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“So,” Ianto Jones said almost too casually to his partner, Jack Harkness, as they worked together to prepare their evening meal. Since moving to Cantalian Seven five months prior, they’d shared more of the domestic chores than at any other time during their long relationship.


“Yes,” Jack replied with a sideward glance. With his boyish good looks and easy smile, Ianto had been able to play the innocent babe for over a thousand years – with everyone but Jack and their extended family. “What’s going on?”


“I know we’d talked about going over to Cantalian Six for a few days, but … well the Doctor called and he wanted to stop by. He’s feeling guilty about missing my birthday,” the Welshman concluded, not really making eye contact with the Captain until he’d gotten to the part of the news that was going to send Jack into a full rant. Ianto had celebrated his one-thousandth birthday four months before, and the planetoid they were now living on was Jack’s gift to him.


“Well, he can come with us,” Jack practically bounced. “He’s never been on the Cymru. I’d love to show him how a real ship feels again. Not that I don’t love the TARDIS, but …”


Ianto was shaking his head. “I think that’s a very bad idea. I’m thinking we should reschedule the trip and … entertain here.” He paused. “He’s apparently not alone.”


“Another Companion?” Jack said, looking surprised. “I didn’t think he was planning on … oh, he never plans it I guess. He just seems to … collect them. Who is she this time?”


“Did I say it was a she?” Ianto demanded, deliberately continuing to chop some vegetables as he avoided Jack’s gaze.


“You didn’t have to,” Jack retorted, grinning. “He might call me a flirt … or worse, but it is a universal truth that a time traveller bouncing through space is in need of a Companion. More often than not, that Companion should be a young, beautiful woman with a yen for said time traveller. Blond or ginger is preferred but not required.”


“Yen?” Ianto repeated, laughing and shaking his head. “What is it with you and these old-fashioned turns of phrase lately?”


“Language and clothing styles cycle,” Jack assured him. “Just you wait; my coat is going to be back in style any day and the braces with it.”


“I’m not taking you seriously when you just classified yourself as a young, beautiful woman.” Ianto was laughing now and muttering to himself about delusional partners. “Since you’ve been his Companion longer than anyone.”


“Two out of three!” Jack smirked back. “Though, I have made a passable woman more than once.”


“I remember, and really it’s one out of three,” Ianto teased, gesturing at the non-existent wrinkles on the face he loved so well.


Jack pouted for a moment then leant closer, pinning the other man to the counter. “So, you didn’t tell me who she is?” he repeated, a little like a dog with a bone.


“Well,” Ianto began after pausing for several moments and moving the knife out of reach. “It seems the Doctor has reached the point in his timeline where River Song will be travelling with him for a while.”


Jack drew back. “No,” he replied sternly. “He can visit but she can’t. We haven’t even been here six months. It’s been nice and peaceful, and we’re trying to get pregnant. I don’t need that woman bouncing in and out of here causing trouble. She dances through time as if it’s a play yard. Everywhere we run into her, something explodes or otherwise ends up a mess. I thought we agreed that peace and quiet was the plan?”


“We did,” Ianto assured him, shaking his head. “She’s coming here with the Doctor – not for help or to make problems. River is no more prone to cause trouble than the Doctor is or you are for that matter. How long have I put up with him? You two had this weird sexual tension going on for a long time before we all just gave in. I never said a word … to you anyway. It’s nothing different with River – except that I seem to be the object of her interest, not you. You’re jealous.”


“I am not jealous,” Jack insisted, clearly trying not to stomp his foot in frustration since he had lifted it and barely put it down in time to avoid a stomp. “She’s rude. Even at his worst, the Doctor never openly suggested the TARDIS was too small for some people and their ‘egos’ – whatever that meant. She did precisely that – and made it clear who she’d jettison,” Jack returned, attacking a loaf of bread with his knife. “She flirts with him, she flirts with you, she flirts with the ship, hell she flirts with everything with a pulse and some things without, but she ignores me.”


Ianto was doubled-over laughing. “She doesn’t ignore you, Jack. You two have this Fifty-First Century pissing contest going on. When she’s around you’re not the most irresistible person in the room anymore. You both have the pheromones and the ‘you just have to love me’ attitude. You butt heads so often because you are exactly alike.” He paused, looking thoughtful. “I can see why the idea of travelling with the two of you would make the Doctor break out in hives. It makes me want to join that Hermits United he’s always on about. You, on the other hand, should be gleeful about having someone about that you have so much in common with.”


