Seasons Greetings to all. Especially to those of you who have taken the time to encourage me this year, in spite of my infrequent updates.
This year's offering is the final instalment in the series of Christmas fics that began with 'The Night Before Christmas', also the final part of the trilogy consisting of 'If only in my dreams' & 'I'll be Home for Christmas'. (I suggest you read at least those two before tackling this one, if you haven't already).
Hope you enjoy!
The ornate, overloaded chair groaned as it accepted the not inconsiderable bulk of one Saint Nicholas, also known as Father Christmas, Santa Claus, Kris Kringle and variations thereof.
Or just Nick, to his friends.
Nick yawned, stretched, and reached for the coffee currently en-route to his cherry-red coaster. His nose detected cinnamon. His eyes detected concern. His heart, already soft to begin with, melted a bit more. It shouldn't really be a matter of joy to have caused worry to another person, but it was nice to have someone caring for him after millennia of being the carer.
Nick smiled warmly at the still young-looking man who'd become his son in every way except the strictly biological. "I'm fine, Ianto," he responded, answering the question which Ianto was always too polite to ask. "Just tired." He sighed. "The route seems to get longer and more complicated every year and I'm an old man, after all. Only to be expected."
"I could help more," Ianto offered instantly.
Aged blue eyes twinkled. "You always say that, son." The boy – and Nick still couldn't help thinking of Ianto that way, what with the still-brown hair and the unlined face – already did more than his fair share. The heavens alone knew how much else the lad would take on if Nick actually encouraged it.
"And you always brush me off," Ianto countered. "But I really feel that I should do more, Nick, what with all you've done for me."
Nick leaned back in his chair, letting his eyes drift shut as he sipped the ambrosial liquid far too divine to be dismissed as 'coffee'. The boy was thinking about his visits with Jack, of course. As though he didn't deserve every good that thing was finally coming his way.
"No more than you deserve," Nick noted, on the basis that if he said it often enough the lad would eventually believe him. He didn't need to open his eyes to see the shy smile, the gentle blush which his intrinsically jolly nature couldn't resist provoking further. "No more than he deserves, either."
It took a great degree of finesse to wink with your eyes closed, but Nick was a past master at every possible variation of winking, so he managed.
And with an abashed little scuffle of leather-soled shoes, Nick was left alone with his coffee and his conscience.
The boy had already taken on more than his share. It was too soon for more.
Ianto hadn't really been here that long, relatively speaking. He was still finding his feet in so many ways. And there was Jack, too, so slow to accept he deserved his share of happiness that he'd let it slip through his fingers instead of clutching on tight.
The boys needed time to settle into things, Nick decided. Another few decades at least.
Ianto's voice drifted down the hallway, bantering with the elves, leaving a wave of giggles in his wake. Most likely accompanied by a flurry of activity.
Nick remembered when he used to have that sort of energy. The boy was a treasure. He loved him, he did. Both of them.
Maybe closer to a century would be better. No need to rush.
The first few years were a festival of uncertainty, even with the solid piece of evidence sewn into the lining of Jack's greatcoat pocket. He checked for it so many times that the fabric was thin and shiny by the time he made his annual booking for that particular room in that particular hotel. It had gone threadbare by the end of the following year, and by midway through the next he'd worked a hole big enough that he could sneak a finger through to touch the silk packet within.
Then came the time when Ianto threw Jack's coat across the room and the precious little bundle rolled across the floor and vanished under the bed. They practically had to dismantle the whole thing to get it out.
Ianto sat cross-legged on the remade bed and sewed everything back together, frowning in reproof while Jack fidgeted like the erring schoolboy that he still was at heart. Such a mundane activity in such a bizarre situation. Here they were, a pair of lovers with the disturbing habit of dying in each other's arms, snatched out of reality to be together for one night a year- and doing the mending.
It was so not what Jack would ever have imagined, and perversely that was what finally sealed it for him. This was no-one's idea of a fantasy. It was, however, a tiny slice of sorely missed reality. Not what he'd ever thought he wanted, but precisely what he needed to quiet the last of his doubts.
Contemplating it while Ianto dozed in his arms, Jack theorised that maybe he'd finally racked up enough years on Santa's 'nice' list to balance the 'naughty'. When he voiced that conclusion to Ianto, he got a gentle slap on the back of his head and the assurance that he'd never been on the 'naughty' list in the first place.
Jack didn't care either way. Redemption or reward, he'd somehow won his heart's desire and it was here in his arms, if only for one night a year.
On his way out the next morning, Jack visited the booking desk and reserved the room for 'same time next year' for as far ahead as the booking system would accept. The concierge arched his eyebrows – green and feathery, but still eyebrows - and checked Jack's credit rating before handing over the confirmation chit.
Jack left the hotel whistling a tune that hadn't been composed yet, looking forward to doing exactly the same until it became a classic.
He had something to look forward to now, and was finally starting to believe that he always would. All that an immortal could want for Christmas was an anchor point in infinity.
Trust Santa to know the perfect gift.
There are three more chapters plus an epilogue to come. If Santa is kind to me they will all be posted before Christmas.
Thank you for reading.