Part 3

Things were falling apart. Lisa felt it, the way she could feel the weather about to change in her right knee, the one that had been mangled by the giant rat three years ago. Little glances, shooting at her from her brother, almost with pity. Prickles like more broken glass between her and Johnson, whom she had to trust with her life. A strange chasm in her heart between her own thoughts and those of the men she loved. Slivers of fear, as though this was it, as if it were all ending soon.

She cuddled Kyle against her, and he squirmed at the pressure.

Alice followed Johnson to the kitchen. Was she upset at the talk of explosions? Just overwhelmed at the press of too many people together, keeping too many secrets?

She heard Isabelle's cries from upstairs. The kids hadn't been as quiet as they should have been. She glanced at the boys, but Jack had started up another story. He was good at working a crowd, and perhaps they should just let him charm Doug and the rest with carefully-edited tales of his wanderings. Ianto was frowning and distant, coming down from his happy place already, eyes landing on Jack to anchor himself. As she did. God, when did they get this wrapped up in him? And what on Earth would they do without him when he inevitably tired of all this and walked away?

Lisa carried Kyle up the stairs, away from the toxic room. "Oi! You lot," she said to the older children. "Too loud." She plopped Kyle down on the floor, let him toddle over to his cousins, and then she retrieved Isabelle from the nursery. She wouldn't be hungry yet, but she was wet and Lisa took her time changing her. Anything to stay up here a bit longer.


Jack excused himself and went into the kitchen. Alice was holding Johnson's arm, speaking to her in a low tone.

"What?" he said.

"Not now," said Alice.

"It's going to be now. If they're bothering you … "

"If they're bothering me?" Johnson asked, dumbfounded.

"Did I do something? Because if you're pissed off at me, at least it's a nice change from her being pissed off at me," he said, pointing to Alice. "But since I'd rather not get shot in the head on Christmas, maybe you could just tell me."

"It's what you're doing," said Johnson. "And you don't even get it, do you? All these stories you tell about all these people you've known."

"I've known a lot of people."

"Yes, and anytime it gets uncomfortable, you try to pass it off as a long time ago."

"It was a long time ago," he said, trying to keep his voice down. "It was 1928."

"Whose boys were they?" Alice asked.

Jack paused. "They were your brothers. Can we not discuss this?"

"From Aberdeen."

"No. Kind of. I'll explain when we're not trying to play normal for the crowd in the next room."

"No, you won't," said Alice, and she turned away from him, resting her arms on the counter opposite. Jack knew that line in her back, the same set of shoulders Lucia had when she was angry and tired.

"And it doesn't matter anyway, does it?" asked Johnson. "Because it was a long time ago."

"That's right."

"Do you get that you're killing us all every single time you say those words?"

"What?" He stopped. "No. That's … What?"

"I'm the lucky one," Johnson said. "Two hundred years from now, you won't remember my name, won't remember my face, certainly won't remember that I dated your daughter. And I know that, and I'm all right with that. You'll hold onto Alice the longest." She reached over, touched Alice's arm. "Of all of us in this house right now, you'll remember Alice and Steven, perhaps for a thousand years." His heart twisted at the mention, and he pushed the memory away, hard.

"I'm over two thousand years old. It's … I'm not going to forget."

Alice asked him, "How much did you lose underground, Dad?"

"Nothing," he said too quickly. Then he said, "Nothing important. Nothing I couldn't find again. I remember your birthday parties. I remember when your siblings were born."

"Were there more? Are there more?"

"Not now." The one thing he'd lost under the earth was immediacy. With Tosh and Owen, even Gray, he felt the love, but the pain often seemed like it had happened to someone else. He remembered grieving for Abigail and their six-month-old daughter, both lost to diphtheria within the same week, but not with the same anguish that had led him to spend the next two years at the bottom of a bottle. He remembered the son who fell in the second war, but only as a sweet, soft memory of a handsome youth filled with life. Frank's death had piled on after months of loss, yet had felt like completion, even grace. "There's just you now."

Alice's head was towards him, but her eyes were closed. "You're going to forget them someday. You're going to forget me."

