Word Count: 3316
Characters: Ianto, Jack, Rhiannon, Mica, David.
Written For: Week One prompts Surprises, Christmas Tree, and Ribbons, at torchwood_fest 2018.
Summary: When Ianto invites Jack to spend Christmas with him, he doesn’t expect his sister to drop by without warning.
Beta: My lovely friend milady_dragon. Thanks so much!
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
Scrabbling to his feet, Ianto spun around to see his sister in the doorway, trying to cover Mica and David’s eyes to keep them from seeing any more of Jack than they already had, although they’d probably already seen everything there was.
“Rhi! What are you doing here?” Ianto asked, eyes wide and voice a bit higher than usual. He silently cursed himself; how could he ever have been so foolish as to give his sister a key to his flat? Snatching the blanket from the back of the sofa he threw it over Jack, concealing him from view, as if that would somehow salvage the situation.
Mica tugged at Rhiannon’s coat. “Mummy, why hasn’t that man got any clothes on?”
“I’d like to know that myself.” Rhi fixed Ianto with a look.
“He was a bit hot,” Ianto hurriedly explained. “You know what it’s like in here when the oven’s on. Between that and the heating…” He’d turned it down to its usual level over an hour ago, but the temperature inside the flat was still in the low eighties. “I wasn’t expecting visitors,” he finished lamely.
“Obviously, but with all the mad rush with my new job I didn’t get around to dropping your presents off last week like I meant to, so I thought it might be nice if we popped over while Johnny went to the pub for a couple of pints with his mates. Usually I drag the kids to the park for an hour or two, let them get some fresh air and burn off excess energy, but with the weather as it is…” She trailed off, staring at the blanket-covered lump in the middle of the living room floor. Ianto couldn’t blame her; it was hardly inconspicuous.
Belatedly he realised Jack hadn’t moved an inch since the blanket had been thrown over him. “Are you okay under there?”
“Fine,” came a muffled voice. “Did you know some of these ribbons glow in the dark? They’re pretty.”
“Oooh, can I see?” Mica asked eagerly, starting towards Jack.
Rhi grabbed for her at the same moment as Ianto said, “Perhaps we should let my friend put some clothes on first. Jack, why don’t you go and get dressed?”
“Do I have to?” It was exactly the same whiny tone Ianto had heard countless times from David and Mica when told to do something they didn’t want to do, and he exchanged a quick glance with his sister.
“Yes. It’s bad manners to be… um… not dressed in front of visitors. Just go. And keep yourself covered!”
A sigh came from under the blanket and the mound rose up, bare legs and feet becoming visible. Then the whole thing shambled across the room, bumping into the wall with a muffled “Ow!” before vanishing into the bedroom, the door closing behind it.
Ianto facepalmed; sometimes he had to wonder if Jack was all there mentally.
Mica was giggling. “He’s funny!”
While the kids and Rhi were briefly distracted by the bizarreness that was Jack, Ianto did a quick mental inventory of the unwrapped gifts scattered around, relieved to realise he hadn’t opened anything from his lover that he needed to hide from little eyes. There was a biography of Ian Fleming, a pair of fur-lined leather gloves, a new dark red tie, the latest David Attenborough series on DVD, a bag of very expensive coffee beans, and a coffee cookbook. Ianto had given Jack DVDs of several Hollywood Musicals, an antique desk set complete with fountain pen and ink pot, novelty Christmas braces with a Santa and reindeer pattern, a bottle of Scotch, which was already well out of reach of the kids, and a new leather belt. It was a pity Jack hadn’t opened the parcel containing the bathrobe yet; that might have saved everyone some embarrassment.
Ianto dragged himself back to the present and turned towards his unexpected guests, looking at his sister enquiringly. “Excuse me?”
“Oh, don’t you look at me like that, Ianto Jones. I know you weren’t expecting visitors, but we come in here and there’s a… a strange man sitting on your living room floor, casual as you please…”
“With no clothes on,” Mica added helpfully.
“Yes. Exactly.” Rhi glared accusingly at her brother, as if he’d deliberately set out to corrupt her innocent kids by leaving naked men just lying around where anyone could see them. “I think I deserve an explanation, don’t you?”
Ianto refused to be cowed; not this time! Rhi might be older than him by several years, but he was taller, and anyway, this was his home! If he wanted to have a naked man here that was his business. Really it was his sister’s fault that she and the kids had seen something they might have preferred not to. He stared back at her. “If you’d phoned first, or rung the doorbell instead of just barging in, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation, would we?”
