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Chapter 2


True to his word, Jack refused to let Ianto have anything to do with the planning of the festival or with getting the kids ready for it.


He and Rhys were run off their feet for over a month, but it all came together in the end. While the limited time meant that they had to eliminate the traditional arts and crafts sale, Rhys promised the local crafters that they’d get an earlier start next year and bring it back with a flourish – including a special raffle.


The town did manage to pull together a wide variety of baked goods, beverages, and traditional autumn dishes so that Ianto had to provide very little from the café – but he still went over and above the call of duty as his way of admitting to Jack that he’d been wrong to oppose the idea.


Jack arranged for Alice, Joe, and Steven to fly over from Rome a couple of days before the event and stay at the Seren Coch. He’d chosen their costumes along with the outfits for the kids and his own. Ianto was being secretive about his own plans.


With so much to do, time seemed to fly by and the Saturday before Halloween was upon them before they realised it. Their older children and Steven left for the festival early with Alice and Joe in tow to supervise and Myfanwy riding herd on all of her charges, though once Brighid got there, the lab would be plastered to her side. She had claimed the baby as her personal responsibility.


Since Alice and Joe were staying at the Seren Coch, Rhys had offered to let them all get dressed there so that they could surprise Ianto with their costumes. That just left getting themselves and Brighid sorted for the event.


“Rhi came by to rescue us from the rug rat,” Jack called as he walked into their bedroom mid-morning on the day of the festival. “You should see your sister; she’s a buxom serving wench and Johnny’s some type of pirate. She about put my eye out with her breasts. Are those real? Never mind; she’d slug me for asking. She’s sent her kids along to the festival with Johnny ...” He stopped babbling when Ianto exited the en-suite. “Wow, Jones ... just ... wow,” he murmured, taking in his partner’s appearance. The tailored Armani tuxedo the other man had worn to a couple of science conference receptions with Jack while they’d lived in London the first year after the eruption still fit him perfectly. The fake, automatic handgun in the shoulder holster under his jacket looked hotter than it probably should.


“That’s Jones, Ianto Jones,” his partner purred, taking Jack’s hand and kissing the knuckles with a dashing grin. “Her Majesty’s Secret Service Agent 069.”


Jack flushed and gulped. “You expect me to be good all day and into the night after that display?” he whispered huskily.


“Expect and demand,” Ianto countered, eyes flashing. “Because it will be worth the wait,” he swore. “Brighid ready?” he asked, inclining his head towards the front of the house where he could hear their youngest babbling to her Aunt Rhiannon.


“Rhi helped me dress her. As I was saying, she sent Johnny and the kids ahead to catch up with Steven and our lot,” Jack replied, still staring at Ianto as if he wanted to strip him right then and there; the presence of his sister-in-law and baby daughter be damned.


“Eyes up, Harkness,” Ianto ordered, pushing Jack towards the en-suite. “Go get ready. You’ve got to join Rhys for the official opening in just a bit. If you’re late, he’ll kill me.”


“Quite possibly,” Jack acknowledged as he walked away, knowing that Rhys could only manage a small part of their planned surprise alone. He needed both Jack and Ianto for the rest, although his partner didn’t know it.


After Ianto left, Jack smiled contentedly as he started to strip out of the t-shirt and tracksuit bottoms that he’d been wearing. A shout from downstairs caused him to pause and groan.


“Jack Harkness,” Ianto bellowed, clearly beyond annoyed. “What the hell is my daughter wearing?”


~


The short walk to the Seren Coch along the town’s wide, main street was tense. They were running late thanks to Ianto’s outburst and subsequent dressing down of his partner. Jack had tried to explain his costume choice for Brighid again, but Ianto just ignored him and refused to say anything; earning a glare from his older sister at the scientist’s hurt expression.


As they made their way to the bed and breakfast, Ianto studiously ignored Jack. He hadn’t commented on his costume – a vintage 1930’s ensemble complete with a bomber jacket, a fedora, and aviator sunglasses. In fact, he hadn’t said a single word since demanding to carry Brighid when they left the house.


Midway to festival, Jack stopped. “I forgot something,” he mumbled, glancing at Ianto, then Rhi. It was a blatant lie, and they both appeared to know it. “I’ll see you there,” Jack continued in a rush, before turning on his heel and heading back to the house.


Rhi just glared at Ianto. “Go after him,” she ordered, gesturing towards Jack’s retreating form.


“I don’t want to,” Ianto replied, shaking his head and bouncing Brighid gently. “Look at her. She looks ridiculous. Of all the things he could have chosen ... a pumpkin, Rhi? Why would he pick this thing when there are so many cute outfits for little girls? It’s the last time we get to do this for someone her age, and she looks like a shapeless, orange lump. God, the colour is awful!” he groaned.


“Oh, grow up! This isn’t about you!” the Welshwoman told her brother. “Brighid likes the colour. Look at that smile,” she added, tickling her niece and making her giggle. “Who cares what she looks like? Jack’s done nothing but try to make this day special, and you’re acting like a spoilt brat. Sometimes, I know exactly why Rose left you; you’re impossible to please.”


“What?” Ianto gasped, looking horrified. “What did you just say?”


Rhi paled, and glanced down. “Oh, Ianto, I’m sorry. I really didn’t mean that, but, love, Jack is trying to do everything right. He’s so afraid of making a mistake with you and the kids, and the way you behave when the least little thing doesn’t measure up to your standards doesn’t help. He goes over the top sometimes because he loves you and the children so much. You’re his world and he wants to give you everything.” She reached over and took the baby from her brother. “Go after him and ask him why he picked the costume, and try listening for a change. We’ll meet you at the festival.”


