A/N: Good lord it's been a long time. Hello, hello, hello, remember me? And here I was saying updates would be more regular now that GCSEs are out of the way. I apologize, life has a way of getting on top of me from time to time, but here is an admittedly small chapter. I will try and have a longer one ready for you guys soon, as I don't really have a lot to do right now other than tidy and prepare for moving house some time in the future. Song for this chapter is 'Orphans', by the still-awesome Gaslight Anthem. Hope you like it, and stick with it. Enjoy!
The apartment was small, she realized, but perfect for them.
She held Iris in her arms, rocking her gently, and walked around the rooms of the flat, smiling at the light flooding in from the windows. They were high up, the top of the five-story block of flats, and Cath quietly admired the view of trees and far-off buildings.
"What do you think?" Learner asked, twisting his hands together, anxious. He was human today, especially so, and Cath found herself frowning.
"Being human doesn't suit you for so long, Learner. Change back."
He changed, a soundless shimmer in the air, and asked again, "What do you think?"
A smile, and she pressed a kiss to his cold cheek, "I love it. Thank you."
Her partner sighed with relief, "The Torchwood lot will be over later today, to help us move your stuff in. Ianto lives nearby, so if you need anything I'm sure you can give him a call."
She looked up from their daughter and frowned, "Are you bringing Charlton?"
"He's useful. Good at lifting."
"I'm telling you no. Ianto can't handle that, not yet. We'll manage without him – tell him to keep an eye on the CCTV. We've been picking up those strange vibrations, you never know if something might show up," Cath kissed Iris' forehead, and she cooed in response, tiny hands reaching out to her mother. Placing a finger in the little one's hand, Cath continued, "Like the other day, that creature we had to capture before Torchwood got there. No way they could have handled that, you were lucky I was watching the feeds."
Learner rubbed at his arm at the memory; some of his spines had been broken off, the skin behind them scorched unpleasantly to resembled cracked lava. He winced, "Good thing we took it alive, too, or we'd have had a full-scale invasion on our hands. That species is very willing to fight first, ask questions later."
"Exactly. So. No Charlton, leave him with the feeds," Cath kissed him then, long and sweet, and traced his cheek with one hand, rocking Iris with the other, "then once this is sorted, we can be a proper family. At least, some of the time."
"It's Moving Day fellas," Jack said, arms folded as he surveyed his team. Well, his team plus two boyfriends, Andy and Rhys, who stood with their hands in their pockets, staring dolefully at him.
"Remind me again why Andy and I are involved in this pallava," Rhys said, raising an eyebrow.
"You can't raise your eyebrow, that's Ianto's job!" Jack cried in protest. Ianto held up a hand, "Calm down Jack, I forgive him. You've involved, Rhys, because Gwen can't lift things and since you know about Torchwood when you're not really meant to we reserve the right to request a couple of favours from time to time. Same goes for Andy."
Andy rolled his eyes, "Alright, alright. So where's this Catherine moving in exactly?"
"Just down the way. You'll see the moving truck, don't worry," Ianto smiled, "Follow us."
The troop of helpers made their way down to the small estate of Victorian houses, which had been converted into apartments, each taking up half a floor. Sure enough, there was a large moving truck parked inside, and once Learner had let them in at the gate, they set about moving things.
Cath stood at the step of the building with a smile on her face and Iris in her arms. Immediately Daria and Gwen ran to her side, cooing at the baby and plying giggles out of it, all the while chatting amicably with the woman they now called 'friend'.
Jack sighed, turning to Ianto, "Women and babies. I'll never understand."
Ianto raised an eyebrow, "Yes, because the fact that one gives birth to the other isn't enough of a factor in their fascination with each other."
"Is that sarcasm I detect?"
Jack pinched the coffeeboy fondly, and they both started to help with the moving.
By the end of the day the apartment was fully furnished, and cozy; homely now that its sparseness was occupied by objects and people. The Torchwood group collapsed into new sofas and armchairs, smiling in their tiredness as they looked at Learner, Cath and Iris – the new family.
"I can't thank you all enough," Cath said, while Iris played with one of her mother's fingers, "This means so much, especially recently after all that's happened."
"It was no problem," Gwen said, squeezing the other woman fondly, "We're friends, it's what friends do for each other."