“What’s wrong with wanting to surprise my baby brother?” Rhiannon suddenly found herself on the defensive.
“I’d say you got the biggest surprise.” Ianto folded his arms over his chest belatedly remembering all he had on was pyjama trousers and a ratty old t-shirt.
“Yes, well, wasn’t like I was expecting anyone but you to be here.”
“I do have friends, Rhi, and I’m entitled to invite them into my own home any time I please.”
“And that… man is just one of your friends, is he?” Rhi clearly didn’t believe that, which Ianto supposed was fair enough. He’d planned on telling her about Jack eventually and now was as good a time as any.
“If you must know, Jack is my boyfriend.” Ianto knew he was probably blushing a bit, but it hardly mattered now.
“Boyfriend, is it? Since when did you like men?” Once again, Rhi was acting like she had the upper hand.
Well, he’d see about that! Ianto raised an eyebrow. “Since I was about twelve. I thought you knew; Mam did and she was fine with it.”
That took the wind right out of Rhiannon’s sails and she sagged slightly. “Oh. Right. Well.”
Ianto refrained from smirking; it was a rare treat to see his sister lost for words.
The bedroom door cracked open and Jack’s tousled head poked out. “Is it safe to come out yet?”
“I have, so you might as well,” Ianto said with a wry smile.
The door opened the rest of the way and Jack emerged from the bedroom, still barefoot but now dressed in jeans and a Christmas t-shirt with Rudolph on the front. Ianto wasn’t surprised to see he’d put all his ribbons back in place, including several around his neck and one around his head like a hair band, with the bow on the top of his head.
“Jack, this is my sister Rhiannon, and my niece and nephew, Mica and David.”
“Nice to meet you all.” Jack beamed his thousand-watt smile at Rhiannon and offered his hand.
In a daze, probably dazzled by Jack’s teeth, Rhi shook hands. “Hello.”
Mica tugged at the bottom of Jack’s t-shirt. “Can I see the pretty ribbons now, please?”
Rhi looked a bit uncertain, but Ianto nodded. “I don’t see why not. Wait a minute, I’ve got an idea.” Disappearing into the kitchen he came back with two clothes airers and set them up. Jack fetched the blanket he’d left in the bedroom, draping it over the airers to make a kind of blanket fort, then lifted one edge and crawled inside. Mica followed, and then David, not wanting to be left out.
“Cool!” David’s voice drifted out to Rhiannon and Ianto.
“You look as pretty as a Christmas tree, all shiny!” Mica exclaimed.
“Thank you!” Even though Ianto couldn’t see Jack he could easily picture his lover’s wide, happy smile.
“That might keep them occupied for a few minutes. Want some coffee?” Ianto gestured towards the kitchen.
Rhi hesitated. “Are they okay in there with…” she trailed off.
“They couldn’t be safer, Rhi. I’ve known Jack for almost three years and there’s no one I trust more.”
Rhiannon had no choice but to follow her brother into the kitchen if she wanted to continue their conversation. “Three years? And this is the first I’m hearing about it?”
“We haven’t been dating all that time. We worked together for quite a while and became good friends before we took things to the next level. We’ve been dating officially for about seven months.”
“But you didn’t think to tell me.” Leaning against the kitchen worktop, her arms folded, Rhi gave her brother her patented stern big sister look. “Were you ever going to?”
Ianto nodded. “Eventually. Didn’t seem to be any need to rush.” He smiled slyly. “Besides, I know what Jack’s like, so I thought I’d better train him a bit before inflicting him on my family. Avoid too many shocks.”
“Train him?” Rhi gave her brother the Jones eyebrow. “This is him trained?”
Glancing towards the living room, remembering a nude Jack festooned with ribbons, Ianto shrugged. “It’s a work in progress. If he flirts with you, ignore it; he’s the same with everyone, male or female, but it doesn’t mean anything. It’s just his way of… He likes to make people feel good about themselves so he flirts; you should see all the little old ladies he’s left blushing like schoolgirls. Sometimes it backfires when he tries it with men, but mostly he’s such a charmer he gets away with it.”
“And you put up with his flirting?”
“Like I said, it doesn’t mean anything. No matter who he flirts with he always leaves with me. If anyone dares flirt with me though… Jack claims he’s not the jealous type, but he hates it.”