“We are nothing alike and certainly don’t have anything in common!” Jack growled, making his annoyance plain. “She’s irresponsible – flitting through time and dropping hints about spoilers. How many times has she crossed her own time line and ours? Two dozen? Three? My partner is a time traveller, I’m a former Time Agent, and our best friend is a Time Lord, but she’s the only one we have to ask if we’ve met her before. It’s as if she’s on a temporal joy ride. If that was me, the Doctor would have done worse than disable my Vortex Manipulator. Do I have to remind you how much trouble not having that thing caused? He gives her free reign,” he huffed as his rant ended, and then mumbled. “And I hate when she calls him ‘Sweetie’. What type of pet name is that for a Time Lord? And you … ‘lamb chop’, really? I can’t even get away with ‘darling’ and you grit your teeth when I use ‘love’, but you practically preen when she calls you by that ridiculous name.”


“She means ‘lamb chop’ to be funny, Jack,” Ianto reminded him, a snicker escaping. “You know – Welsh, sheep, lambs. We’re two men – immortal men known to be very dangerous. Pet names are silly. She’s just teasing.”


“I don’t see how it’s funny at all,” the Captain retorted, now abusing some type of vegetable with his cutlery.


“You are so jealous,” Ianto taunted again, finally letting his laughter escape without restraint. “You’re just upset that I drew her attention first. Normally, with you about, I’m background music, but with River, she actually pays attention to what I think and say. ”


“Oh, she pays attention all right – but it has nothing to do with thinking or talking! She asked you to sleep with her the first day she met you!” Jack reminded him, shaking his head. “At least I waited until you propositioned me. She has you practically drooling and the Doctor hanging on her every word as if she’s the most fascinating, intriguing person ever. Meanwhile, she gets us all into more trouble than the rest of his Companions and all of Torchwood combined.”


“That’s not …” Ianto began, but a familiar grinding sound interrupted his argument and caused him to look slightly abashed.


Jack glared at him, pointing to where the TARDIS was materializing. “You already said yes!” he shouted, looking aggravated.


“Might have done,” Ianto admitted with a shrug, looking eager to greet their guests.


“Get rid of them,” Jack spat as he turned on his heel and marched towards the back of the cottage. “Tell them I have a terminal illness and am not up to visitors.”


“You’re immortal,” Ianto shouted towards Jack’s retreating form. The Captain responded by the slamming their bedroom door. “Great,” he muttered, shaking his head at the temper tantrum. After almost a thousand years, he stood where he always did in the aftermath of a Captain fit – handling the fall-out.


This time, he plastered a smile on his face as he moved to greet the new arrivals – and tried to decide how to get rid of the Doctor and River Song with a minimum of fuss.


~


Jack was right about one thing – keeping track of where they stood in River Song’s personal timeline compared to their own was tricky. She sometimes let things slip that only made sense when they happened months, weeks or even years later. Time travel and temporal mechanics had always given Ianto a headache. River’s version tended to give him a migraine. Granted, they hadn’t met her under the best of circumstances. It had been over a hundred and fifty years ago in their timeline.


The Sontarans had been hunting for the Doctor and cornered him somewhere in the outer reaches of nowhere. After sending his current Companions – Amy Pond and Rory Williams –to safety, River had sent out a distress call from the TARDIS per the Doctor’s instructions.


It had reached Jack and Ianto at their home on Newydd Cymru. Using a transmat that the TARDIS had helped Ianto create for just such an occasion, the men had gone to help their friend immediately. They’d arrived in the middle of the fray. While they’d bought time for the Doctor to get on to the TARDIS, they’d gotten themselves killed, and revived just as River was risking her own life to drag their lifeless corpses onto the ship.


“Bloody hell,” she screamed when Jack took a gasping breath. She released her grip on his shoulders and dropped him, causing his head to hit the deck of the TARDIS with a resounding ‘thunk’.


“Oh, that’s gonna leave a mark,” Ianto mumbled from where he was getting to his feet. He was brushing at his clothing and trying to collect his tattered dignity, but one look at the bloodstains and scorch marks across his jumper and trousers told him it was a lost cause. “Bollocks, I liked that outfit.”


“Who the hell are you two?” River demanded, reaching for her gun and pointing it at them.


