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Chapter 1


With his laptop open in front of him, volcanologist Jack Harkness sat at his usual table at his partner’s Torchwood Café in the small Welsh village of Dinas Mawddwy. He was pretending to examine and analyse the stream of data from the sensors that his team – Owen Harper, Toshiko Sato, Andy Davidson and their research assistants Tommy Brockless and Emma Cowell – had placed in and around the Llaethnant Valley.


Despite all appearances to the contrary, Jack was actually watching his partner, Ianto Jones, bustle about the room efficiently as he and his staff prepared for the mid-day rush.


He shook his head at Ianto’s seemingly effortless management of what would appear to be utter chaos to most outsiders before taking a moment to check on their ten-month-old daughter, Brighid. They’d adopted her earlier that year in order to complete their family, which also included Ianto’s twelve-year-old son Ifan and eight-year-old daughter Rhosyn - as well as Jack’s ten-year-old son, Gray.


When they’d brought Brighid home from Cardiff, some of their family and friends had been slightly aghast that they had named the baby after a Celtic fire goddess after what they and their older children had endured during the violent eruption of Foel Benddin almost three years earlier. A calm Ianto had silenced even the most vocal objections – which had come from their friend Gwen and Ianto’s older sister Rhiannon – when he said simply, “Fire brought our family together. It’s appropriate.”
Satisfied that Brighid was sleeping soundly in her pushchair, Jack looked for something else to occupy his mind with until Ianto could join him for a mid-morning cup of coffee. He dismissed the idea of work – not wanting to be distracted if Brighid needed attention or if Ianto managed to sneak over early – and settled on people watching.


He enjoyed this time of day. The café’s influx of morning customers demanding caffeine eventually slowed to a trickle while Jack and a few other regulars, or the occasional tourist who’d had enough of hiking and volcano watching, settled themselves at tables to read, study, or work. Once Ianto had finished making sure his staff was ready for the dinner crowd – mostly nearby business people and crews working on various rebuilding projects – he’d bring Jack his favourite triple latté, before the scientist took their daughter to spend the day with her Aunt Rhiannon and went to his own office for a few hours to meet with the team at the Welsh Geological Services.


A joint venture of the Institute of Theoretical Geophysics at Cambridge, the British Geological Service, the United States Geological Service where Jack had trained and worked for many years, and the European Geosciences Union, the WGS had been formed at Jack’s insistence to study the re-emerging volcanoes throughout western Wales. The eruption of Foel Benddin had caught them all off-guard. They now understood that these ancient, supposedly extinct giants could awaken at any time. Next time, they would be ready.


Now that Jack ran the WGS and was working on a book about the eruption of Foel Benddin, he could set his own hours. He was very conscious of the mistakes that he’d made after the death of his wife, Estelle, by letting work consume him to the detriment of his relationship with his young son, Gray.


After Estelle had died, Jack had allowed Gray – who had only been a toddler at the time – to be raised by Jack’s half-sister, Alice, and her husband, Joe, alongside their own son, Steven. He vowed not to repeat those mistakes. He would be the best partner he could to Ianto and the best father to all of their children.


Jack credited Ianto’s absolute devotion to his children – and his determination to raise them alone after his wife, Rose, left him – for changing his own view of family. Shortly after Jack had become involved with him, the young Welshman had insisted that Gray visited during the summer holidays so that he could get to know Ianto, meet Rhosyn and Ifan, and spend time with Jack.


At Gray’s insistence, Jack had allowed him to come back for another visit that autumn. When Foel Benddin had come to life after millennia of dormancy, the fledgling family had been tested by fire – literally – and emerged from the wreckage inseparable. There had been no question of Gray returning to his aunt and uncle in Italy once Jack and Ianto married barely days after they and their children had been rescued from the ash-covered ghost town that Dinas Mawddwy had become.