Martha had told him that it wouldn't be forever, that the strange curse would be lifted, though long after the Earth itself burned up in the sun. But someday, he would die, and he would still remember the Doctor when he did, and that meant he could hold onto Alice if he tried. "Not for as long as I can."

"And in the meantime?" asked Johnson. "Five hundred years from now? Hell, a century from now, you'll be somewhere else, among other friends, and telling the story of the one awful Christmas you had to spend with all the in-laws. And you're going to laugh it off and say it was a long time ago, and maybe you'll still know our names then and maybe not."

"It's not like that."

Johnson watched his face. "It will be. Subject for a few dirty stories about that one time you tried to be domestic with the Welsh couple you shagged for a few months, and then they'll be just as forgotten as I am. Today, this house, these kids running around underfoot, all of it is going to be dismissed as something that happened in your sordid past, told to whoever or whatever you're sleeping with, on whatever planet, and then gone forever."

Jack stood still. "What do you want me to say? I can't change what I am. Believe me, I've tried."

"No." Johnson faced away from him. "Just … go. Go be you." She looked like she wanted to say something else, and pursed her lips instead.

Jonny shouted, "It's time!"


"It's time!" came a shout from downstairs. Jonny, by the sound of it.

"Come on, kids. The Queen's going to talk." Lisa carried Isabelle downstairs, letting the other children hurry down ahead. She paused at the kitchen, tapping at the doorway without looking in. "Are you coming?"

Alice emerged first, Johnson close behind. As everyone gathered around the telly, the two of them stood as far from Jack as they reasonably could. For all that he'd insisted they all come to watch, he focused instead on his daughter, trying to catch her eye and, failing that, pulling a pout. Lisa found it hard to concentrate, with the feeling of impending doom growing in her head and in her gut.

And then Her Majesty said, "And we should not forget the sacrifices made by those who protect our borders, both around our country and also above it. We thank them for their constant vigilance … "

Lisa's face broke into a broad smile as the Queen praised their work today, even if it wasn't by name. She hoped Tosh's family was watching, although they could never know it was their daughter and her boyfriend who'd saved the day this time. Mickey'd probably spend the rest of the day with that adorable swagger he copped whenever he did something cool.

She reached out, brushed against Ianto's hand, and took it. He gave her a squeeze, then took the baby from her arms. Over his shoulder, she saw Jack and Alice continue their silent argument, even as Alice kissed Johnson on the cheek and whispered something to her.

The broadcast finished, and Jack turned the telly off, hitting the remote control for the stereo. Christmas carols filled the air.

"Is it dessert time?" Steven asked.

Alice said, "We should probably go."

"Naw," Jonny said. "You've got to stay a little longer. We've got pies."

"Please, Mum?"

"All right." Alice looked at Jack again. "But we'll go after."


Angie wanted another turn at holding Isabelle, so Ianto passed her off gently and made his way into the kitchen. Lisa and Rhiannon were sorting out the pies while he put on more coffee. He could just see Jack and Alice from where he stood, and they weren't happy with each other. Both wore their "not in front of the company" faces, though, and he had the bad feeling he and Lisa would be considered "company" for purposes of the row they were going to have.

Maybe they'd have it later. Maybe they'd all get through this, and Alice and Johnson would leave, and the others would get the hint, and they'd survive the day without killing anyone.

"I don't want to talk about this!" said Alice in a far too loud whisper, and there went that hope.

Ianto poured the drinks, laced his coffee with another shot of whiskey, and put on the pot for more.

"All right, you monsters," Rhi said, "up at the table. No gettin' crumbs everywhere."

Someone had already put Isabelle into her highchair, and Angie was feeding her some mashed potatoes from earlier, making funny faces to get her to open her mouth. "There's a dear."

Jonny poked Douglas in the ribs. "Now you're in trouble, man. She's going to want another one."

"She won't," he said, patting Hailey's hair. "Three's a bit excessive, don't you think?"

Ianto wondered if he could make it look like a Weevil attack.

