"I can't believe you want to move all the way out here!"
Ianto Jones turned from his enjoyment of the view to regard his sister, Rhiannon, as she stood well away from the cliff. She had her arms wrapped around her upper body, as if warding off a chill, even though it was the height of Welsh summer. The breeze off the Irish Sea was cool, but not freezing, and it tickled his lungs pleasantly when he inhaled.
He rolled his eyes. "I don't know if I do yet," he corrected. "But you have to admit, it's peaceful here."
"It's out in the middle of bloody nowhere!" she argued. "This is no place to raise a kid!"
They'd gone on and on about that – and other reasons why Ianto shouldn't move to the coast – ever since he'd seen the ad for the cottage online. Ianto had fallen in love with the idea of having a place so far from what Rhiannon called civilization, and she'd argued against it, saying it wasn't healthy and accused him of hiding from the world.
Maybe he was. But then, if he didn't deserve to, who did?
"I'm meeting the estate agent in ten minutes," he said, changing the subject. "You're perfectly able to head back to Cardiff now."
"No way," she answered. "Someone has to show some sense, and if you aren't willing to, then I'll do it for you."
Ianto didn't say anything, instead choosing to stride toward the car he'd parked just off the road, abandoning the gorgeous view and knowing that Rhiannon would follow. She was so certain she would be able to talk him into whatever she wanted…which was for him to come home to Cardiff, and take a job in an office, buying a modest home using the settlement he'd received from Lisa's death and putting the rest away for his son, Gareth, and his eventual education. She didn't understand that he had enough for the house, and for Gareth…plus there would be enough for him to easily retire on for a while. The government had paid the survivors of Canary Wharf very well indeed, and Ianto had gotten more because of losing his wife and being made a single parent in one fell swoop.
And, if he decided to get a job later on…well, he'd worry about that when the time came. Right now, Ianto felt he needed the time to mourn and heal, and Rhiannon felt that meant he should come back to the bosom of his family.
Ianto felt otherwise.
The drive into Aberaeron was done in silence, which suited Ianto just fine. It was a picturesque town, not too small, with an antique charm that Ianto found himself appreciating. It was so very different from London, and for that he was grateful. He desperately needed change; something else Rhiannon didn't seem to understand.
The estate agents' was on Heol y Farchnad, just off the main street, in a very cheerful blue building that actually had Ianto grinning. He found a place to park just down the road, in front of a clothing store that seemed to cater more to the tourists that came out to the holiday cottages that dotted the area, and he and Rhiannon joined the bustling throng, walking back up toward the estate agents'. A small painted sign saying 'Williams Real Estate' was mounted next to the door, and Ianto held the door open for his sister, and then entered himself.
The interior of the office was pleasant, with adverts for various properties tacked up on the walls and a large surveyor's map of Aberaeron and its environs behind a battered wooden desk, the fairly new computer an odd counterpoint to the place's charm. A middle-aged woman sat at the desk, and she smiled when Ianto and Rhiannon approached. "Welcome," she greeted them enthusiastically. "Are you here for one of the holiday packages?"
"No," Ianto answered politely. "I have an appointment with Mr. Williams, about the cottage for sale?"
The woman went a little pale, then put a smile back on her face. "You'd be Mr. Jones, then! Mr. Williams will be back in a bit; he just went down the street to meet his wife for lunch. Please…have a seat. I'm Ruth, by the way…welcome to Aberaeron! Could I get you a cuppa while you wait?"
"No need, Ruth," a friendly voice interrupted her. Ianto turned, as a jovial-looking man came into the office. He stepped forward, offering his hand. "Rhys Williams," he said, shaking vigorously. "You'd be Mr. Jones, then? Punctual…not used to that, with all the holiday folk we get. You'd be wanting to see Spitfire Cottage, then?"
Ianto nodded. "It seemed to be just what I was looking for, but that was online…"
Rhys Williams nodded as well, releasing his hand. "And as good as the technology gets, it's seeing it with one's own eyes that's the best." He glanced at Rhiannon, and apologizing he greeted her. "Welcome, Mrs. Evans," he greeted. "Come to try to talk your brother out of moving out amid the heathens, then?" He winked at her.
Ianto had the pleasure of seeing Rhiannon speechless.
"Why don't we take my car?" Rhys suggested, collecting a set of keys from Ruth, who was looking at Ianto oddly. "That way we can come back here if you decide to sign the contract on the property."
"Lead the way," Ianto said, cutting off anything that Rhiannon might have said.
Rhys' car turned out to be a late model Range Rover. Ianto had planned on letting Rhiannon have the passenger seat, but she practically stomped to the rear and climbed in without saying a thing. Ianto cast a look at Rhys, who seemed vaguely amused by it, and then crawled into the front, pulling on his seat belt.
Rhys drove them south out of town, espousing on the area and just how peaceful it was; commenting that his wife, one of three local coppers within a hundred miles, had to work a second job in order to keep from going mad with boredom. He laughed as he said it, which Ianto took to mean that it was somewhat of a joke between the couple.
He hoped to be that bored.
The trip took them past a large holiday cottage area, the place fairly full with people who'd come up there to escape the cities. Ianto hoped that the cottage he was going to see was well enough away from them, since he wanted quiet, and he doubted he'd get it if he was too close. He inquired about local children; Rhys answered, and Ianto realized that Gareth wouldn't be so alone there as he'd thought. There would be others his age he could play with.
The land began to rise, up toward the cliffs once more. Ianto could feel himself getting excited at the prospect of seeing Spitfire Cottage in person. Something seemed to call him there; he couldn't say what, only that it promised quiet and peace, and a chance for both himself and Gareth to deal with what had happened.
About ten minutes later, Rhys turned into a rough path heading toward the sea. The cottage he'd seen online grew as they approached, and the estate agent followed the driveway around to the front of the house, which faced the cliffside.
"Here we go," Rhys said, pulling to a stop. "Spitfire Cottage, built in 1946 as a retirement home for Captain Jack Harkness, a real-life war hero. He lived here until his passing in 1965, in a boating accident out on the Irish Sea."
Ianto got out of the vehicle, his jaw dropping slightly at the cottage. It was a two-story affair, painted a cheerful blue, with white shutters that were pulled back to reveal the large, inviting windows. A rounded balcony was on the upper story, with large French doors that Ianto guessed must show an amazing view of the sea.
A stone path led the way up to the white-painted door, and he followed Rhys as the estate agent led the way, opening the door with a flourish. "On the ground floor is the kitchen and lounge. The appliances are a bit dated, but they work, and all the plumbing and wiring is up to code."
The short hallway had two doors leading off; Rhys pushed the right-hand side one open to reveal the lounge. It was as wide as the house was, and sunlight streamed in from the windows at the rear, revealing an inviting space with a massive stone fireplace. Already Ianto could see the room with his favourite leather sofa, enjoying the telly with Gareth and having a fire on chilly nights. He enquired about the fireplace, and Rhys assured him that it was all in working order.
The well-worn yet cared-off hardwood floor creaked slightly under his trainers as Ianto followed Rhys into the kitchen, Rhiannon's disapproving presence at his back. Rhys had been right; the appliances were hardly up-to-date, but Ianto could certainly work with the enormous black gas stove. There was a perfect place for his coffee machine on the counter by the white refrigerator, as well as a microwave near the stove. This room wasn't as light, and only had one set of windows looking out over the front yard; at the back of the kitchen was a pantry space and a place for a washer and dryer, as well as the other window.
"There's a small toilet under the stairs," Rhys added, waving absently in that general direction. "The real selling point of this cottage is the upstairs." He ushered them up the stairs, the landing opened up onto yet another window, two doors on either side, almost echoing the downstairs.
The right-side room was a small bedroom, perfect for Gareth's needs. Ianto could imagine all his son's football posters up on the walls, and the general disarray that comes with a seven-year-old boy.
The master bedroom though took his breath away.
It was a large, airy room, walls painted a soft blue colour. A fireplace – a smaller mirror of the one downstairs – was on the outside wall. On the interior one was room for the bed, and two doors led off, and Ianto guessed they were for the closet and en-suite that had been advertised online. But what really drew his eyes was the very feature he'd seen from the outside: the large French doors, leading out to the small balcony. A large telescope took pride of place in front of the doors, pointing out toward the sea.
"This belonged to the Captain," Rhys said, as Ianto ran his hands over the well-cared-for brass of the telescope's barrel. "From what I've heard, he was quite the stargazer. We can certainly move it out if you don't want it – "
Rhys was interrupted by a loud rapping sound, and all three of them turned in order to locate the source.
They were the only ones there.
The estate agent had gone somewhat pale, and he cleared his throat nervously. "Although it seems a shame to take it away."
Ianto had to agree. "I like it here. It fits." He hooked his thumb toward the large portrait over the fireplace. "I assume that's the Captain?"
"Yep, that's Himself," Rhys answered. "Handsome devil, wasn't he?"
Ianto couldn't deny it. The man in the portrait was dark-haired and blue-eyed, with a twinkle in those eyes that made the young man think the subject was up to no good. He was wearing a long RAF greatcoat, the side held open by a hand hidden within a trouser pocket, revealing a pale blue shirt and darker blue braces. He looked to be in his very early forties, and Ianto wondered how long after the War it had been done.
"I don't know why anyone would want to have a dead man's picture in their bedroom," Rhiannon scoffed. "That's gruesome, it is."
Ianto stifled his sigh. Of course Rhiannon was going to nitpick the place; after all, she wanted him and Gareth within easy distance. "I wonder just how good a likeness it is," he mused, just to irritate her.
"I think it's very good," Rhys volunteered, "but down at the Records Office there'd be pictures and such if you wanted to check."
"This is a lovely place," Ianto said. It really was. The cottage already felt like home, and he hadn't even moved into it yet.
"I'd like to talk to my brother for a moment, if you don't mind?" Rhiannon said, dismissing Rhys easily.
Ianto frowned at her rudeness. "Rhi – "
"Nah, it's fine," Rhys brushed off the insult. "Take as much time as you need. I'll be down at the car." He turned and headed out, leaving Ianto alone with his sister.
"That was uncalled for," he snapped angrily, not believing she'd be like that with anyone. Rhiannon had always been blunt, but never nasty.
"You can't be thinking of buying this place!" she exclaimed.
He crossed his arms over his chest. "And why not? It's perfect for what Gareth and I need right now."
"Like hell! You and Gareth need family…not to hide yourselves away. Lisa would be appalled if she knew – "
Anger boiled up within him. "How dare you bring Lisa into this," he snarled. "You didn't even like her!"
Rhiannon looked shocked by his outburst. "That's not true!"
"Don't even try to deny it. You were always inviting Gareth and me over, when you knew she would be working or with her family."
"I was just trying to look after my baby brother!"
"I'm not your baby brother any longer, and I'm going to do what's best for me and my son. I'm going to take the place."
"You can't!" Rhiannon cried. "This isn't any fit place to raise a young boy! It's hardly big enough for one person, let alone two!"
"It's perfect," Ianto said. "It does need a little work, but we'll be quite happy here."
"It's a wreck! Did you see that kitchen? It's the bloody Stone Ages in there!"
