Author's Note: A Christmas gist for LJ user Cruentum, who mentioned wanting toddlerfic on Twitter and, well, I suddenly wanted to write it. So I did. Merry Christmas!!!
Ianto was woken by Jack slipping out of his grasp and out of bed, but he was still only just awake enough to grunt his displeasure and bury his head further into the pillow. Jack chuckled gently and Ianto felt the kiss he pressed against his temple, though he wasn't quick enough when he reached out to try to grab Jack and stop him leaving. At the quiet click of the door closing, he rolled over onto his back and tried to force his reluctant eyes open, reaching for the glass of cola he'd left out the night before – it was flat and far too cold, but the cold and the caffeine woke him up, and he didn't have to either get out of bed or wait for Jack to bring him coffee. The patter of feet down the corridor brought a smile to his face and he sat up properly, reaching out for the T shirt he'd left close by and pulling it on clumsily.
He'd nearly finished the cola when the door opened quietly, and Jack peered around the door with a grin. When he saw that Ianto was conscious, he pushed the door open fully and let go of Liza's hand, letting her run to the bed and giving her a hand onto it, whilst Tom gurgled and burbled on his hip. Ianto held his arms out and caught Liza as she tumbled into him, all blonde curls and giggles, and tickled her in the gap where her pyjama top had ridden up, using her distraction to shift her round in his lap until she curled against him with her head on his shoulder. Jack, meanwhile, slid back under the covers next to him and wrapped his arm around Ianto's shoulders whilst he supported Tom and sat him on his lap under the duvet. Liza saw her little brother under the duvet and decided (loudly) that she wanted to be under the duvet too, so Ianto had to turn her around when she dived in head first and get her settled comfortably between himself and Jack. For about half an hour, they stayed like that, with Jack and Ianto content to listen to Liza's happy chattering, and Tom content to burble in Jack's arms, playing blissfully with his blue teddy bear.
When Tom started grousing, Jack squeezed Ianto's shoulder once and gathered Tom up before sliding out of bed and padding towards the door. Liza held her arms up to Ianto, asking to be picked up too, and he obliged and followed Jack out the door and down the passage to the stairs. Out here the signs of Christmas were more evident in the wreath hanging on Liza's door and the fairy lights wrapped around the banisters. Ianto unhooked the wreath on his way passed and gave it to Liza to hold. "Now then, sweetheart," he ran his hand over her curls and pulled her head down to avoid the lower ceiling over the stairs. "Shall we go and hang this on the front door whilst Jack and Tommy get us some drinks, and then we can go and see if Santa came last night?"
"Santa!" she cried happily, squirming in his hold so that he had to hold her more tightly for fear of dropping her. "Santa's been!"
"I bet he has," he agreed, fumbling the keys to the front door. He pulled it open and lifted Liza with both hands, holding her in front of him facing the door. "Hang the wreath then, Liza, can you get it on the hook?"
"I got it," she told him as she placed it very carefully on the hook that Jack had put in the night before after they'd put the children to bed. "Now people will know where we are."
"They will," Ianto agreed seriously, glancing out at the wreaths hanging on every door in the street as he shut their door. "Now, I wonder if Jack and Tommy have made our drinks?"
"Down," she insisted. "I walk!"
He put her down carefully and followed her down the corridor to the kitchen, past the closed living room door, then hurried to catch her as she nearly ran into Jack coming out. "Careful, Liza-bach," he told her. "Are you alright, Jack?"
"Yeah, but can you take Tom for a moment?"
"Sure," he took the squirming infant off him and shushed him gently until he would settle safely against Ianto's shoulder, then went into the kitchen to unwrap Liza from around Jack's legs. "Careful Liza, out of the kitchen."
She turned to hug his leg instead and looked up at him with excitement. "Christmas, Anto! Santa's been!"
Ianto glanced up at Jack and saw that he'd got a tray prepared with squash for the children and hot chocolate for himself and Ianto, so he detached Liza again and bent to pick her up, now balancing both children on his hips awkwardly. "Shall we go and see if he has been?" he asked. "Close your eyes tightly."
Liza did, but still pointed vaguely in her brother's direction. "Tommy needs to close his eyes too," she insisted.
