Notes: The full oneshot for #15 out of 'Snapshots of Smiles'. Requested by WickedWitchoftheSE.
Disclaimer: I do not own Torchwood and I am not making any profit from this work.
A Semblance of Normality
Jack was more than a little disturbed to hear loud screaming from the other side of Ianto's flat door. If it hadn't been distinctly a young voice, he would have broken the door in without hesitation, but even Jack could recognise a toddler screaming its lungs out. He didn't know why Ianto would have a wailing toddler in his flat, but he was willing to wait a couple of minutes to find out.
And when Ianto opened the door, the volume escalated. Ianto had stuffed his ears with cotton buds, looked like he'd just rolled out of bed, was dressed in jeans and socks and not a lot else, and...had a baby on his hip. Which was screaming.
"Come in, if you dare," Ianto said, nonplussed, and retreated, bouncing the child with an expert's familiarity.
The kid could only have been about one and a half years old. Jack thought it was a girl, but it was difficult to tell at that age when parents just wouldn't be obliging and dress them in pink and blue. The little one was in dungarees and a stripy t-shirt, but there weren't any flowers or pictures of trucks or anything to give Jack a clue.
"What is that?" Jack demanded as Ianto burrowed a hand into a bag sitting on his sofa and withdrew a moth-eaten, mouldy-looking old blanket, stuffing it in the toddler's mouth abruptly. Instantly, the screaming stopped, it cooed happily, and settled.
"It's a baby," Ianto said, looking a little affronted. "Surely even you can tell the difference between a baby and an alien, Jack."
He wandered into the kitchen, leaving Jack to close the door, shed his boots and coat, and follow. At the kitchen table sat two more children, aged about five, both girls. And just as obviously twins. They grinned up at Jack happily, which creeped him out, and went back to scribbling enthusiastically all over Ianto's newspaper.
"I'm babysitting," Ianto said.
"Thank God," Jack said. "That would have been a brilliant affair you were hiding."
Ianto snorted and chuckled, shaking his head: "Me Mam wishes. No, these are Bronnie's kids. My sister."
"Bronnie...?" Jack frowned, and shook his head. "I remember Rhiannon from that Christmas, but not a Bronnie."
"Bronwen. Very giggly, lots of blonde hair, looks more like my sister-in-law than my sister. Her husband looks more like me than she does," and Ianto rolled his eyes.
"So these are your...nieces?" Jack guessed, then pointed at the baby. "That's a girl, right?"
"Er, no," Ianto said. "This would be Ryan. And I wouldn't point at him, he's got teeth and he knows how to use them."
Jack withdrew his hand hastily.
"Only three?" he asked hopefully.
"Six!" one of the twins yelled.
"Indoor voice," Ianto said abruptly.
"Six," she repeated, quieter. "Mummy says it'll be six!"
"Mummy is having another one," Ianto informed Jack. "Uncle Ianto thinks that Mummy is crazy and doesn't need any more, but Mummy begs to differ."
"She says she has to make up for you not having any," the little girl said gleefully, and Ianto laughed.
"Well, she's got me covered," he agreed. "Come on, then, Sophie. If Mummy has six children, and everybody else only has two children, who does Mummy make up for in our family?"
That completely threw 'Sophie', who scowled at her uncle and went back to her purple crayon drawings all over a report about the UEFA football results.
"I didn't even know you had such a big family," Jack said quietly.
Ianto shrugged and said, "I don't. Bronnie's the first. Rhi hasn't got any kids either, and there's only the three of us. And Tad passed on years ago now, so it's not a big family. Or it wasn't until the twins were born."
"...That makes...one kid every year," Jack guessed.
"Almost," Ianto agreed. "They've got five now, and a sixth on the way."
"So where are the other two?"
"One is at the hospital," Ianto said and grinned. "I told him what trees were for. So he climbed the one in Mam's garden and fell out and broke his leg."
"And the other one?"
"Asleep in my bed," Ianto said. "Thankfully. I can't handle a baby and an energetic three-year-old at the same time any more."
"You mean you used to?" Jack teased.
As if on cue, a high-pitched squeal came from somewhere else in the flat and Ianto groaned.
"Hold that," he said, bundling the baby into Jack's arms and disappearing. Which left Jack in a bit of an awkward position. In his long life, he had of course been exposed to children - but it had been a long time since. He had expected, really, his first new experience with kids to be when Gwen and Rhys finally got around to the 'raising a family' bit. Not in Ianto's flat, holding Ianto's eighteen-month-old nephew with the teeth and the really big blue eyes.