The words were barely out of Rhiannon's mouth when another bang, this one much louder and coming from somewhere around the fireplace, echoed through the room.
Was it Ianto's imagination, or had the portrait moved?
He shook off the half-baked notion, turning his attention back to his sister. "This place might be a bit outdated, but it can be worked on. And I don't need your permission to move anywhere. I'm doing what I think is best for my son and me."
"You're making a mistake, Ianto," Rhiannon warned.
"Then it's my mistake to make. I'm going to put an offer in, and then bring Gareth up here and see what he thinks. I shouldn't have let you talk me into leaving him in Cardiff." It had made sense at the time to let him stay with his cousins, but now Ianto knew why Rhiannon had suggested it: Ianto wasn't about to make any sort of decision without Gareth being involved.
He turned and left the room, heading downstairs and not caring if Rhiannon followed. He should never have brought her along; she was going to find fault with any decision he made that didn't have anything to do with him moving back to Cardiff permanently. He'd tried on several occasions to explain to her that he was an adult and didn't need her mothering him, but she persisted, and he knew he had to get out from under her overbearing presence before he said something he'd really regret.
He emerged out into the sunlight, blinking slightly to clear his vision. Rhys was standing next to the Range Rover, looking at him expectantly. "I'll take it," Ianto announced, hearing Rhiannon say something nasty behind him. He didn't care. This was what was best for him and his son.
"Fantastic!" Rhys exclaimed. "However, there's something you might want to know before you sign anything…"
"I knew the place was a wreck!" Rhiannon snorted.
"No, it's not that," Rhys denied. "The cottage is in great shape. No, it's about the…reputation, the place has. You'll hear about is sooner or later, and I didn't want you to go into it ignorant, as it were."
Ianto's heart sank. He really wanted this place, and if this was bad news…"What is it?"
"Well – and I haven't really seen any evidence myself, mind – it's just that the last tenants claimed the place was haunted." He almost looked ashamed to admit it.
One eyebrow went up on its own volition, even as Rhiannon laughed. "You're serious?" Ianto asked, not so worried anymore.
Rhys nodded. "Said that it was the ghost of Captain Jack himself. He'd move things, make noises, that sort of thing. Oh, and they swore he'd watch them…well, having sex." The estate agent blushed a little.
It was Ianto's turn to laugh. "Well, I don't have to worry about that!" Still, it was certainly a strange thing to have to disclose about the cottage.
"That's just plain silly," Rhiannon scoffed.
"Rhi, please," Ianto snapped, getting tired of her behaviour. He glanced back up at the cottage, knowing that it was perfect for his family. For a second he thought he saw a dark shape standing at the French doors in the master bedroom, but it was gone suddenly.
He really didn't believe in ghosts. So it wouldn't impact his choice at all.
"I still want to put in an offer," Ianto said. "I think my son and I will like it here. And, if there is a ghost…well, hopefully he won't mind sharing."
He watched from the balcony as the young man and his sister got into the car, to head back to the town. He frowned; he didn't like it when someone moved into his home, but even he knew he couldn't really stop it from happening, being dead and all.
Well, he'd see if this man and his son were worthy of Spitfire Cottage. If they weren't, then he would make certain they left as quickly as possible.
The first thing Ianto did when he and Gareth moved in was to have internet set up.
The cottage might have been ready for occupancy, but there were some changes Ianto wanted to make, and that included having internet access.
Ianto didn't trust anyone else but his friend, Toshiko Sato, to do it. Toshiko had worked for the Ministry of Defence until her mother had been kidnapped by terrorists and she was blackmailed into stealing for them. However, she'd gone to her supervisors instead, and after a bit of undercover work the culprits had been captured and Toshiko had been pissed off enough to quit. Now, she ran her own software business in London, which was where Ianto had met her.
"This place is fantastic," she said, looking around the front as Ianto escorted her up to the cottage. "I bet Rhiannon was pissed about you and Gareth moving this far away."
That was an understatement. Rhiannon had been livid, and hadn't spoken to him the entire trip back to Cardiff. Not that he'd much cared; the silence had given him time to plan the move. Once back in Cardiff she'd tried to gang up on him with his mother, but Ianto wasn't to be talked out of it. And, once Gareth had seen the place, he'd been excited about moving to Aberaeron. He was too much like his father, in that he enjoyed privacy and could always keep himself entertained. Lisa had been the outgoing one of the family, and she'd always been chivvying her 'boys' out for family nights.
Not that either of them didn't have friends; Gareth had a small circle of school chums, and he'd been a little upset about leaving them, but in this day and age they could talk over the internet any time they wanted. And Ianto had his friends as well, including Toshiko. Using instant message and webcam was a lot cheaper than running up the phone bill.
"Let me show you around," Ianto offered, opening the door.
He gave her the tour. Already the place was looking more like a home; the furniture Ianto had decided to keep fit into the old-fashioned décor, except for the large television that took up nearly the one wall in the lounge. The butcher-block kitchen table looked as if it had always been there, and Gareth's room was already wall-papered with his sports posters. Gareth greeted Toshiko with a hug, showing her his room proudly, and where he wanted his computer set up.
Toshiko made notes, then promised to get it just right for him. Gareth beamed, then went back to playing the small handheld game he'd been busy with when they'd come in.
Then Ianto showed her the master bedroom, and Toshiko made appreciative noises. She headed straight for the telescope, grinning. "I didn't know you were into astronomy."
"I'm not," Ianto shrugged. "That came with the house. But, you know…I'm seriously considering it. The stars here at night are amazing."
"There are some great online resources for it," she said.
Ianto nodded. "I'll take a look when things get settled more. Is it going to be a problem getting it all set up?"
"No, not at all. Wireless is really your best bet, but despite the fact you're out in the middle of nowhere you won't have any trouble getting signal with a small satellite dish." She went on, explaining what she'd need to do, and Ianto agreed to the work.
"Hey," she said, once she was done, "that watercolour looks great over the fireplace."
Ianto glanced at the mentioned artwork. It was a meadow scene, and had been a gift from Lisa's parents. She hadn't much liked it, and it had been consigned to the hall closet for the duration of their marriage, only getting to see sunlight when her folks were visiting. Ianto himself thought it was lovely, and had been disappointed that it hadn't been on display in their flat in London. "It does," he agreed. "Actually when I bought this place, there'd been an old portrait of the Captain there. Handsome man, but I felt a bit uncomfortable with it staring down at me when I was in bed."
"Tell me about this mysterious Captain," Toshiko urged, curling up on the bed and making herself comfortable. "You know I love a good ghost story."
Ianto rolled his eyes good-naturedly, joining her. He'd have to find a chair to put in front of the fireplace. "Not so much really," he said. "Although Rhys Williams was right – the man was a real World War Two hero." He'd checked out the library references on the builder of Spitfire Cottage, and had been impressed. "He won several citations for bravery, one of them for supposedly saving London from a bomb that he single-handedly disarmed before it could devastate a large chunk of the city. He retired here after the War, made quite a name for himself as a rake about the town. When he died, stories say that he came back here after death, because he'd loved this place so much. In fact, rumour has it if he doesn't like you being here, he makes your life pretty miserable."
A sudden crash had them both jumping up. Ianto's heart was hammering, and he immediately saw the painting had fallen off the wall, clattering onto the hearth and cracking the frame.
He moved to the painting, carefully checking the damage done. He'd have to get a new frame; this one was ruined. The wire on the back was intact, so it hadn't let go that way, and he knew how strong the metal hook that had been drilled into the wall was.
"What happened?" Toshiko asked, looking at the frame.
"The Captain happened," Ianto admitted.
"You really believe in those stories?" she asked.
"This isn't the only time something like this has happened," he admitted. "The first time I tried to hang this there, I came in and found it leaning against one of the andirons, the back of the painting toward the room. The second time, it was face-down in the middle of the room. I think the Captain got tired of being quiet about the fact that he didn't like the picture."
"No, there has to be another answer," Toshiko said. "I refuse to believe this house is haunted."
The bedroom door slammed shut, and if it could have been playfully Ianto would have sworn that was what happened.
Toshiko's eyes were as large as saucers. "That must have been a draft – "
Ianto shook his head. "The French doors are closed, as are the windows."
He chuckled. Little things had been happening ever since he and Gareth had moved in. Lights turning on and off, footsteps on the upper floor when he and his son had been in the lounge…and once Ianto could have sworn he heard a laugh. He hadn't been a believer in ghosts…not until he'd purchased Spitfire Cottage. Now he knew they did, indeed, exist.
"I could always bring up some equipment and we could have a real ghost hunt," his friend suggested.
"Ah…no. The Captain is fairly active enough. I don't relish making him mad and my coffee machine go flying across the kitchen. We've come to an understanding…well, as much as you can with a ghost, and he only makes noise when I've done something to bother him. I'll probably have to make some sort of deal to get him to let you do the wireless installation."
Ianto should have felt strange talking about someone like that who'd been dead for longer than he'd been alive, but for some reason he didn't. It was like the cottage itself; it felt normal, and in a strange way, welcoming. He liked to think that the Captain approved of him a little, if the lack of damage done to Ianto's belongings meant anything.
He pitched his voice toward the fireplace, tucking the painting under his arm. "All right, Captain Harkness, I get the idea; you don't like the painting. But I'm not going to put your portrait back up. You're a handsome gentleman, but it's bad enough knowing you're around and can watch me sleep. Having that portrait in here is just creepy. So, please…if you could please take it easy on the furnishings?"
Not that he expected an answer, but he nearly jumped when a soft exhalation cooled his right ear, followed by a quiet huff of a laugh.
"Ianto?" Toshiko asked, apparently noticing his sudden skittishness.
"It's fine," he reassured her. "It's just the Captain making sure I know he's here."
Like he was going to forget.
Later that night, after Toshiko had left, Ianto found himself in the kitchen, standing at his brand new coffee machine, listening to the quiet hum of the machine and nibbling on a biscuit. He couldn't help but smile when the light bulb over the stove – the only light on in the room – began to flick on and off. "If you're trying to scare me, Captain," he murmured, "you're not doing such a good job."
He could swear he heard a disgusted huff, and the light stayed off. Luckily Ianto could see well enough by the moonlight coming in through the window.
"Really," he continued, turning and brandishing his half-eaten biscuit in the stove's general direction, "if I didn't know you were an adult when you died, I'd swear you were a little boy who's used to getting his own way. I'm a parent, Captain, so I do know how to deal with recalcitrant children. Now, if you'd please put the light back on, I could make my coffee then go up to my room. I have a book I'm interested in."
Ianto waited for a few seconds, and almost sullenly the light came back on. "Thank you," he said, turning back to his making his coffee.
He felt a cool breath on his neck, but didn't react. This had become one of the Captain's best tricks, and he was getting somewhat used to it. It had been the exception that he'd been startled up in the bedroom with Toshiko earlier; usually he just let the ghost do what he wanted.
If anyone told Ianto that he'd be contentedly – well, not so much, really – co-habitating with an RAF Captain who just happened to be a ghost, he would have laughed. Gareth didn't seem to mind it all that much either, although Ianto had heard him berating the spirit once over something the Captain had moved.