Jack and Alice had moved down the hallway. Jack was gesturing. Alice's arms were folded in front of her. Ah. They'd started their row, then. Splendid. Ianto caught Johnson's eye and she shrugged. Then she pulled out her mobile and began texting again. So Mickey at least would be entertained.

The two big boys downed their desserts quickly and sped back to the sitting room to play. As the girls finished, Ianto cleared their plates away and made room for the adults. They'd all sit together and have dessert and coffee, and they could all leave soon.

Please, God, let them all leave soon.


Lisa watched the tensions among the other adults grow, and she went to the sitting room for a moment to catch her breath. David and Steven were playing near the tree again, and the scattered presents were coming undone.

"Upstairs! You're both menaces," she scolded.

She tidied up, grabbing the small package, the one without the label from Jack, and the wrapping paper was almost off. Well, half off. It had ripped certainly. She told herself it wouldn't hurt to check in advance to see just how inappropriate he'd been this time, and removed the rest of the paper.


"Why couldn't you just tell me?" Alice said.

"I was trying to protect you."

"Well, that worked, didn't it?" There was no way she could know, that she would ever know, how badly it hadn't.

And because part of him was and always would be a bit cruel, he could not stop himself from saying, "While we're passing the blame around, I remind you it was your girlfriend who broke your cover."

"I know that!" He knew that scowl on her face. He saw it in the mirror from time to time.

"Dessert for the adults," Rhiannon called. She poked her head into the hallway. "You two comin'?"


Ianto ignored his slice of cake and concentrated on his coffee. Not much longer. Not much longer. Everyone sat in near-silence, except for Kyle and Isabelle, who had stayed downstairs while the other children went back to their game in Callie's room. Kyle talked to Isabelle in mostly-intelligible English, making her giggle and reply in the burbling baby gabble she still used.

Someone was happy, anyway.

Angie smiled at Alice. "I hadn't noticed before, but that's a lovely perfume you're wearing." Alice glared at Jack and said nothing.

Rhiannon said, "The cake's very good," to Johnson, who thanked her stiffly.

"Great coffee," Jonny said. "We'll haveta have you over more often and make some at our place."

"You can't keep him," Jack said.

Angie said, "Lisa, we found a box with some of your mum's jewelry. I was hoping we could keep some pieces for Ashley and Hailey, but I'd like to see what you think about choosing some for your girls. For when they're bigger, obviously."

Lisa looked faraway, focusing suddenly on Jack. "Oh," she said, after a long pause. "That's … Yes. We should do that." She took a bite of her cake.

"That's always nice," said Alice, "when you've got family mementos."

"We're not starting this again," Jack said.

"What I meant," said Alice, "was that my mother left me some lovely pieces that belonged to her grandmother."

"Were you close to your mum?" Angie asked. "You said your dad wasn't around much."

Jonny snorted. Rhiannon slapped him on the arm.

"Share," said Ianto. "We could all use some humour."

Jonny looked at Alice and actually began to blush. "It's nothin'."

Alice shined her diamond glare on him. "Now it's clearly something."

Jonny said, "Yer mam raised you, no dad, it's no wonder you're playin' on the other team, is all."

"What?"

"I'm not judgin'! People do all whatnot these days. Got no problem with it, me." He gestured with his spoon at Jack. "Not like Mister Perfect, here. Mate, you gotta get past it."

"Get past what?" Jack asked in confusion.

"Bein' so upset that your sister's a lesbian. You two have been fighting all day about it. She's your sister. Don't be so small-minded." And Jonny sat back and took a large, satisfied bite of cake.

The rest of them stared.

Ianto wondered, "Is this what going mad feels like?"

"I think it is," said Lisa, which was how he knew he'd said it aloud.

Jonny said, "I'm just sayin' what everyone else is thinkin'."

Johnson opened her mouth, and then shut it. She stood up and grabbed her phone, dialing. "I've got to tell Mickey this one."

Jack shouted, "Will you stop telling Mickey everything about today? He'll find out soon enough!" He pushed back from the table, clearly upset, and the chair made a loud squawk against the lino.

The noises startled the children. Kyle started to cry, which set Isabelle off. Jack bent down and picked him up, while Ianto scooped up Isabelle.