"He has got his eyes shut," Ianto lied as he retreated enough so that Jack could get into the living room, then waited for him to return and take Tom off him. Once the children were evenly distributed, they went back into the living room and stood together. "Open your eyes, sweethearts," he told them softly.
Liza squealed and clapped her hands when she did. It didn't even seem to be the huge pile of presents under the tree that had captured her interest most, but the extra decorations that Jack and Ianto had put up the night before. They'd decorated the tree with the children's help a couple of weeks before (mostly Liza's help, really, but Ianto and Tom had draped the tinsel artistically, before Ianto neatened it whilst Jack kept them distracted), but that, the crib, the lights up the stairs and the wreath on Liza's door had been the only pre-Christmas decorating, apart from the cards dotted around the house. Last night had been a mad night of decorating, with extra tinsel and Holly from the garden hung around the fireplace, glittering fake candles dotted on the shelves of the bookcases, and a silvery star hanging above the window. Jack and Ianto hadn't got to bed until four in the morning, and Jack had got up when Tom started grumping only a few hours later – it was still only eight in the morning, and Ianto knew that it was only Christmas cheer keeping him going.
"He's been, Liza-bach," Ianto pointed out quietly. "Do you want to see what he's brought for you?"
"Yes!" She leaned away from him and he had to catch her again. "Presents, Anto!"
He and Jack sat down on the rug, with Ianto closest to the tree, Liza settled between them and Tom on Jack's knee again, and Ianto reached for the first present, making a big show of reading the label. "This one's for you, Liza," he told her, "it doesn't say who it's from..."
"Santa," she told him. "It's from Santa."
"It must be," he agreed. "They're not all from me and Jack. I'm sure we'd remember if they were, wouldn't we, Jack?"
"We would," he grinned. "Go on then, sweetheart, open it."
She ripped the wrapping paper off enthusiastically and Ianto had to step in to stop her ripping the box apart too. Whilst Jack watched and played with Tom, he helped her to take the beautiful doll out of her box and laid her in Liza's arms. "This is a very special doll, Liza," Jack told her, reaching out to brush a curl back from her forehead and resting his hand against her back. "She's very fragile, and she's beautiful, isn't she?"
"She is," Liza told him seriously. "Why is she special?"
"She's called Elizabeth," Jack told her. "And she's made of china, so she'll break more easily than your other dolls. She's for looking at and looking after."
"Not for playing with?" Liza looked shocked.
"No, she's going to stay with you and watch over you, we'll put her on your bookcase later, sweet," Jack told her gently. "And she will go with you and look after you."
Liza suddenly looked sad and crawled closer to Ianto, hugging Elizabeth to her and crawling into his arms. "I don't wanna go!" she insisted. "Want to stay!"
"We want you to stay too," Ianto told her between kisses on the top of her head. "But if you have to leave, or when you grow up, Elizabeth will still watch over you for us."
She didn't turn her head from where it was hidden against Ianto's chest. "Don't make me go."
He tightened his grip on her and looked up at Jack desperately. "We're not going to make you go," Jack told her thickly. "We promise."
"Christmas promises," Ianto told her. "Can't ever be broken."
She seemed to accept this as good enough because she released her grip on Elizabeth slightly and set her down carefully. "Go to sleep, Liza-bach," she told her. "I'll look after you."
Ianto picked the doll up and reached behind him to put her on the sofa. "Let's put her up there, shall we?" he suggested. "She can sleep more comfily on the sofa."
Liza nodded and crawled for the presents again, pulling the next one out. Ianto checked the label and stopped her from opening it. "That one's for Tommy, see? Go and give it to him."
She took it over to him and tried to get his attention. "Tommy, there's a present for you, do you want me to help you open it?"
"That's a good idea," Jack told her, succeeding in getting Tommy's attention onto the brightly coloured wrapping paper. He grabbed onto a corner of it and squealed happily. "There we go. Now, sweetheart, if you help him to pull it..."
Liza didn't need more encouragement, and Ianto once again had to extract her from a pile of wrapping paper. "It's a teddy!" she told them all enthusiastically as she reached out to stroke his thick, luscious fur. "See, Tommy, it's a teddy!"
"Burb!" Tommy agreed, latching on tightly when Jack pulled the bear closer. He was dwarfed by it, and settled happily into hugging it and sucking his thumb.