"You know," he said, as he poured his final cup of coffee for the day, "it would be easier if you just showed yourself, if you can. Then perhaps we can disagree like adults, instead of you playing your little jokes on me and breathing down my neck."
"I thought you were enjoying my breathing down your neck," answered an American-accented voice with a very recognizable pout in it.
Stifling a grin, Ianto turned. Standing just out of arms' reach was the same man who'd been in the portrait he'd taken down. The RAF greatcoat draped about his body dramatically, and the man – or ghost – was standing almost to attention, the best to show off his chest. Brilliant blue eyes sparkled even in the uncertain light from over the stove, and a sly smile decorated his lips.
"Captain Jack Harkness," the ghost introduced himself. "And you are Ianto Jones."
"I'd offer you a coffee," Ianto said, "but I know you wouldn't be able to drink it."
"No," the Captain answered, "but it smells amazing."
"Thank you, Captain."
"It's Jack; after all, we're living together."
"Well, one of us is living."
Jack snorted. "Touché."
"I do think we need to discuss work I'd like to do to the house," Ianto said, taking a sip of his coffee.
The ghost didn't look happy about that. "What's wrong with it the way it is?" he demanded.
"Well, there are a few modern conveniences I'd like to add."
"Like this 'internet' thing you were talking about with the lovely Toshiko earlier?"
Ianto ignored the compliment for his friend, although it was nice to know the Captain had noticed. "Like that, yes. There are also a few other things, but we can negotiate those. I'd appreciate if you wouldn't be harassing Toshiko as she makes the improvements." Was he really bargaining with a ghost? Just how surreal was this?
"Actually, I like her," Jack leered pleasantly. "She's pretty…but not as pretty as you are."
Ianto cursed himself as he blushed. "That sort of talk isn't going to get you anywhere, sir."
"Oh, please call me 'sir' again!"
He was getting the feeling that Jack had flirted his way through life, and that mischievous look in the portrait's eye was very much natural for the ghost. He wondered just how much trouble he'd gotten in to for it, especially if he'd carried on like this while in the military. Then he recalled just what some of the penalties had been if he'd flirted with the wrong person…
"Now, the way I see it," Ianto went on, "is you believe that I'm living in your house – "
"I hate to point out that the dead don't have property rights."
"That's not fair!"
"But that's the way it is." Ianto found himself actually enjoying the repartee. "Now, I've bought the house, and I'm perfectly willing to share it with you. But you're going to have to bend on a few things, just as I'm willing to compromise with you. After all, I don't want you to start throwing a poltergeist hissy fit."
Jack smirked. "You know, before you showed up, it was way too simple to scare people off: footsteps, the odd creaking noise, a gentle blowing in the ear…"
"That's because I like it here, and I don't want to give it up." It was true; he'd loved the cottage from the moment he'd seen it.
The ghost stared at him, and Ianto refused to flinch under his gaze. Instead, he took another sip of his coffee, and waited to see what Jack would decide.
"All right," Jack finally capitulated. "I'll let you and Gareth live here unmolested – "
"And my friends."
"And your friends," the ghost amended. "But I want one thing in return."
"What would that be?" Ianto asked warily.
"I want my portrait hung back up in the bedroom."
Ianto considered. It was a small enough price to pay for the peace of the house. "All right," he agreed. "However, I'd like to move it to another wall. I wasn't joking about it staring at me when I'm in bed."
"I think that would be fine." Jack grinned. "I'd shake your hand but your fingers would just pass right through mine. Which is a real shame, because I'd really enjoy holding your hand…"
Ianto rolled his eyes. He got the distinct impression that living with a ghost was going to be a very interesting experience.
"Well, this is a surprise."
Ianto stepped aside to let Rhiannon enter the cottage. It had been nearly a month since Ianto had purchased the home, and his sister had made it perfectly clear that she'd thought it was a horrible idea. He hadn't bothered to even try to contact her, not wanting to have to listen to her trying to talk him out of it.
In that month, Spitfire Cottage had been transformed. Many of the outdated things about the place had been replaced, and the interior looked very much like a modern home instead of a 1940's cottage. He hadn't had to convince Jack of much, which was a good thing; Jack had only pitched a fit over the refinishing of the floors, complaining that the workers weren't being very respectful of the wood. But, in the end, even he'd had to admit they'd done a good job.
Rhiannon entered, looking around with a very critical eye. Not that she'd have much to be critical of; the cottage was clean, and Ianto had put a lot of work into the refinishing.
"I see you're all settled in," she said, by way of greeting.
"We are," he answered. "Let's go into the lounge, shall we?" Ianto really didn't want her there, but she was his sister, no matter what disagreements they'd had. "Shall I make coffee?"
"Is Gareth here?" she asked, ignoring the offer.
Well, if she was going to be that way about it…"He's with friends, in town. There's some sort of role-playing thing going on, and he's really into that sort of thing at the moment." He took a seat in the chair opposite from where she sat on the sofa. "What brings you all the way out from Cardiff?" he asked, getting right to the point.
"Mam and I are worried about you," she answered. "We want you to come home."
He should have expected this. "This is our home now, Rhi. Gareth and I love it here."
"It's not right you both being this far away from your family," she pressed.
She still didn't get it, and Ianto knew he wasn't about to be able to enlighten her. "This is where we want to be. You need to accept it."
Rhiannon shook her head. "There's something wrong with you, Ianto. Ever since Lisa died, you've been…strange."
"I've been in mourning," Ianto exclaimed, affronted.
"It's been nearly two years," she countered. "It's time you were back in the real world, not in some run-down cottage in the middle of nowhere!"
There was a loud thump, which Ianto interpreted as Jack's dissatisfaction at his home being called 'run-down'. He ignored it, concentrating on his sister. "So, you think there's a moratorium on a mourning period? Would you feel the same way if Johnny died?"
Her eyes widened, then narrowed. "It's past time you snapped out of this melodrama and get back to reality, Ianto."
He couldn't help but get angry. She was deliberately not listening. "So, it's not reality when the person you love is killed in a terrorist attack? They never even found her body!" He could still remember that day, like it was yesterday, when he'd found out about the attack on the news…
'You never used to be this thick, Ianto!" she snorted.
"I don't think I'm the thick one in this conversation," he ground out, fighting the serious urge to reach across the coffee table and smack her. "You're the one not listening to what I have to say!"
"Mam and I have talked," she went on, "and we feel you're not capable of looking after yourself and Gareth, so we've consulted a solicitor about having you declared mentally unfit."
Ianto's mouth dropped open in sheer surprise. "What?"
"It's not healthy, Ianto, for you to move all the way out here! And to drag poor Gareth with you…there's something wrong, Ianto, and you need to realize that before it's too late."
His eyes narrowed, and it occurred to him that it wasn't just his mental health that she was talking about. "No…you're worried about the settlement money. You're afraid I'm going to spend it all and not leave you and yours any." It made too much sense. She was always going on about money and how he should be saving it, instead of buying things…like Spitfire Cottage.
Rhiannon blushed. "It's not for me…it's for Gareth! How can you afford to put him through university if you don't save what you have?"
Ianto laughed. "See, you never understood what I did with the settlement, Rhi. You always assumed that I just spent it without thinking about it. You'd be wrong, but I don't have to explain any of that to you." He stood. "You're no longer welcome here, if you're seriously going to take me to court to try to prove I'm incompetent to run me and my son's lives. Anything else can go through my own solicitor."
"You can't kick me out!" she exclaimed, also standing. "I'm your sister!"
"You're no sister of mine if you can't respect my wishes," he answered. He turned to the end table, and rummaged around for pen and paper. He wrote out the name of his solicitor, and her number; he'd memorized it in the months after Canary Wharf. Ianto handed it to her. "Her name is Aliesha Phillips; I'll call and let her know to expect your solicitor to ring. She's also aware of all my financials and will be able to explain the situation. Now, I'd appreciate you leaving my home."
Rhiannon looked stubborn. "I want to see my nephew first."
"He's not due back for a couple of hours, and I don't want you here that long." Ianto snapped. "Don't make me ask you again, Rhiannon."
She promptly sat back down, her arms crossed over her chest. Ianto had always been taught not to be rough with a lady, but he was at the end of his patience.
It turned out he didn't have to do anything.
What sounded like boots on the hardwood floor stomped toward the seated Rhiannon. The room suddenly grew colder, and Ianto could swear he saw his breath as he exhaled. A sudden, loud, "Leave!" thundered through the lounge, in the American accent that Ianto had grown to know so well, and the chair Rhiannon was in moved violently.
She jumped up, face pale and eyes wide with fear. "What the hell?" she shrieked, seeking to find what had caused the ruckus.
Ianto couldn't help but laugh. "You're the one who didn't believe in ghosts, Rhi," he reminded her.
"This is some sort of trick!" she accused, anger replacing the fear.
"I SAID LEAVE!" Jack's horribly loud voice hurt Ianto's ears, but he didn't flinch.
"I'd do as he says," Ianto said. "When he doesn't want someone around, it's best to go before objects start flying."
Seemingly beaten, Rhiannon grabbed her bag and practically raced toward the door. "I'm not letting this lie," she threatened, as the front door opened on its own.
"Talk to my solicitor," he called, as she was pushed out of the door by a sudden gust of wind. Once she was outside, the door slammed shut.
Jack appeared, although his form was somewhat translucent. Using that much power usually meant he wouldn't be able to manifest fully for hours. He had a huge grin on his face. "Pardon me for saying it, but your sister's a bitch."
"At this moment," Ianto said, "I'm not going to disagree with you."
"You know," Jack said, "I've been thinking…"
"Always dangerous," Ianto teased, putting the laundry in the dryer.
It was amazing just how well he and Jack got along. Certainly, it was the strangest relationship ever, but Ianto didn't mind much once he'd gotten used to the ghost appearing at whim. There were odd habits that Jack had; the breathing in Ianto's ear was one, but really he didn't mind. A very quiet and random thought had popped up at one point that had Ianto wishing that Jack was a live person, because there were things the spirit did that just weren't exactly good for Ianto's libido. He'd never been attracted to a man before; and it being a man who'd died back in the 60's was making it crazier, and it was at those moments he was glad that he'd made the bathrooms off limits.
"Yeah, yeah," Jack snorted. "I try to help and this is what I get? Ridicule?" There was a playful sparkle in his eyes, though, that belied his affronted words.
"All right," Ianto laughed, heading back into the kitchen to make himself a coffee. "What have you been thinking about?"
"Well," Jack said, following, "even though your sister's been cut off at the knees, so to speak, do you really think she's going to give up trying to dictate what's best for you and Gareth?"
"Not hardly," he said harshly. "She's got a full dose of the Jones stubbornness."
The moment Rhiannon had been forcibly ejected from the cottage, Ianto had been on the phone with his solicitor. Aliesha had been more than willing to make Ianto's financials available for whoever Rhiannon would have hired. She'd also suggested that he also open the psychologists' notes that had been made after Lisa had died; both Ianto and Gareth had gone to a grief counsellor, and she'd helped them both immensely. Ianto had agreed.