"Sorry, big guy," Jack said, jostling Kyle in his arms.

Angie stood up. "Here, let me."

"I've got him."

"I've got children of my own," she said, pulling Kyle away. "There's tricks you learn."

Lisa stood up and firmly took Kyle from Angie and handed him back to Jack. "Yes. You learn to keep them with people they know and trust. Jack's fine with the kids."

"That's reassuring," Alice said.

Douglas said, "Tell me, Alice. You've known Jack the longest, obviously. Are you comfortable having him watch your son?"

Her eyes widened. "That's complicated."

"Very complicated," Jack said. He rubbed Kyle's back, trying to soothe him, but dropped the hand as Douglas watched.

"Shouldn't be," Douglas said. "You were talking about letting Steven spent the night here, but you don't like that idea, do you?"

Alice said nothing. Jack had told them about Steven, in the other timeline. Even in this one, he'd nearly traded Steven's life to save the world. It had been over a year and Alice was still deeply resentful, and there was nothing anyone could do about it.

"And," Douglas went on, relentless, "if Jack's own sister won't trust him around her child, why is he living in a house with three children?"

"Because we do trust him," Lisa said.

Isabelle began to squirm, and Ianto set her down.

"You shouldn't," Alice said. "I wish you could, but you shouldn't. Don't think for a minute that if it had been one of your kids there instead, that he would have hesitated any more than he did."

Rhiannon looked from face to face. "What's going on?"

"Nothing," said Jack. "It's over. It's dealt with."

"Until next time," Alice said. Johnson came back into the room, her face pinched, likely remembering her own role in the mess. "I don't intend to be cruel to you. I know you don't believe me, but it's true. But I can't trust you. You're not safe."

Jack blanched. "You're right. I'm not." He was never awkward, but it was with a clumsy grace that he handed Kyle to Lisa. "I should … " He didn't finish.

And Ianto saw it as plain as day. Jack would hurry off, as he'd been about to before, and he would stay away, and he'd find excuses to keep staying away, and perhaps he'd come back for a short while, to see the kids, to enjoy himself a little in their bed, but once he walked out the door today, it was over. Ianto and Lisa would try to rebuild the life they'd originally planned together, only now draped in the shadow of something more wonderful and lost, and the children would gradually forget they'd had another dad, and everything would be so unbelievably fucking normal. He felt the future tighten around his chest, around his throat, in coils of might-have-beens.

Jack might have picked their timeline, but Ianto was damned if he wasn't get a say in his own future.

He didn't know he was standing until he felt the sway of his legs beneath him. As Jack rounded the table to go, he put out a hand to help Ianto steady himself. Good. That made it much easier to grab onto Jack, pull him in, and kiss him with all the desperation in his soul.

"Stay," he breathed into Jack's mouth. "Please." And then there was no room for more words.


Lisa let herself smile as Ianto kissed Jack, hard, in front of everyone. Jack pushed back at first, a little, and then let himself sink into it. For all that Jack could be irresistible, he could never resist Ianto. It was comforting in a way.

She took a sip of her own coffee, and enjoyed the flavour.

Doug touched Lisa's hand, and she pulled away as he said, "Brenda told me about Jack, about that cruise line he runs. I suppose these things run in families." He nodded to Alice. "No offense."

"Of course not," said Alice, rolling her eyes and then shading them from the view of her father enjoying himself.

Rhiannon sat back. "No. Way."

Angie turned to her. "Lisa, I'm so sorry."

"Don't be," Lisa said. "They'll come up for air in a few minutes, and then I'll have a go." She laughed, and hugged Kyle as the stares turned to her.

Johnson said, "I'm going to get more coffee," and headed into the kitchen.

As predicted, the boys finally broke apart, and Jack helped Ianto back into his chair. They looked like a pair of cats who'd gotten into the cream, and Lisa laughed again. Then she set Kyle down to play on the floor, and pulled Jack in for a deep kiss. His hands went to her face, threaded through her hair as she clung to him, taking strength from his shoulders, breathing his breath. He tasted like coffee, and a little like whatever Ianto'd been drinking, and it was perfect.