“Hello,” Jack replied with a grin as he clambered to his feet. “I’m Captain Jack Harkness. Who are you?”


“God, you so need a new line,” Ianto groaned from behind him, still eying the gun warily.


River motioned with the weapons. “Hello, gun. I ask the questions. Who and what the hell are you? You were both dead.”


“Good friends. They have an annoying habit of not staying dead. Long story involving Rose, the Heart of the TARDIS and the Vortex. I’ll get you a copy of the book Jack wrote during his ‘writer’ phase in the Twenty-Second Century,” the Doctor reported from near the console, where he was trying to lock the door and move the time machine. “It’s why I said leave them out there. They’d have made their way in shortly. The TARDIS wouldn’t have left without them. She has a strange soft spot for them.”


“Thanks. Coming to save your Time Lord arse – again – was no problem at all,” Jack replied sarcastically, ignoring the woman and heading to join the Time Lord. “What do we have?” he asked, moving into foot soldier mode the way he always did around the Doctor.


“Stay right where you are, Captain,” the woman ordered, icily. She was pointing her rather ugly looking weapon at Jack’s midsection.


“Didn’t we just play shoot the immortals?” Jack asked Ianto, who shrugged. Glancing back at the woman, Jack turned on the charm. “Look, beautiful, it’s not like you can kill me, so why don’t we stop with the theatrics then we can solve this problem and have some real fun.” He peered at her. “Why do you have a gun that big anyway? The Doctor abhors guns – and violence. He barely tolerates my Webley and it’s a lot smaller than that thing.”


“I can only imagine it’s smaller,” the woman replied, glancing at him dismissively.


“It packs a lot of punch,” Jack shot back, all flirtatiousness gone.


“She listens about as well as you do, Jack,” the Doctor said at the same moment from behind the console. “You lot and your guns …”


“Doctor, focus please,” Ianto waved from behind Jack, apparently having decided not to move from relative safety until the imminent danger of someone shooting him passed yet again. Twice in one hour was just too much. “Who is she?”


“Oh, sorry. Manners,” the Doctor replied, tapping himself roughly on the forehead. “Sort of forgot in an attempt to preserve life and limb and our flight to safety and all that. By the way, that was brilliant flying, Doctor. Nothing really, but thank you.”


“Doctor,” three voices chorused. The Time Lord looked up to see three pairs of eyes regarding him in annoyed fondness.


“Oh, well yes,” he stammered. “Dr. River Song, my most recent Companion, meet two of my oldest friends, Captain Jack Harkness and Dr. Ianto Jones.”


“Must you say old, Doctor?” Jack sighed dramatically. “I prefer mature.”


“I assure you so would the rest of us,” the Doctor spat back, and then gestured. “Jack, come tell me if this looks like a temporal blocking field to you. Ianto, keep River away from Jack. Just trust me. River, put down the gun and talk to Ianto. He’s fascinating.”


“Oh, I bet he is,” River said, eyeing the Welshman up and down with a predatory look in her eye.


“You should know I’m immune to Fifty-First Century pheromones now,” Ianto replied with a smirk, eyeing her in much the same way. “Spent enough time with Jack that I recognise the scent, but that’s about the only effect.”


“Caught then,” River replied with a grin. “I’ll have to resort to old-fashioned methods of seduction – like conversation. So, you’re a doctor? A doctor of what?” she asked curiously.


Ianto looked flattered at the idea of this woman trying to seduce him with Jack and the Doctor mere feet away. He was aware of his own charms, but they tended to pale next to the combined flash of personality that was Captain Jack Harkness and the Doctor. “Originally I was in general practice. Torchwood Cardiff saw all kinds of things, so it came in handy.”


“You’re Welsh then, from Cardiff?” She mused, looking at him through narrowed eyes. “And Torchwood, too. Well, that’s interesting.”


He ignored her suspicious expression and continued. “After a time, I settled into researching emerging diseases, but I dabble in male reproduction. It comes in handy at times.”


“Oh, lamb chop, I bet it does,” River purred, laughing when Ianto rolled his eyes. “You know, Welsh, sheep, lambs. It just fits, darling.” Before she could say anything else, there was a shout from the main console.


“Yes!” the Doctor whooped, giving a startled Jack a high five. This regeneration was still a bit strange for them. “Like taking sweets from a baby.”


