Author's Note: I'm not entirely sure why, but FFN keeps pulling the section breaks out when I upload now. It wasn't doing this before, so I can't quite figure it out. I'm putting the breaks back in manually as well as an actual horizontal line since it seems to randomly remove the other breaks unpredictably. So, apologies if you end up getting both. Consider it... transitional emphasis. LOL And I also apologize if I miss any of them. feel free to point that out to me if you find them.

Torchwood had long kept its own storage facilities all over the Cardiff area for safely keeping the entire lives of former agents. At each of these facilities Jack Harkness also kept a unit or two for his own personal use. The fact was, when you were basically immortal and had varied tastes, you could stock up a vast collections of things which were special enough that you kept them. The problem with those kinds of collections were numerous. At the top of the list, they could be used as clues to find out things you didn't want to be general knowledge. Right below that was the fact that you had to have a fairly large home and eventually expand it to hold it all. But Jack had a tendency to wander from time to time and big homes full of vulnerable valuables just weren't the kind of thing you could just run off and leave. So he stored things.

The unit he was going through was the third one he'd been digging through that week. He dug through crate after crate, muttering to himself as he searched. "Why didn't I catalog this stuff when I put it in here?"

While he was fairly good about keeping Torchwood things organized, his personal mementos tended to be something more of a jumble much like the life in which he'd accrued them. Even his most precious small items were an untidy collection in a box in his desk drawer. If he was honest with himself, he didn't keep these things tidy because it gave him cause to dig through and get bits of nostalgic joy when he needed to find something among his keepsakes. There was no time for that now, though, so he moved along at a good pace. The item he was looking for had been picked up on a whim ages ago, not long after he'd been thrown back into the 1800's. He hadn't even known why he'd gotten it at the time. Now he couldn't remember exactly which crate he'd tucked it into. There were so many. He was only halfway through the unit and sweating despite the chill night air. He blew out a huff of breath and groaned as yet another crate failed to contain what he was looking for.

He straightened and scowled at the motley array of unmarked wooden crates. "It has to be here somewhere. Some of this stuff is looking like it was picked up around then..."

So he kept digging, checking the time now and again. Evan was on an overnight shift at The Hub. He'd need to get back to the loft before 6am if he was going to be there for breakfast. It was getting close to time to go when he reached the bottom of a crate in the back corner and found what he was looking for. He pulled open the velvet bag, peered into it and smiled.

"There you are!" He tucked it into his coat and turned around to go only to see that he'd have to climb out now. He'd been a bit messy in his exploration. He managed, locked the unit down again and headed off toward the SUV, softly whistling a little Glen Miller .

Dani let out a low whistle which echoed along the walls of the old sewer tunnel. In answer, there was a rustle further on in the shadows. The Weevil he could see was young, small by the heat signature it gave off when he changed his ocular structure to thermal sensitive.

"It's okay, little mite. Not gonna hurt you..." His voice was soft and sing-song, soothing. He could smell the thing's fear as he crept forward. He fished about in a pocket and found a candy. "Like sweeties, little mite? I've got a candy..." He popped a tentacle to unwrap the candy so he could keep his firearm hand free.

"Dani, I lost the female. She's doubling back on herself so my Psychometry isn't working too well." Evan's voice was a soft whisper in his ear.

"Well, I'm on a little one here, so if you hear me screaming it's probably dear old mum ripping off appendages in an attempt to warn me off her wee baby monster."

He and Keri had been the on-call staff when the call from a property manager near Mermaid Quay had been intercepted from an operator with Cardiff police. So they and Evan had headed out to check out the supposed monsters that had been seen poking about a car park at the back of the property. They'd tracked the little family unit into the sewers. Somewhere distant, Dani heard the roar of an enrage male Weevil. Their calls were distinct, deep and rough compared to the females and juveniles. The sound was followed immediately by two gunshots.

"Keri? You alright?"

She grunted over the comms. "I'm good. The bull's down. He tried to jump me. I got him with the sedative rounds if one of you gentlemen care to come and help me drag him topside."

The young one in front Dani started to moan and cry pitifully and somewhere not far off there was another moan, but this one had some anger blended into it. "Just bind him and track toward me, please. I do believe mum's come round for baby and she's just a titch angry."

Under normal circumstances, a single adult Weevil wouldn't have been a big deal. But this was a female who seemed to think her mate was gone and that her child would soon be equally perished. That made her among the most dangerous things on Earth right then.

"S'okay, little mite. Not gonna hurt you..." He edged a little closer, the tentacle with the candy clutched in it creeping out along the wall to set the morsel between himself and the child. "See? Yummy..."

The Weevil sniffled piteously, but leaned forward as the scent of the chocolate covered nougat wafted up to him. He was busily shoving it into his toothy maw when the female charged into view at the other end of the tunnel. Dani sighed softly.

"Sorry, mum, but you can't stay here."

He fired a tranq round, but it struck the side of her massive head and bounced away as she hunched down to charge on all fours. It was a move they only used when they were at their most aggressive. He grunted and got ready to get out of her way. Hunched down like that, it was going to be hard to get a dart solidly into a fleshy enough bit for it to spread and take her down. He counted as she rushed him and then, right before she slammed into him, he jumped. In mid-leap he shifted, tentacles shooting out to anchor him to the roof with slightly squishy sounds which made the smaller Weevil look up in bewilderment. One tentacle tip had remained in the shape of a humanoid hand and deftly fired the next dart squarely into the ample cheek of the mother Weevil's backside. She roared, stumbled and sprawled to a shuddering stop in the very shallow stream of water in the center of the tunnel floor. Dani let out a rather exuberant string of clicks and chirps in his own language. He saw the little one staring at him and waved a tentacle at it before releasing his grip on the ceiling and oozing himself down to the floor and back to his humanoid form again. The small Weevil seemed amused and made an odd chuff-snort sound which Dani figured must be their form of laughter.

"Fun, yeah?" He knelt and gestured for the little one to come to him. "'S alright. Come on then." It stood and toddled uneasily to him. "There now. See? I'm not bad."

"Dani, you okay?" He heard Evan approaching from the direction the mother had come.

"Yeah. Mum's down." He called. "Got the little one, too."

At the other end of the tunnel, Keri started clapping. "Nice moves, baby."

"Thanks. Feeling frisky today." He grinned as he scooped up the little Weevil which was now clinging to him. He rand a hand gently over its bristly head. "We'll take good care of you, little mite. Mum's just sleeping and soon you'll be in a nice warm cell with plenty of food." The little one leaned his head into the rub with a sort of odd growling purr.

Keri stepped closer, staring at the young Weevil. "They're kind of... cute when they're little. Who would have thought?"

"That's the way of nature, duckie. Even predators are cute when they're babies. Makes them seem harmless and makes adults want to take pity on them and nurture them. Baby things emit pheromones that make you want to take care of them." He chuckled as the Weevil peered at her and made a soft growly coo. "And this little mite wants to charm you seeing as he identifies you as the female and more likely to be a mommy type."