With Tommy thus distracted, Ianto set to pulling out more of the presents for Liza, stacking them in a pile for her. She laughed with joy at every gift, especially those that she knew who they came from; Gwen and Rhys had bought her a book of fairy stories, Owen had got her a new dressing gown and a pair of slippers to match, which she changed into immediately without letting Ianto take the tags out first, Tosh had got the DVDs of some classic children's television (mostly for Ianto, he suspected, as he'd been complaining about the quality of children's TV at work), and Martha had bought her a very pretty winter dress. From Jack and Ianto (and Santa) had come another doll, but a toy one this time, a toy rabbit, a winter coat with mittens attached by red strings, a set of hair ties and hair brushes, two T shirts, some more DVDs and books and a CD of Christmas music.
At the back of the pile were the presents to Jack and Ianto themselves, saved for later when they had some time to themselves. Liza insisted that they open a present each, and they chose to open the joint one they'd got from Owen, finding two very nice bottles of whiskey and a pair of decanters.
Satisfied with this development, Liza decided that she was hungry, and remembered that Jack had, in despair, promised her jelly and ice cream for breakfast if she went to bed when they told her to the night before. Knowing what she was like for bribes like that (determined) Ianto had made up a bowl of jelly – he just hoped it was set by now.
Jack kept her entertained whilst Ianto went to check on the jelly. In the kitchen he checked and turned the turkey, got the little sausages, the soup and the roast potatoes out of the freezer with the ice cream, and finally pulled the bowl of jelly out of the fridge. It wobbled solidly at a gentle shake and he filled three bowls, piling the ice cream high on top and, because it was Christmas, adding sugar sprinkles as well. He heard the TV turning on in the living room and juggled with the bowls. The sight that greeted him brought him to a stop in the living room doorway to watch Jack, Tommy and Liza. Jack was leaning back against an armchair, facing the television where the titles for Old Bear Stories were playing, with Tommy sitting in his lap and Liza sitting next to him with her head resting on his shoulder, and Jack was singing along quietly.
The cold of the bowls became more than an irritation, so he padded into the room and sat next to Liza as quietly as he could and passed a bowl to Jack, then placed one on Liza's crossed legs and dug into his own, keeping a close eye on her as he did so. As expected, she quickly spread it right across her face and halfway down her pyjamas, but the grin on her face was definitely worth it. Jack chuckled at Ianto's attempts to clean her up as he tried to persuade Tom to take another mouthful of jelly, but he'd lost interest in it.
Near the end of the episode the phone rang in the hall and Ianto collected Jack's empty bowl with his own before he stood up and went for it. He put the bowls down on the side table as he picked the phone up and leaned against the table in front of him, crossing his legs at the ankle. "Harkness-Jones household, merry Christmas."
"Merry Christmas to you too, Ianto," his sister greeted him. "How's the morning been?"
"Bliss," he told her happily. "The kids are settled in front of an Old Bear DVD with jelly and ice cream."
Ianto laughed. "Nah, he's finished his jelly," he sagged slightly and looked up at the reflection of the group in the mirror on the far hall wall. "But what are you calling about? You're still coming over, right?" in the mirror he saw Jack look up at him questioningly and he smiled back reassuringly.
"Yes, we are. The kids are dead chuffed with the Wii," her tone was slightly reproachful but he knew that she didn't really mind that he splashed out on his niece and nephew as much as he did on Liza and Tommy. "They wanted to know if we can bring it with us this afternoon, so they can have a go on it with you and Jack."
"That'd be great," he told her. "I've got them a couple more games as well for them to open here..."
"Ianto," she scolded. "You shouldn't spoil them."
He chuckled. "Sorry, couldn't help it, you know how it is."
"I don't know why you don't just admit it and buy yourself one," she tutted. "Anyway, I'm picking Mum up in half an hour, so I'd better go. I've got the cake, Mum's got the stuffing and she's insisting on bringing a trifle as well."
"Jack will love her forever," Ianto grinned. "Take care on the roads."
"I will, see you in about an hour, then. Merry Christmas to your lot."
"And to yours," he told her. "See you soon," he hung up and took the bowls through to the kitchen, then returned to the living room and sat next to Jack, pulling Liza up into his lap and resting his head on Jack's shoulder. "Rhi, the kids loved the Wii, wanted to know if they could bring it over."