Nodding sheepishly, Ianto turned and trotted back towards the house, a concerned expression on his face.


Rhi looked down at her niece and shook her head. “Boys are a sad mess, Brig. Just remember that,” she said, balancing her expertly on one hip and walking towards the joyous sounds and smells of the festival. She ran her free hand over the front of her skirt, smoothing it. “I sure hope this one’s a girl,” she mumbled, smiling to herself.


~


Ianto caught up to Jack just up the street from their house. He was leaning against one of the newly installed street lamps, staring up at Foel Benddin. He didn’t even turn at his partner’s approach.


“I’m an arse,” Ianto said by way of greeting, his face coloured with embarrassment at the way he’d overreacted to Brighid’s costume and treated Jack after all that he’d done to make this day happen.


“No argument from me,” Jack replied, still not looking at him. His hurt was evident in his tone, which was flat and lacking its usual warmth.


Ianto sighed and grimaced. “Am I going to have to beg for forgiveness?”


“Probably,” Jack admitted, finally glancing at Ianto.


The Welshman was horrified to see tears welling in his partner’s eyes. Jack was an emotional man. He laughed and cried with equal abandon, but when someone hurt him, he put up a ‘hey, it’s no big deal’ front. His tears told Ianto just how deep his words and actions had cut. “Oh, Jack,” he whispered, reaching to pull the resistant man to him. “I’m worse than an arse. Why do you put up with me?”


“Because I love you,” Jack responded, resting his forehead against the younger man’s own. “I’ve just been trying to make this all perfect, but I’m absolute rubbish at the family stuff. I keep trying to get better at it – to fix the mistakes I made with Gray and Estelle – but I’m never going to be good at it.”


“Of course you’re good at it. Don’t be daft,” Ianto scolded sharply, then softened his tone when he felt Jack stiffen further. “Why did you pick the pumpkin costume?” he asked gently, wondering what Rhi had meant and thinking that it might be the key to the whole argument.


“Brigid starting laughing the minute she saw it,” Jack admitted sheepishly. “I know there were others that you’d have liked more – I told Rhi in the store that you were going to kill me – but it made her so happy, and she laughs like you.”


Suddenly, Ianto felt about an inch high. “God, I am a bastard,” he admitted, dropping his head onto Jack’s shoulder. “I’m sorry. I... Since Rose left, I’ve tried to make everything perfect for Ifan and Rhosyn – and by extension you, Gray, and Brighid – to make up for the mess I made with her. Rhi’s right. Rose left in part because I was impossible to please. I wanted everything – a political career, my dream business, and the perfect wife and family. I wanted what I never had as a kid. It makes me – demanding at times. Who cares what the costume looks like if it makes her happy – if it makes you happy?”


“You’re not responsible for Rose walking out on you,” Jack countered, his contempt for Ianto’s former wife clear. She might as well have fallen off the face of the Earth for all the involvement she had in her kids’ lives, and to Jack that was unforgivable. Even when Gray had been with Alice and Joe, Jack had texted, emailed, or called his son at least once a day. “She was following some dream of adventure,” he concluded sternly. “It had more to do with her than with you.”


Ianto shook his head sadly. “I know what went wrong between Rose and me took both of us to muck up, but if I’d been more concerned with living and less concerned with having perfect lives, maybe I would have noticed she was unhappy – at least in time to have some warning before she threw our world out of kilter.” He pulled Jack closer, feeling him relax in his arms for the first time since he’d started shouting about the costume. “That’s one thing I know I can trust about you completely, Jack. You’ll never give up on us. You nearly died for all of us up on Foel Benddin; you will fight for us every day with everything you have.”


Jack met Ianto’s gaze with his own. “I will. I let my family slip through my fingers before and I refuse to do it again. If I go over the top sometimes to make you all happy, it’s because we nearly didn’t have any of this. It all almost ended up there that day. I just take joy in living and loving you every day. The details don’t have to be perfect. Just having our family already is.”


Swallowing to keep from crying, Ianto took Jack’s hand and placed it on his heart, and said, “I will promise to try to enjoy the day to day things without trying to make everything perfect. Will you promise to never let me get away with not appreciating how much you love us and do for us?”


Placing Ianto’s own hand over his heart, Jack continued, “I promise to try to remember that bigger is not always better, and not to let you get away with taking any of this for granted. If you promise that when I am rubbish, you will tell me.”


“I promise,” Ianto swore, gripping Jack’s hand tighter.


“As do I,” Jack replied, moving to kiss his partner warmly and deeply. The gesture spoke of lasting love and affection, not just passion. More than that, it spoke of the commitment that they’d made to each other and their children to see the relationship through – even when it was hard. When Jack finally broke the kiss, his eyes were again shining with tears – this time of happiness. “I think we just renewed our vows,” he admitted, his voice cracking.


“Oh, yeah,” Ianto agreed, brushing the tears from Jack’s cheeks with his thumbs and kissed him again before drawing back as his phone chimed, indicating a text message. “We do have to go,” he sighed, looking down and grimacing before showing the message to Jack.


Jones & Harkness – you have 10 minutes to stop, get dressed, and get here or I will neuter you. I know where Gwen keeps the good knives. Rhys


Jack went pale. “Does he ... I mean he wouldn’t really, would he?”


Ianto’s eyes had grown wide. “It’s Rhys. Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.” With that, he took Jack’s hand and they started to jog towards the festival.


Chapter 3.


































































































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Teach

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