Title: Work-Life Balance
Characters/Pairings: Jack/Ianto/Lisa, Team
Spoilers: up through CoE
Disclaimer: So not mine. Really.
Warnings: Deeply fluffy.
Summary: Whoever said "Home is where the heart is" never had to juggle three adults and three kids in a two-bedroom rental in Caerau. Part of the Rabbit Hole AU.
A/N: Originally posted at Share and Share Alike for the "Three Weeks for Dreamwidth" project. (Prompt 18.)
Lisa's mobile rang. Cursing, she turned it off without even looking at the ID. Anyone who was important had his or her own ringtone; this call had been the generic ring. She turned her attention back to the readings on her scanner. "Power fluctuations are getting stronger. We're running out of time."
Two minutes, a flurry of motion, and a large number of bullets fired later, the Gr'nak who'd come through the Rift planning world domination was dead. Johnson holstered her weapon while Gwen made the call back to the Hub to let them know it'd been taken care of. Lisa didn't correct the premature celebration, but instead went to work on the Gr'nak's energy device, unfastening the cover and following Tosh's instructions in her ear on how to safely disarm it.
As she pulled wires carefully, Tosh said, "This isn't the first Gr'nak to try this plan."
"Good thing for us they only have the one plan, then." Behind her, Gwen and Johnson hefted the body into the back of the SUV. Crazily, Lisa had an annoying song from one of her daughter's favourite programmes running through her head: "What's gonna work? Teamwork! What's gonna work? Teamwork!" Parenthood rotted your brain from within, she decided, and pulled the last wire. The energy device failed to destroy south Wales.
When they were in the car headed back, Lisa remembered to check her voice mail.
"Hello, Mrs. Jones!" piped a perky voice. "This is Anita from Frost Lynch. I've got a list of homes ready for you and Mr. Jones to view. I've left messages at the other number you gave me," she added, with the perkiness dropping a little. "If you could call me back, I'd appreciate it!" She gave a number, which Lisa knew they already had on a magnet on the refrigerator with Anita's smiling picture printed on it.
She closed her phone.
"Everything all right?" Gwen asked.
"Fine. Bloody estate agent."
"Oh. How's the house search going?" Gwen was good at offering openings: not exactly prying, but allowing other people to overshare. It was how they'd met, months back.
"It's going fine. We just haven't had much time to look."
"I know what you mean. Rhys practically had to choose our house by himself."
Johnson, as usual, had nothing to add to the conversation. Lisa met her eyes briefly in the mirror, but found no emotion she could name. Lisa kept wanting to find common ground with the other woman besides matters directly related to work. However, an opening conversational gambit of, "So how do you feel about the fact that I'm sleeping with your girlfriend's father?" was simply not going to lead anywhere constructive, no matter what Gwen said.
Back at the Hub, Gwen handed the keys to the SUV to Ianto with a pat. Lisa offered him a quick kiss. "We have to talk about the house tonight."
He nodded, took the keys, and went to deal with the body in the car. She watched him go. One of the problems with working with one's spouse was trying to negotiate the boundaries between work and home. They'd been co-workers before they'd been lovers, and stayed co-workers after they'd married, and she thought on the whole that they'd managed a stable balance.
The outer door opened again as Ianto reached it, and Jack swept in with Andy and Mickey in tow. "Hope Street," he announced happily. "Now with two fewer Weevils." He handed Ianto the keys to that vehicle and gave him a quick kiss of his own.
"At work," said Mickey in a less than patient voice.
"Going," said Ianto, two sets of car keys in his hand and a flush creeping over his collar.
Lisa sighed, checked on the baby, then walked back to the lab she shared with Toshiko to thank her for the help. Balance was something that was much harder to achieve when one and one's spouse were dating the boss. Jack gave them orders every day, orders that could easily lead to their deaths if it meant saving the Earth. Some days she had trouble parsing that man as separate from the one who was not technically living with them but came to their bed almost every night and made breakfast for the children in the morning.
Ianto lost the coin toss to leave work on time. While Torchwood never worked to the clock, the agreement was that unless the world was in deadly peril, someone left to fetch the children from Rhiannon's place and feed them supper at home. Seeing as it was Lisa's turn, that probably meant spaghetti hoops for the older two. Jack didn't take many turns staying home with the kids when work called, especially late at night, but then, Jack rigged the coin tosses and thought neither of them had noticed yet. It was both exasperating and charming.
When the last proverbial fire had been extinguished -- a Melorian raider and her crew in a near-collision event, fortunately avoided -- Jack shooed out the rest of the staff, set the alerts to automatic, and then waved his own car keys at Ianto. "Need a lift?"
There was always that second question in the air. While Jack seemed to enjoy his time with them at the little house they were renting, and while he thought nothing of showing up uninvited, it was always with the quietest note of fear. Part of him expected to be told to go. The staff therapist wasn't permitted to disclose anyone's individual details, but Ianto knew that if he had access to Jack's file, the words "Abandonment Complex" would be written in red at the top. The manifestations of same were also exasperating and charming.
"I thought you'd never ask." And there was the relief, flickered past the bravado and gone again.