Cath seemed slightly overcome with emotion at this, "You can't imagine how it feels to hear that." Wordlessly she handed Iris to her father, and dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief previously tugged into a jean pocket. Ianto felt his heartstrings being tugged by the familiarity of how Cath was feeling – alone, abandoned, but now happy, with friends.
Almost how he had felt, when he lost Lisa but truly gained the rest of the team as friends. He smiled at the memory – it didn't hurt anymore when he thought of her; he felt only a small twinge of regret, overwhelmed by love of who she had been, when she was whole. Who she would always be in his memory now.
He felt a hand in his hair and glanced over to Jack, who sat on the arm of the armchair Ianto had fallen into. The older man smiled at him with eyes that spoke volumes with their warmth, the blue no longer reminding him of ice, but of the ocean.
Quietly Jack murmured, "Everything was worth it, just for this."
"I'd do it again," Ianto said, and wasn't really sure whether it was Jack or Cath he was talking to. Then again, maybe it didn't matter.
Back at home that night, Andy turned to Daria in bed and found her frozen in an expression of thought, fingers pressed loosely to her lips in consternation. He frowned; his partner seemed tense, on edge, and he soon noticed why; in her other hand she clasped the note from Red.
Red had soon become their nickname for the woman in red, summing up her presence and person so completely no other pseudonym seemed to fit. Andy admitted to being disturbed by the idea of the woman – despite not ever having seen her, he soon had dark eyes and flashes of red silk in his nightmares, often to do with losing Daria.
Hopefully they wouldn't amount to anything. He took the note out of Daria's hands, and studied it again, rereading the long-memorized words written there. It seemed to dominate the apartment, always seemed to find itself right where it wasn't wanted.
A reminder. A time-bomb, ticking away. "Hey," Andy said, putting his warm hand on the smooth planes of Daria's back, and rubbing soothingly, "Hey, what's wrong?"
Her voice seemed to quaver as she said, "I want to tell them. Torchwood, I mean. They should know. For all I know this is another branch of the Basement trying to kidnap me and make me like Charlton."
"Like Charlton?" Andy found himself confused, "Daria, have you seen him since…you know?"
She turned to him, "Yes. I have. He doesn't remember anything. He's a robot. I don't want to be like that, Andy, not at all. He doesn't even remember Ianto."
He heard the words she left unspoken – I wouldn't remember you – and found his insides suddenly turned cold at the idea. That doesn't bode well, he mused, pulling Daria to him and holding her tight.
"Give it a while longer. I'm still waiting for my friend to get the footage of the Plass for me, see if we can figure out where she came from. See if anyone saw her," Andy said, and Daria smiled, enjoying listening to his voice vibrate through his body.
He pulled back, and cupped her face in his hands. His fingers explored the planes of her face, lingering on the scars that ran across her lips, and Daria let her eyes flutter closed as her lips parted with a sigh.
Andy kissed her then, and she felt all of her worries ease away as the feel of his lips moving softly against hers made her lose her general train of thought. She almost jolted back in shock when she swore she heard Andy murmur, "I love you," and a strange fluttering started in her heart.
"…what?" she asked, dumbstruck, but kept her hands around his neck, enjoying the feel of the soft buzz cut there.
"I said…I love you? Is that okay?" Andy raised an eyebrow, "Oh god, if it's not, if it's too soon –"
Daria silenced him with another kiss, more passionate and longer than the one before, before she pulled back and whispered in his ear, "I've waited so long for you to say that. The first day I saw you fighting for those kids, I wanted you to say it. I love you, too."
Andy couldn't do anything but smile and hold her, as gently and warmly as he kept the moment in his heart.
Late that night, as the couple slept, the door opened with a tiny creak, and a visitor stepped in.
Upon hearing the minute creak, the visitor took out a can of WD40, and greased the hinge. He smiled through his balaclava at the silence of the hinge afterwards.
The visitor crossed the apartment in socks, his shoeless feet muffled on the hardwood floors, and eventually he reached Andy's bedside table, took the note in its envelope, and took several digital photographs of it and its contents in the adjoining bathroom. He replaced it on the table with a level of precision not unlike a surgeon, and departed the apartment.
In the hall, he replaced his shoes, and took off the balaclava. He switched on his comm.
In a whisper Ianto Jones said, "Got it, sir. Keep a coffee pot warm, I think you need to see this."