Here's the rest. Fluffity Fluff Fluff.
Ianto rubbed his eyes and looked again. "You're real," he accused.
The alien who looked like Santa Claus laughed. "Every tale has a base in reality," he said serenely. His eyes really did twinkle. And his belly really did shake like a bowl full of jelly when he laughed.
Jack chuckled. "Told you you'd love it," he murmured. "Nick, this is Ianto. Ianto Jones, Saint Nicholas."
Ianto shook hands with impossibility and wondered whether he'd qualified as naughty or nice this year. As a child, he'd assumed he was permanently on Naughty, given he'd never gotten the train set he'd asked for three years running.
"I'll water the reindeer," Jack offered. "Would you take Nick down into the Hub, Ianto?"
Ianto nodded dumbly. Jack was behaving as if this was the most ordinary thing in the world. And, Ianto supposed, if he really had done this a hundred times before, it probably was normal, for Jack. Still, flying reindeer. Ianto turned towards the stairs, but couldn't help the yearning look back over his shoulder.
"You'll meet them later," Santa – Nick, whoever he was, said into Ianto's ear.
They made their way back down the stairs, much more carefully this time. The rickety metal staircase groaned under the substantial weight of the man in the – yes it really was a red suit. With a hat.
Nick collapsed gratefully onto the shabby couch and peeled off the hat and his heavy jacket. Ordinary long-sleeved T-shirt underneath, Ianto noticed, and wondered why that made the whole thing more unbelievable.
Still, no excuse for poor manners. "Can I get you anything?" Ianto offered. He used to leave a bottle of beer out for Santa, he remembered, and there'd been an empty bottle, every Christmas morning. In later years he'd assumed his Tad must have drunk it all after the kids were in bed. Surely Santa couldn't drink that much beer?
"Ianto makes the best coffee you ever tasted," Jack boasted, springing down the last flight of stairs.
"Then I shall have to taste it and find out, yes?" Nick said winningly.
Ianto spluttered an agreement and escaped to the kitchen. Nick's voice followed him. "By the way, did you ever get that train set? We had a mix up one year, you never asked again after that, so I assumed it arrived, but I was never sure."
The kitchen door creaked. "You OK?" Jack asked. Ianto didn't need to turn around to know Jack was fighting back laughter.
"Gobsmacked," Ianto admitted. He placed the coffee mugs onto a tray and turned to face Jack. "Am I imagining this?"
Jack ran a finger along Ianto's jaw, ending with his hand cupping the younger man's chin. "All the horrors that come through, you believe in them with no questions. Why is it so hard to accept something good?"
Ianto shook his head, careful not to dislodge the soothing hand. "Too good to be true?" he hazarded.
"Nothing's too good for you, Ianto Jones," Jack murmured.
Ianto lost himself in those eyes, just for a moment, just for an eternity.
Somewhere in the Hub, a man in a red suit cleared his throat, loudly.
"Oh great," Ianto muttered resentfully. "I think you just got me put back on the Naughty list."
Nick approved of the coffee and drank what Ianto calculated to be a least a bucketful, only he was too tired to actually count the cups. The Rift opened and closed, letting – yes it really was Santa and his sleigh – through and back, again more times than Ianto could count.
The night progressed in a blur. The Rift windows opened so close together Ianto wondered aloud how Nick managed to avoid tripping over himself. Jack dragged him over to inspect a Rift program Ianto hadn't seen before, and explained that the crossed time portals opened into geographically diverse locations, but please make sure you never tell the Doctor about this anyway.
"You've been holding out on Tosh," Ianto accused. Jack failed to look innocent.
At some point, Ianto must have fallen asleep sitting up, because he roused slightly as Jack lowered him onto the couch. He lingered comfortably in that twilight place where he was aware of everything around him, but still too far into sleep to react, and let the conversation wash peacefully over his head.
"He does make really good coffee," Nick commented.
"The best I've ever had." Jack's voice sounded odd. Ianto tried to wake up enough to ask what was wrong, but it was too much effort. He hoped he wasn't snoring.
"You should make the most of it while you've got it," Nick replied. "Coffee is such a fleeting joy."
"I intend to," Jack said, his voice much stronger now. Ianto felt the warmth of a blanket dropping over him, the soothing touch of Jack's hands tucking it in around him, and let the ensuing wave of security lull him deeper into sleep.
Somewhere around 4am Ianto got his promised visit to the reindeer. And they really were reindeer, huge ones. But none of them had a shiny red nose.
"Reindeer don't have red noses," Nick said scornfully. "That all came from the year I tried tying lights to the bridles."
"Reindeer don't fly, either," Ianto answered, before realizing he was arguing with Santa Claus. Oh yeah, he was definitely on the Naughty list now.
They moved along the double row of reindeer, distributing food. Grains of some sort.
"It's been nice meeting you, by the way," Nick said casually, from the other side of what might have been Blitzen. "Jack's never done this before, you know, letting someone meet me. He likes keeping me a secret."
"I won't tell anyone," Ianto answered, sounding and feeling like a child again. He met the twinkling eyes with his own and smiled. "No one would believe me anyway."
Santa had a brilliant laugh.
"I think I can trust you," Nick said, clapping Ianto on the back so hard that he bumped into one of the reindeer and got a face full of grain blown over him in retaliation. "Jack does, obviously, and he doesn't trust easily."
The eyes stopped twinkling. "It's good to know he isn't lonely anymore."
Ianto didn't answer that time. He couldn't think of anything to say.
The Rift glowed again. Nick climbed back into the sleigh. "Just a few trips left," he noted. "Getting through a bit quicker this year."
"Maybe the caffeine," Ianto suggested, finally finding his voice.
Yes, that belly really did wobble when Santa laughed.
Jack stood pressed against Ianto's side as they watched the sleigh vanish into the Rift for the final time that night. Dawn broke in the distance.
"Glad you stayed?" Jack asked smugly.
Ianto cleared the smugness away with a well-placed elbow, but his eyes were soft. "Very glad," he admitted. "Thanks for asking me."
Jack slid an arm around Ianto's waist. "Same time next year?"
"It's a date," Ianto confirmed. He could still hear sleigh bells, but they were probably in his imagination now.
Jack helped him into his coat, a process Ianto accepted with bemusement. Usually the other way around, but then again, there'd been nothing usual about the whole evening, so why start being picky now?
"I should be able to get a few hours' sleep before I have to leave for Rhiannon's," Ianto commented. "She'd never forgive me for yawning over the turkey. Or it might be pork this year, I suppose."
"You're blathering," Jack informed him. "How about I drive you home?"
"How about you drive me to Rhi's place?" Ianto countered.
Jack's hands faltered on Ianto's collar. "Really? I mean, will she mind?"
Ianto smiled. "Rhi always cooks too much, and she's always bothering me to bring someone, so I know it won't be a problem." Jack's eyes stabbed through his own, and he had to look away. He could have gotten it wrong, he supposed. "But it'll be noisy and crowded and there's never enough room at the table so we'd probably be eating off plates on our laps…"
"Sounds great," Jack interrupted. "I'd love to."