Jack wondered if this was what Ianto had looked like, twenty-four years ago.
Ryan had the same enormous blue eyes that Ianto had. And, like Ianto, it seemed that Ryan knew what to do with them, turning their powerful and hypnotic stare on Jack avidly and studying every angle of his face in detail. There, though, the similarity ended, as far as Jack could tell. Ryan's skin wasn't as white as Ianto's, and his hair was a strange light brown colour that was almost blond, but not quite.
"Having fun?" Ianto asked, appearing with an upside-down three-year-old boy in his arms, who was shrieking happily.
"Shake!" the boy demanded, and Ianto obliged until the little boy was red in the face. Easily, he was flipped the right way up and plonked on the kitchen counter.
"He hasn't bitten me yet," Jack admitted.
"He likes you," Ianto mocked. "Give him here, I'll need to get him fed soon or he'll start, and then we'll have a bloody chorus going in here."
Sophie - or was it the other one? - abandoned her drawing at the mention of 'fed' and tugged on Ianto's jeans, demanding food plaintively. When Ianto ignored her, getting a pot of baby paste out of the cupboard and instead preparing Ryan's...well, Jack supposed it passed for food for babies these days...the little girl did something Jack really wasn't prepared for.
She stood in front of him, tugged on his trousers to get his attention, stretched her arms towards him and said, "Up!"
"Up!" she demanded. And then her lower lip wobbled.
"Um..." Jack said.
"Jack isn't used to demanding little squirts, Sophie," Ianto said.
Apparently that was Ianto-speak for a scolding, because Sophie scowled and changed the demand to, "Up, please!"
"Good," Ianto said, then prodded Jack. "Go on."
"How do I...?"
"Come on, Jack, if you can pick me up, you can manage a five-year-old girl."
"You can pick up Uncle Ianto?" Sophie's eyes went wide. "Cool! Up!"
Well, apparently, Jack had to suck it up and deal with it, so he bent and lifted her. Even if he didn't really know what he was doing, Sophie did, and he ended up with her weight resting on his hip, her legs around his middle, and her arms firmly around his neck. She was also surprisingly heavy for a kid. He'd clearly totally forgotten the strain picking up children put on the lower back.
"He's taller than you, Uncle Ianto," Sophie said.
"I'm sure he is," Ianto said, and groaned when the doorbell rang. "Jack, could you? It's hopefully Bronnie to take the monsters out of my hands."
So Jack answered the door...and meeting Bronnie was perhaps worse than being surrounded by small children.
"I don't think your sister was too impressed by me," Jack commented.
He was leaning in the doorway of Ianto's bathroom, watching the young man as he brushed his teeth. He'd watched him shower too, but hadn't started anything, because every line of Ianto's body spoke of tiredness.
"At least it got...Sophie?...off me, though," Jack continued. "I haven't held a kid in ages. It hurt my back."
Ianto spat and snorted, "Oh, yeah, poor you. I have to do that every bloody Sunday. Why do you think I never complain about overtime?"
"So it's not my sexy, ravishable body?"
"Ravishable?" Ianto questioned, quirking an eyebrow in Jack's direction. "That's English?"
"I don't know," Jack said, winding his arms around Ianto's waist and kissing his neck. "You're good with kids, you know."
"Only in small doses," Ianto said. "And five is not a small dose."
"Your kitchen's a disaster area."
"My entire flat is a disaster area right now, Jack," Ianto said tiredly. "I'll deal with it in the morning. Right now, sleep is slightly more important."
"How long have they been there?"
"I left at five. It takes me twenty minutes to get home. Guess when Bronnie and brood turned up," Ianto said drily.
"Jesus," Jack said. "So no sex tonight?"
Ianto laughed, dropping his head onto Jack's shoulder, "Maybe in the morning."
"I'll hold you to that," Jack grinned.
"I know, I know."
And maybe it was a bit weird, but the funny swelling feeling in Jack's chest that made him smile and press another kiss into Ianto's wet hair made him feel like his own life was normal, just for a split second. There were crayon drawings in Ianto's kitchen, and the sticky fingermarks on Ianto's chest had taken half an hour to scrub away, and Jack really glad he'd missed any nappy changes necessary, but...it was still a pretty nice sensation.
Normal had been out of his grasp for so long, it feel strange to have it back for a moment. Wonderful, brilliant, fantastic...but very strange.