Title: Holiday Traditions
Length: 1533 words
Characters: Jack, Ianto.
Prompt used: Weekly prompt Evergreen/holly/ivy (W3) at torchwood_fest.
Summary: Jack shares some of Boeshane’s holiday traditions with Ianto.
Beta: My dear friend kul_breez who is somehow finding the time and patience to catch all the mistakes I miss.
Jack seemed to be thoroughly enjoying decorating their flat for the festive season. Ianto smiled, watching his lover bustling around, arranging green, leafy branches here and there, singing lustily, “Deck the halls with boughs of holly, Fa la la la la la la la la!” It seemed a bit unkind to say anything, but…
“Jack, you do know that’s ivy and not holly, don’t you?”
Jack paused, looking at his handful of twigs and shiny green leaves, and shrugged, starting to sing again. “Deck the halls with boughs of ivy, Fa la la la la la la la la!” He winked at Ianto. “Works just as well!”
Ianto snorted softly and left him to it, he had other things to do.
Before long, the strains of ‘The Holly and the Ivy’ were wafting out of the living room. Of course, by then, Jack was busily hanging sprigs of mistletoe in strategic places to catch out unwary visitors. Coming back downstairs having wrapped and hidden Jack’s Christmas presents while the man in question was otherwise occupied, Ianto leant his shoulder against the doorframe, observing in silence for a few moments, a thoughtful expression on his face. He waited until Jack reached the end of his song before speaking.
“Jack? Can I ask you something?”
“Anything, my love!” Jack caught Ianto’s hands, pulling him away from where he was leaning and twirling him around the room.
“Daft sod!” Ianto chuckled.
“What was it you wanted to ask?”
“Why all the greenery?”
“It’s a Boeshanian tradition.” Leading Ianto over to the sofa, Jack sat down, tugging his partner into his lap and stealing a quick kiss. “The Boeshane Peninsula was a very hot, dry area of the planet, not quite desert but not far from it. We’d go for very long periods without any rain so when there was greenery of any kind around, it meant we were in a time of plenty, when the ground was wet enough that food crops and other kinds of plants could flourish.”
“Sounds life a tough life.”
“It was. A lot of hard work went into growing our food, but it was the life the people who made up our colony had chosen for themselves. The pioneer spirit was, or will be, still very strong in humans.” He chuckled. “Time travel and tenses don’t mix too well. Anyway, because of the harsh conditions, green came to signify good fortune. We held most of our celebrations and festivals during the rainy season; that way we could use leaves and flowers as decorations.” He gestured at the branches of dark green ivy, variegated holly, and the pale green and white sprigs of mistletoe. “We had nothing quite as dramatic as these of course, most of our decorations were branches from thorny bushes with tiny leaves, or something similar to juniper. There were trees a bit like Scots Pines too, but much smaller, stunted by lack of water and twisted by the wind. We didn’t chop them down, they were needed as windbreaks and to keep the soil from getting washed away when it rained, but we did decorate them at certain times of year, in gratitude for the part they played in protecting the colony from the elements.” Jack smiled, thinking back to his childhood. “I grew up in a world dominated by shades of brown. Coming to earth was quite a revelation; it’s such a green planet.”
“All the rain must have taken a bit of getting used to, I’d imagine.”
“It did. At first, every time it rained I wanted to be out in it, it was such a novelty. I couldn’t understand why people complained about it. But on Boeshane, the rain was always warm; the coldness of earth rain came as a shock and I soon learned that being wet and cold wasn’t a nice feeling. But all the different shades of green… That never gets old. No matter what time of year it is, there are always green plants; grasses, holly, ivy, all the different kinds of evergreens… it’s beautiful, so alive.”
“I never really looked at it that way. I suppose because I grew up here, I’m used to it.”
“It’s very easy to take things for granted when they’re so familiar.”
“Yeah, it is.” Ianto looked around at Jack’s decorations. “This looks good, much better than paper chains. It’s still missing something though, we don’t have a tree.”
“Yes we do, I bought it when I got all the greenery, it’s outside. I wanted to put the other decorations up first so I didn’t have to work around it. Besides, it’ll take both of us to get it up here.”
“Just how big is this tree?”