He'd also ordered Rhiannon and her husband cut out of his will. He'd left the small gifts that he'd bequeathed to his niece and nephew, since it wasn't their fault that their mother was so overbearing. Ianto had told Aliesha to make that knowledge available as well, and she'd agreed to it.
It had been almost a week after Rhiannon's surprise visit that whoever they'd hired had finally contacted Aliesha, and once she offered full disclosure – including the reports from the grief counsellor – they'd heard nothing else. She'd assured him that there was no case, and to not worry about it anymore.
Ianto had hated to lose his family over it, but Rhiannon and his mother had brought it on themselves.
Not that he didn't expect them to try something else, sometime down the road.
"That's what I thought, too," Jack went on. "So, what if you actually had an alternate source of income?"
"Unless you're going to tell me you have a hidden treasure on the premises," Ianto said, working the coffee machine, "then there's no way I'm going to get another job…not yet, anyway." He enjoyed his privacy, and having his son around a great deal of the time. He didn't want to trade either for anything.
"No, that's not what I was going to suggest," Jack hastened to deny. "No, I thought, well maybe…you could write a book or something."
Ianto's hands stilled on the coffee machine's chrome controls, suddenly lost in thought. Well, it was something he certainly hadn't ever thought to try… "And just what would I write about?" he asked, finishing up his drink.
"Oh, I don't know…"
He turned to stare at the ghost. Jack actually looked a little embarrassed. "What?" he prompted, raising an eyebrow.
"Do you have any idea what you do to me when you do that thing with your eyebrow?" Jack asked salaciously.
Ianto smirked. "You don't have any blood to have a libido, Jack."
"Doesn't mean it still can't turn me on…in an ectoplasmic way, of course."
"Of course," Ianto chuckled. He really did wonder sometimes how the man had survived the RAF without getting into trouble.
The ghost sighed. "Being dead is seriously cramping my style."
Ianto laughed outright at that. It felt good, and he couldn't remember the last time before moving to Spitfire Cottage that he'd laughed so much. "Just tell me your idea, Jack."
Jack stuffed his hands into his greatcoat pockets. "You could always write about my life," he answered, grinning.
Ianto considered. It might not be such a bad idea, really. "I'm sure there are a lot of people out there who'd enjoy reading the memoir of a true war hero."
"That's…not exactly what I had in mind," Jack confessed, almost shyly. "You see…there's more than you've heard about me…"
"You weren't really some sort of spy, were you?" Ianto didn't think anything could have shocked him; in all their conversations, Jack had seemed like an honest man.
"No way!" the ghost exclaimed. "I fought for this country, and I'm proud of that. No, that's not what I meant."
Jack fell silent, and Ianto was just beginning to think he wasn't going to say anything when he suddenly blurted out: "I'm from the 51st Century."
Ianto's eyes widened in shock. "Would you mind repeating that, please?"
"I said, 'I'm from the 51st Century'. I'm from the far future."
He didn't know quite how to take that. Of course, he was standing and conversing with a ghost; just how much stranger was it that the said ghost was claiming to be from the future? "You're not from another planet, are you?" he asked tentatively.
"Actually…yeah, I am. A colony world circling a star you can just see from here. I can show you if you like."
Ianto set his coffee down before he spilled it. "Okay, I'll bite…how did a man from the 51st Century end up fighting a war in the 20th?"
"Now that," Jack said, grinning, "is the story. Wanna hear it?"
"You know I do!"
"Then why don't we go up to your room, so you can take notes on your laptop? You might not want to miss any of it."
They were up way into the night, as Jack told his story.
It was an amazing one, and Ianto had to admit that it would, indeed, make a fantastic book. He knew Jack was glossing over a lot of it, but then Ianto could ask all the questions he wanted to if he decided to write it.
They broke for dinner, and Ianto spent the evening with Gareth as he usually did. This was one of the reasons why he was so loathe to go back to work; having this time with his son was what made Ianto happiest, and he wouldn't trade it for anything. Jack appeared just as Gareth was putting a movie in the DVD player, and together the three of them watched in silence.
After Gareth was in bed, they continued their conversation. If this was some sort of fable, then it was a good one, and it kept Ianto spellbound. He did make notes, and wrote down things he wanted to ask, becoming more and more certain that he would, indeed, write this.
From birth, to Time Agency, to coming to 1941 London…it was all fascinating. And when it got to the part with the Doctor, and how Jack had managed to save London from some sort of plague…Ianto wondered just why Jack had decided to stay on Earth, when he could have travelled the stars.
Another question for later.
"I can't believe it," Ianto said, after Jack had wound down. "It's amazing."
"And it's all true," Jack answered. "It's my life. So…you think it would make a good book?"
"I just can't believe you trusted me with all this!" It was unbelievable that Jack – even though long dead – would have confided in him like this.
"Well, believe it or not," Jack said, "I do trust you. You're different from anyone else who's lived here. And, if my story can help you get Rhiannon off your back, then it's all yours."
Ianto was touched by Jack's words. "Thank you," he replied sincerely.
"Besides," Jack grinned, "the next person to buy this place might not be as gorgeous as you are."
Ianto had the pleasure of seeing the pad he'd been writing on fly though Jack's ghostly body to hit the wall.
Over the next weeks, Ianto learned more about his resident ghost than he thought he ever would.
Jack started from his so-called 'humble' beginnings on Boeshane, describing his childhood as Ianto typed up the memoir on his laptop. He found himself laughing at some of the antics that Jack had gotten up to as a child, and then sad when he explained about the attack on their colony, and how his father had died and his brother had vanished. Ianto could tell that Jack still felt a great deal of guilt over it, even though Ianto was certain that his friend – and yes, despite being dead Jack was his friend – had not been at fault. Who would dare blame a child for something like that?
There was so much to Jack's story, and a majority of it was simply too fantastic. Of course, this being Jack there was also a very liberal sprinkling of sex, and Ianto had to put his foot down more than once about turning the book into a porn-fest. He really drew the line at the sex with the tentacled aliens, even though he couldn't help but be intrigued…not that he was going to admit that.
It really was fascinating, listening to Jack tell his life; he had a real flair for storytelling, and there were times when Ianto wondered if he wasn't embellishing a little. But he dutifully recorded it all, knowing he would have to edit it in the future.
In the future. That thought made Ianto laugh a bit.
As they worked, Ianto also shared a bit of his own life, wanting to share with Jack as much as the ghost was sharing with him. It wasn't nearly as exciting as Jack's, but that was to be expected after all. Jack had been oddly withdrawn when he'd begun to speak of the Ghost Shifts, leading up to Lisa's death; several times, he'd be asked to stop and describe something, and when it came down to the ghosts becoming the strange metal men and taking people away…if ghosts could have gone pale, Jack would have. Ianto got the distinct impression that Jack knew exactly what they were, but he wouldn't say anything as if keeping the metal men secret would protect Ianto from the truth somehow. He let Jack believe that, if it made him happy.
In turn, Jack told him of having two years of his life stolen from him by the Time Agency, and Ianto couldn't understand how that could have been condoned. Jack shrugged, saying it must have been for a good reason, but it had been the catalyst of his going rogue. Ianto couldn't blame him in the slightest.
They made their way through the cons, through the dark times, until Jack had found himself running what he called a 'self-cleaning' con in 1941 London.
He admitted readily that 'Jack Harkness' wasn't his real name; it was just one he'd taken on as part of the con. The real Captain had been a hero, and Ianto could tell that the ghost felt guilty over stealing the other man's identity. He said he'd almost dropped it after the events in London, but had decided that he'd make the name a worthy one, and Jack liked to think he had. Ianto had seen his war record, at the Aberaeron town hall, and could honestly say that he had.
And then, came the Doctor and Rose.
The expression on the ghost's face when he spoke of the pair pricked a small kernel of jealousy in Ianto, and he tamped it down, knowing he didn't have a reason to feel that way even as the emotion surprised him. Jack was a ghost, and nothing could ever happen between the two of them.
Together, they laughed over the barrage balloon, and the banana that had somehow been exchanged for Jack's sonic blaster. Ianto had his heart in his throat at the gas mask zombies, even though he knew it had to have turned out all right. And then, the bomb, Jack's sacrificing his ship to dispose of it, and saving the Earth from the nanogenes.
He wondered how Jack could have possibly wanted to stay on Earth, when Rose had tried to drag him into the Doctor's wonderful timeship.
"When it came down to it," Jack admitted, "I felt I kinda owed this planet for nearly destroying it. And besides, I thought I had a way off later." He shifted his insubstantial sleeve, to reveal the wrist strap he'd identified earlier as his time device, the Vortex Manipulator. "But, sometime while I was off fighting the good fight, it somehow got damaged. I was stuck here…not that I actually minded. Earth sort of grew on me." He grinned. "Besides, if I hadn't died here, I'd never have met you."
Ianto couldn't quite hide the blush. It was insane, that Jack could tell the most outrageous stories and nothing happened; but when he said things like that, Ianto got embarrassed.
"Sometimes I wish I could've seen the Doctor and Rose again," Jack reminisced. "But even though I was stuck here, it's been a good life. A bit boring at times, but hey…everyone needs boring now and then." He grinned. "By the end of the War I was ready to relax anyway, and this just seemed the perfect place."
Ianto turned in his chair, regarding the ghost. "And you lived a boring life…until you died."
Jack snorted. "Hardly boring. I think you've come to realize just how peaceful it is here. It was simple to become another resident here…well, a handsome, dashing resident."
"And not at all humble," Ianto laughed.
"Hey! When you look like I do, humility doesn't come into it!" Jack struck a pose, one hand on his hip, flipping the greatcoat toward his back, and the other grasping his lapel lightly. His puffed out his chest, threatening the stability of his non-existent braces.
Ianto laughed again, then he considered something. "Why don't you look like you did when you died? You look more like some 40's actor than someone in their 60's."
Jack shrugged. "Sure, I can go around, wearing my boating gear and deck shoes and covered in seaweed, but where's the fun in that? Although, I did use that form once…a former owner tried to bring me out to play during a séance, and it was too much of a temptation to really haunt the place."
"So you can choose what you look like?"
"Which is why I choose to look like this!" Jack held his arms out from his body, grinning. "Who would want to mess with this level of perfection?"
There was just something about Jack that made Ianto take him seriously, and at the same time laugh at what he said. If he thought about it too hard, he would come up with the idea that he cared a great deal about the ghost, and hoped that he'd be around for a very long time.
If he thought even harder, it might be something else entirely…
"All right," Ianto said, pulling on his jacket, "I'm going to be in London for my meeting, and I want you to not give the Williamses any grief."
"Yes, Dad," Gareth answered, rolling his eyes.
"He inherited that from you," Jack piped up, from where the ghost was standing near the stairs.
"Shut it, Jack," Ianto warned absently, grabbing up his briefcase.
"I don't know why you can't just leave Gareth with me," he pouted. "It's like you don't trust me."
"I do trust you, Jack, and if you were living I wouldn't hesitate to leave Gareth with you. But you're not, and it would look bizarre if I apparently left my seven-year-old son on his own. Besides, if anything happened – "
"I know," Jack said, sighing.