Jack had worried how his sister would react to Gray remaining with him, but Alice had surprised him. Leaving Steven with Lucia, his maternal grandmother, Alice and Joe had travelled to Wales the minute that they heard about the disaster. With all flights grounded, they’d driven across Europe and then taken a ferry to Wales.. Using Jack’s name, they’d been able to reach the evacuation centre in Cardiff just hours before Jack, Ianto, and the children had been found alive and well.


The Carters had been relieved beyond measure to find both Jack and Gray safe, but the adoring expression in their nephew’s eyes when he looked at his father and soon-to-be stepfather and the way both men kept all three children close to them confirmed what they had suspected for some time. Not only was Jack finally ready to be a father to his son, but Gray wanted nothing more than to be with his dad. While it hurt them to lose the boy, Alice and Joe had always hoped that their custody of him was temporary for his sake. They’d wanted Jack to raise Gray if at all possible.


Gray still visited Joe, Alice, and Steven in Italy as often as he could. Last summer, the whole family had taken a two-week holiday to Rome, and Rhosyn had startled all of them by wishing for a baby sister at the Trevi Fountain. Later that night, Jack had woken in the early hours to find Ianto researching private adoption on the internet and their journey to Brighid had begun.


As he reflected on the past three years, Jack looked through the café’s front window. He could see the ongoing reconstruction as the once tiny Welsh village continued to recover from the unexpected, devastating shower of rock and ash. He remembered the sleepy little town it had been when he first arrived, and knew it would never be the same as it had been, but they were all working to make it a good place to live, work, and raise children.


Once the eruption subsided, the recovery had started; spurred by the influx of tourists and scientists eager to experience the United Kingdom’s only active volcano. As mayor, Ianto had worked day and night to make sure that his town and its citizens had everything that they needed.


A year after the eruption, when the initial clean-up had been completed and the town entered a rebuilding and expansion phase, Ianto had stunned everyone by stepping down as mayor – a post both his father and grandfather had held before him – and endorsing his lifelong friend, Rhys Williams, as his successor. The proprietor of a local bed and breakfast, the Seren Coch, Rhys had married his long-time partner, the town constable, Gwen Cooper, six months after the eruption.


“Why?” Jack had asked simply when Ianto had revealed his plan to him one night as they cuddled on the sofa, watching a film with the children.


Ianto had simply indicated their three children and Jack with an expansive gesture, and then looked towards where the plans for the reconstruction of the Torchwood Café sat. “I’ve served two mistresses – the town and the café – for a long time. I think that’s one reason Rose was so unhappy. Between my work and the kids, there was nothing of me left for her. I’m not making the same mistake twice. You and the kids come first. The café is a distant second. The town will be in good hands with Rhys.” He had brushed Jack’s lips with a chaste kiss. “It’s like you said at the Halloween Festival before everything went pear-shaped – the things we’ve always thought were important really aren’t. It’s the day-to-day events with the kids and each other that make up life.”


Jack was startled out of his musings by a slight cough. He looked up to find his partner smirking at him. “What?” the older man demanded, wondering how long Ianto had been standing there.


“If you were Welsh, I’d assume you were off with the fairies,” Ianto retorted, handing Jack a steaming mug of coffee before taking a seat next to him and checking on Brighid. “She’s still sleeping,” he mused, shaking his head at their youngest daughter.


“Yep,” Jack replied, marvelling how their daughter could manage not to wake up despite the bustle and noise of the café. Then again, she’d been coming there from being barely a month old. She was used to the place and its ambient sounds.


“So, what were you thinking so hard about?” Ianto asked after giving Jack a coffee-flavoured kiss. He frowned and glanced at the computer. “You’re not getting any strange readings are you?”


“No,” Jack assured him. “Everything is within the normal baselines we’ve come to expect since the eruption.” He reached for Ianto’s hand. “I promise you, if I even ever suspect that mountain of ours is planning something, you will be the first person I tell. Then you, the kids, Rhi, and her family will be out of here faster than you can blink.”


“Not without you,” Ianto asserted, setting his coffee mug down. “We’ve had this argument, Jack. We are not having it again, and there will not be time to have it if something happens. I go when you go. The kids will be fine with Rhi and Johnny, but I am not leaving you here.”