She snorted and smirked. "Growling up the wrong tree there, squirt. I'm the butt-kicker, not the boo-boo kisser."

"Oh, I dunno, you kiss my boo-boo pretty well."

She frogged him in the arm. "Such language in front of a baby!"

He laughed as Evan approached, scanning the female. "Looks like you made a friend, Dani"

"Yeah, I'm quite the charmer when I want to be." He snickered.

"Let's get these three to the truck before that male wakes up." He reached to the pack on his back and unclipped restraints to put on the female. Keri reached into hers and telescoped out the rod she pulled. It clicked twice and flipped into two half cylinders which hummed and then formed a blue force field which pushed them apart. "I can carry her, you know."

Keri snickered. " I do know. You're carrying the bull."

"Duh. Right." He chuckled softly. "Blame it on me missing snack time."

He rolled the female onto the litter, activating the restraints which would keep her pinned to it. Keri led them back to where she'd felled the bull. They got him onto a second litter and made their way back to where their extraction crew was waiting at a manhole. They'd set up a tent over it and blocked the street so they could get their quarry out unseen. There weren't too many people about around the Quay this time of morning, but it was better to play it safe. The little one gave some worried chitters at seeing both of his passed out parents being dragged along, but Dani distracted him with more sweets from his pocket and sing-song sounding clicks, hoots and whistles in his own language. By the time they got to the extraction point, the little thing was passed out against his chest and he went up the ladder first to give them room to hoist up the adults. He used tentacles to pull himself up so as not to disturb the child.

Evan blew out a huff of breath as Dani hauled himself clear and a rig was lowered down to hook onto the first litter's end. He took it and clipped the hooks hook onto one poles of the litter he was holding. "We sure are finding a lot of young ones these days."

"I know. You'd thing there would be more in spring, not fall." She helped Evan guide the litter up.

"Not just that. I've been looking at the records. Young were pretty rare before this year. Almost all of the captures logged in the last 50 years by Torchwood were all adults."

"You think we're about to have a population explosion of them?"

"Possibly. Things may have changed wherever they're coming from so now they can breed more."

"Or maybe something here has changed."

He nodded. "Torchwood hasn't done any blood work on them in ages. They gave up because the equipment they had couldn't really make heads or tails of their chemistry. So the protocol became detain and dispose and then detain and deport once Jack figured out a means to do so. But we have better equipment. Maybe it's time to start looking at it again. We might end up having to use the data to figure out some form contraceptive or something."

"Well, let's just hope their breeding doesn't end up on the scale of the roaches they smell like." She shuddered. "That would be Hell on Earth since we've never managed to conquer the cockroach and it's lived through just about everything including nukes."

The first litter was being pulled aside up top and the rig was quickly lowered back down for the second. Once it was up, he followed Keri up the ladder and then used his gravitics to put the manhole cover back in place. They got the trio of Weevils secured in the back of the utility services truck. The little one woke and began wailing softly when Dani tried to put him down, so he elected to stay in the van with him.

Evan tapped on his ear piece. "Okay, Chris. We're ready to head back to the SUV. Be ready to cover our exit."

"On it. Go when I say." He was munching chips while his fingers flew over the keys. "Okay. Cameras are looped to cover you, Evan. Go."

Once they were back at The Hub and the Weevils were all three in one of the big pens they used for family units, Dani was there watching the little one trying his best to wake his mother and alternately begging to be picked up by him and making gestures for food. He sighed heavily and went to divider.

"Sorry, little mite. You can't go home with me. You need to stay with your parents or they'll be going crazy trying to find you."

Keri came down the ramp at the end of the detention unit. "Hey, squiddy, you gonna get cleaned up or you walking home? You're not getting in the car smelling like that." She came over to him, heels clicking. "Aw. Little guy wants to come with you, huh?"

"I guess." He blew out a soft chuff.

"Softy..." She gave him a grin.

"Yeah, sometimes I have a heart." He stuck his tongue out at her and swatted her butt.

"Hey, hey hey! No getting sewer stink on my nice clean leathers, butt head!" He gave her a maniacally mischievous look. "Noooo..." She took a step backward. "Dani... don't you dare..." At his mock sinister laugh, she yelped and took off at a run with him in chase.

Evan shook his head as he stepped through the service entrance at the other end of the ward. The Weevils which were awake began to mewl pitifully. It's just me. You're safe. His mental touch calmed them a little. Over time, he'd come to realize that the mind-touch helped calm the way the star in him stirred them up. Mind-touch meant beings like them and safety. He had noticed that most of the Weevils they held were more placid if he was the one who fed them their first captive meals and gave them assurances mentally because he could send them simple imagery which they could comprehend without the worry of language. He moved to peer into the pen with the three newcomers in it and then knelt. "Hey, little one." He smiled as the young Weevil ambled up to the divider and mewled at him. "Thought you might like a toy to keep you company until they wake up."

They'd had to put them out again with stronger tranquilizers in transit, so it would be a while. He opened a small port at the bottom of the divider and crammed a little stuffed bear through. The Weevil child snatched the toy and looked at it curiously until Evan sent him mental images of cuddling it and playing with it. The Weevil then bared fangs in its equivalent of a smile and hugged the bear to its chest, rubbing its bulbous head against the soft fur. Evan smiled and slid an apple through the port as well, showing the little one in his head that it was good to eat.

There now. Eat your snack and then lie down and nap with your mom. He nodded as the little one took the apple and wiggled his way under his mother's massive arm to snuggle against her, gnawing at the apple eagerly.

He went back through the service entrance and headed back up to the Pit. It was about time for the Beta team shift change. He'd oversee that and then head back to the loft. In the mean time, his stomach was roaring to be fed and he made his way around the edge of the Pit to the break room ramp. He made up a plate of cheese and fruit salad, added a cup of tea with so much sugar it was just shy of being crunchy and headed back up.

"Clean operation." Chris grinned. "Police weren't even aware anything happened. I tagged out the operator telling her it was my little brother prank calling and that we were terribly sorry and would appreciate it if they didn't make a thing out of is as our mum's single and works hard, it'll never happen again and all that."

Evan laughed. "Nice." He popped a piece of cheese into his mouth, savoring it.

He heard Keri and Dani making a row two levels down, their voices echoing up. Chris seemed oblivious to it. "Hey, why don't you go ahead and sign out. Betas'll be here any minute now and I can watch this for you."

"Hey, I'm never one to frown at leaving early. Thanks." He took off his headset, initiated his log out sequence and stood, stretching. "Besides, if I hurry, I can go have breakfast with Jules before she comes in." That broadened the smile on his face.

Evan was honestly surprised Jules hadn't just moved them in together yet. Chris and Jules had actually been dating openly for almost two weeks now and it was only a matter of time before that happened. Jules was, after all, not one to waste time. He waggled his fingers at him. "Best get moving then."

"Oi, that mean we can bail, too?" Dani was dripping wet and standing at the top of the ramp.