“Which I’m wagering he’s never actually tried, since it’s a lot harder than it looks,” Ianto muttered to River, who laughed a bit too loudly in response. “Seriously,” the Welshman assured her. “Our second son, Mattie, knew thirty ways to inflict injury and draw blood before he’d part with a lollipop.”


“But I bet he was putty in your hands,” River retorted, a grin on her face.


Smiling at his new acquaintance, Ianto turned back to the Doctor and Jack. “Sorted then?” he asked.


“Brilliantly,” the Doctor replied, dancing with self-satisfaction. “Jack found the frequency of the blocking field and we disabled it. The Shadow Proclamation and the Judoon will be all over this little operation in the blink of an eye.”


“Especially since I might have sent them a message alerting them to the situation,” Jack added, looking just as pleased with himself. “No muss, no fuss, and minimal death,” he concluded, gesturing to his and Ianto’s bloodstained clothing.


“That’s what I call successful,” River mused, glancing between Ianto and the Doctor. “You know, a celebration is in order. What do you say to a quick trip to the Vegas galaxy?” she suggested.


“Oh, Ianto and I haven’t been there in years,” Jack replied, moving back to stand next to his partner. “Remember the trip ....”


“I was hoping I could show Ianto some of my favourite haunts,” River suggested with her meaning clear. “Unless you mind, Doctor?”


“I don’t but Ianto might ... or Jack,” the Doctor said with a slightly bemused expression.


“Ianto doesn’t look or seem like he’d mind. Jack could tag along I suppose,” River added reluctantly. “I’d ask you, Doctor, but they’re really not your kind of places.”


Beside Ianto, Jack was looking thunderous, but before he could say anything, Ianto held up his hand, flashing his wedding ring towards River. “I’ll have to decline, Dr. Song. Jack and I have obligations back home.”


“You and Jack?” River glanced between them. “Oh. Sorry. He just doesn’t seem your type ... you’re much younger.”


“Not that much, Sweetheart,” Jack spat in a mocking tone, eyes flashing possessively. “And I’m more than his type. I’m his partner – legally bonded and wed several times over. As in married, taken, and monogamous.”


“Ermmm, perhaps we should take Jack and Ianto home,” the Doctor suggested, not liking the tension in the air at all. “This meeting could have gone better,” he muttered.


“You think,” River shot back over her shoulder as she continued to glare at Jack. “For someone from the Fifty-First Century you’re a bit … old-fashioned about labels. It was just going to be sex, but I guess at your age …”


“My age?” Jack repeated, his voice going up in both pitch and volume. “At least I have the experience to determine if someone is taken – and to know when to ask permission of the other party involved.”


“Oh, so if I asked?” River demanded with a smile, eyes travelling quickly to Ianto as she once again ignored Jack. “You’re not bad to look at,” she told the Captain. “It might be worth it for a night with him.”


“Doctor, you said something about home?” Ianto called desperately, as Jack growled low in his throat.


“Yes, yes,” the Doctor stammered. “We’ll get you home, and go fetch Amy and Rory.”


“At least with those two, you know they’re married,” River groaned in exasperation. “Everyone within ear shot knows. Forget stealth arrival. ‘Hi, I’m the Doctor’ followed by ‘Hi, I’m Amy Pond and this is my husband Rory Williams’. Might as well take out an advert.”


“It’s a bit like travelling with these two,” Ianto assured her, indicating Jack and the Doctor. “Subtly is not on the menu.”


“What is with you?” Jack demanded, glaring at Ianto. “She tried to shoot us, then she tried to pull you, and now she’s your new best friend?”


“I’m just trying to be polite,” Ianto exclaimed, shaking his head. “Where's the harm in that?”


“Yes, we’ll be getting you home,” the Doctor continued to mutter, clearly trying to ignore the brewing domestic. “Must get to Amy. She gets tetchy if I’m gone too long, and she has a temper.”


“You left her for eighteen years, Doctor,” River reminded him, shaking her head fondly.


“Is that all?” Jack retorted. “I still have the lead then – he left me for over a hundred and fifty.”


“Is that all?” River repeated with mock innocence. “What a pity he ever found you again. If he hadn’t, Ianto might be single.”


“Doctor,” Ianto called, keeping Jack and River from dissolving into a full on catfight by sheer force of will. “Moving faster would be good.”