Jack chuckled and shifted his hold on Tom so that he could wrap his arm around Ianto's shoulder. "You are going to let them have a go on it, aren't you?"
Ianto leaned into him with a laugh and turned to kiss Jack's cheek, then looked back to the cartoon. They stayed their, curled up in a happy family heap, and Ianto's eyes and mind kept drifting to the pile of presents at the foot of the tree still, and the envelope at the bottom of it. Time flew too fast and the door rang before he was ready for it, but Jack passed Tom over to him and got up to go to the door. Ianto groaned and hugged the kids tightly as he realised that all four of them were still in their pyjamas, but he didn't care all that much. He heard Jack greeting his family in the hall, then Mica and David appeared one after the other around the living room door. He held his arm out and beckoned for them to come over, then hugged her to his side and kissed her on the top of the head. "Hello Mica, happy Christmas."
"Happy Christmas, uncle Ianto," she intoned as if by rote, but threw her arms around his neck happily. "Happy Christmas, Lizzy!"
"Happy Christmas, Mica," Lizzy laughed and clapped. "Old Bear!" she pointed at the screen.
Ianto laughed and took his arm from around Mica for long enough to reach out and run his hand through David's hair. "How are you doing, David?"
"Thank you for the Wii," David said politely. "Can we set it up?"
"Not yet, we can have a play after the soup, okay?" he looked up as his mum, sister and brother-in-law entered with Jack and beamed. "Merry Christmas! Have a seat."
"We would," his mum told him, "but you're sitting in the way of one of the armchairs."
He rolled his eyes and nudged Liza out of his lap to sit on the floor, then put Tom down in the middle of the rug and levered himself upright. "Do exchange, exchange? I mean excuse our state of undress."
She gave him a slow look, then hugged him tightly. "Merry Christmas, little Ianto."
He looked down at her and laughed, hugging her back. "Merry Christmas, Mum, how are you?"
"Alright, me feet aren't what they used to be though," over her shoulder, Ianto saw Rhiannon mouthing, 'They used to be her ears' and laughed. His mum looked between them and sighed. "I don't know, you used to fight like cat and dog, now you run rings around me. I miss the fighting!"
Jack laughed and hugged her from behind, squeezing her between himself and Ianto, then released her and scooped Tom up from the rug before he reached the tree. "Careful, little man," he chided and dangled him upside down, making him laugh. "Want to go to grandma? Ruth?"
"Grandma's not going to give him a choice in the matter," she cooed, holding out her arms for him and taking him off Jack happily. "Oh you are beautiful, little man! Ianto, you have to bring them around more often."
"Yes mum," he chuckled and sat down next to Jack, reaching over and taking his hand whilst Jack's arm wrapped around his shoulders and the other adults settled down, Rhiannon and Johnny into the two arm chairs and Ruth onto the sofa next to him. Ianto reached out and stroked Tommy's cheek gently, making him giggle brightly. Jack's hand tightened on his shoulder and Ianto leaned back into him, turning his head to kiss him. He patted Jack's knee and stood up again. "Coffee, tea?"
With his answers, he padded through to the kitchen and set the coffee maker and the kettle on, puttering around the kitchen as he checked on the turkey again and reorganised the fridge so that he could fit the trifle in. The cake, beautifully iced as always by someone who lived on the same estate as Rhiannon and Johnny, went on top of the fridge, and the stuffing joined the defrosting foods on the counter by the cooker. The kettle clicked and he dropped three teabags into the pot, filled it and set it onto the tray, then gathered five mugs out of the cupboard and clustered them together on the tray. Once the coffee finished, he filled two mugs with coffee for Jack and Johnny and put the soup on the hob to cook. Jack jumped up when he knocked the tray into the door and helped him with it, passing the other mug of coffee to Johnny and pulling the table over so that Ianto could set the tray down. "I've put the soup on," Ianto told them as he prepared the tea. "It should be ready in about ten minutes."
"Lovely, Ianto. Who's got a clever daddy?" Ruth cooed at Tom, who reached for her nose. "My nose!"
Ianto tickled Tom's tummy before he sat down next to Jack again. "I'm not his daddy," he sighed. "Lizzy-bach, come away from the tree, pet."
She looked at him guiltily and tried to pretend that she hadn't been sneaking towards the presents. "But Anto..."