"Uh, after you mop up your drippings maybe."

Dani grinned sheepishly. "Right... sorry."

Keri's voice came from behind him. "I'll help since half the drips are my fault. Come on, squiddy. Let's get to it so we can go grab breakfast and then grab each other."

"Woo-woo!" He turned and chased her back down the ramp.

Evan shook his head in amusement, took up a piece of kiwi and chewed it, wondering when he'd suddenly become a kindergarten teacher. Despite the chaos that came with it at times, he was glad that Jack was letting him rotate command with Dani when he took his days off. It showed that he still had trust and faith in him despite his violent breakdown at the Quay.

He decided to take in some air and walk home rather than side-stepping. He'd been practicing that more since Chicago. He'd been working hard to control himself, meditating and practicing with Rigel to learn what he was capable of doing with his abilities. So far, that was working. He knew it was safe for him to step through those rips in space and time, cross the nothingness and come out wherever he wanted to go. Since Rigel wasn't at all sure he could safely carry other living things and carrying organic edibles through had proven to be a failure by dooming two lovely salads to the here-after on a lunch run, he hadn't tried to take anyone else. He also hadn't tried going very far on a jump. Despite Rigel's assurance he could probably go anywhere he knew the energy patterns for, he still had some fear of getting lost in that dark nothingness of the Void. There was also the occasional embarrassing slip-up where he got a little distracted and his clothes didn't come across with him. It was very much a work in progress. Though Rigel once again brought up the idea of using Weevils as test subjects, he nixed the idea. He'd just have to think of some other way. This morning, though, he wanted the sky and light and pleasant walk home. Something about the sounds of slowly waking Cardiff had come to soothe him when he had the opportunity to take it in. Maybe it was because it was now associated with his morning walks with Laszlo who was also soothing.

As he approached the gate of the compound and slid his key card through the lock, he heard Laszlo's bark from the roof garden. He reached out and touched his mind gently. Hey, now. Too early for the barking, goofball. Quiet before you wake everyone up.

He snickered as the bark devolved into the whimper-whine-groan of an excited dog. He could see him bouncing along the fence that went around the roof garden. He was growing like crazy now that he was getting good care and would soon be roughly pony sized if he kept it up. With that thought, he made a note to himself to look into having the roof garden's fence brought up another few feet. Laszlo wasn't a dumb dog, but he'd rather not risk him falling from the roof in a bout of exuberance. He went along the side of the building to the entrance beside the rear lift and let himself in. As the lift started up, he detected the faint scent of warm blueberries and sizzling bacon wafting down from above. Apparently Jack had decided to cook breakfast.

"Just in time for hot, fluffy pancakes," Jack called from the kitchen as the lift doors opened.

"Hope you made a lot. I'm starving." His snack at The Hub had merely been a delaying tactic and his stomach was now demanding its next sacrifice. He kicked off his boots, hung his coat on its peg and padded into the kitchen to hug Jack from behind as he flipped a steaming blueberry pancake onto a platter.

"I always make plenty." He turned to kiss him and Evan breathed him in.

"Good. "

"Over easy or scrambled on the eggs this morning?"

"Over easy since we have bacon to dip in them." He grinned. He heard Laszlo come charging through the dog door in the vestibule that led onto the roof and chuckled. "Sent him out to get him out from under foot, huh?"

Before Jack could answer, Laszlo's butt barreled into Evan's leg, almost putting him on the floor. "Hey, hound, take it easy!" Jack laughed. "I swear he acts like you've been gone a week."

Evan regained his balance in Jack's arms and turned to move Laszlo down the kitchen a bit before kneeling to hug the bouncing dog. "I know, sweet bubby. I've been gone forever, huh?" He laughed as his face was licked enthusiastically while he scritched and lightly thumped the dog along his back. "Did you walk him already?"

"Yeah. He had a run with me before I started breakfast. He just needs his vitamin treat."

Evan went to get the tin from the cabinet and pulled out the small treat, making the dog's butt go into crazy dance mode. He almost couldn't sit when he was given the hand signal to do so, but he managed it somehow. He snatched the treat midair when Evan tossed it to him.

"Good boy!" He petted him some more as Jack got his eggs done.

Jack inclined his head toward the coffee maker. "Cinnamon hazelnut dark roast this morning."

"Ooo!" Evan moved to get his favorite purple coffee mug down. "You're going to spoil me."

"That's the idea." Jack smiled. He was quiet as Laszlo bounded off to go play in the main room of the loft and Evan got his cup of coffee. Then he took a deep breath. "You know, I've been thinking that maybe we'd make that Wisconsin trip an Alpha team holiday kind of thing."

"Really?" He leaned against the counter, sipping his coffee.

"Yeah. I figure it would be an excellent way to train up Beta and Gamma teams. Let them run things for a bit. Besides, Dani could just beam us back using the Tava as needed. And I'm sure no one would whine about having a holiday break. We don't usually do those."

"True. And Alex could go see his sister while we're there." He looked thoughtful. "I'd love to introduce the crew to Mom. Just... can we not tell her what it is we do exactly? I don't want to drag her and Abby into all this crazy stuff. Mom's so... normal and I wouldn't want her to be worrying all the time."

"Ah, so that's why you never do your video calls when I'm around. Afraid I'll spill the secret?"

"Well..." Evan ducked his head a little. "It's more that you're always the one who gets the call when there's an emergency. If you aren't around, it's not likely she'll hear that."

"We'll come up with something to cover." Jack grinned. "We always do."

"I hate lying to her, but I think it's best this way."

"Maybe eventually you can tell her."

"I don't know..."

Jack plated the last of the eggs and transferred half the stack of pancakes to Evan's larger plate. "We'll worry about that later. Come on. Eat up." He slid Evan's plate to him.

He paused to kiss him before carrying it to the table. "Thank you, baby."

"You're welcome."

As they ate, Evan related their hunt to him and the amusing story of Dani gaining a fan in the little Weevil. Jack laughed at that. "Go figure. The way to a Weevil's heart is through their stomach."

"I think if he could have, he'd have taken the little thing home. It's probably a good thing Keri distracted him and got him out of there when she did." Evan chuckled and sipped the fragrant coffee from his cup with a soft sound of pleasure. "Perfect."

"I had a good teacher."

Jack got a slightly wistful look which Evan answered with a gentle touch of fingertips and a soft smile. It was his way of letting Jack know that it was okay to think about Ianto and let the emotions show. It didn't bother him. "Did he teach you to make pancakes, too?"

"No. Strangely enough that was Dani. He had a fetish for breakfast bread for a while. I thought if I learned how to make pancakes it might get him into my bed faster. "

Evan laughed. "And did it work?"

"Sadly, no. That was definitely an exercise in patience. The form he wears now is sexy. The one he used to wear when I first met him was... magically alluring." He shivered faintly, remembering.

"I remember a few dreams about that... all of that silver hair..."