Jack sighed. They had had the same argument before – repeatedly. He wanted Ianto to commit to leaving at the first sign of trouble so the kids would be sure to have one of them if anything happened, but he knew Ianto had his reasons for wanting to stay. He assumed – correctly, damn him – that Jack would be less likely to remain behind too long and take unnecessary risks if he also had Ianto to worry about. “Logical Welsh bastard,” he muttered, taking a sip of his coffee, and just wishing Ianto would trust him on this one. He knew more about it.


“Yep,” Ianto agreed, knowing he’d won this round. “So, if the mountain is behaving, what were you so lost in thought over?”


“I was remembering that Halloween Festival the first year I was here – and the things we said.” He leant forward eagerly. “Have you noticed that people are getting a bit frustrated with the pace of the reconstruction?” Jack asked, lowering his voice so people couldn’t eavesdrop.


Ianto nodded, knowing what Jack meant. The last town meeting had been fraught with angry, impatient merchants, landowners, and others who just wanted things back the way they were – and who hadn’t really accepted that they might never be. “It’s natural. Most of these people have lived here all of their lives. They miss what was.”


“What if we could give them something familiar back?” Jack said excitedly, rubbing his hands together and grinning. “What if we held a Halloween Festival this year?”


“Are you out of your bloody, American mind?” Ianto wondered, shaking his head and sighing in frustration. “You have no sense of reality some days, Jack. That festival took months to plan and organise every year. We have exactly thirty-five days until Halloween; even less if we hold the festival the weekend before the way like we used to. It can’t be done.”


“Of course it can! “ Jack contended, gesturing wildly. “If we all work together and ask for volunteers, I bet we can pull it off.”


Ianto just shook his head. “Things are finally relatively normal around here,” he sighed as he stood. He bent and kissed Jack on the lips, then turned to give Brighid a quick peck as well. Straightening, he stared at his partner, hands on his hips. “Don’t go borrowing trouble or making a fuss, Jack Harkness.” He smiled, and then kissed Jack again. “I love you. We’re married, we’ve got the kids, and the town is getting back on its feet, albeit slowly. That’s all we need. People will just have to be patient. I’ve got to get back to work and so do you,” he added firmly. “See you tonight,” he called as he made his way towards the back of the café.


Jack watched Ianto go with a bemused expression, and then looked down at Brighid, who was starting to stir. She’d want a change and to be fed soon. “What was that about do you think, baby?” he whispered, smiling when she stared up at him with a curious, sleepy expression. “I don’t know either,” he continued, shaking his head. “But I can think of someone who will.” He stood and started to gather their things. “Let’s go sort a clean nappy and food for you, and then we’ll go see your uncle Rhys.”


~


“Rhys?” Jack called as he entered the Seren Coch, barely managing the heavy door and Brighid’s pushchair without swearing. “You here?” he added when silence answered him.


“Quit bellowing, Harkness,” Rhys ordered as he emerged from the office of the bed and breakfast; the welcoming smile on his face growing brighter when he saw Brighid. “Ah, there’s my lovely girl,” he cooed, removing her gracefully from her pushchair and earning a giggle and a grin as he cuddled her.


“Hi, Rhys,” Jack grumbled good-naturedly. “Nice to see you, too.”


“Oi, you saw me this morning when I got coffee,” the innkeeper retorted, not taking his eyes off Brighid. “My goddaughter was sleeping at the time, so I’ve missed my cuddle.”


“You should have just said,” Jack replied, voice dripping with innuendo.


“Not another word,” Rhys cautioned, holding up a hand. “Save your flirting for Ianto and the rest of the town – including my wife since she seems to enjoy it. I’d rather play rugby for England,” he added with a disgusted expression on his face as he sullied his mouth with the words.


Jack laughed, knowing Rhys loved him – really. “You wound me,” he quipped, dropping into one of the chairs in the inn’s reception area and waiting patiently while Rhys got his quality time with Brighid. The other man would make a great father one day – if Gwen ever stopped being a copper long enough to recognise the fact.