When they broke, she watched his eyes, and they were clear again, and she was glad. "Love you," she said.

"Love you," he replied, and she believed him.

"It's very hard," Ianto was saying, gesturing a bit much, "to get the right pressure going with three sets of lips. You can't do it."

"You can," Jack said. "We can't."

Doug and Angie were already standing. "We're leaving now," said Doug.

"No," Ianto said, standing again, and carefully pushing Doug back into his chair. "You're going to stay for a minute, and you're going to listen."

Jack said to Lisa, "I love it when he's assertive."

"It's adorable," she agreed, and rested her head against Jack.

Johnson came back with the coffee pot and began topping everyone up. Lisa held up her own mug, but Johnson ignored her. Ah well.

"Jack is staying," Ianto said. "We love him. Apparently he and I have been dating for two thousand years."

"Oh God," said Alice, dreamily.

"And Alice here is not Jack's sister. She's his daughter. The thing with the aliens that made the kids talk? Jack handled that, and Steven almost died. And we understand that's why Alice is skittish about letting Jack alone with him again. That's why it's complicated."

"Coffee?" Johnson asked Doug, and when he didn't reply, she gave him some and encouraged him to take a long drink.

Ianto was in full steam now. Rhiannon and Jonny sat there gaping, and Lisa tried hard not to laugh again. "We all work for a secret organisation dedicated to fighting aliens and protecting the Earth. The Queen was talking about us today because of that thing with the Chelonians."

"Of course she was," said Angie soothingly. Johnson gave her more coffee. Angie looked at Lisa imploringly. "He's bonkers," she mouthed. Lisa nodded.

"Also," Ianto said. "We're not even on the right timeline." That got Alice's attention, and Johnson stopped in mid-pour for Jonny's mug. "There's this time-traveling alien named the Doctor. Bit of a prat, but he keeps saving the world." He looked at Rhiannon. "He may have slept with Mum."

Jack sighed. "He didn't."

"You weren't there. You don't know. Anyway, Mum hung out with him in his magic blue police box that goes through time and space, and as a favour to her, he changed time."

"Why?" Rhiannon asked, clutching her mug like a lifeline to sanity, as her brother had clearly lost his own mind.

"Because I was dead." Ianto frowned at that. "Jack, the other me is always going to be dead. You know that, right? I'm not him. I'm never going to be him."

"I know."

"Because I know he's the one you really love."

"Ianto Jones, do you think I'm ever only going to be in love with one person? Or in your case, one copy?"

Ianto blinked at him. "Good point." He turned back to his sister. "So I was dead, and Mum didn't like that much so Jack and the Doctor changed time. Which is good, because Lisa was apparently a robot, and also dead."

Johnson asked Jack and Lisa, "How much has he had to drink?"

"A lot," Lisa said.

"Ianto?" said Rhiannon. "Mum's dead. She died a long time ago."

"Time travel, Rhi. Try to keep up."

"Quite a lot," Lisa amended.

There was a soft snore. Lisa glanced across the table to see Angie had nodded right off to sleep, her head lolled on her neck. Doug's eyes were closing. Jonny covered a yawn, and now that she was looking for it, Rhiannon was glassy-eyed as well.

"And then they sent us to France, because apparently the Doctor shagged Madame de Pompadour in the eighteenth century there once."

Jack said, "He did?"

"Mickey said so. He also invented the banana daiquiri. It may have been the same night."

Alice watched him strangely, but her eyes were wide awake as Johnson perched next to her and took her own, cold cup of coffee into her hands.

"Sit down, love," Lisa said. "They're not listening anymore."

"Fine," said Ianto, and he plopped into his seat. Jack moved over to him and kissed his forehead.

Johnson looked around the table at the heavily-drugged guests. "I hate this holiday," she said, and drank her coffee.


Jack looked over the sleeping pile at the other end of the table. "Johnson, is there a reason you brought Retcon to Christmas dinner?"

"We were coming over to yours. I've already seen you naked once, Jack. If I was going to have to scrub out my own eyes later, I thought this would be the easiest way."