"Yeah and that lean, long body. Long all over." He breathed out a sigh. "I don't know where he got the idea for that guise from, but he definitely knew how to work it." His voice drifted off. He didn't really want to talk about his time with Dani. While it had been wonderful when it was good, it was a complicated time and also had bitter to go with the sweet, more than a lot of periods of his long life had.

Evan sensed his reluctance and changed the subject. "You're off today. I want a three hour nap and then we're going to go do something, even if it's just go to a movie or head out to the park with Laszlo to let him run."

"Option B sounds good to me," mused Jack. "We could take a picnic lunch."

"Park it is then. We can run the pooch until he collapses and then have some relax time and grub."

Chris fidgeted in the SUV as he waited for Jack and Dani. It bothered him a little that they didn't really trust him enough to do more than run the drones when they were in the field. Jack knew he wasn't entirely comfortable with firearms. He was at his best behind his consoles at The Hub. However, after Jules had been shot while off duty, he'd started thinking that he really needed to get in more field work to toughen him up a bit. He needed more practice, more steel in his nerves. He wasn't a coward by any means. He was just better at building and running things than he was at manhandling aliens. He was, after all, a skinny nerd bloke. But how could he possibly ever hope to protect Jules if it needed doing if he didn't toughen up? He glanced up at the building of flats they'd gone into and maneuvered his drone so that he could see them entering the flat where the Nostrovites had holed up. They hadn't been in Cardiff long enough to impregnate anyone from what they could tell, thank goodness, but they seemed to be skulking around looking for a likely incubator for their spawn. He activated the thermal scans and scowled, tapping his earpiece.

"Jack, they aren't in there."

"I thought you said you saw them come in."

"I did. But... they must have gone somewhere other than their apartment. Hold on."

"Brilliant," muttered Dani. Jack gave him a hard look as he pulled a scanner and began to sweep the corridor. "Nothing on my short range. Chris, hit the building with wide scan, would you?"

Chris sounded a little peeved. "Already working on it, Dani." The tone said, 'Whatever, he who is not my boss and has no right to order me about in the presence of said boss.'

Jack took a deep, slow breath, cutting comms for a second. "Dani, would you mind not treading on the staff? Chris knows his job, okay?"

The thought that clearly crossed Dani's face was 'Could have fooled me." Instead he simply said, "Sorry."

"Shite... they must have seen us pull up. They slipped out the back. And... they're headed my way." He couldn't hide the nervousness in his voice as he guided his drone back toward the SUV. He had a few tranqs on the thing, but he wasn't sure the formula intended for Weevils would work on these Nostrovites. They'd not initially been looking for Nostrovites when they'd headed out.

"Easy, Chris, we'll be right..." He trailed off at the sound of shattering glass over their earpieces. "Dani, join in as soon as you can..." He flipped open his Vortex Manipulator and keyed in a fast sequence. Then he was gone.

Per his promise to Keri, Dani's manipulator was not on his wrist, but in a pouch within part of his body which was currently part of the mass he was storing while not in use; it was not easily accessible and tempting but could be had in enough of an emergency. He sighed. "Stupid squid making stupid promises," he grumbled. He shifted to the form of a big black dog since four legs were faster than two. He went charging down the corridor, slamming the fire door handle to open it and bolted down the stairwell. He almost knocked over some poor sod on the narrow stairs and, without thinking about it, called out over his shoulder. "Sorry!"

The man's eyes widened as he stared for a moment and then ran up the stairs, spilling his shopping all over with a startled, "Bloody hell!"

By the time he got to the SUV, Jack had already shot one of the Nostrovites, but only managed to peg it in the arm. It had turned to engage him and the bigger male was trying to drag Chris out of the vehicle by the neck despite two darts dangling from its shoulder. There was just one problem, the lad was still buckled in and he was in quite apparent pain and panic as the thing kept trying to jerk him free. Not good and no time to go mucking about fully shifting to use a weapon, either. Fine. Natural weapons it was then. As he accelerated toward them, Dani shifted his conformation a bit from big dog to full on dire wolf. There was no warning as he plowed into the alien's legs, jaws snapping onto one of them. It tasted vile and oily, but he kept his hold as he pulled with all of his weight and momentum to drag it toward the back of the SUV. The thing was so startled by the attack that it let go of Chris, who immediately began to cough as air suddenly reached his lungs again. Dani felt the thing trying to catch his hind leg and put the brakes on with a swing of his head. The Nostrovite was flung forward and bashed his head into the edge of the rear bumper where it curved round. The end came loose, dangling, and the Nostrovite roared in fury.

Jack, wresting with the female on the ground now, called out, "Hey! Can we try not to demolish the get-away car any further?"

"Want it down or want the car?" Dani leaped backward as the alien lurched toward him. But Jack was too busy trying to keep the one he was fighting from biting him to answer.

Bloody bastard, thought Chris as he struggled to get free of the seatbelt and his laptop rig. Not letting that stand. No way. No! He finally managed to release the catch despite fingers slicked with is own blood and half tumbled from the SUV. He'd managed to pull his gun when the thing had jumped at the window, but it had grabbed him and slammed him into the door too fast for him to keep his grip and it had flipped out of the broken window. He saw it next to the curb and grabbed it. He was too pumped up on terror and adrenaline yet to realize how much pain he was in.

Dani had one alien at the rear of the car. He was out of its grip and it was too dazed to catch something darting about on four legs. Jack, on the other hand, was about to get a nasty bite through the arm and couldn't seem to get the other one off of him. He'd heard the story of Gwen's unwilling Nostrovite pregnancy. He figured, immortal or not, that was something Jack would probably rather not go through. So he took aim at the Nostrovite's head and prayed he didn't screw things up. He went through the mental checklist of what to do as fast as his hyper brain could manage and squeezed off his shot. To his amazement, the alien lurched and tumbled sideways as blood and goo sprayed over the grass. He noted that Jack looked a bit stunned at that happening and blinked a couple of times when he realized the shot had been projectile fire, not Dani's preferred shockwave weapon, and that it had come from him, not Dani. Jack flashed him a breathless and lopsided grin as he lurched to his feet to help Dani with the other one.

Chris let out a huff of the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding and slid down the side of the vehicle, eyes wide and the gun held out more like a talisman than anything else. I did it... I killed it... right through the head, he thought. I actually fired my gun and hit my target where I wanted. I guess all of those first person shooters are paying off. He couldn't help the soft giggle that welled up in his throat even though it hurt quite a lot.

When it came time to clean up the mess, Jack came over and peered down at Chris who looked like he had drifted off to la-la land with a quirky smile on his face. "Chris?" He waved a hand before the young man's eyes and whistled. "You okay?"

"Uh..." He started to say fine and try to get up only to wince and whimper with the explosion of pain that went through his neck and back. "Don't think so..."

Dani came around from where he'd been tucking the bodies into the back of the SUV and trying to get the bumper to stay on right. "Yeah, think he needs to sit out on the rest of the mop-up. That male was trying to part head from neck when I came up."