"There's time later, sweet," Jack told her. "Not now. We'll be having soup soon."
"I'll go check on it," Ianto told him.
Rhiannon stood up at the same time and put her mug down. "I'll come and help you. David, come and help us get the table laid."
"Yes mum," he sighed and detached himself from Old Bear, which was still playing on the TV, and followed Rhiannon through to the dining room. The tablecloth and mats were already in place, so all that needed laying out was the cutlery. David still managed to get that the wrong way around, but Rhiannon set him to rights whilst Ianto got the crockery out and brought the soup through to the dining table. They sent David back to the living room to tell them that it was ready and the family arrived before Ianto had finished serving.
They chattered happily over the soup, dragging it out. When it finished, Jack took over from Ianto in the kitchen, leaving him to join his family in the living room. When Jack rejoined them, with Christmas dinner now rolling towards ready, he sat on the floor next to the tree and started n the pile of presents again. "Ruth, from me and Ianto," he held it out.
"Oh sweetheart," she beamed as she opened it and found two soft cashmere sweaters. "Thank you, Jack, and you Ianto."
The pile of carefully wrapped gifts took nearly an hour to turn into a pile of wrapping paper (with a Liza laughing in the middle of it) and distributed piles of gifts. There had even been a couple left for Liza and Tommy, as well as the ones that Rhiannon and Ruth had brought. When they got to the envelope for Jack, Ianto slipped onto the floor and knelt behind him, wrapping his arms around his waist. "Save that 'til later, okay?" he told him, taking it off him. "When I can explain."
"What's to explain?" Johnny asked. "You got something weird going on, Ianto?"
"Yeah, tickets to America, we're trying to get away from you," he told him, letting go of Jack and sitting back next to him. "Sorry, Rhiannon, it's just him."
She threw a ball of wrapping paper at him. "Stop it, Ianto. Honestly, you two haven't grown up, have you?"
"I hope not," he caught Tom as he tried to crawl between him and Jack and turned him around to crawl the other way. "Away from the tree, Tommy, go on."
Jack watched him go and turned to give Ianto a peck, then pushed himself up. "Lunch should be ready soon, I'm going to go and finish off."
"Want a hand, Jack?" Ruth asked as she held out her hands for Tommy to take and encouraged him to stand up. "There's a good boy, he's getting stronger on his legs every time I see him."
"Well, I try my best," Jack chuckled. He held his hand out to Ruth. "I would be honoured to have your assistance, milady."
"You're a daft one, Jack," she told him as she took his hand. "Come on then. Go to Daddy, Tommy."
Ianto bit his tongue rather than reply to that one and gathered Tom up into his arms for a cuddle. He kissed his temple lightly and rocked him slightly. "David, why don't you put some music on? I'm going to take this monster upstairs to get dressed. Liza..."
"No!" she folded her arms and sat down on the carpet next to Mica with a thump. "Don't want to."
"Liza," he stood up and picked Tommy up. "Come with me, now, okay?"
"No," she pouted and would have stamped her feet if she hadn't sat down so resolutely. "Won't!"
"It's shan't, and you will," he insisted quietly. "You're not having Christmas dinner in your pyjamas, neither am I and neither is Jack."
Liza looked up at him crossly, whilst everyone tried not to watch, then got up reluctantly and took his outstretched hand with her head ducked. "Sorry, Anto," she told him.
"That's alright, now go on," he let go of her hand and pointed to her presents pile. "Go and get your dress, you can wear that for dinner," she brightened up and scampered across the room to get it, then returned with it clutched in her hands. "Good girl, now go on upstairs, I'll follow you up. Jack, I'm getting the kids dressed," he called down the corridor. "How far off is dinner?"
"Far enough," Jack called. "I'll come up in a minute."
"Okay," he shifted Tommy and took him upstairs. Liza was clattering around in her room, prattling to her dolls as she went. Ianto knew that her room would look like a hurricane had hit it by the time she was dressed, but he could tidy it in the next break between courses. As he went into Tom's room he heard Liza pattering across to the bathroom behind him, and he caught a glimpse of her dark blue dress, just as she disappeared out of sight again. Tom was getting grouchy, and Ianto decided to change him into a romper suit so that he could put him straight to bed for a bit after the main course. In his and Jack's room, he put Tom in the middle of the bed and changed quickly into a shirt and smart jeans.
