Author: Erin Giles
Characters/Pairings: Gwen/Rhys, Jack/Ianto, Tosh/Owen, Steven, Alice, Mica, David, The Doctor, OC
Summary: Post CoE. Christmas is a lonely time of year for Jack.
A/N: Title translates to ‘Grant them rest’ and the word cwtch is Welsh for hug. Also, I think I must be the only person on the planet that can make a Christmas fic into angst fest 2009 (or 2010 as it is now). I hope everyone’s Christmas was better than Jack’s. Also thank you to galaxysong for coming up with random names for things at stupid o’clock in the morning and pinkfairy727 who struggled through her tears to beta this for me.
Maybe they mean they are exhausted with their own company."
Jackie Kay, The Trumpet
He watches at the patio window feeling slightly perverse in his voyeuristic manner. He can almost smell the chestnuts roasting on an open fire because the sight before him is so traditional in nature.
He can see stockings hung above the Welsh slate fireplace, each one with a name woven carefully into the red fabric while a real log fire crackles cheerily beneath. The Christmas tree is twinkling in the opposite window, inviting the world in from the road outside with its starlit lights.
He’d paused upon the doorstep, inhaling the smell of the holly wreath hung jovially on the front door, tied up in red ribbon like it was a present in itself. He’d turned away as he heard the bellow of ‘It’s Christmas’ in rather loud Welsh vowels rather than Noddy Holder’s usual yell.
He watches as wrapping paper is torn enthusiastically from odd shaped presents, kisses and hugs exchanged like their gifts themselves as childish laughter fills the air. Chocolates are stolen from the lower branches of the tree when they think no one is looking and if Jack moves just a little to the left he can smell the turkey cooking in the oven.
Jack stays to watch as cheeks grow rosy due to mulled wine and belt buckles are undone after too many mince pies.
“You can come in if you like.”
Rhys is standing on the back doorstep, oven gloves in one hand as he leans out into the cold afternoon air, a Christmas cracker hat sat at a jovial angle upon his head. Jack turns to face him.
“It’s been a while,” Rhys adds as he moves out the way, encouraging Jack inside. Jack just shakes his head and turns to walk away.
“Longer than you know,” Jack says, chuckling slightly.
“Daddy!” A small voice calls from the kitchen doorway and Rhys looks back as his little girl comes skidding across the kitchen floor in her new slippers that Santa has brought her.
“Mam said to tell you to hurry up ‘cause The Muppets Christmas Carol is starting,” she tells him, bouncing impatiently from one foot to the other. Rhys smiles down at her before he looks back out into the garden. Jack is gone. He sighs, shutting the back door over before lifting his little girl up into his arms.
“Come on then, let’s go watch.”
Ianto catches him watching. Of course he does. Ianto’s one of those annoyingly observant people that notices you’ve finished your coffee before you’ve even quite realised it yourself.
Jack wants to flee as Ianto walks away from building a snowman with his niece and nephew in the front garden of his sister’s to come up the hill to Jack. He’s not seen Ianto since he last kissed the blue lips of death, and as he sees them pink and plump, breath coming from them in a cold winter mist, he wants to kiss them again.
“I thought you had plans?” Ianto says, a trace of annoyance in his voice, but it’s dampened by the Christmas cheer that seems to be leaking from Ianto’s very pores – although that could be the alcohol.
“I’m sure I did,” Jack replies with a vague amount of mystery that keeps Ianto interested. Ianto’s smacking his gloved hands together to get rid of the snow on them, his ears and nose red raw in the winter sun as watermarks continue to rise up his jeans.
“We’ve already had dinner, but you can come in for leftovers if you like, assuming Johnny’s not eaten ‘em all,” Ianto invites. Jack smiles at the fact that Ianto’s accent is slipping, but Ianto presumes it’s at the image of Johnny stuffing himself silly.
“I’m okay, thanks,” Jack tells him, watching David chasing Mica round their half built snowman with a glove full of snow over Ianto’s shoulder. Ianto turns to see what he’s looking at, a smile breaking out on Ianto’s face as Mica ambushes her brother from behind the snowman with a face full of snow. They remind him so much of he and Rhiannon when they were kids. When he turns back to Jack he’s already walking away.
“Jack!” Ianto calls, running after him and catching him by the arm.
“Don’t forget your Christmas present,” Ianto tells him and as Jack opens his mouth to enquire what it is Ianto catches him with a kiss. Jack doesn’t think about what he’s doing as he kisses him back. Ianto tastes just like Jack remembers, but with the added bonus of Christmas dinner and alcohol. He suspects the latter is why Ianto is quite happy to be snogging Jack in the middle of the estate he grew up in with no qualms.
When Ianto pulls back, a cheeky grin on his face, Jack doesn’t want to let go.
“I’ll give you the rest tomorrow,” Ianto tells him coyly and Jack remembers with vivid fondness that he took great care in unwrapping his Christmas present from Ianto that year. Ianto turns from him then and tramps back down the hill to his niece and nephew. Mica’s already building another snowball to lob at her Uncle, but Ianto catches her and lifts her into the air before she has a chance to take aim. He fails to notice David who starts stuffing snow down Ianto’s trousers as Jack turns away from the childish shrieking to move onto another Christmas.