Jack winced as he knelt down and noted the livid bruises under the smeared blood. "Oof... Dani, get the emergency kit. We need a neck brace."

Jack's earpiece activated and Alex's voice came across. Since Chris was in the field it was his night to watch the roost. "I've got Jules and Stephen in transit with our emergency services van along with a team to help Retcon the few witnesses, Jack. Sorry I couldn't give you a heads up on their location. Cameras inside and at the back of the building were all out."

Jack smirked. "Figures. They probably dismantled them to cover their comings and goings. Come in the front, go out the back, bring your prey back in from the back." He took the neck brace from Dani and settled it around Chris' neck. Dani handed him a little aerosol can with a straw nozzle and he started applying coagulant to the places where he was bleeding. Some of the glass in his face was too deep for him to mess with.

"Oi, there's a guy in there I talked to in dog form. Can we leave off giving him Retcon?" Jack started to scowl and he gave him a big toothy smile. "Please? Not like anyone'll believe he almost got knocked down the stairs by a massive talking black dog. They'll just think he's a nutter."

Dani was flashing his 'just a bit of harmless fun' face. In the old days Jack would have been all for the occasional prank without hesitation. But back then, he hadn't been the one in charge and he hadn't been responsible for nearly so many deaths. He debated for a minute. "Okay, him we can leave."

Dani gave a little cackle as their fake NHS Trust ambulance arrived and Jules came rushing up. Stephen was paces behind her. She gasped at seeing the blood and contusions on Chris. She shot Dani a hard look.

"Nice to know you can laugh while a team member's wounded. Step back so we can work." She dropped to her knees beside Chris and he looked terribly embarrassed. "You know, there are better ways to get my attention," She whispered as she leaned in close, pretending to inspect the brace.

Dani sighed and muttered something under his breath before moving to go help the mop-up team which had just pulled up go track down witnesses. Meanwhile Jules and Stephen did a battery of field neurological tests.

"Let's get him onto a board," sighed Stephen. "We'll need to repair those damaged nerve bundles and the ruptured discs. He's damned lucky there was no damage to the spinal column."

Jules prepped a syringe. "I'm going to give you something for the pain, Chris."

"Good, because I don't know how much longer I can keep from puking on your boots..."

There had been some tension between Dani and Jules for a day or two, but she never held onto anger for long. It was just too at odds with her cheerful demeanor to stay angry. So, as things often did for the sake of cohesive teamwork, it smoothed over quietly and they were back to picking, joking and doing their jobs once it became clear that Chris would be okay after his misadventure. He'd had to take a solid three weeks off, but he was healing nicely and back on the job, though a bit more ambivalent about going out on armed field assignments. October was coming to an end and Jack called everyone together to let them know that Alpha team would be leaving for the States in December. He detailed all of the accelerated training and other preparations which needed to be done.

"I expect Beta and Gamma teams to be ready to take the reins by the time we go. This trial could mean the difference between promotions and pay raises or rejection and Retcon." The look he gave them was all seriousness. Understood?"

The all nodded or said, "Yes, sir."

He smiled then. "Good. Now, since we're all here in one place and it's lunch time, head down to the break room. There's a nice little buffet waiting for you there."

Evan came up to him and touched his forearm. "I need to take Laszlo for his therapy dog training session. We'll be back later."

Jack kissed him lightly. "Alright. Eat on the way."

"I will." Laszlo was dancing foot to foot beside him and he chuckled. "Yes, goofball, we're going out now." The dog was always happy on the leash because it meant 'out'. He liked 'out' very much.

Once they were gone, Jack went into his office and called the crew which he'd sent out to the property he'd found out near Blaengarw. It was an old manor house which had been left untended a while up among the farms in the hills around the village. It had obviously been modified and added onto over centuries, showing signs of the original stone, beam and plaster work as well as Victorian era upgrades in the two added wings and the solarium garden between them which attached to the back of the house. This had been turned into a massive garden pool house at some point in more modern times. It had obviously been some rich family's country home. There were cottages behind it for guests or staff and there had been five empty parcels of land which came with it, some of it lushly wooded and wild. Jack had also purchased the unused pastures across the lane from the main property. He had a mind for future expansion and was planning appropriately. Maybe someday the place would be a fall-back location for the teams if it became necessary. For now, he was more concerned with making it into a safe and peaceful place for Evan. He was happy with the status report. The main house was on schedule as was the house across the lane. The cottages were done. Perimeter security was in place and the internal security in the main house and the barn beyond the gardens was almost done. The crew chief assured him that all would be finished the week before Christmas as promised, clean and ready for moving in within two days of that. They'd been slowed by the weather a bit getting the exterior work done. It had taken erecting temporary structures to keep out the elements and protect the more fragile bits. However, they were now working just inside and back on track.

Jack wanted to preserve as much of the house's original features as he could, but he also knew Evan's tastes tended toward more modern things. The kitchen, he knew, would have to be mostly modern and state-of-the-art. He did, however, have the original field stone flooring repaired and sealed over to protect it. It looked wonderful with all the copper work accents the decorator had added into the redesign. He was confident that Evan would love the place once he got in there and started placing things where they belonged to make it his own. There were other things he'd had them put in, too: air filtration systems, reinforced safe rooms in four locations in the home, internal scanning systems. It would take one hell of a skilled invader to get in there without setting off the alarms. Not even Tava's transporter or his Vortex Manipulator would be able to drop someone in there unannounced.

When he finally went down to join the crew in the break room, he was smiling and content. Gwen noticed his somewhat smug air and sidled over to him, plate in hand. "And just why do you look like a cat who's eaten a canary?"

"It's a surprise. And, since telepaths are great at ferreting out secrets, I can't tell you." He grinned.

"Oh? Planning something special for our holiday, are you?"

"Yes. And that's all you're getting." He laughed.

She mock pouted. "I see how you are... keeping things from your best friend...,"

"Only for a little longer." He snaked a pastry from her plate and got a lighthearted smack for it.

"Oi! Get your own plate!"

"Yes, ma'am!" He snapped off a rather snarky salute and descended upon the buffet spread.

The last week of December was on them in a blur, it seemed. The plan was for Jack and Evan to go over first and secure rental vehicles so that it would seem as though they had flown in rather than just popped over with alien tech. The team would be visiting Christmas week with Evan's mother in Wisconsin. Alex would be heading out to South Carolina late on Christmas Eve so that he could be with his sister and her family for Christmas Day. They might stay through New Years if things went well back home. They could certainly do with the down time. They'd been working hard to try and expand Jack's Torchwood amidst rumblings that Torchwood 1 had been totally revamped by some corporate types who had invested in it. This made Jack uneasy. They seemed to be creeping in directions which might be problematic, dabbling in research that might prove dangerous later. He knew exactly the sort of damage that manner of dabbling could incite: the destruction of Canary Wharf. At least this time they'd chosen a location that wasn't smack dab in the middle of a major city center.