After several minutes, Rhys settled in the chair opposite Jack with Brighid firmly on his lap. “Okay, what brings you here this time of day looking like someone kicked your favourite puppy?”


“You’ve known Ianto a long time,” Jack commented casually, glancing at the innkeeper.


“If by ‘a long time’ you mean ‘since we were in our mam’s bellies’, then yeah,” Rhys agreed, giving Jack a very Welsh look of amusement. “Come on, Harkness. What’s eating at you?”


Jack was worrying his bottom lip. “The first year I lived here – before the eruption – there was this big Halloween Festival.”


“Yeah,” Rhys nodded, eyes sparkling with memory. “We had one every year. I kissed Gwen for the first time at the one when we were twelve.” He chuckled. “She punched me so hard I had a black eye for a week.”


Laughing at the image, Jack continued, “I took Ianto to that last festival. It was the last normal thing we did before it all went to hell, and it was where I told him that even when my assignment here was over, I didn’t want us to be.” He paused. “I mentioned to him that the town hasn’t had one since. That first year, we’d barely cleared all the ash and rubble. Last year, I didn’t even think about it with the adoption and you being the new mayor. I told Ianto I thought we should start it back up as a way to prove the town is healing and moving forward, but he told me I was daft and that it was more trouble than it was worth.”


Rhys just laughed and shook his head. “Did you say ‘I want to have the festival’ or ‘we should have the festival’?”


“We,” Jack replied, looking confused. “It’s the town’s event; not just mine.”


Sighing and muttering something about clueless spouses, Rhys replied, “And when Gwen says ‘we’ should do something, what she means is I should cook, plan, and then clean while she buys a new outfit and plays hostess. I’m guessing Ianto’s experiences with Rose were similar, and forgive me, Jack, but … well, when you celebrated the kid’s birthdays or Brighid’s christening, Ianto did all the work and you had all the fun.”


“Because I’m rubbish at that sort of thing and Ianto says I always get it wrong anyway,” Jack argued, though he looked a bit abashed as he remembered how run off his feet his partner had been at their few family events. “Damn,” he swore, laughing when Rhys covered Brighid’s ears and glared. “Yeah, that’s a hopeless cause. Between Rhi and Gwen, was there ever any hope of keeping her ears innocent?”


“Point,” the other man relented, shaking his head. “Look, Jack, I happen to think starting the festival back up is a great idea, but Ianto ... well he likes to plan things perfectly. With just over a month, he’ll never agree that it’s possible.”


“I suppose,” Jack sighed, looking defeated.


“Hey, just because he won’t agree doesn’t mean that we’re going to give up,” Rhys said, rolling his eyes.


“But if he won’t agree, how do we manage it without making him mad at me?” Jack asked, quirking one eyebrow.


“Same way I’ve managed Ianto Jones since we were kids – and Gwen come to think of it,” Rhys replied knowingly, before lowering his voice in a conspiratorial whisper. “I do what I want and make them think it’s their idea.”


“Rhys, I think I married the wrong Welshman,” Jack decided, rubbing his hands together manically. “You pull this off, and I may propose.”


“Not for the love of God or Wales,” Rhys moaned, shaking his head. “You are more work than Gwen – and that’s saying something.”


~


“Rhys agreed?” Ianto repeated in shock as he moved to hand Jack his evening coffee. “Why on Earth… You two are daft, you know that? Don’t we have enough to do?”


“Of course we do,” Jack admitted, looking thoughtful. “But we’ve accomplished a lot, too. We should celebrate that. The last time the town had a Halloween Festival was the year before the eruption. Rho was what – five? She was just precious. I’d never had a little girl around to spoil. I think I got a bit carried away that day.”