"Pick up your bag," Ianto directed Gareth. "The sooner I drop you off, the sooner I can get started." He turned toward Jack, as the boy did as he bid. "I have my appointment to make, and hopefully this publisher really does want our book."
"I hope so," Jack answered, brightening. "That would show Rhiannon."
Ianto hoped it would. His sister had, indeed, sought legal help, but Aliesha had headed the man off nicely, and the solicitor had told Rhiannon that she didn't have a case. That had simply made the woman try even harder, and her last attempt had been to make a complaint to Child Protective Services that had sent an investigator out to the cottage, who saw that everything was fine, and had promptly apologized to Ianto for disturbing him, and had even sited Rhiannon for filing a false report.
"Hopefully I'll be back just a bit after dark," Ianto said. "Look after the place, Jack?"
"You know it," the spirit answered, giving Ianto a jaunty salute. "I promise not to have a loud party while you're gone."
Ianto waggled his finger at Jack playfully, then ushered Gareth out of the door. He didn't bother locking it; why, when he had a resident ghost who'd be able to scare off the most persistent burglars?
He got their bags settled in the boot, and once Gareth was belted in, Ianto pulled out into the path that led to the main road. He was only going to be gone most of the day, but he was already missing Gareth something fierce. This would be the longest they'd been apart since Lisa's death, but Ianto knew his son would be fine. The Williamses were good people, and he got on with both Rhys and Gwen, and their daughter, Anwen, was on the same football team Gareth was on. Ianto remembered the first time Gareth had heard there was a girl on the team, and it had taken Anwen kicking the winning goal in a match to prove to the boy that she did belong on the team. They'd gotten along ever since.
It took them a good twenty minutes to drive into Aberaeron, to the Williamses home. Ianto got Gareth dropped off – with a cheerful warning to behave himself – and then he was on the road heading toward London.
It took a little over four hours to get there, which seemed to pass fairly quickly. Ianto's mind wasn't on the trip; it was on what he was hoping to accomplish, to get his very first novel published. He was feeling the pressure; it wasn't because he'd written it…it was because this was Jack's life – and death – that he was attempting to sell. If the manuscript sold, then all of that would be out in the open, even if it was under the guise of fiction. Jack had opened himself up in order to help Ianto and Gareth, to keep Rhiannon off their backs by showing her that he was making an effort to make a living, although he didn't really need one. This would be the final break between brother and sister, and while Ianto mourned that thought, he was also ready to feel free of the apron strings that Rhiannon had tied around him and Gareth. And, perhaps at some point down the road, they could mend the fences between them.
Ianto's thoughts once again turned to Jack. The ghost had become such an integral part of their lives, he couldn't see a time when he wasn't there, as a member of their family. Ianto could admit – in private – that if Jack had been alive, he would have been sorely tempted to begin something with him. But no, that wasn't to be. While Jack did flirt with him, how could he feel the same way? And how would that be fair to a spirit who couldn't interact with the solid world without losing so much energy?
No, it was best to keep it on a friendship level.
He considered again the meeting that he was heading toward. He'd submitted the manuscript to one of London's most prestigious publishers, SJS Publishing…not that he'd expected anything, and he'd pretty much given up after not hearing anything for two months.
But then, last week he'd gotten a call, requesting an appointment with the owner, Sarah Jane Smith, herself. Apparently she'd been impressed by the first effort, and wanted to speak to him about it. Ianto had been so excited he'd barely made it through the phone call, and when he'd hung up it had taken both Gareth and Jack to calm him down. This was what they all wanted, and all Ianto could do was hope this would work out.
Once he got to London, Ianto found his destination with not much trouble…except for some traffic that made him panic a little at the possibility of being late. Above anything else, he wanted to make a good impression, and not getting to this appointment on time wouldn't do that.
He arrived with five minutes to spare, and made his way into the rather understated building in what was primarily a neighbourhood of such buildings, housing understated businesses and residences that just screamed 'money' without actually flaunting it. The butterflies that had started the moment he'd gotten out of his car threatened to tear themselves free of his stomach as he walked up the short steps toward the door, where a tasteful bronze plaque read 'SJS Publishing' next to it.
The interior was equally tasteful, all dark wood and leather. If he hadn't known that a woman was the owner, he would have thought the place was like some sort of gentleman's club out of a Wodehouse novel. He was quite surprised by the young woman sitting at the reception desk instead of a Jeevesian stuffed shirt.
"Can I help you?" she asked, smiling pleasantly.
"Yes," Ianto said, returning the smile. "I have an appointment with Ms. Smith. My name is Ianto Jones."
The young woman frowned, turning to her computer. Two keystrokes and she was looking back up at him, a small bit of confusion in her eyes. "I don't have an appointment for you, Mr. Jones."
"Are you sure?" Then he shook his head. "Of course you are. But I assure you, I was called last week and was asked to make an appointment for today, one o'clock."
"I make all of Ms. Smith's appointments," the woman said, "and I don't remember calling you…wait, was it on Thursday?"
Ianto nodded, his butterflies making more butterflies.
"We had a temp in Thursday," she explained. "I bet she messed up the appointments – "
The door opened, interrupting the assistant. Ianto turned, to see a woman with curly dark hair and dark eyes enter, tucking up a pair of sunglasses onto the top of her head. "Hey, Tish," the woman greeted. "Is she in?"
The young woman – Tish – nodded. "Let me tell her you're here." She stood up, heading into the inner office.
Ianto sighed, disappointment killing the butterflies. He'd had such hopes, all to be dashed by a messed-up appointment. He didn't want to go home and tell Jack and Gareth that it was all for nothing, but it looked like he didn't have a choice.
"You okay?" the woman asked.
Ianto shook himself out of his mood. "I was supposed to have an appointment now, but apparently there was some sort of cock-up and I've come all the way from Aberaeron for nothing." He felt the disappointment transform into determination. This was important, and if it meant staying here until Ms. Smith was free, then he'd do it. "I'll just have to wait."
The woman nodded. "You must be talking about the girl that was here last week. Yeah, she scheduled me today when I wasn't supposed to have my monthly meeting until next week…" She suddenly grinned. "Why don't you take my appointment? I'm not nearly ready, and you'd be doing me a favour by letting me reschedule. Besides, Sarah Jane knows what a procrastinator I am, she'll be fine with it."
Tish the receptionist came back out of the inner office. "She can see you know, Suzie," she reported, going back to her desk. "And Mr. Jones, Ms. Smith says she apologizes, but she'll have to schedule for next week – "
"No he doesn't," Suzie said, practically pushing Ianto toward the office. "He'll take my place and I'll reschedule. You know she won't mind, Tish."
Tish rolled her eyes. "You haven't gotten that latest book done, have you?"
Suzie winked. "You know me so well…" She pushed Ianto again. "Go on then, gorgeous," she prodded. "Get in there before she comes looking for me and I have to explain my lack of work."
Ianto couldn't believe it, and he was so amazed he didn't even blush under the unexpected compliment. This stranger was letting him take her appointment! He felt the sudden urge to hug her, but put his professionalism forward instead. "I owe you," he said.
"I'll hold you to that. Now go!"
He didn't need to be told twice. Ianto strode toward the door, pulling it open and entering. The inner office was so completely different from the gentleman's club outer room; it was neat, but there were knick knacks on the dark wood shelves, as well as books galore. Several framed prints gave the office a distinctly homey feel, and pride of place on the somewhat cluttered desk was a framed picture of a young boy, who looked to be in his teens.
The woman at the desk hadn't looked up from what she was doing. Sarah Jane Smith was a handsome woman, dressed fashionably, working away at a computer with a pencil tucked behind one ear, holding her dark hair away from her face. "Please tell me you have something for me, Suzie…" She looked up then, and noticed Ianto standing in front of the desk. Her eyes flickered upward, as if asking a supreme being for strength. "You're not Suzie Costello," she said blandly, "unless you've had a sex change in just the three weeks since I've last seen you."
"I'm afraid not," Ianto said, managing to keep his voice steady, now that his nerves had returned. "Jones…Ianto Jones." He promptly cursed himself inwardly for sounding like a movie cliché.
Sarah Jane Smith cocked her head, staring at him with eyes that seemed to look directly into his head. "If I hadn't already read your novel, I would have despaired it of being a James Bond pastiche. As it is…please, sit down, Mr. Jones. Since Suzie has decided to send you in, instead of facing the music…"
Ianto did as she asked, setting his briefcase down next to the guest chair. "Thank you for not chucking me out," he said, chuckling nervously.
"I would have rescheduled, you know."
"I was actually going to wait until you were free."
Sarah Jane grinned at that. "Determined. I like that." She leaned forward, her elbows on the desk. "I have to admit, your novel took me by surprise."
Ianto tried to talk his butterflies to settle down. "I hope that's a good surprise, and not a bad one."
"A very good one, Ianto…may I call you Ianto?"
"Good. I like being on first-name basis with my clients. And please, I'm Sarah Jane."
Hope dawned just from that single comment. "Does this mean I'm a client then?"
"I do hope you'll sign a contract with SJS Publishing, yes," she answered. "You called this a memoir, and yet the manuscript read like a science fiction novel. What made you decide to do that?"
Ianto considered. He couldn't come right out and admit that he'd gotten the story from a ghost. "Well, as it's about the hero, Captain Jack Harkness, I thought it had more of a biographical feel to it. I know a lot of the situations are in the science fiction realm – "
"No, you're right. It does have that sort of feel. Almost as if you're the captain's biographer. In fact, I'd like to market it that way, to pull readers in. I think that would be most effective." She leaned back. "I do admit, I chuckled over some of the captain's antics. It's certainly a book I won't let my son read."
Ianto smirked. "You're right, I wouldn't let my own son near the computer while I was writing it."
"You have a son?" she asked curiously.
He nodded. "Gareth. He's seven."
"My own son, Luke," Sarah Jane shared proudly, turning the picture somewhat in Ianto's direction. "He's fourteen, which is a little older…but I still think this book is a bit too risqué for him." She looked at him again, and that 'seeing into his mind' look was back on her face. "I did have a question about one of the characters…the Doctor."
Ianto sat back a little, feeling a bit more relaxed. "Captain Jack needed a catalyst for change, and the Doctor and Rose are the perfect mediums for that change. They come along at a time when Jack needed someone to show him the error of his ways. If they hadn't…well, you read it."
"I did, yes." Sarah Jane's expression turned pensive. "So…just when did you meet the Doctor?"
"What?" Ianto's mouth fell open. He had to scramble for a believable answer, even as he wondered just how she'd known that the Doctor wasn't a fictional character. "I didn't meet him. How could I? He's just a character in my novel."
From the look she gave him, she didn't believe a word of it. "Ianto, I know the Doctor is real. I travelled with him for a while before settling back here on Earth."
Ianto snorted. "I suppose this is why you really wanted to meet with me." Disappointment slammed into him once more, and he stood, picking up his briefcase. "Thank you for your time, Ms. Smith."