His first indication that Jack was coming was a hushed giggle from Liza, the next was a happy fry of "'Ja!" from Tom, and the final one was Jack and Liza pressing against his back and kissing him on either cheek.
"Heya darlings," he turned and took Liza out of Jack's arms so that he could get changed and held her at arms' length. "My, that's a beautiful dress, Liza-bach."
She laughed and leaned forwards, overbalancing and toppling into his arms. He hugged her and wandered to the bed to scoop Tom up under the other arm. "We'll see you downstairs, Jack."
Jack got downstairs only a couple of minutes after Ianto and the kids did, in time for Ianto to have offloaded them onto Ruth and got started serving between the kitchen and dining room. He'd set the table again and got the crackers out in the right places by the time Jack peered around the door. "What do you want next?"
"Potatoes, stuffing, anything really, it all needs to... oh, no, can you start carving the turkey?" he returned to the doorway and pushed Jack back. "Do it up the far end, then I can get the other stuff through to the dining room."
"Do you need a hand?" Rhiannon called.
"No, thanks," he replied loudly. "We've got it," he took the bowls and plates through to the dining room whilst Jack carved the turkey, then they finished with the plate of carved meat. "Dinner's ready, guys," he called.
Immediately, he was swamped by his relatives as they flooded into the dining room for Christmas dinner. A year ago, he couldn't have imagined this, the idea of spending Christmas with his family again, the idea that he and Jack would have contemplated the idea of having a family, even if it currently consisted of providing emergency foster care when they could and were needed to. And yet...
Ianto sat down next to Jack and took his hand on top of the table to squeeze it, then picked up his cracker and waved it at him. "Crack a cracker with me?"
"How could I turn down such an offer?" Jack laughed. "You've got to promise me that you'll wear the hat, though."
Ianto stuck his tongue out and tugged on the cracker until it came apart with a loud crack, and pulled the present and hat out carefully. "I promise," he told Jack seriously, as he unfolded the hat and set it carefully on his head. "Although I might regret that."
"You look fabulous," Jack told him, picking up his own cracker and turning to Ruth with it. On the far side of the table, Mica was putting Liza's hat on her head, whilst David and Rhiannon explored their crackers. Making sure that his hat was secure, Ianto stood up and started serving the food.
They finished that course in time to collapse, overfull and sleepy, onto the sofas for Wallace and Gromit, then Ianto got the Wii set up for the kids to play with. He picked up The Envelope and pointed at the door with it. "I'm going to tidy up upstairs," he told Jack, "come and help me."
Jack looked at him questioningly but followed obediently, sitting down on Liza's bed when Ianto ushered him in and closed the door. "You're worrying me slightly," he confessed when Ianto sat down next to him and gave him the envelope. "What is this?"
Ianto leaned over and kissed him gently. "It's not bad, I promise. And, you know, the best way to find out what's in an envelope is to open it."
"It is," Jack agreed, and slid his finger slowly under the flap, lifting it carefully. He pulled the letter out and lifted the top fold. "That's my name, my formal name."
"It is," Ianto slid closer and leaned against Jack as he opened the bottom fold and read it, so he felt him shudder. "Hey, I promised it wasn't a bad thing, didn't I?"
"But you're resigning," he looked up sharply. "I don't understand."
Ianto rested his head on Jack's shoulder and waved his free hand around the room. "Look at this, Jack. I want this for us, and we can't have it if I'm still working," he squeezed Jack's hand. "I think I should extend my intercalation, at least."
"My time out," he smiled against Jack's shoulder. "I've been with Torchwood for five years now, and I need a break, I need to live without the threat of death hanging over me constantly. If I take some time out, we can have that chance, and we can give the children a chance too."
Jack took both of Ianto's hands in his own and mulled the idea over. Ianto could see his confusion and worry lifting as it became more and more appealing. "Okay," Jack said at last. "I'm more than happy with that. It'll be a challenge, but we can make it work, I promise. Thank you, I couldn't ask you to do this."
"Merry Christmas, Jack," Ianto smiled softly. "Now help me get Liza's room tidied before she brings all her new toys up here."
"We went mad and spoiled her, didn't we?" Jack laughed. "Oh well, it's only Christmas once a year."
Ianto chuckled and picked her pyjamas up off the floor. "That it is, that it is."