Vacation, Jack, he chided himself. You're not to be worrying about all of that right now. He blew out a huff of breath and finished packing his suitcase. He could hear Evan bringing Laszlo down from the roof garden, the crazy dog woofling excitedly.

"I don't know what you're getting so excited about, crazy head. You don't get anything for going out to go wee." He tousled his ears playfully before the dog went tearing around the loft at maximum speed. "Honey, did you give the dog sugar or something?"

"Not me. Must have been the doggie drug dealer coming through when we weren't looking." He came down from the bedroom with his suitcase. "Are you done packing already?"

"I've been packed for two days." He chuckled. "I don't like to rush. It means I forget things."

Jack pulled him into his arms. "Always so prepared and practical. I like that." He nuzzled his neck playfully.

"None of that now... Everyone will be here soon." Evan laughed.

They'd basically decided to tell Evan's mother that Jack ran a "private security firm" and that Evan helped around the control center. It was a safe enough lie and close enough to the truth that it wasn't likely to set off alarms. Jack still thought he should be honest, but he wanted to protect Kaye and Abigail from the madness which was Torchwood for a while longer.

The chime rang and Evan keyed on the intercom with the controls on his watch. The image that came up on the small screen was of Jules and Chris in the hall downstairs. She waved at the camera when she saw the light go on.

"We've got lunch!" She held up a couple of bags emblazoned with the logo of one of the chip shops near Mermaid Quay.

"That's better than open sesame," Evan said over the intercom as he opened the lift gates for them.

They waited for the rest to get there. The last to arrive was Dani since he'd had to go through the final check of the Tava's transport systems before joining them. As he stepped into the loft, he grinned.

"I smell fish, chips and malt vinegar."

"I saved you some big pieces, squiddy." Keri smiled at him.

"Excellent!" He rubbed his palms together in a fair approximation of a villain about to participate in nefarious deeds.

As they ate, Evan once again worried that his mother would sense they were lying. "Just remember, no Torchwood talk while we're visiting, okay? We're security people, nothing more."

"Relax, Evan," Dani said before stuffing a rather large bit of fish into his mouth.

"Honestly, Evan, it'll be fine," assured Jules. "We'll be too busy eating to blow our cover from what you've told us of your mum." She giggled.

"There is that..." He laughed.

When they were all done and things were cleaned up, Evan called the Hub to let Beta team lead Harrison Miles know they were headed out. Someone from the support staff would keep an eye on The Lair and the loft for Evan while he was gone. Evan doubted his staff would need anything, though. They were competent people and ran things just the way he liked. While he was doing that, Jack was calling Rex to let him know they were going to be in the States for the holidays. This didn't seem to make Rex happy since Jack was holding the phone away from his ear while the man fumed so loudly that everyone could hear him. For his part, Jack looked amused by his ranting.

A short time later, they were making the drive from the airport in Madison out into the rural area where Kaye and Abigail lived. They stopped on the way to the house to drop their things at the little motel the rest of the team would be invading while Jack and Evan stayed with his mother. Evan was a little nervous when they finally pulled into the long drive beside the yellow and white house with its wide porch going around it. Laszlo was fairly bouncing in the seat behind him, excited by the wide expanses of snowy woods around the place.

Jules laughed and patted his side. "Calm down, Laszlo! You'll be out in a second."

She and Chris had ridden with Jack and Evan and the dog in the sedan. The rest were in the big van behind them. As they pulled to a stop in the drive, the front door of the house opened and Kaye came out, beaming as she wiped her hands on her apron. She hurried down the steps as best she could. The sidewalk and drive, thankfully, had been surfaced with solar blocks which kept the ice at bay, so she didn't slip and fall as she rushed out.

"Evan!" He'd barely had a chance to get out of the car before he was practically tackle-hugged.

"Mom! You shouldn't be out here without your coat!"

"I'm fine!" She held him at arm's length. "Look at you... you've gotten even more handsome." She glanced up at Jack as he stepped around with luggage from the trunk. "Is this...?"

"Captain Jack Harkness." He took her hand and kissed the back of it. "And you must be Kaye-Lynne."

She blushed a little. "Oh, he's very charming."

Evan snickered. "When he wants to be, yes. Come on, guys, let's get inside before she turns into a mom-cicle. " He put an arm around Kaye's waist and guided her back toward the porch. Laszlo ran circles around the lot of them, barking happily as he charged through the piles of snow in the yard.

"Why am I not surprised you ended up with a big dog?" Kaye laughed. "Did you have any trouble getting him over here?"

"No. When you can travel by private means, it's a lot easier." He was almost ashamed of how easy lying was. Almost. As they stepped inside, he snagged Laszlo's collar as he tried to barrel past. "Ah-ah! No tearing through the house with those grubby paws, mister. Different place, same rules, kid."

He made a few huffy sounds, but sat obediently until Kaye brought Evan some towels to wipe the snow crust from the yard off. "He's a good boy." She petted his jowls and his tail thumped happily.

"Yeah. He's being trained as a therapy dog."

"He seems to have a good disposition for that." She smiled. "You can set his bowls and things up in the den so he can flop by the fire."

"I'll do that once we've got our bags upstairs."

She smoothed his curls lovingly. "Alright, dear. I've got cocoa on the stove. Abigail is napping..."

"Was. A certain hound barking his head off woke me." Abigail was shrugging on her sweater as she came out into the hall.

"Sorry." Evan looked sheepish. "He's just really excited."

She made a dismissive gesture as she came forward to hug him. "Don't worry about it. Now, get your things put away so you can come and talk about this good looking man here."

Evan laughed. "Jack, meet my other mother, Abigail."

Jack took her hand and kissed it as he had Kaye's. "Charmed. You never told me your mothers were this good looking, Evan."

Abigail pulled her hand back with a snort. "Being charming won't save you from the third degree, young man. So save that shit for someone who's buying."

Evan stifled an outburst of laughter as Jack grinned. "I like her!"

Abigail hadn't been kidding, either. She grilled Jack about his past and his job and how he felt for her Evan. The rest of them sat back and watched the show over cocoa with giant marshmallows in it. It was really quite amusing considering Abigail's unfiltered bluntness and use of colorful language. At times, Evan was blushing to the tips of his ears. Gwen elbowed Anwyn when she was a little too amused by the language. The girl just rolled her eyes.

"Not as if I don't hear worse at school, Mum."

"Still..." She gave her the look which allowed no further argument and made an amused look bloom on Rhys' face.

Evan was snuggled in between his mother and Jack on the sofa, content. Kaye smiled. "Your friends all seem like lovely people, " she murmured close to his ear.

"They are. We're more like family than colleagues. I'm lucky to have found a place with them."

Abigail seemed to have run out of questions for Jack and she stood, straightening her sweater. She looked at Evan. "He'll do, I think." She stepped closer, jabbing a thin finger into Jack's chest. "Just you know, though. You ever hurt him and I'll shove my cane so far up where the sun doesn't shine that it'll box your tonsils." The threat in the words was real enough.

