Gwen, Ianto, and Perry held the fort when Jack and Alice drove to attend Frank's funeral. Alice didn't speak much to him, too upset with the most recent upheaval of her life, as well as the loss of the woman Jack wasn't happy to consider she'd likely been sleeping with.
When they arrived, Bonnie introduced them to the rest of the family. Jack recognised faces from photographs and surveillance. Alice took the opportunity to be friendly, coaxing smiles even as the rest mourned Frank and celebrated his long life. Bonnie made her promise to bring Steven up to meet his relations, clucking to the rest about how sweet a lad he was, spitting image of his cousin Graeme. Jack hung back, watching his grandchildren and their families, seeing a familiar feature here, a reminder of his own mother and father there. Phil Jr. looked very little like his namesake, but a great deal like Gray would, if Gray grew old. And Alice was perfectly placed among them, making small talk and strongly considering one more upheaval.
"It'd be doing a favour for the other side of the family," she lied when they asked. "That estate in Glasgow we visited. They're recruiting a new manager, and I do love the area."
Funerals were supposed to hurt. Jack had attended enough of them to know.
He lingered the longest at the old photos artfully arranged for the service: Frank with his wife Livvie; Frank, Livvie and their children; and a single black and white photograph Jack remembered Meg snapping on a warm spring day in 1929, Frank and Phil arm in arm and grinning as only brothers with no care in the world could do.
The flat had been tossed. Books and DVDs had been opened and dropped carelessly to break on the floor, all the kitchen was upturned, the wardrobe was a huge mess, and they'd even hacked roughly into the fabric of the sofa and the bed, looking for God knows what. Dirt from their one plant had been ground under boots into the floor, and the poor little cutting lay wilted amidst the broken shards of its pot.
The other day, Ianto and Jack had taken one look at the mess, and turned heel, and gone to a hotel.
Alone, for Jack was still in Scotland, Ianto sat on the one unbroken chair, had a stiff shot of whisky, then got his broom from the cupboard. Hours later, sore and tired, the rooms looked a bit better, and he promised himself he'd have the rest sorted before Jack came back. A new bed and sofa had been ordered and would be delivered tomorrow. He would replace the broken door and mend the frame. He would put the snaps of their loved ones back on the wall, replacing the glass. The music box he'd given to Jack months ago needed repairs but was intact. When he had time, he'd look into finding an expert in fixing delicate mechanisms. For now, he set it on the table and listened to the damaged tune.
The phone rang. Expecting Jack, he answered. "Hello."
"Are you ready to talk?" Rhiannon asked him.
Damn. He looked around at the mess he had yet to clean. He ought to drop the phone back into the cradle.
Instead, he sat on the ruined sofa. "Yeah."
"Tourist offices don't get targeted by government manhunts."
She would know if he lied, just like Mam. "I can't tell you everything."
There was a sigh from the other end. "Tell me what you can."
The house was a tip, courtesy of the UNIT troops acting under Gloucester's faked command, but they took a page from one of the magazines Gwen had read, and they made a game of it. Rhys would impersonate someone famous, and then Gwen did the same, and they played at cleaning up the mess as Jamie Oliver and Miss Moneypenny, laughing so hard at times they almost made it worse.
The thing Gwen occasionally had to remind herself of was that, while she loved spending time with Jack and Ianto both, her best friend in the world lived with her, and he could do a mean impersonation of Tony Blair.
When they were too tired to lift a single broken picture frame more, they collapsed on the sofa together, Gwen resting her head on Rhys's soft stomach. "I was thinking," he said. "We have the spare room, we could just shove the rubbish in there for now, and deal with it when you've got more time." Not that they ever had more time.
To be fair, although Cardiff's normal assortment of alien troublemakers weren't taking a holiday, the Rift had been quiet. Whatever they'd done, and Gwen still wasn't sure, couldn't say, and wouldn't guess, it had worked wonders. Jack had said there were plenty of other folks in Cardiff with burgeoning gifts. The Rift wouldn't stay quiet forever, not with thousands of cranky people above it every single day. For the moment, Gwen thought about blue skies and calm seas, and that seemed to help.
Funny, thinking of the Rift as more than a pain in the arse, as something positive. Everything you've ever wanted, Gwen thought, if only you know how to ask.
Rhys's stomach gurgled. She smiled quietly and patted his belly. And the best day of your life was the one you found out everything you really wanted overlapped precisely with everything you already had.
"No, Rhys Williams, we are not hiding the rubbish in the spare room. We will take it all out to the skip tomorrow." She settled her head more comfortably. "We decided the spare room is going to be the nursery."
"We don't need a nursery right now." He stopped. "Do we?"
She never had told him about her pregnancy scare some months back. Perhaps it was time to tell him, but more likely, it was time to stop being scared.
"Not yet. But we could make a need for it." She sat up, and she pressed her lips against his, until he finally wised up.
And wouldn't you know, they had a little more energy after all.
Jack's depression had returned with him from Aberdeen, and there was nothing to be done. He'd recover, he had to, this was his life. Ianto could be there for him because that was his life, too. They broke in the new bed two hours after Jack's return, and the new sofa the following morning. Not bad, Ianto considered, but sorrow had never put a damper on Jack's libido.
As they showered, enjoying the late start to the day, Gwen phoned. "The Rift's being a bastard again," she said apologetically into Ianto's wet ear. "Perry's collecting data now."
"Right," said Jack, taking the phone. Gwen would love to know he was stark naked and dripping wet, but Ianto wasn't going to share. He got a towel as Jack talked to Gwen. "Call Lois, tell her to get her butt in to the Hub. She can monitor." There was a pause, but Ianto couldn't hear what Gwen was saying as he ran the towel over his own hair.
Jack said, "And I'm saying, never mind. Bring her in. I can suspend her again tomorrow. You and Perry get to the site. We'll be there soon."
Ten minutes later, they were in the car, their lazy morning sacrificed to Torchwood. Typical, really. Jack turned the radio to a station he liked and began singing under his breath, something light and catchy and innocently romantic from another time.
Ianto said, "I put together a guest list. I can show you tonight."
"Any special surprise guests I should know about?"
Ianto had a very brief, very terrifying mental image of the Doctor showing up in the middle of the ceremony. "Not if we're keeping things small, no. I told Rhi. She'll be there. I've got Alice and Gwen, and I put down Martha and her family. Mickey has already said he's sending a gift instead. I didn't know who you wanted to ask to cover the Hub that day, but we can finish the invitations when you decide."
"Let me think about it."
Everything you've ever wanted, thought Ianto, if you only know how to ask. And the best day of all was the one when what you wanted more than anything stood in front of you, smiling and wanting you right back.
Jack took his hand, keeping his eyes on the road.
Gwen's voice came staticky over the comm: "We've reached the site."A moment passed. Then she made a strange noise.
"Gwen? What's wrong?"
The sound changed, and then resolved into laughter.
In the background, there was a low, rumbling noise, like nearby thunder.
"We'll be there in ten minutes."
"Five," said Jack, gunning the engine.
"Don't," Gwen said, gasping for breath. "Oh, but get here soon. It's wonderful." Her voice filled with awe and tenderness. "The things that came through the rift. Oh, Ianto. They're unicorns."
The coda to this fic series is "To Count on Both Hands." (Yay wedding!)
I'd like to extend a tip of the hat to the late, great Dwayne McDuffie, as well as Rich Fogel and Bruce Timm, whose work on "Justice League: Starcrossed" heavily influenced this story series.
And as always, my three favorite words are, "I liked this." :)