“Where’d you go?” Jack ambled into the kitchen, minus half of his ribbons, interrupting the conversation.
“Somewhere we could talk about you without making your ears burn,” Ianto teased.
“Should I be worried?”
“Only if your intentions towards my baby brother aren’t honourable.” Rhi fixed Jack with a searching look.
“Rhi!” Ianto protested. “I’m twenty-five, and perfectly capable of standing up for myself, thank you very much.”
“He is,” Jack agreed. “He wears the pants around here, as the saying goes.”
“Only because if you had your way you wouldn’t bother getting dressed at all if you didn’t have to go anywhere, and even then I wouldn’t put it past you to ‘forget’ to dress.”
“Nothing wrong with that, I happen to be very comfortable in my skin,” Jack said with a huff.
“I noticed. So did most of my family.”
“You can’t blame me for that.” Jack’s pout was a work of art. “You never said your sister had a key!”
“Would it have made any difference if you’d known?”
Jack considered that and shrugged. “Probably not.”
“That’s what I thought. See if the kids want juice or cola, would you?”
“Are you just trying to get rid of me so you can talk about me some more?”
“We can talk about you just as easily with you standing right here, Jack. It’s just polite to offer guests refreshments, and I have to check whether the turkey needs basting yet. Coffee’s almost ready, although I’m not sure you should have any more; you’ve already had three cups this morning.”
“It’s fine, caffeine doesn’t make me hyper.”
“Is that right? I swear your blood must be eighty percent coffee and twenty percent sugar.”
“That’s why I’m so hot and sweet!” Jack flashed another dazzling grin and wandered back into the living room, bending over and lifting the edge of the blanket to peer into the fort. “You two want juice or cola?”
“Cola!” said David.
“What sort of juice is it, Uncle Jack?”
“Ianto, Mica wants to know what sort of juice it is.”
“I heard!” There was a chuckle in Ianto’s voice. “There’s apple or orange.”
Jack consulted Mica then traipsed back to the kitchen to report. “The Lady of the fort requests apple juice. The brave knight guarding the entrance demands cola.”
“David, did you say please?” Rhi called.
“No, sorry Mam. Can I please have cola, Uncle Ianto?”
Ianto slid the turkey back into the oven and slammed the door. “Yes, David. Jack, will you do the honours? Use the tumblers in the top cupboard.” Although they looked like frosted glass they were actually hard plastic and less likely to get broken.
Jack took the kids their drinks while Ianto and Rhiannon followed with the coffee. David had found the TV remote and turned over to cartoons. Drink in hand, Mica climbed awkwardly onto the sofa and squeezed in between her uncle and his boyfriend. Ianto smiled; so that was where the rest of Jack’s ribbons had gone. Mica had several around her arms, one worn diagonally as a sash, and another plaited into her hair.
“You look very pretty,” Ianto told her.
“Uncle Jack did my hair.”
“He’s good at things like that.” Hair, makeup, nail varnish… Jack had a talent for such things. Now probably wouldn’t be the best time to tell Rhi about that though; let her get used to this Jack first before he revealed his lover’s penchant for looking glamorous. “So, Happy Christmas everybody!”
“Oh, I almost forgot! Presents!” Rhi blurted, jumping out of the armchair she was sitting in and going to retrieve the bag she’d left just inside the front door. It had understandably slipped her mind what with being confronted by the completely unexpected sight of a very naked Jack. She brought it back with her and took out three parcels. “It’s nothing much, especially not compared with what you gave us, but…” She handed them to Ianto.
“That doesn’t matter; thank you, all of you.” Setting aside his coffee mug, Ianto read the labels: two from Rhi and Johnny, one from the kids. From his sister and brother-in-law there were slippers, because they got him a new pair every Christmas. These ones were dark red with good solid soles. He took off the pair he’d been wearing and put the new ones on. “Thanks, Rhi, they’re just what I needed; last year’s have just about had it.”
“I figured they would be. Not even you can get much more than a year’s wear out of a pair. Come on, open the others!”
“He doesn’t like to be rushed,” Jack said.
“Don’t I know it!” Rhi grumbled as Ianto carefully peeled away the sellotape from the second parcel, then equally carefully folded the wrapping paper before opening the flat cardboard box. Inside was a wallet, black leather with a delicate embossed design around the edge, tasteful and elegant.