There are posters lit up inside the Welsh Millennium Centre advertising the Christmas show currently taking centre stage. Beauty and the Beast are locked in an intimate embrace as Tosh and Owen stumble past the invisible lift. They are both leaning against each other as they stagger towards the taxi rank. There isn’t a taxi in sight, though. Owen is trying to whistle with his fingers but just seems to be blowing spittle onto the pavement, which makes Tosh laugh. She covers her mouth as another bout of laughter splutters forth, and Jack can hear Owen cursing Ianto’s name as he stumbles inside the bus shelter to sit down.
Jack wants to move out of the shadows, wants to shift closer to hear what’s being said between them as Tosh follows Owen into the bus shelter and sits down beside him, intimately close. They’re drunk and neither of them know what personal space is anymore as Owen slips an arm round Tosh’s waist, either to keep him from pitching forward or to leech heat.
They would have been good together, Jack thinks, as Tosh conjures mistletoe from somewhere and Owen presses his lips to hers without thinking. Both of them deserved someone after so much loss. Jack knows Owen could be loving and caring, had a heart underneath all that bravado, just like he knew Tosh wasn’t as fragile as he had once believed.
Jack stays until the taxi shows up and then watches as Owen lets Tosh take it. He steps back into the shadows as Owen turns in a kind of half circle, a hand over his face as he huffs out a breath of air into the early morning. Owen does his jacket up to his neck and stuffs his hands in his pockets, walking away back across the edge of the Plass towards James Street. Jack’s gaze flicks between the red taillights of the white taxi and Owen’s retreating back, frowning and wishing he’d intervened.
Four notes ring out through the church as Jack settles himself quietly in the last row of the aisle pews. The church is nearly full, and the woman he sat next to grumbles slightly as she shifts her wet winter coat onto her lap to make room for him.
His eyes move down the row of boys, all dressed in their school uniform, shirts smartly pressed and tie near choking them. They’re almost drowning in their red blazers – bought a size too big, because they’ll grow into them. The boy on the end never will, though.
Steven is forming every Latin syllable like he knows what they mean. Jack wonders if they still teach Latin in school. Steven never seems interested in his schoolwork when he tells his Uncle Jack what he’s been up to.
“Uncle Jack!” Steven greets him enthusiastically as Jack’s trying to slip out through the people drinking mulled wine and eating mince pies. He should have left well before now, but he’d missed the first Christmas service he’d been invited to by Steven – he’s pretty sure his past self is busy wading through sewers with a disgruntled Owen right about now.
“Hey, soldier,” Jack greets in return, his voice wavering as he picks Steven up without thinking and hugs him close. Alice appears behind her son smiling, for once pleased to see him. Although whether some of it is leftover pride from seeing Steven singing in the school choir on Christmas Eve is debatable.
“You came,” she says in greeting as Jack puts Steven back down. Steven immediately disappears with one of his friends to get at the mince pies. Jack’s eyes follow him instead of looking at Alice. He still can’t quite face her without his stomach twisting into a physical knot.
“Nice to hear them singing traditional carols,” Jack comments, looking at somewhere past Alice’s left ear.
Alice laughs. “Something that you can remember then.”
Jack chuckles too, but only out of politeness. He doesn’t feel like laughing right now. Pie Jesu had almost brought him to tears. Alice is staring at him, clearly waiting for him to say something else. Jack ends up making his excuses and turns to leave.
“What are you doing tomorrow? For Christmas?” Alice calls after him.
“I’m sorry, Alice. I’ve got plans.” Jack looks at her then, trying to fight back the tears that are building painfully. “I’m so sorry.”
He’s stood by the railings watching the boats tugging against their moorings in a bid for freedom. The tips of his fingers are red raw, matching his nose and ears in colour as he huffs out a breath of air, watching as it curls away from him into the Cardiff night air. He looks down as he hears the Tourist Information door open, two figures spilling out into the night air.
“Christ, it’s cold,” one of them mutters, stamping his feet as another two figures follow out the door, keys jangling as one of them locks up for the evening.
“Cold on Christmas Eve, Owen? Unheard of,” Ianto replies as he turns the key in the lock and pockets the bunch.
“Christmas Day actually,” Tosh says, looking down at her watch as Jack hears church bells ringing in the distance.
“Time for home then,” Gwen says, sounding tired.
“Eh, what about that Christmas drink we said we’d have?” Owen sounds tired too, but put out by the fact alcohol is about to be passed up. Gwen lets out a long sigh, even as Ianto hooks an arm through hers.
“Just one,” she says softly, leaning into Ianto slightly as they turn to head up the stairs. Jack moves away from the railings, catching the names of bars being suggested.
“I could just go a cwtch,” Gwen jokes as Ianto suggests bar cwtch, and Jack looks over his shoulder to find Ianto hugging her on the boards outside Terra Nova, Gwen giggling. Ianto’s face falls, though, as Jack realises Ianto’s looking right at him. Jack runs.