“Not too big, only about seven feet, but it’s quite bushy. Feel up to giving me a hand with it?”
“Do I have a choice?” Ianto slid off Jack’s lap and held out a hand to his partner. “Where are you planning to put this tree anyway?”
“Over there.” Jack pointed to the corner near the French windows that let out onto their roof garden. “It’ll get plenty of daylight there. If it survives the next few weeks then after Christmas, we can take it out to the old Torchwood compound, or maybe to Flat Holm Island, and plant it.”
“Thought of everything, haven’t you?”
“Just trying to follow your example.”
Ianto was very glad the old warehouse their flat had been built in had a lift. The tree was every bit as bushy as Jack had told him, and with the large, solid wooden tub it was planted in, it was quite a lot heavier than he’d been expecting. Thankfully, they didn’t have to carry it all the way, they just lifted it onto a low trolley Jack had borrowed from the Hub, wheeled it into the lift, rode with it up to their flat and then lifted it into position. The hardest part was getting it through their front door; the trolley would have gone through easily on its own, but the tree was more than twice the width. Ianto solved the problem by wrapping a sheet around it so that none of the branches got damaged, unwrapping it again once it was safely in its corner.
“Perfect!” Jack smiled in delight.
Ianto had to agree that it fit the space very nicely.
“What do we decorate it with, baubles and tinsel? Or was there something particular you used on Boeshane?”
“We used to use decorations we made for ourselves out of shells, feathers, bits of driftwood, seed pods, oddments from around the house, just anything pretty we could find really. I bought some traditional earth decorations for this one though.” Jack dashed down to the SUV and returned a few minutes later with four bulging carrier bags, which he emptied onto the sofa. “What d’ya think? I know you’re not keen on a big jumble of colours, so I went with classic red and gold.”
“I’m impressed.” Ianto smiled approvingly.
“Couldn’t get red and gold lights though, so they’re just gold. Wait ‘til you see what I got for the top. Now where is it?” Jack rummaged through the decorations. “Aha!” He held up a delicately wrought star made of twisted gold wire. “Simple but elegant. Do you like it?”
“Very much! I’m surprised you picked something so tasteful.”
“Well, I was going to get a jolly Santa, but the shop assistant thought the star would look better.”
“It will; Santa doesn’t really belong on top of a tree, rooftops and chimneys are more his style.”
“That’s true, I guess.”
They spent the next couple of hours as the afternoon faded to evening, sorting through the ornaments Jack had bought and hanging them on the tree; baubles, bells, bows, and golden icicles dangled from the branches, while strands of red and gold tinsel were artfully draped between them. The lights were arranged in a spiral starting right at the top, twining round and round among the branches until they reached the very bottom, each bulb carefully angled so that its light would catch the hanging decorations and make them sparkle. At last, all that was left was the star.
“Here,” Jack offered it to Ianto. “You do the honours.”
Smiling, Ianto took it, climbing up the stepladder and carefully fixing the deceptively fragile-looking ornament in place. “There. All done! How does it look?”
“Beautiful!” From the look on Jack’s face, it was unclear whether he meant the tree or Ianto himself.
While Jack put the stepladder back in the cupboard, Ianto quickly cleared away the empty bags and packets, both of them drawing things out, letting the anticipation build. Finally, they couldn’t wait any longer.
“Since I put the star up, you get to turn on the tree lights,” Ianto said, moving over to the doorway. “Ready?”
Jack nodded, plugging the lights in and poising his finger over the switch. “Ready.”
Ianto flicked the wall switch, plunging the room into darkness for a few brief seconds before the tree suddenly came alive, flashing lights scattering dancing motes of gold and red from the decorations across the walls and ceiling as Jack turned them on.
Stepping out from behind the tree, Jack joined Ianto, slipping his arm around his Welshman. “All it needs now are presents underneath.”
“Well, if you’ve been a good boy this year, maybe Santa will leave you some.”
“Is it too late to start being good now?”
Ianto turned in Jack’s arms and pulled him in for a kiss. “Oh, I’m sure it’s never too late.”
“Good to know.” Sweeping Ianto off his feet, Jack dumped him on the sofa and by the twinkling of the tree lights, proceeded to show Ianto just how good he could be.