followed her as best he could. He had to know who this woman was and what she had done to be chased.
Out of nowhere, he was pulled toward her, and the smell he found so familiar. She yanked him with her as she snaked through the market place; all the while Jack tried to get a good look at her face, but she was moving too quickly. That is, until she freed the veil from her face and smiled a feline smile. Jack faltered for a moment, but caught himself quickly. There was something in her eyes that was welcoming, something he could appreciate.
"Come on, this way," she purred, pulling him into a doorway he hadn't noticed until now.
"We? You're the one running," Jack tried to remind her, but she pressed a furred digit to his lips.
"I feel my life just like a river running through..." she murmured to him, adding to the mystery of who she was and what was going on. "Come on."
She led him down what looked to be an abandoned corridor to a sparsely decorated room. Jack blinked. It was such a contrast to the teal silk with delicate silver threads running through it that clung to her in all the right ways. There were boxes that had been ripped open strewn around carelessly, forgotten.
"You live here?" Jack was in the process of being pushed into a chair as he asked.
"Frequently," she answered, removing the scarf she had had wrapped about her head.
Jack could now see that she was indeed feline in form, thought she walked on her hind legs – hind legs that were shapely and more humanoid than not. And, he noted, she had no tail. Jack quickly took stock of the situation. He could either say his goodbyes and leave this woman, or – and this seemed the most sensible,he could stay on and find out what was going on in more detail. He took the route he was more familiar with and settled in.
"Well, are you going to say something or try and figure me out?" It was terribly cliched, but, to Jack, it sounded as if she were purring her words.
Jack awoke with a start, checking to see if he were still in the concrete-walled room, only to find that he wasn't. He was in the room that he now shared with Ianto, and had for a few months now. But Ianto wasn't there.
"Ianto?" Jack called out, throwing the covers back. "Ianto? You still here?"
"In the kitchen." Ianto called back and Jack could almost hear him rolling his eyes. "I thought you would want your morning coffee."
"Yeah," Jack said, wiping a hand over his face, trying to focus on what was real while trying to hold onto the dream he had. "It's just that I had the weirdest dream." He slid into a chair and waited for the mug to be set in front of him.
"Was it the one about the lovely couple who hauled out that zero-gee version of the Kama Sutra and persuaded you to join them?" Ianto placed a steaming cup of coffee on the table followed by a plate of toast.
Jack dove into the toast. "Don't forget 'pop-up'."
"What?" Ianto reached for his own slice.
"It was a zero-gee pop-up edition of the Kama Sutra. And, no. It was about – I don't really know – but it felt so real." Jack took a slug from his drink.
"Maybe you drank too much last night," Ianto suggested, sitting across from him.
"No," Jack insisted, "It was more than that. It was a little too real."
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"I don't think I remember enough of it."
"Then, let's get ready and get to the Hub." Ianto stood and wiped his hands on his pajama bottoms. "You can tell me if you think of it."
"Okay," Jack laid his head on the table. "But, can you stop the room from spinning first – it would be a whole lot easier to get back to the bedroom that way."
Ianto put his hand on Jack's back. "A bit hung-over this morning, sir?"
Jack looked up and him with puppy-dog eyes. "How much did I drink?"
"You'll know when you sign the expense account report." Ianto laughed a little to himself. "Now, come on and let me help you. We have to go and feed and water the kids."
Jack stood. "You're too good for me, you know that, right?"
"Yes," Ianto let Jack hold onto his shoulders as they made their way down the hall at an odd shuffling rate. "I have come to terms with it – you should too."
"I love you, Ianto." Jack said as he sat on the bed. "I mean it. Why do you put up with me?"
"Because, Jack." Ianto answered, taking the clothes they were going to wear out of the wardrobe, "I love you." They exchanged goofy morning smiles. "And besides, no one else would have you..."