They didn't talk much on the ride home. The perils of living with someone one also worked with included a much tighter list of safe topics for small talk. For example, Ianto couldn't blow off steam about his idiot boss or inept co-workers, and neither could Lisa, while Jack was no doubt dying inside to have just one person to complain to that he could have hired trained marmosets to do a better job some days.
This, Ianto mused, was why people had friends outside of work.
Back at the house, Lisa was putting the kids to bed after their baths, so Ianto tidied while Jack fixed the adults something to eat that wasn't out of a can. They tried, and failed to avoid bumping into one another as they went about their tasks, but the space had been small with the five of them, and adding another adult to the one storey house hadn't helped. Whoever said "Home is where the heart is" never had to juggle three adults and three kids in a two-bedroom rental in Caerau.
At last, they settled at the table with plates of something that looked like chicken and noodles, and smelled like garlic and butter. Ianto heard scuffling from the bedroom Callie and Kyle shared. Lisa saw his face and said, "I told them they could play quietly for a little while. You can both go in for kisses after dinner and tell them it's time to sleep."
Ianto didn't miss the slight emphasis on "both," and neither had Jack. He saw Jack smile around a bite of noodles.
Lisa said, "I heard from the estate agent today. She says she's found us some houses to look at."
Ianto groaned. "Can we make time on the weekend to look?" He glanced at Jack.
"Put it on the calendar. Lois can schedule you around a few meetings during the week if that's what you need to do."
"The Rift doesn't pause for house hunting," Ianto said.
"No, but if we know we're going to be down two people for an hour or two, we can work around it if something comes up. When Gwen was buying a house, she was called away all the time." Jack went to smile but it got caught in a memory somewhere and left him again. Ianto did the math and figured that Gwen would have been buying her house around the same time that everything went very badly for Jack. There was no good way to offer comfort to someone who'd survived horrors that had later been rewritten, although Martha seemed to understand.
Lisa said, "We should call Anita tomorrow. We have to tell her our specifications have changed."
"Hm?" Close to good schools, close to work, reasonable price range, probably a three bedroom and the girls would share when Isabelle was out of her cot. It'd be … "Oh."
"We'll be looking in the same neighbourhoods," Lisa said, "and I'm sure she'll be able to find something."
"It's going to raise the prices we're looking at."
Lisa shrugged. "It's only money." She looked at Jack. "One of us will meet with the agent to look when she's got a list. After we've narrowed it down, we'll plan an afternoon or a weekend, something when the Rift predictor says it's going to be quiet, and make a decision."
Jack nodded. "Just let me know when you'll want the time off."
Lisa look to Ianto for help. Ianto looked back, with no idea of what she wanted him to do. More precisely, he did know, but had no idea of how to say it.
Finally Lisa said, "Fine. I'll see if Lois can clear your schedule."
"If Lois can … " Comprehension dawned. "That'd be helpful. Thanks." Ianto wasn't sure if he should read the somewhat dazed expression as happy or worried. The problem with Jack's abandonment issues was that he often took them as a reason to be the one to leave first, at least according to rumour.
He said, "Tell the agent we want five bedrooms. My sister is only going to believe Jack is sleeping on the sofa so long." Poor Jack, going through a divorce and needing to rely on the charity of friends, and so far, both extended families bought it.
Lisa found a slip of paper and began to write. "I'll want an office as well. We can turn the fifth bedroom into that, but I'd rather have a study or similar to use. What about the kitchen?" This she asked of Jack, pencil at the paper. "Any requests?"
"Counter space," said Jack. "Anything else can be bought later." His eyes locked on her hand as she wrote it on her list.
Ianto said, "A basement or a decent attic for storage."
Lisa wrote "storage," then said, "A real dining room."
"We should look at new furniture," Jack said, and Ianto only heard the catch on the "we" because he'd been listening for it. "If we're going to have a dining room, we're going to need a better table than this one." Lisa made notes on the other side of the paper. The noise from the children's room had ceased. They'd have to sneak in for goodnight kisses.
She said, "We'll have to purchase a washer and dryer. The kids are dirtying two and three outfits every day."
Ianto nodded. He took their work clothes to the dry cleaner, but the piles of tiny clothes in the children's room were reaching scary proportions as the adults tried and failed to find time to do something about it. He'd been a stay-at-home father for a reason. But Torchwood had beckoned, and Jack had given him the look that said he already knew what Ianto was going to do before he did it, and "No" was no longer an option.
He summoned up that look now, and turned it onto Jack. The dazed expression faded, to be replaced by a familiar, rakish grin as Ianto said, "Tell Anita to make certain the master bedroom is large. We're going to buy a bigger bed." He stopped himself from commenting how none of them were small; Lisa was still sensitive about not having lost the last of the baby weight yet.
She smiled as she wrote down, "Bed. Big."
Jack sat back in his chair, limbs in a happy sprawl. "You're right. And that's going to require a lot of comparison shopping. We'll need to clear, oh, at least three days on the schedule as soon as possible."
Ianto said in his most professional voice, "I'll inform Lois in the morning."
Lisa set aside the paper. "I can give this list to Anita tomorrow. Are we done?"
Ianto shrugged and Jack said, "I suppose we are."
"Good." She stood up and grabbed a hand from each of them. "If we're going to replace the bed, we should at least give the old one a good send-off."