“Yes, yes,” the Doctor called, whispering to himself about going back to being a hermit.






















































































































~


Ianto sighed in relief as the TARDIS vanished from his living room. That hadn’t been as bad as he thought it might be. River could be temperamental and demanding – a bit like Jack actually. However, having the mortal scientist pop in and out of his life through the centuries had taught him one critical thing – like Jack, she had a price.


Making his way to their bedroom, he squared his shoulders to do battle. Jack had been right to be annoyed. This was supposed to be their time together. While the Doctor was always welcome, he knew River grated on his partner’s nerves. Planning a visit with both of them had just been stirring up trouble. Ianto really was sorry for his actions, and was plotting how to make amends.


He decided the contrite approach might work. Knocking softly, he called, “Jack? May I come in?”


“Are they gone?” the Captain demanded tetchily from the other side of the door. “Because I meant what I said. I am not putting up with her ogling you.”


“She doesn’t ogle,” Ianto shot back before he could stop himself. He took a deep breath. “Look, they’re gone. May I please come in? I don’t want to fight.”


The door opened slowly, and Ianto found himself face to face with an irritated looking Captain Harkness. “Are they really gone?”


“Gone and not coming back unless invited,” Ianto assured him, grasping him around the waist and pulling him in for a deep kiss. “Am I forgiven?” he demanded when they broke apart.


“We’ll work on it,” Jack replied breathlessly, and then narrowed his eyes. “How did you get rid of them? He doesn’t take hints and she’s ... impossible.”


“Well, I admitted I should have asked you before inviting them,” Ianto replied, looking chagrined. Then his facial expression changed dramatically as he broke into a grin. “It was unfair with you having planned a romantic evening complete with a special dinner. All I had to do was say the words ‘trying to have a baby’ and the Doctor couldn’t get to the TARDIS fast enough. River took a second longer, but then got this look on her face as if I might ask her to change a nappy right there. She was right behind him. I’m pretty sure the CCTV caught it all.”


“So you lied to them,” Jack laughed, appreciating being able to catch his partner being devious. Ianto was often too good at it for anyone to find him out.


“Not exactly,” Ianto smiled suggestively. “I’m going for a run around the lake. That gives you about two hours to come up with a romantic seduction plan so that we can practice baby-making.”


“Two hours?” Jack repeated, and then nodded his head. “I can work with that. Oh,” he called as Ianto retreated to the en-suite to change into track bottoms and a t-shirt. “How much did it really cost to get her to leave without a scene?”


“You don’t want to know,” Ianto sighed as he started to close the door behind him. “You really don’t.”


~


Aboard the TARDIS, River Song was gleefully counting the credits that Ianto had given her as an incentive to leave without a fuss.


Over her shoulder, the Doctor was glaring. “We were guests,” he mumbled. “He shouldn’t have had to pay us to leave.”


“We were invited guests,” she countered, grabbing a data pad to make a shopping list. “He asked what it would take to get us to leave peacefully. I said a shopping trip. He merely gifted us with funds for the inconvenience caused by Jack not allowing us to stay.”


“I told you it was a bad idea,” the Doctor continued, shaking his head. “Jack was clear he wanted time alone with Ianto. I promised not to interrupt. Today was interrupting.”


“It’s not like we caught them mid-shag or anything,” River retorted, a grin on her face. “Though that would have been fun. I wonder if there are any recordings in the TARDIS …”


“No,” the Time Lord replied, shaking a finger at her. “Just no. You’ve caused enough trouble today.”


“Oh, what did I do?” River responded with a dismissive gesture. “Jack got to play drama queen, you got to surprise them at an inopportune time, Ianto got to fix everything for him, and I got cash for the market on Seles Eight – which has nice guns and nicer lingerie. Stop nattering and take us there.” She moved towards the interior of the ship, and then turned around. “Besides, Sweetie, you three are going to be together a lot. You need to get used to the roles you all play or this is not going to be a happy home.” She smirked at her last statement and vanished towards her quarters.


“Happy home?” the Doctor called after her. “What’s that supposed to mean?”


“Spoilers,” River shouted back down the corridor. “Now leave me be. I have to check my supply of explosives.”


“I wonder if Ianto will run off with me and leave these two divas to themselves?” he muttered, not expecting a reply. From the way the TARDIS sighed around him, she agreed with him even if it wasn’t practical.


FIN
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