“Having fun?” someone says when Jack finally stops down a darkened alley in Grangetown, possibly a few years ahead or behind of where he’s just been. It’s raining here. Jack turns to face the voice, finding the Doctor standing there with his coat wrapped tightly round him as his hair is slowly beaten onto his forehead by the rain.
“I’m sure I’ve already told you off more than once for using that thing,” the Doctor says, motioning towards Jack’s wrist strap that he still has his hand on. Jack’s stomach drops. Please, God, please don’t disable it.
“Of course, if you want to go on a Christmas adventure we could always take the comfier option.” The Doctor indicates the TARDIS lurking down the end of the alley in the rain with a nod of his head. “Also one that’s less likely to rip a hole in the fabric of space and time,” the Doctor adds as an afterthought, scratching at his right ear in a false act of nonchalance.
“Come on.” The Doctor moves forward, tugging on Jack’s arm when he doesn’t say anything. It’s scaring the Doctor slightly because he’s never known Jack to be so quiet.
They end up in a small café in Glasgow about roughly the same time of year - there’s tinsel garlands strung from the ceiling - because the Doctor’s never been to Glasgow and they’re less likely to run into themselves up here.
“Two good old fashioned cups of tea please,” the Doctor orders when they’re sitting in a red faux leather booth, Formica table in front of them. Jack’s still staring at his wrist strap like a naughty child that’s about to have their favourite toy confiscated.
“You know I can’t have you running all over the universe, Jack,” the Doctor chastises gently. Jack huffs out a laugh.
“I know. I just-“ He pauses, looks away out the café window at a group of teenagers going past, laughing. “Christmas persecutes the lonely,” Jack mutters to the table. The Doctor sighs, because he knows the feeling, and politely thanks the blonde waitress that reminds him of Rose with a hesitant smile as she puts down their mugs in front of them.
It’s easy for Jack to slip back into the submissive roll of follower rather than leader when he’s with the Doctor. It makes things easier, makes the burden slightly lighter. So he’s quite happy to sit in the seat opposite not giving anything away, head bent towards the table in weary defeat.
“Was that your team then?” the Doctor asks, picking up his mug and taking a sip. “The ones you lost?” the Doctor prompts when Jack doesn’t say anything at first.
Jack nods and takes a gulp of tea to try and clear the lump that’s now forming in his throat.
“I wasn’t there that year, I had meetings with UNIT in London,” Jack explains, as if trying to make excuses for why he’s been jumping through Christmases like there’s no tomorrow.
“You could be there that year,” the Doctor says after they’ve drunk most of their tea. Jack looks up at the Doctor then, surprised that the Doctor is willing to allow Jack to dangerously cross his own timeline to spend one last Christmas with his team. He doesn’t want that though, not really. It hurts too much now he knows they’re gone – all except Gwen.
“Not there, somewhere else,” Jack says eventually, looking up at the Doctor when all the tea is gone, and there’s no polite conversation left, only awkward silences.
It’s not snowing, that would just be too clichéd. It’s raining, as it always seems to be in the south of Wales – which is another cliché, Jack supposes - when Jack and the Doctor step out onto a very ordinary street in the suburbs of Cardiff.
“Jack,” the Doctor calls after him as he tries to slink away into the morning light. Jack sheepishly turns back and automatically holds out his arm for the Timelord to stop his wrist strap from working again. He licks his lips, trying to remember a kiss upon them, listens to hear the last notes of an old song as he blinks the lights of Christmas from his eyes.
“You sure this is where you want to be, Jack?” the Doctor asks, looking behind Jack to the two up, two down detached house. The tree in the front garden has been decorated with white Christmas lights and there’s a pine tree flashing at him from the front window.
“They’re family,” Jack says, as if that explains it all. And it does, really. The Doctor nods, giving Jack a sad smile.
“What about you?” Jack asks, clearly inviting the Doctor to join in the festivities. The Doctor suddenly feels awkward.
“Oh, me? I’m fine, Jack. Absolutely brilliant, in fact.”
Jack nods, smiles, but obviously doesn’t believe a word of it.
“No more Christmas adventures!” the Doctor calls after him as Jack rings the doorbell. The Doctor watches as a rotund man, still with his dressing gown on, answers the door. A small girl is peering out from behind the stripy folds of the towelling and Jack bends down to greet her. A tentative handshake is shared before the girl’s mother is pushing her husband and daughter out the way to get to Jack.
Rhys looks up as Gwen hangs round Jack’s neck like a fashion statement, watching as a man steps back into a blue police box across the street that wasn’t there when he went to bed last night. Rhys watches as the blue box fades out of existence with a whoosh of noise and Rhys doesn’t really bat an eyelid. Santa could have been the one ringing the doorbell at this time of the morning and he wouldn’t have thought anything of it – not anymore.
Gwen is leading Jack through into the living room where they’re halfway through opening their Christmas presents and Ruth is tugging on the hem of Rhys’ dressing gown in encouragement for him to shut the front door. Rhys does so, glad that the turkey serves 5-7 people.