He would have left, but Sarah Jane called him back. "Yes," she said. "That was the main reason. I don't usually meet with new authors; I have editors for that. But I do want to publish your novel, and getting to speak to someone about the Doctor is just a bonus. Please, come and sit back down."
Ianto did, somewhat warily. "I'm being honest with you, when I say I've never met the Doctor," he said.
"Then how did you know him?" she asked, confused. "The Doctor isn't someone you just happened to hear mentioned in polite conversation."
He was torn. Would she believe him if he admitted that a deceased RAF pilot had told him about the Doctor? Or should he pretend ignorance?
The story came out. He told her about buying Spitfire Cottage, and everything that had led up to his being in the office that day. After all, she'd claimed to have travelled with the Time Lord. Certainly she'd be able to accept a ghost who used to be a time travelling conman?
Apparently, she could.
Sarah Jane was actually shaking her head as he finished the story. "That sounds about as probable as anything I've seen with the Doctor…and without him," she chuckled. "A ghost, from the 51st Century…that's not the strangest thing I've heard."
"I'm glad you don't think I'm completely insane," Ianto said, completely relaxing for the first time since he'd entered the building.
"No, not at all," she assured him. "I think I might like to meet your ghost captain some day."
"I'll ask and see what he says."
"I am glad though, that the story is true," Sarah Jane said. "It's good to know that the Doctor and Rose motivated him to be a better person."
"Jack may be an interminable flirt," Ianto said, "but he really is a good man. Sometimes he thinks he isn't, but if you check the records you'll see what a hero he became after meeting them." He was quiet for a moment, wanting to ask but suddenly afraid not to.
"You can ask, you know," she encouraged.
"Are you a mind-reader?"
"No, it's just curiosity is written across your face. I'll be glad to tell you more about the Doctor and my travels if you like…however, it's going to have to be another day, I'm afraid. I have other appointments that I can't get out of."
"You should come up to Spitfire Cottage," Ianto invited. "I'd love to hear more."
They both stood, and Ianto held out his hand…but Sarah Jane came around the desk and hugged him. Startled, he returned it.
Sarah Jane pulled back, and winked at him. "I'll have the contracts drawn up. Do you have a solicitor?"
"I do." He gave her one of Aliesha's cards; she'd given him a supply, when he'd said he was going to shop around his manuscript.
"Then I'll have it sent round to her, and she can look at it. It's just a standard contract, with the standard advance. I'm sure she'll contact you when she's looked at it."
Ianto thanked her, then left the office. He felt like he was walking on air; he couldn't believe that the manuscript had actually sold! He couldn't wait to get home and tell Jack and Gareth –
"I take it, it went well?"
He stopped in his tracks, turning in the direction of the voice. It was Suzie Costello; she was leaning against the wall, her arms crossed over her chest and one shapely leg crossed over the other. She was looking at him slyly, as if she already knew the answer.
"It did," he grinned. "Thanks again for letting me take your appointment."
She waved one hand negligently. "As I said, you taking it did me a favour. But, I was thinking if you really owed me, you might buy me a coffee."
Ianto frowned slightly. He really wanted to go home, and share the good news of the novel selling, and London usually held bad associations for him.
But then, he did owe her something for letting him take her appointment.
He must have hesitated too long, because Suzie looked at him curiously. "Why don't we take a rain check then?" she asked. "It looks like you're in a hurry."
"I am," he admitted. "I should really get home to my son. But, next time I'm in London, I will."
"Sounds like a plan." She reached into her rather large shoulder bag, and tugged out a card case. She opened it and gave him one. "Call me."
"I will," he answered, taking the card.
And, with that, he quickly left the office, needing to get home as soon as he could.
Ianto pulled into the path leading up to the cottage well past dark, but he'd stopped in Aberaeron to pick up Gareth. His son has been ecstatic when he'd been told that the book had sold, and the Williamses had offered to take them out to celebrate. Ianto had said he'd call, and together father and son had headed home.
The headlights picked out the blue paint of the cottage, and Ianto thought he could make out Jack at the balcony door. He couldn't wait to tell the ghost that they were going to be published, and he also wanted to share that their publisher had, coincidentally, once been a Companion to Jack's mysterious Doctor. He was pretty certain that Jack would want to meet her, and he thought they might actually get along. He'd been quite impressed by Sarah Jane, and as he'd driven back he'd gotten more and more excited about them eventually getting together to discuss the Time Lord.
Gareth was unhooking his seatbelt even before Ianto had stopped the car, and he had to shout at the boy when he tried to open the door too fast. Gareth pouted, and was out the door once the car came to a complete halt, running for the front door with his backpack dangling from one hand. Ianto grinned as he collected his briefcase and followed his son inside, hearing him calling out for Jack as he crossed the threshold.
The ghost was waiting on the stairs, a look of expectation on his handsome face. "Well?" he demanded excitedly as Ianto entered the cottage.
He couldn't stop the huge grin from breaking across his face. "It's sold."
Jack let out a huge whoop, practically jumping down the remaining stairs and skipping to Ianto and Gareth. "I wish I was corporeal," he laughed. "I could hug you both!"
Ianto found himself wishing the same thing.
"It's fantastic!" Gareth enthused. "My dad's gonna be famous, and it's all because we moved here and met you, Uncle Jack!"
Jack looked terribly pleased by the unofficial adoption, and Ianto couldn't help but agree with it. The captain might have died in 1965, but he was an integral part of their lives.
Ianto wouldn't have it any other way.
He ushered them both into the kitchen, where he made coffee for himself and got Gareth a pop, and he told them both what had happened, starting with the mix-up in the appointment.
"I'm glad you weren't going to give up, Dad," Gareth said proudly.
Ianto ruffled his hair; Gareth playfully batted his hand away. "I felt pretty angry about it, but no, there wasn't any way I was going to leave until I'd spoken with Ms. Smith."
He went on and told them about the woman, Suzie, who'd let him take her appointment. Ianto honestly hadn't heard of her; he'd chosen SJS Publishing because of their history with speculative fiction, and thought their manuscript would do better there, so he guessed she must have written in that same vein.
When Ianto got to the actual meeting, he watched Jack's face as he spoke of Sarah Jane's having travelled with the Doctor, which was why she'd asked to speak to him. The ghost looked suitably gobsmacked at the news, and Ianto wasn't really surprised when he agreed to have her come up to the cottage.
They finished their drinks, then Ianto had Gareth get ready for bed. In truth, Ianto himself was exhausted; it had been a long day, and he was more than ready to relax in his own bed. Gareth hadn't wanted to, still excited about the book and everything that meant, but he did follow Ianto's request. Once he was done, the boy came in and gave his dad a hug goodnight.
And then, Ianto was alone with Jack.
Back when he'd first made his deal with Jack, he'd been serious about it being creepy that the ghost could watch him while he slept and he wouldn't know about it. Now…now, it was different. He moved around the bedroom, picking up his pyjamas and heading into the en suite – the one place he refused to let Jack enter. It didn't take long to shower, change, and brush his teeth, and then he rejoined the ghost in the bedroom and pulled down the bed.
Jack stood by the telescope, looking out into the night, his face pensive except for his eyes, which glittered in the moonlight. "I don't know why you won't let me into the bathroom," the ghost teased, turning those shining eyes on Ianto as he climbed into bed. "It's not like I can try anything."
For a split second, Ianto wished that Jack could, indeed, try something. "It's not that," he denied.
"Are you shy?" Jack's lips turned upward, and Ianto swore he was trying hard not to laugh.
Ianto wasn't sure how to answer that…and he hesitated too long.
"You are!" the ghost chortled.
"Yes, you are! You're shy!"
Ianto felt himself blushing. "You're just lucky I can't hit you right now."
"You really don't have any reason to be," Jack said, turning serious. "You'd be a prize for anyone."
Ianto sighed. "Jack, please stop teasing…"
"No, I'm not teasing you! Don't you have any idea how gorgeous you are?" The expression in Jack's blue eyes was earnest, and Ianto found himself actually believing it.
"All right," he conceded, "you obviously think so, but you aren't necessarily indicative of the outside world."
"C'mon! I know damned well that Lisa thought you were good looking."
The mention of her name didn't bring the pain it once did; plus this was Jack, who knew loss as well as Ianto did. "She did, yes."
"She shows excellent taste. I do hope to meet her one day."
Ianto thought that Jack and Lisa would get along famously. "It doesn't really matter, since I'm not in the market for anyone. I doubt I ever will be since I'm perfectly happy with the way things are."
"You can't tell me you don't get lonely."
"Jack," he sighed. "I don't. Honestly, I don't get lonely. I have Gareth, and my friends in both London and Aberaeron…and I have you. That's all I really need." He met Jack's gaze squarely, needing him to see that he was being truthful, that he really had everything he needed.
He really didn't know exactly when having the ghost around had become so important, but Jack was now a very integral part of his life. He'd come to love Jack in ways that were so very different from his Lisa, and he was at a loss to explain. There could never be anything between them; it was like the ultimate of doomed romances, his and Jack's relationship. And he really didn't even know if Jack felt the same way, although Ianto could guess that he did from comments that he'd made.
Those sharp blue eyes bored into his, and Ianto poured everything he was feeling into his own, hoping that Jack would be able to see that he wasn't lying.
Suddenly, Jack moved forward and before Ianto could react he felt the unmistakable sensation of lips on his; cool lips, yes, but lips nonetheless.
Ianto didn't even think. He leaned into it, parting his own lips and letting his tongue track along the seam of the mouth on his. Jack's lips opened, and Ianto took the opportunity to explore.
He knew he was kissing a ghost, but he didn't care. Ianto had imagined what kissing Jack would be like; and more, which was why he'd forbade the ghost to come into the bathroom when he was in there. A small part of his mind was wondering how this was possible, but he wasn't about to break the moment to ask.
Eventually, though, he had to pull away, since even if Jack didn't need to breathe, Ianto did. He found those intense blue eyes looking at him, and they were smiling.
"I'll pay for this," Jack murmured. "Using so much energy…I doubt I'll be able to manifest for days. But I want this; I want to be with you."
Ianto's breath hitched. "You have no idea how much I want you," he whispered.
"You'll need to undress yourself," Jack said, pulling even farther away. "I can't manipulate that much…"
"All right." Forgetting any previous shyness he'd been experiencing, Ianto slid out of bed in order to remove his pyjamas. Jack watched as he did, and Ianto made it into a show for the ghost, until he was completely naked before him.
"Goddess, you're so beautiful," Jack breathed. "You have no idea how much I've wanted to see you like this, your skin glowing in the moonlight…"
"What about you?" Ianto asked, wondering if a ghost could even get naked.
"Just like this." And suddenly, everything that Jack had been wearing was gone, revealing a well-toned, hairless chest, muscled legs, and a very proud, very erect cock.
Ianto's mouth went dry. He was still able to raise a sardonic eyebrow. "I can see why you were so popular with the various alien races you came across."
"I hope to be popular with just one person," Jack said, moving closer.
"I don't think that's going to be a problem," Ianto murmured.
Ianto was kissed again, and he lost all coherent thought.
"Dad, why are you whistling?"
Ianto turned from the stove, where he was making breakfast. "Was I?"