"I have no intention of hurting him, ma'am. That much I can promise you." His eye was drawn to a flick of movement from Dani which was quickly masked by the cephalopod sipping at the big mug of cocoa in his hands. Keri had caught it as well, but was pretending to not notice.

They spent their first few days eating and goofing off in the wooded hills around Kaye's house. They'd gotten Dani the sort of hunter's clothes with pockets for heating units and he bundled up head to toe in them since he couldn't exactly run around in a space suit. Still, he preferred to spend most of his time indoors rather that freezing his tentacles off. He'd taken to helping Evan and Kaye cook for the barbarian horde. He found it was relaxing to be useful. He'd begun to suspect why Jack had made this an Alpha team holiday and his feelings were very mixed. But he stuffed them down and choked on them, not willing to make a scene and ruin it. He chopped vegetables and mixed cake batter and whatever else needed doing, idly chit-chatting with Evan and his mother about Wales and things not Torchwood or alien. He did at least go on a couple of the sledding runs which had proved to be great fun. He'd hooted and whooped all the way down the hill, laughing hysterically when he hit a bump and went skidding off over the snow like an escaped pinwheel. Laszlo had chased him across the snow, barking like a mad thing and licking his face when he came to a stop. When they weren't cooking, he sometimes flopped on the sofa beside Abigail, watching her soap operas even though they often confused him.

Stephen, finding the tearing about of the young to be a bit much for him, had also taken to sitting with Abigail. She was older than he was, but not so much that they couldn't have decent conversation. Abigail found that she was actually enjoying the company, which was surprising for her. She'd spent so much time apart from her fellow nuns while caring for Evan that she'd begun to think she preferred to be apart from other people. But, living with Kaye and now having guests who were actually entertaining, she had to wonder if she had been mistaken.

When Christmas Eve arrived, Dani could smell Jack's excitement building. All through dinner he kept casting furtive glances at Evan, an odd little smile on his face. Dani just wished he'd get it over with. He didn't get his wish until after dinner when they were all sitting cozy in the den with cups of rich eggnog or cocoa or hot toddy or, in Alex's case, tea since he'd be heading out later. They were sitting watching movies and Evan suddenly stood up at the end of one.

"It's time for presents!" He had all the enthusiasm of a little boy in his eyes. "Everyone gets to open one except Alex. He can open all of his if he wants since he won't be here in the morning."

""I'll open them tonight and you can take them back to Wales for me so I don't have to carry them along?"

"We can do that. So, go in the living room, figure out which one you want to open and bring it back here. And no shaking or peeling at the paper. That's cheating."

Jack stood up. "Actually, if you don't mind, I'd like for you to open one of mine, sweetheart." He sat Evan back down on the sofa.

He raised an eyebrow. "Okay." I know he's been hiding something, sneaky thing, he thought. He felt a ripple of amusement bubble up from Rigel.

Jack came back from the tree with a small package wrapped in prismatic purple paper with a star field pattern on it. "This one."

"Oh! Pretty paper!" He waited for everyone else to get back with their packages and then said, "Let the tearing commence!" He tore into the paper with a passion and then froze as he opened the box to discover a gorgeous platinum ring formed of elegant, twisting scroll work. Atop the band was the most beautiful star sapphire he'd ever seen. As he looked at Jack with wide eyes, he realized he'd gone to one knee in front of him and that everyone was blinking at them in surprise. "Jack?"

"Evan, will you marry me?"

Without a word, Evan was in his lap fast enough to topple him onto his back on the rug. He gave him an exuberant and toe-curling kiss which lasted long enough to make Kaye clear her throat.

"Don't make me get the ice water, you two," grumbled Abigail. "You've got a room for that!"

With a full on blush, Evan let Jack up. "So, is that a yes?"

Evan hugged him tight enough to elicit a grunt. "Of course it's a yes!" He kissed him again. How could I say no when this is all I've ever wanted?

Everyone was so busy congratulating them that no one but Keri noticed it when Dani slipped outside onto the back porch despite the blustery snow storm which had settled in for the night.

"Baby? You okay?" She knew there was something going on with Dani and Jack, something in their past that hadn't resolved yet. He hadn't talked about it, but she wasn't so dense as to not notice the furtive looks and the pain in his eyes at times when he looked at Jack. She tucked herself under his arm, trying to share her warmth with him.

"I'm okay," he lied, letting out a soft chuff of breath.

Liar. But she let it go. Pressing would do nothing but make him irritable. "You can't stay out here. Let's go get some more toddies and some of that fruitcake you made earlier."

"Sure." He kissed her lightly and guided her back inside. They paused long enough on their way through to the kitchen to congratulate the happy couple.

Once all of his gifts were open and stowed, Alex went into the living room with Dani. "I've got the beacon. Once the cab drops me in town, I'll signal you and you can transport me."

Dani nodded. "Just signal again when you're ready to go back to Cardiff."

Alex put a hand on his shoulder and looked into his eyes. "Perhaps you should head back to Cardiff with Keri." Though he'd not shown any sign of it, he had also noticed the shift in Dani's mood with the proposal.

"Meh. Don't want to be rude." He shrugged. "Besides, I'm enjoying getting to know Kaye and Abigail. They're nice."

Alex nodded. "Well, my cab should be here soon. Thank you for agreeing to help me get to my sister's. I appreciate it."

"It's no trouble." Dani shrugged. "I'm going to go back and sit with Keri if you don't mind." Alex merely nodded and turned to peer through the front windows to watch for the cab.

The storm became too fierce for the others to drive back to the motel. Kaye insisted that they stay the night since they would have been there in the morning anyway. Stephen would take the upstairs guest room. Evan helped her bring out air mattresses for the rest. Jules and Chris occupied the living room with Gwen and Rhys. Dani and Keri were in the den where he could be near the warmth of the hearth. Anwyn decided to take the big sofa in the den so she could also be near the hearth. Once they were all bedded down, Evan and Jack headed up to his old room. Evan went to dig out his fleece pajamas, but Jack pulled him into his arms.

"You won't need those." He whispered against Evan's ear, making him shiver.

"Jack... we're in my mother's house and she's Catholic. Can we at least try to be a little respectful?"

"I'm very trying." Jack smiled saucily as he turned him to face him and pulled him close. "I just proposed and I'm of a mind to celebrate."

Evan couldn't help it. Being close to Jack when he was aroused and pumping out pheromones got him wired up, too. "I don't want her and everyone else to hear us..."

Jack was guiding him onto the bed, gently undressing him as they went. As he lay him down, he kissed him and a hand drifted downward to tease. "Well, then, I guess you'll just have to try to be quiet then, won't you?"

He moaned against his neck, trying to stifle the sound. You're a bad, bad man Jack Harkness.

"And you love every minute of it."

It wasn't too long before Kaye heard the faint creak of floor boards and bed and the occasional soft cry above her room and blushed. In her room, Abigail heard it, too. She just cackled softly, rolled over and went back to sleep. Dani growled and clamped his pillow over his head.