Alice said, "When did you see him naked?"

"It's part of the employment contract," said Ianto. "At some point, all Torchwood employees must see Jack's penis. It's in the fine print." Lisa burst into more giggles.

Johnson grabbed for a cup of dosed coffee, and Alice pulled it away from her.

"At least nobody died," Lisa said. "And the Queen thanked us. That's a pretty good Christmas, for us."

"That reminds me," Ianto continued, looking at Jack. "You know next year's budget has been on your desk for two weeks now. You need to sign it. Gwen's approved her copy already."

"I'll get to it."

"Get to it faster. New year in a week, and we'd all like to get paid."

"Yes, dear," said Jack exaggeratedly. He petted Ianto's hair, which earned him a snort.

Johnson said, "We need to put them somewhere. They won't all believe they fell asleep at the table."

Jack folded his arms. "You're the one who drugged them."

"You're welcome." She looked at Ianto. "And you are forbidden from drinking ever again."

"Amen," said Jack.

Lisa got up from the table suddenly and went into the sitting room. Jack watched her go. She'd been withdrawing from them all day, hiding when she could. They really needed some alone time.

She came back in, and he went to take her hand and then stopped when he saw what she was carrying. "Lis … "

"When the kids were playing, it got unwrapped. Jack, what is this?" She opened the box.

"Tungsten," he said automatically. "I was looking at titanium, but this wears longer. I like things that last a long time." He plowed on, because clearly stopping now was out of the question. "I had yours made thin so if you wore it on the same finger as your other ring, it wouldn't really show. If you wanted."

"Oh." Her mouth was set perfectly still. Ianto said nothing, merely looked at the highly-polished bands as he would examine a new artefact: intrigued, but careful not to touch until the full range of properties were known. (It had been a hard-learned lesson. His brief ability to telepathically communicate with housecats had been useless.)

"This was not how this was supposed to go," Jack said. "We were going to have dinner, it was going to be quiet, just us and the kids. I was going to bring the box out over the crackers."

"It is just us and the kids," said Lisa. "Alice is your child."

"We had crackers?" Ianto asked.

"They're in the kitchen," Jack said. "Are you following along?"

Ianto shrugged. "What's to follow? You bought wedding rings."

"And you're okay with that?" For some reason, he'd expected Ianto to be upset. Jack had mentally prepared himself for a mild panic attack. "Where I come from, this is pretty common, though of course it's not legally recognised here."

"You've said."

"Ah." Again, not the response he'd been expecting. Jack was almost disappointed, a little. "Lisa?"

"We've been trying to get papers drawn up," she said. "For you to have custody of the kids if something happens to us."

"Good idea," said Johnson. "It's a dangerous job. You'll probably want to name Rhiannon as a backup in case Jack fucks off with the Doctor again, though."

"What?" said Jack.

"Duck!" said Kyle from the floor.

"Language," Ianto said.

"It's been hard to get to a solicitor," said Lisa. "Been busy."

Johnson took another sip of her drink. "Take an afternoon. I'll arrange it with Gwen."

"Excuse me," said Jack. "First, I approve time off. Second, what?"

"Jack," Ianto said, "barring needs that involve the end of the world, are you going to stay with us as long as you can?"

"Well, yeah. I … Yeah."

"Lisa?"

"Hm?"

"You're here for good, right?"

"Good. Bad. I already promised you that."

"And you're still staying. With both of us."

"Always."

"And I'm not going anywhere. So that's settled." Ianto sat back, satisfied.

"It is?" Jack said.

"Looks like," said Alice. "I am never calling you two Mum and Dad. Just so you know."

"Agreed," said Lisa. "Do you think Steven might eventually manage Uncle and Auntie?"

"We'll see."

Jack looked around. He'd had control of this situation a while back. He was certain of it. "What just happened?"

Johnson said, "I think you just got married. Put your damn ring on."

Jack looked at the box in Lisa's hand. That had been the plan, more or less, with a bit more explanation of how things went in a typical bonding ceremony back home, a mention of how he didn't want to rush them into anything but also how he'd been getting to this point for thousands of years by his own reckoning. Even how he'd understand if they weren't ready, if it was too much, if it was easier for now to keep what they had, that he could wait.