"Yes, you were." Gareth flopped down at the table, brushing his fringe from his eyes. It hit him – not for the first time – that with Lisa's colouring and Ianto's eyes, Gareth was going to grow up to be a heartbreaker.
Ianto went back to cooking the eggs. "I'm just in a good mood, what with the manuscript selling and all." He wasn't about to explain what had happened between him and Jack last night. Not to his seven-year-old son.
But Ianto wasn't ashamed to admit to himself that he'd very much like for it to happen again.
"Where's Uncle Jack?" came the inevitable question, since the ghost was usually hanging around somewhere.
Ianto felt the telltale warmth of a blush suffuse his cheeks. Last night had been a revelation… "He'll be around; he just used a lot of energy last night, um…showing me the stars." Yes, he'd certainly seen stars last night, all right…
Ianto set the finished plate of eggs and toast down in front of Gareth. "Eat up," he urged, putting his own plate down and sitting. "You have football practice today, and you don't want Anwen to kick your butt."
Gareth's eyes found his plate. "I don't mind so much," he shrugged, picking up his fork. "She's okay…for a girl."
Ianto hid his smile behind his own forkful of eggs. A part of him wanted Gareth to be at that age where girls were more than that, but at the same time he didn't want him to grow up that fast.
There was a strange car parked in front of the cottage when Ianto and Gareth arrived back from football.
Ianto pulled alongside it, wondering who was visiting him. As soon as he'd engaged the parking brake, the door to the unknown car opened, and a woman got out.
It was Suzie Costello.
He frowned; how had she known where he lived?
"Who's that?" Gareth asked, confused.
"She's the woman who gave me her meeting spot yesterday," Ianto explained, unbuckling his seatbelt.
"But what's she doing here?"
Very good question…
"Hello!" she greeted them, favouring Ianto with a bright smile. "Sorry I just dropped in; but I wanted it to be a surprise."
"Well, you certainly accomplished that," Ianto said dryly, helping Gareth with his football gear.
"I was going to wait for you to call, but I didn't know when you'd be back in London, and I couldn't wait," she went on.
Honestly, Ianto hadn't really intended on calling her at all. But this…this was just a little bit stalkery. "Well, I wish you'd called ahead," he said, letting a bit of his irritation show. He ushered his son toward the front door of the cottage, glad he'd locked it since Jack was incapacitated. "Gareth and I have been out most of the day, and we're both quite tired."
Suzie's smile slipped a little. "Sorry," she said, sounding contrite. "It's just you live all the way out here; certainly there's not so much to do that you wouldn't welcome a bit of distraction."
"You'd be wrong," Ianto corrected, but he knew he couldn't be completely rude to her. He did still owe her for letting him have her appointment, even though she'd done it for a selfish reason. "Well, while you're here, let me at least offer you a cup of coffee. I believe that's what I owe you, after all."
The smile returned, and Suzie followed them into the cottage. Ianto urged Gareth to head upstairs and get cleaned up, while he led their unexpected guest into the kitchen. Setting the gym bag in the laundry room so he could wash Gareth's football uniform, he motioned her to the table. "How did you find me, anyway?" he asked as he headed toward the coffee machine, wondering just who to blame.
"Just took a look through Tish's files when she wasn't looking," she answered breezily, as if her decision to poke around in his private business was something she considered perfectly all right.
Ianto was trying very hard to be polite, but he didn't think he could keep it up. What right did this stranger have to steal his address and just show up on his doorstep? "I see," he said, completely deadpan, wishing Jack was around to scare her off.
"I felt that we had a sort of connection back at Sarah Jane's office," Suzie went on. "And I really wanted to get to know you better. And as I said, I had no idea when you'd be back in London, and I just didn't want to wait."
The coffee perking, Ianto turned from the machine to look at his unexpected 'guest'. There really wasn't anything about her that he would have noticed on first glance, and he really didn't want to get to know her any better. There was a sense of the predator about her, and besides Ianto wasn't looking for anyone else…he had Jack, and Gareth. They were his family, and he wanted to keep it that way. He had no notion to add to that family, especially a would-be stalker.
Suzie began chattering, and Ianto tuned her out, making polite noises where indicated. He just wanted her to drink her coffee and leave, but he couldn't help but absorb some of her details: she was single, had a Doctorate in Engineering…and wrote children's books, of all things. She had a series of young adult novels that were fairly popular, and wrote under a pen name that Ianto recognized from Gareth's own bookshelf.
He felt obligated to add a few details about himself: that he was a widower, and that his wife had been killed at Canary Wharf. Suzie made the necessary condolences, and he couldn't help but see the gleam in his eye when he mentioned there were no other women in his life.
That irritated Ianto to no end. Just because he was single, didn't mean he appreciated unwanted attention…which was what he was getting from her. She honestly wasn't his type; she was far too brash, and there was something about being stalked in a way that totally turned him off.
Which was why, before he even knew what he was saying, he told her, "But I'm hoping that a certain someone is interested in starting a relationship with me."
He cursed when he realized Suzie didn't get the hint, and thought it was her. Did the woman have no shame? Like he would actually date someone who felt the need to steal his address from a would-be employer? He wondered what Sarah Jane would say about that…
"His name is Jack," he went on, secretly enjoying the gleam leaving her eye. "We've known each other since I moved to Aberaeron, but I think we've come to an understanding – "
"You're telling her about Uncle Jack?" Gareth's surprised question interrupted him. He came to the table, standing next to his dad.
Ianto put his arm around his son. "I am," Ianto answered, "I was just explaining that Jack and I are seeing each other, and that I hope it becomes more."
Gareth's excited shout echoed through the kitchen, and his arms went around Ianto tightly. "Really? Does this mean he might be my new Dad someday? Not that you won't still be my Dad, but then I could call him 'Dad' instead of 'Uncle Jack' and that would be so cool! Anwen would be so jealous, she thinks Uncle Jack is fabulous!"
The Williamses, of course, knew about Jack, and while they've never seen him they knew Ianto had come to an understanding with their resident ghost, which was why they'd never been scared out of the cottage. And he knew very well that Gareth talked to Anwen, despite the fact that she was a girl.
The disappointment in her face almost made Ianto feel sorry about his slight lie, but it was quickly wiped away by reminding himself that she'd invited herself to his house, and that it was obvious that she had ulterior motives. Ianto simply wasn't interested, and wouldn't have been even if Jack hadn't been in the picture.
"Well," Suzie finished her coffee, "I'm sorry I didn't call, but thanks for the coffee and the conversation." She stood. "It was nice to see you again, Mr. Jones." She held out her hand.
Ianto took it. "Perhaps we'll meet another time, when I'm less tired."
"Maybe." Although she didn't look convinced.
"Let me show you out."
Ianto did, falling back on the manners his parents had taught him. He stood at the door as Suzie went out to her car, and pulled away from the cottage.
He was quite relieved.
Turning away from the door, Ianto found himself face-to-face with an inquisitive seven-year-old.
"Did you mean it, Dad?" Gareth asked. "About Uncle Jack, I mean?"
Ianto couldn't help but smile. "Well, you realize that nothing official can ever happen between Jack and me, right? Anything that we decide will be just our understanding?"
Gareth rolled his eyes. "Of course, Dad! I mean, it would be awfully hard to get Uncle Jack into a church! Him being dead, and all."
He had to stifle a chuckle at his son's comment. Of course Gareth thought nothing wrong with his living father entering into an unofficial partnership with a ghost. Oh, the straightforwardness of the young…
"Well, we have to see what Jack says," Ianto warned. "He might not want to."
"But he already stays here and he's part of our family," Gareth pointed out, "and we love him."
"Yes, we do." Ianto knew he did, in a way that wasn't like how he'd felt about Lisa at all. "But what about your Mam?"
"Mam would want us to be happy," Gareth answered, sounding and looking very certain. "And if we're happy with Uncle Jack, then she'd be happy for us, too."
Ianto hugged his son, tears prickling at his eyes. He was so proud of him, accepting a new parent-figure in the house. "We'll talk to him as soon as he can manifest, okay?"
The smile he got reminded him of Lisa, but that knowledge didn't hurt as much anymore. "Okay, Dad."
"Now, let me get myself cleaned up, and then I'll start dinner."
"Can I have a biscuit while I have to wait?" Gareth begged, putting on the puppy eyes.
Ianto laughed. "You can even have two."
It took Jack about three days to be able to manifest once more, and that gave Ianto plenty of time to be nervous about approaching him about what he and Gareth had discussed.
How would he react? Would Jack even want to take their arrangement a step further? Would he want to be some sort of insubstantial father to Gareth? Honestly, Ianto had no idea, although Jack had seemed thrilled that Gareth had called him 'Uncle' so perhaps everything would be all right?
Without a doubt, Ianto knew he loved Jack. How he'd come to fall for a dead man he didn't know, but there was just something about the ghost that had made it very easy. Ianto should be thinking that there was something wrong with him, not to make his relationship with Jack as official as it could possibly be. And, as long as Ianto was being completely honest with himself, while his one night with Jack had been amazing, it didn't need to happen again. Just having Jack in his life was good enough.
On the fourth day, Ianto awoke to find a rather transparent Jack watching him from across his bedroom. He smiled at the ghost. "Good morning," he said, sitting up and stretching. "I've missed you."
Jack flashed him a grin. "Of course you did! I'm infinitely missable!"
Ianto rolled his eyes. "There's no such word as 'missable', Jack."
"Are you sure?" Jack teased. "Because I'm pretty sure it pertains to me."
Snorting, Ianto tossed a pillow at him, which of course didn't affect the ghost at all.
Jack pouted. "You're very fond of throwing things through me."
"You're such a great target," Ianto smirked.
Jack laughed, and Ianto joined him. He really had missed Jack, more than he'd thought he would.
Flinging back the duvet, Ianto headed to the bathroom.
"Am I still not allowed in there?" Jack asked playfully.
"Doubly so now, Captain," Ianto answered, waggling a finger at him. He closed the door on Jack's renewed laughter, quickly taking a shower and getting ready for the day.
He and Jack went downstairs together, and Ianto found that Gareth had beaten him to the punch this morning, sitting at the table with a bowl of cereal. "Morning Dad…Uncle Jack!" the boy greeted, his mouth full of half-eaten cereal.
"Gareth," Ianto chided, moving to the coffee machine, "I taught you better than to talk with your mouth full."
At least he had the grace to look embarrassed. "Sorry Dad." But that was gone as suddenly as it appeared. "Have you asked Uncle Jack yet?"
Jack looked confused. "Ask me what?"
"Does that answer your question?" Ianto asked his son, sighing. "No, I haven't."
"Dad and I talked and we want you to be my other Dad," Gareth blurted out, practically bouncing in his chair with excitement.
Ianto closed his eyes in despair, knowing his son was never going to learn tact at this rate. He turned away from the coffee machine, smiling wryly. "That was what I was supposed to ask you," he said in a tone of apology for his impatient spawn.
Jack looked completely gobsmacked. Ianto really wished Gareth had let him ask, instead of just coming out with it, but the cat was out now and there was no way to get it back into the bag.