Keri elbowed him in the ribs. "Don't hurt my feelings getting all bent about that now, squiddy."

"Sorry, but I really don't want to hear that when we don't have the privacy to have fun ourselves."

So he says. He's only having a fit because it's Jack getting laid without him, she thought. "Right." She reached over and fumbled in her jacket pocket. There were some spare earplugs from her last turn on the firing range in the inside pocket. "Here, put these in."

"Eh, I can seal down my ears." He pulled her into his arms, breathing in her scent. "Maybe after dinner tomorrow we can just go home and finish out our vacation on the sofa?"

"Or," she kissed him. "We can go do our own thing for a while. Nothing says we have to be stuck here. We can borrow the rental car and go explore."

"Okay." He snuggled her close as he flapped over his ear canals to block the sounds.

When they were tangled together in a breathless heap, Evan kissed Jack deeply. I still don't know how you managed to keep this a secret.

Because I'm a sneaky devil. He grinned as he ran a rand through Evan's soft hair, releasing a faint cloud of sandalwood scent which he be breathed deeply.

I'm glad it was a surprise. And I love the ring. It's beautiful. He held it up to admire it. The color reminds me of your eyes.

Jack cupped his face gently. "I love you. After everything I've been through, I'm not going to waste time anymore. I'm not going to lose someone else because I'm too stubborn and afraid to admit how I feel for them."

Evan kissed him again, more tenderly. I know. But I won't leave you. I can't die like a normal human. I won't be gone in a blink of an eye. He yawned as he snuggled closer.

"Did I wear you out already?" Jack traced a finger down his spine.

Evan tweaked one of his nipples playfully. "I have to get up early to help Mom with things. So I need to get some sleep."

"Oh, alright," he mock pouted. He hugged him and tucked them under more blanket.

Christmas Day dawned still and frozen, the overnight storm having piled the snow so high that it was halfway up the downstairs windows. Evan asked everyone to help him get the snow pushed back from the house, Kaye's greenhouse and the garage. So, while they shoveled and blew snow into piles at the back of her property, Kaye and Abigail put away all the bedding and air mattresses. Once all the tidying was done, they got breakfast together for everyone. While the team worked, Laszlo was tearing around the yard in his snow booties and doggie parka. He flew past Evan as he hauled a barrow full of snow to the back and dove headfirst into the snow pile, exploding out the other side moments later. Behind Evan, Jules laughed.

"You're dog's a stark raving nutter!"

"Well, you know what they say about pets and owners taking after each other." He snickered.

"True." She snorted.

With so many helping hands, it didn't take long for the areas directly around the house to be cleared. By then the work had devolved into a massive snowball fight and they were all running to and fro, whooping and hollering like a pack of overgrown kids.

"Alright, children!" Kaye called from the back porch. "Breakfast! Come inside!" It was clear that she was very much enjoying having a house full of company to cook for. She was beaming as they all charged into the mud room to shuck off their boots.

Breakfast was a lively affair. Anwyn and Evan were obviously eager to go attack the piles of presents with their names on them. They were eating, joking and, occasionally, flicking bits of waffle or eggs at each other. Gwen let out an exasperated sigh.

"You two are horrible!"

"Wha'?" Anwyn said with an impish look as she flicked a bit of scrambled egg at her mother.

"Oi! Manners!" Rhys gave her a stern look and Evan had to hide a snicker behind his hand.

We'd better behave.

Can't be a have. I don't know what one is, she thought at him. They both snickered.

"Evan..." Kaye gave him a chiding look.

He ducked his head. Sorry, Mom. I'm just... I'm excited being home.

"It's alright. Just don't get the poor girl in trouble."

"Oh, she does that plenty by herself," Rhys muttered before taking a bite of sausage.

Jack placed a hand on Evan's and gave it a gentle squeeze. He could tell Evan was excited, practically vibrating in his skin. Rigel, too was eager. He had been floating close enough to experience things without interfering since they'd arrived. Jack had noticed in his time with Evan that the star part of him seemed to stay close at Christmas time, especially if The Doctor was planning to show up. It made Evan even more energetic than normal. Evan looked at him lovingly and smiled and he couldn't help smiling back.

"Come on, you lot! More eating, less playing so we can get to the prezzies!" Jules laughed. "I want Chris to get to his!"

Gwen grinned. "Got him something special, did you?"

"Mhmm. Had a devil of a time keeping it from him, too. He's a nosy booger." She poked him playfully in the ribs eliciting a soft squeak which made Anwyn laugh.

Soon enough, they were all up to their eyeballs in wrapping paper and packaging in the front room. Everyone had their own pile of presents. Evan had bought some things, but everyone also got a small painting or other hand made item featuring something which was special to them. While everyone was tearing open packages, Jack went to the entryway and dug two small boxes from his coat.

"I have something very special I need to give to the ladies." He looked at Kaye and Abi. "How would you feel about moving to Wales to be close to Evan?"

Evan blinked in surprise. "But, Jack, David built this house for her..."

Kaye touched his hand. "He built it for us to grow old together in. It's not the same since he's gone, sweetheart."

"Besides," chimed in Abigail. "I'm kind of sick of Wisconsin. Too many cows. And talking to you on that tablet thing isn't the same as seeing you in person."

Jack looked amused. "Well then, I suppose I should give you this." He handed Kaye the little box as he took up the tablet Evan had gotten her. He activated it and navigated to a server where he'd stashed a couple of apps.

"Keys to a house? You are definitely sneaky." Kaye laughed as he handed the tablet to her.

Evan giggled. "And incredibly confident we'd say yes."

"And the video tour since it's on the other side of the world. And for you..." He handed the other box to Evan before pulling up another video tour on his tablet, grinning. "And, yes, I was fairly confident you'd say yes. You waited a long time by your own admission and you've put up with me this long. And I was pretty sure your moms would jump at the chance to be with their son."

Evan raised an eyebrow as he pulled the keys from the box. "You went house shopping without me?"

"Trust me, you'll like it." He inclined his head indicating that he should look at the video. He just smiled as the stunned expressions on Evan's face as he went through the virtual tour.

Dani did his best to appear happy and interested, but he was clearly restless. Keri procured the car and they bowed out, claiming cabin fever and a need to explore. Jules and Chris were too interested in setting up the new advanced release gaming system she'd managed to score for him from a friend who worked for the company. They went off to the den like a couple of kids. The rest went into the big kitchen to help Kaye get the last preparations for dinner done.

And so it went on through the holiday; for the most part like a large, mad family. There was one person missing, though. That year there was not so much as a peep on the special phone from The Doctor. That was the only thing that gave both Jack and Evan pause. He usually at least called to wish them Happy Christmas if he didn't drop in for dinner. It put their nerves on edge wondering if something might have happened to the Time Lord without word getting back to his friends on Earth. After all, all of time and space was an awful large expanse to get messages through.