“Maybe a little,” Ianto mused with a smile, thinking how cute his baby girl had looked dressed as a woodland faerie. Rose had picked out the outfit months earlier – before she’d left all of them for a doctor with a tattered leather jacket, big ears, and a blue custom SUV. He’d worked very hard to make that Halloween special for the children. It had been the first time they’d approached any sense of normalcy after Rose had vanished. It was also one of his best memories of the early days of his relationship with Jack – even if Rho had been extremely over-indulged and Ifan and Steven had run amuck.


“See, this is a good idea,” Jack insisted, grinning broadly and nudging Ianto’s shoulder.


“I just don’t know...” the other man’s voice trailed off. “We always held the festival on the grounds of the community centre. It hasn’t been rebuilt yet and may never be.” The one restoration project Ianto had remained part of after stepping down as mayor had been the fundraising campaign to rebuild the Jones Family Community Centre; a fixture in the town for over half-a century since Ianto’s grandfather had laid the cornerstone after the World War. It had been completely destroyed by the eruption, and the funds just weren’t there to start let alone complete the rebuilding project. The failure to restore his family’s legacy was weighing heavily on Ianto, and Jack knew it.


“Rhys said we could use the Seren Coch,” he assured the younger man. “Maybe by next year, the centre will be ready.”


“Yeah,” Ianto replied, but he didn’t sound hopeful. He narrowed his eyes and gazed at Jack speculatively. “Who else have you roped into this?”


“The team thinks it’s brilliant, and Gwen will do anything for a party,” Jack reported, sounding smug. “Alice, Joe, and Steven were planning to come over about then anyway, and I’m sure Rhiannon and Johnny will bring Mica and David. We’ll have the whole town there; a proper Halloween festival just like you all used to do.”


Ianto just sighed and reached over to grab a pad of paper. “How much food and drink do you suppose we’ll need?” he began, starting to take notes.


“Oh, no, you don’t,” Jack retorted, plucking the pad from his fingers. “You are no longer the mayor. While the planning committee will gladly accept any donations that Torchwood Café can provide, we will handle all the arrangements.”


“Planning committee?” Ianto repeated, arching one eyebrow. “You have a committee?”


“We might,” Jack replied innocently, a twinkle in his eyes.


“And exactly who is on this planning committee?” Ianto demanded, looking even more sceptical.


“At the moment, Rhys and me, but he was sure that Gwen would volunteer and that he could round up others, including Rhiannon,” he told his partner, who just continued to look disbelieving. “The town wants this. It won’t be the same as before, but it doesn’t have to be. It’ll give us a start on next year with no pressure.”


“Fine,” Ianto shrugged, shaking his head in bemusement. “You win. I’ll take the kids shopping next weekend before all the good costumes are have vanished. Maybe Rhi’ll go with me. She can help manage the lot of them.”


“Nope,” Jack told him with a grin. “It’s already arranged. Rhi and I’ll take the kids. We need to sort our costumes and Johnny’s, anyway. Do you want me to find something for you?”


“I... I may have an idea,” Ianto admitted, still looking gobsmacked. “Are you sure though, Jack? Five kids and a baby are a lot of work - even with Rhi’s help. I can go along and ...”


“I know how busy you are at the café,” Jack told him gently. “I promised we’d take care of everything and we will. You just worry about your costume and being ready for the Saturday before Halloween. Rhi’s taking Gray, Rhosyn, and Ifan for a sleep-over at hers afterwards, and Alice will want time with her new niece, so we’ll have this place to ourselves for a change.” He leered, and then cocked his head as he heard Brighid begin to fuss. He held up his hand when Ianto moved to stand. “I’ll get her,” he told the younger man, tossing the pad back at him. “There is one thing you can do after you bring in Myfanwy; make us a list of everything that you all used to do at the festival. If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it right.” With that, he moved towards the stairs, calling, “Hush, sweetie, you’ll wake your brothers and sister. Daddy’s on his way.”


Ianto stared after Jack, and then looked down at the blank pad in front of him, before heading to bring in their mischievous lab, who had survived the eruption right along with them and was now more spoilt than ever. As he made his way to the door, he shook his head, wondering what the hell his partner had gotten them into now.



Chapter 2.






























































































































































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