Characters: Ianto, Jack, Meriel.
Summary: Meriel is growing up so fast, and watching her leave the nest is proving harder than expected for Ianto and Jack.
Word Count: 1210
Content Notes: None needed.
Written For: Challenge 257: Wings at fan_flashworks, and for the ‘School’ square on my bingo card. Also for Challenge 13: Red Hot Chili Peppers Song Titles at ficlet_zone, using ‘She’s Only 18’.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
Ianto is silent in the passenger seat, staring out the side window as the car speeds along the M23. He hasn’t said a word since they left the university, but he’s never been the most talkative person in the world, and that’s fine because Jack does more than enough talking for both of them. Usually.
Jack’s barely said more than a few words himself though, concentrating on the road and the other vehicles, finding his way out of Brighton and onto the motorway. They’ve got a long drive ahead of them, getting on for two hundred miles; depending on traffic they should be home in a little over three and a half hours. The time stretches endlessly out in front of them, so different from the trip down yesterday, when the car had been filled with excited conversation, Meriel talking a mile a minute, Jack and Ianto responding, caught up in their daughter’s enthusiasm. Now it’s just the two of them, and what is there to say?
One thing comes to mind. Taking one hand off the steering wheel, Jack rests it on his husband’s leg for a moment, squeezing gently. “Are you okay?”
Tearing his gaze from the motorway and the cars they’re whizzing past in the fast lane, Ianto turns a wan smile towards Jack. “I don’t know. Are you? Our little girl…”
“Is not so little anymore. She’ll be fine, she’s a young adult, Ianto, ready to spread her wings and fly.” Jack’s trying to convince himself as much as Ianto.
“She’s only eighteen…”
“Says the man who left home at seventeen to seek his fortune in London, all by himself.”
“That was different.”
“Because you’re a man?”
“No, because I was running away. If I’d known then I’d be sleeping in squats and barely scraping by for the first eighteen months I probably wouldn’t have done it.”
“Meriel’s not running away, and she’s not all alone in the world either. We’ve set up a good allowance for her, she can phone us whenever she needs anything, and she can be home in a few hours if she misses us too much. Anyway, most of the other kids in the dorm are in the same situation, hundreds of miles from home, by themselves, for the first time in their lives. If anything, Meriel is more prepared for university than a lot of them. You saw how excited she was.”
“I know; she’s been looking forward to this ever since she started filling out applications. She all but screamed the house down when she found out she’d been accepted at Brighton. Nosy hid under our bed, trying to get away from the noise.”
“I remember.” Jack chuckles fondly. “Then when she’d calmed down a bit she had to crawl under there with Nosy to apologise.”
“I thought we might have to dismantle the bed to get them both out again.” Ianto’s smile slowly fades away, like the sun going behind a cloud. “It’s not going to be the same at home without her.”
“No, it’s not, but we knew this day was coming.”
“She grew up so fast, Jack! It seems like only yesterday she was taking her first steps, and now… I just wish we’d had a few more days. The Rift kept us so busy the last couple of weeks it feels like we hardly saw her.”
“We should be thankful it settled down enough that we could drive Meriel to the university and get her settled into her dorm.”
“I am, it’s just, I can’t help feeling like the Rift did us out of quality time with our daughter, time we’ll never get back.”
“And if we’d been home all the time instead of at work, Meriel would still have been out with all her friends and we wouldn’t have seen much of her anyway.”
“I guess you’re right, she had so much to fit into the last few weeks; birthday parties and days out with friends, her summer job, dance classes…”
Meriel had always led an active social life; she made friends easily with people of all ages, and she was the kind of girl who couldn’t bear to go away anywhere without telling all her friends first and saying her goodbyes in person.
“Our little social butterfly,” Jack says, grinning proudly. “Loved by everyone.”
“We did do a good job with her, didn’t we? Especially considering she was our first attempt at raising a child.”
“A resounding success,” Jack agrees. “A strong, intelligent, and very capable young woman.”
“I’m going to miss her.”
“We all will. Just remember we have three other kids back home to keep us busy. Time will fly, and Meriel will be home for the holidays before we even know it.”
“Why couldn’t she have picked a local school, maybe gone to Cardiff Uni?” There’s a tiny bit of a whine in Ianto’s voice. “That’s only just down the road from us.”
“You know why; it didn’t have the courses she wanted, and anyway, we should be glad she’s away from the Rift.”
“True, we won’t have to worry about her encountering Weevils, or unidentified bits of alien tech. But Brighton is so far away.”
“Not all that far, a few hours by car or train. I could make it in two and a half if I put my foot down.”
“Don’t you dare! Stick to the speed limit.”
“I am, I was just saying…”
“And keep your eyes on the road.”
“Backseat driver.” Jack focuses on the road ahead, but out of the corner of his eye he can see Ianto surreptitiously wiping away a tear. He knows how his husband feels, because he feels that way too, although he’s trying not to show it.
Their firstborn isn’t a child anymore; over the past year she’s blossomed into a beautiful, confident young woman, but that doesn’t make it any easier to let her go. She takes after both of them in different ways, has Jack’s outgoing nature and Ianto’s meticulousness and attention to detail, but she isn’t like them; they’re immortal and she’s not, and the fear is always there in the back of both of their minds that someday they might lose her far too soon, to accident, or illness, or act of God. Losing her eventually to old age after a long and full life will be hard enough, and they naturally want to have as much time with her as possible, they don’t want to miss one moment of her life. Maybe that’s why letting go is proving so hard.
Somewhere down the line, fate willing, she’ll perhaps meet someone and settle down, maybe raise a family of her own, but right now Meriel’s still their little girl, spreading her wings for the first time and learning how to fly on her own. As difficult as that is for her parents, it’s something they have to let her do, but no matter what, they’ll be there for her just in case she comes back down to earth with a bump. If a parent’s hopes and prayers for their child have any influence on what’s to come then they have nothing to worry about. They know what they want for their daughter; she’s going to soar.