Ianto’s face lit up. “Oh, that’s lovely, Rhi! Thank you!”
Rhi relaxed, smiling. “I’m glad you like it.”
“Open the one from David and me, Uncle Ianto!” Mica urged, bouncing excitedly on the sofa.
“Give me a second.” Ianto put the new wallet back in its box and tucked it beside him on the seat of the sofa before picking up the final parcel. “Whatever can this be?” It was quite heavy; he gave it a gentle shake, but it made no sound. Setting it on his lap, he began to unwrap it with his customary care while Mica jiggled impatiently beside him and David watched from the floor.
Inside the paper was another plain box, and when Ianto opened that…
“Mica and David saw it at a craft fair and insisted on getting it for you,” Rhi said, sounding a bit apologetic.
Ianto carefully lifted the ornament out of its box. It was a dragon, carved from dark stone with flecks of red and green in it. The mythical creature was curled up, snout resting on its tail, wings folded along his back.
“It’s Smaug, like in The Hobbit,” said Mica. Ianto had taken the kids to see all three of the Hobbit movies. “Do you like him?”
“I love him, he’s perfect,” Ianto said, resting the dragon carefully on the palm of his hand and running a finger over the finely carved scales. The sculpture was perhaps five inches long and three inches high. “Thank you both; he can live with my other dragons.”
“What other dragons?” Rhi asked, puzzled.
Ianto rolled his eyes and stood up, going over to the shelf unit against the far wall and indicating the dragon bookends Jack had given him for his birthday, the little Japanese dragon Tosh had brought back for him from her last trip to visit her family, and a couple of red Welsh dragons. One had been a gift from Lisa and the other had belonged to his and Rhi’s Mam.
Shifting the collection around, Ianto made room for Smaug. “There, now he’s got plenty of company.
“See?” said Mica. “I told you Uncle Ianto would like him better than a new scarf.”
“You should always listen to Mica,” Ianto agreed. “She knows.”
“Well, I’ll remember that when I’m trying to decide what to get for your birthday next year.” Rhi checked her watch. “Oh goodness, would you look at the time? We should get going. I put the turkey in the oven before we left and you can bet Johnny won’t have thought to check on it, if he’s even back from the pub yet. Come on, kids, get your coats.”
There were a few grumbles from the kids, but they did as they were told, if a bit reluctantly. “Do you want your ribbons back, Uncle Jack?”
“No, you keep them, Princess; I’ve got plenty.”
“Thank you!” Mica climbed back onto the sofa to give Jack a hug and a kiss. “Are you coming to our house tomorrow with Uncle Ianto?”
“I don’t know; am I invited?”
“Only if you promise to wear clothes,” Rhi said firmly.
“Cross my heart. It’s too cold to go out without them in winter anyway,” Jack said solemnly.
“In that case, we’ll be expecting both of you. Dinner will be at one; make sure to arrive before then because we’ll be eating as soon as it’s ready, whether you’re there or not.”
“We’ll be there,” Ianto promised. “But I’ll phone if we get delayed.”
“And why might you be delayed? No, on second thoughts don’t answer that.” Rhi checked Mica’s coat was buttoned properly and put her own on. “Alright, see you tomorrow.” She gave Ianto a kiss on the cheek and shook hands with Jack. “It was nice meeting you.”
Mica insisted on giving both Ianto and Jack a hug and a kiss. David, considering himself too old at nine for such childish behaviour, just said goodbye and led the way out the door, eager now to get home and play with his Christmas presents.
Ianto closed the door behind them and turned to Jack. “I suspect that’s the last time Rhi will ever let herself in with her key. I should probably have asked for it back though.”
“Mica called me Uncle Jack!” Jack was beaming.
“I heard. I’m going to check on the turkey; why don’t you put the blanket fort away?”
“Why? Can’t we just leave it up for later?”
“It’ll get in the way if you want to watch telly while we eat. Anyway, it’s easy enough to set up again if we want to.”
“I guess. Okay, I’ll take it down, then when you’re done with the turkey, can we open the rest of our presents?”
“Yes,” Ianto agreed. “We’ll still have at least another hour and a half before dinner, plenty of time for opening presents.”
He smiled to himself as he made his way back into the kitchen, carrying the empty glasses and coffee cups on a tray. Despite the near catastrophe of Rhi’s unexpected visit maybe inviting Jack to stay for Christmas hadn’t been such a bad idea after all.