But there was Ianto plucking the box from Lisa and pulling out the ring that was fitted to his hand, and there she was taking hers, and he'd been right, they snuggled in perfectly with the gold bands already there. Jack's was a bit larger, gunmetal grey and plain, and light as silver as he slipped it on.

"So," Johnson said. "Where are we going to stow these four until they wake up? I'm warning you, I won't help you get any of them naked to put in embarrassing positions for blackmail later."

Jack raised an eyebrow.


It was going on midnight when the noises from the kids finally stopped upstairs. The girls were bunked down in Callie's room with blankets and pillows on the floor. David, and with Alice's permission Steven, had taken over Kyle's room, while Kyle was placed in the nursery for the night after Isabelle's last feeding. They'd hauled Douglas and Angie up to the spare bedroom, and with a bit of hefting, managed to put Jonny and Rhiannon in theirs. In the morning, the four of them would believe they had overindulged in eggnog. Probably. After the help, Alice and Johnson left for a quiet night at home.

There'd been a call around seven PM, a lone Weevil on Bute Street. Before Jack could even draw breath to suggest they go, Andy had called in to say he was taking care of it, and Gwen said she'd drop over to help him bring it in. Everyone wanted time away from family today, apparently.

As the calendar turned to December 26th, Lisa went to check Mainframe, just in case something had shown up that hadn't alerted them yet. Ianto lay sprawled on the sofa, half-asleep, half-working on his hangover. Jack pulled a blanket over him and kissed his head.

"Please tell me we don't have New Years plans," Ianto murmured sleepily, as Jack unplugged the lights from the tree.

"We don't."

"Good."

Lisa yawned as she returned. "Everything's quiet. I turned the alarm back on." She settled on the sofa next to Ianto, and Jack watched them for a moment, content.

"I'm going in to work for a bit," he said, reluctantly pulling on his boots.

Ianto sat up, and Lisa straightened. They wore matched expressions of concern, and his heart melted just a little.

"I want to make sure nothing's out of place, feed the Weevils, water the dinosaur. I'll be back in an hour. I promise." He leaned in and kissed Lisa, then Ianto. "Feel free to get started without me."

"We will," said Lisa, and nestled her head against Ianto's shoulder, her hand splayed against his chest. Honestly, they both looked too worn out for sex, but maybe after a hour's nap, they'd be up for playtime. Or more likely, they'd point out that with everyone sleeping right upstairs, it would be a bad idea to shag on the floor tonight. He also doubted Lisa would let him nick Douglas' swipecard from the hotel so they could make good use of the room going empty.

"Back soon," he said, and amused himself with ideas about some constructive fondling on the sofa later.

At the Hub, all was as breathlessly still as when he'd left this morning. Andy's Weevil was safe in the cells with the others watching soap operas. Andy and Gwen had already fed them. Jack noticed candy wrappers on the floor by Frycheul's basket. That would also have been Gwen, who remained grateful about the one time their otherwise docile pet had attacked that rogue Rotanion that'd gotten loose in the Hub and gone after Edward. A tiny bit of chocolate dribbled out from the corner of the dinosaur's mouth as he settled deeper into his nest, nose draped lazily over his tail. Jack missed Myfanwy, who'd been a much better watchdog with far more style.

Nothing new through the Rift, in or out, and if Tosh's predictor software was working, nothing major coming for at least the next day. Monday looked troublesome, but it would be a quiet weekend for once, a rare gift, if he didn't count the Hoix or the Weevil or the lost Chelonians or the in-laws. Nothing from the Doctor, which was unusual but not unexpected, with the world not in peril this time. One email, when he went to check: Martha, sent earlier, wishing him a good day.

He grinned, rubbing his thumb against the unfamiliar metal on his finger. It had been a good day, eventually, and he replied to her with thanks and wished the same back. Then with a last look around, he shut down his computer and turned off the unnecessary lights except for Frycheul's nightlight.

Jack went home.


The End