The ghost's mouth opened and closed a couple of times, before any words came out. "You want me to…you want…?"
"Yes, Jack," Ianto said. "You're practically family now. Of course, Gareth and I both know there's no way to make it official, but you know how we both feel about you, and you've made it clear you feel the same way about us. We're mainly just asking you if you wouldn't like to be considered family for real. Or as real as we can make it."
"I…I don't know what to say," Jack stammered, his eyes darting between Ianto and Gareth as if he couldn't make up his mind who he wanted to concentrate on.
"Just say you'll think about it," Ianto urged, smiling. A part of him was a little disappointed that Jack didn't jump at the chance, but he couldn't blame him for being shocked by it all. "But Gareth and I really do want this, so don't doubt that, okay? Just give it some time to consider."
"Of course," Jack hastened to answer. "I'll think about it…it's just a surprise, that's all."
"I'm sure it is," Ianto assured him. "And, whatever you decide, we'll be fine with it. Isn't that right, Gareth?"
Gareth nodded vigorously. "If you don't wanna be my other Dad, then you'll still be Uncle Jack."
Jack looked relieved. "But won't you want a real Dad or Mom some day?"
"Nope," Gareth said. "I just need you and Dad."
"And I'm the same way," Ianto replied. "You're special to us, Jack. There isn't anyone else." Ianto knew he spoke truly; there would never be anyone else but Jack.
Jack looked as if he didn't know what to say…which was saying something for Jack Harkness. Ianto would have given anything to hug him in that moment, but knew he couldn't. Instead, he turned back to making coffee, knowing that Jack would make his decision…in time.
He stood, looking down upon a sleeping Ianto Jones, torn between accepting the place in his family and letting go.
Jack loved Ianto, and adored Gareth. They truly were the family he wished he could have had. But, now…it was too late. He'd been dead for decades. He couldn't be a proper father to Gareth, or lover for Ianto.
And yet, both seemed fine with that.
Jack glanced outside, watching the moon ride across the clear night sky. What was he going to do? He knew what he wanted: to accept entrance into their family, and perhaps get a happily ever after that he'd never really had.
But that would be selfish.
The right thing to do would be to find a way to fade away, to leave Ianto and Gareth to find another to welcome into the place they wanted to put Jack. To give them their freedom from his presence within their home, and to let them move on.
He wanted to be selfish. But he couldn't. Not with Ianto. Not with Gareth. They needed to find someone who could do the things that Jack couldn't: go to Gareth's football games; dance with Ianto at their son's wedding; make love to Ianto all night long.
He was a ghost. He couldn't even leave the cottage.
No, it would be best for him to step away, although watching from the walls as Ianto and Gareth moved on with their lives would be impossible. It would be torture, plain and simple.
Jack couldn't stay. But how could he leave?
A sudden white light shone in the darkness, blinding Jack for a moment before he could adjust his vision. When he could see again, he couldn't believe what was before him.
He'd heard of the white light, of course; the one that people thought they saw after death. Being from the future Jack had thought it was a bunch of swill served up to the religious in order to give them hope that they would have peace after death. Especially after his own death Jack had denied such a thing existed, because why wouldn't he have seen it? Ianto had even asked him about it once and Jack had denied it as so much hokum.
But now, seeing the light before him, Jack knew he'd been lying even if he hadn't realized it. It did exist, however for some reason it hadn't appeared to him before now.
Then it hit him: he was seeing it, because he'd finally proved himself worthy of it.
If Jack were honest with himself, for most of his adult life he'd been selfish. The running, the cons, even his interactions with the Doctor had been selfish. He'd stopped that bomb from going off for two reasons: the first, because he knew the future, and knew the Earth hadn't been contaminated by the mis-programmed nanogenes; but the second was, he'd wanted to impress the Time Lord. He'd stayed on Earth when Rose had asked him to travel with them because he was certain he knew that the Doctor knew it, too, and he had enough pride to not want to lose the adoration on her face.
As for being a hero…that was also selfish, too. He'd liked to be respected by his men; enjoyed the feeling that others relied on him. None of the things he'd done in the War had been for the cause; it was all down to his own pride and selfishness.
Even after he'd died, he'd tried to frighten people out of his home. Spitfire Cottage was his; he'd built it with his own hands, with more than usual pride in his work. If he couldn't live there, then no one else could either.
Until Ianto and Gareth, of course.
And now, he was willing to let his selfishness and pride go, in order to do what would be best for his two loved ones. He was willing to step aside and let them live their lives as they should, and not be tied to a ghost whose life had been over from the moment that storm had struck and he'd been knocked overboard into a raging Irish Sea.
Jack turned away from the light to look back onto his sleeping…lover? Yes, that's what Ianto was. He felt horrible for just leaving without letting him know…
And then he remembered Ianto's laptop.
Using the last of his strength, Jack turned it on, and typed out a quick note. Then, he turned the screen so that Ianto would notice it was moved, and spun back toward the beckoning warmth of the light.
Brushing an unsubstantial kiss across Ianto's lips, Jack said goodbye.
Ianto awoke the next morning, and knew immediately that something was wrong.
He sat up in bed, eyes darting around the room. He didn't see Jack like he usually did, but dismissed it; maybe he was in Gareth's room?
But he couldn't ignore the loss of presence that surrounded him.
"Jack?" he called out, flinging the covers aside, suddenly very afraid.
There was no answer.
Ianto did notice his laptop, moved from its usual position on the small table by the fireplace. He frowned, wondering why Jack would have disturbed it…and was it turned on?
He went to it immediately, awakening the screen. His heart broke as he read what was on it.
The light has come for me, because for once in my existence I'm going to be completely unselfish and let you and Gareth go. Have a wonderful life. Find someone who can truly appreciate you both, and who can love you the way you deserve. We both know I can't.
I do love you both.
Ianto felt tears form, and for the first time since Lisa's death he felt broken. How was he going to tell Gareth? How could Jack have left them like that?
Stumbling to his feet, he left his room and made his way across the hall, opening his son's door. Gareth was still in bed, but he wasn't asleep; his back was against the headboard, and he was playing one of his hand-held games.
He looked up as Ianto entered. "Dad, what's wrong?" he asked, as soon as he noticed that Ianto was crying.
Ianto didn't answer. Instead, he crawled into bed next to Gareth, pulling him into his arms and holding him, letting his tears fall because he didn't have the strength to keep them in.
Gareth's arms went around him, and Ianto let himself gather just enough strength from his son to finally say, "Jack's gone."
"No, he can't be…" Gareth began to weep as well.
Together, father and son mourned, as they hadn't for their Lisa.
Jack was gone.
After about a week, Gareth stopped mentioning Jack at all.
Ianto stopped as well, but more for his son than for himself. He, himself, wanted to talk to someone – anyone – about what had happened, and found that person in Sarah Jane Smith, who actually made the trip up to Spitfire Cottage even though she hadn't needed to. They'd talked over coffee while Gareth was at school, and he'd found a very sympathetic ear in his publisher.
They became friends, but Ianto never wrote another novel.
With a little distance, Ianto could understand why Jack had done what he did. He was a little confused by the ghost's mention of the light, because Jack had been so certain that it didn't exist, but Ianto was glad it did.
He wondered if Jack had met Lisa on the other side. He hoped so.
The years passed, and Ianto and Gareth continued to live in Spitfire Cottage. It had gotten around Aberaeron that the ghost that had haunted the place had moved on. Most were glad, as Ianto had not come to be, but others were a bit disappointed, in that they'd become enamoured of the haunted cottage on the cliff and now that Jack was gone, it had simply become yet another house in the area. Ianto did his best to ignore them; after all, they only saw a ghost. Ianto had seen the man.
Gareth seemed to lose his love of the cottage, and left for university as soon as he could. He moved to Cardiff, getting back in touch with his cousins – Rhiannon's children – and Ianto's sister had the nerve to gloat over it. Ianto had slammed the phone down on her, breaking the hand set in the process. Gareth had later called back to apologize, but Ianto couldn't fault him…if he wanted to reacquaint himself with his relatives, then Ianto wasn't going to stop him. It wasn't his fault that his aunt wanted to grasp any sort of perceived victory she could.
He wasn't the only one to miss Gareth; Anwen Williams had as well, and ended up following Gareth to Cardiff University, despite her parents' best efforts to convince her to stay. Ianto wasn't at all surprised to know that they'd moved in together. He'd seen the signs, when his son had decided that Anwen was perfectly fine being a girl, and he'd wondered if something would blossom between them.
Ianto was a very proud father indeed, when Gareth and Anwen were married in the small church in Aberaeron, after their graduations from university. He was equally glad when they moved back, Gareth to work on the various conservation projects in the area, and Anwen as a second-generation police constable. It had been Ianto's turn to gloat – a little, since he was gentleman – that his son had come home to stay, even if he and Anwen had purchased a house in the village. It was close enough.
Ianto, of course, stayed in the cottage. It was home for him, and there was a very small part of him that hoped Jack would come back some day. The place was quiet with just him there, and when Gareth and Anwen had shown up with a dog as a birthday present, Ianto laughed and accepted.
Life went on, the seasons turning into years. Gareth and Anwen had their first son, Evan, on Ianto's forty-sixth birthday; and then a daughter three years later. Ianto doted on both of his grandchildren, and while he hated admitting that he had a favourite Evan was more like him, while Caryn was boisterous and took after her mother. Evan would spend hours with his granddad, and it was Evan who had been with Ianto when he'd had his first heart attack, at age fifty-eight.
Ianto spent almost two weeks in hospital, and Gareth tried very hard to get him to move closer to town. Ianto would have none of it, preferring to go back to Spitfire Cottage where he was the happiest. Gareth hadn't liked it, and he made certain people were always checking up on him until Ianto had had enough of the mothering. The doctors had given him a fairly clean bill of health, and he was quite capable of living on his own. He did concede to his son's worrying by agreeing to have a housekeeper come in and help with the place.
Evan officially moved into Spitfire Cottage when he turned sixteen. That was the moment that Ianto had his will changed to leave the home to his grandson, recognizing the younger man's true love for the place. Gareth didn't mind; in fact, he'd planned on selling it, but he confided with Ianto that it would be in much better hands with Evan than with a stranger.
Ianto had hesitated about telling Evan about Jack, mainly out of respect for Gareth's feelings, but after his grandson had moved in he shared the short time that Jack had been there, telling him stories and giving him a copy of the book they'd written together. To Ianto's surprise it had been a relative best seller, and after Sarah Jane had passed on her son Luke had taken over the publishing business, and had become a friend as well. He, like his mother, had never pressured him into writing a sequel.
The day when Evan had called Jack 'Uncle' was the day Ianto realized that Gareth hadn't completely forgotten about his ghostly adopted uncle. Ianto couldn't describe how happy he'd been at that knowledge, because Jack had really loved them both, if he'd willingly let them go on with their own lives.
And then, one morning, just shy of his sixty-fifth birthday, Ianto awoke to a strange, yet familiar, feeling.
He sat carefully up in bed, his bones aching a bit as he moved, and looked around. "Jack?" he murmured, not seeing any sign of his old lover except for the portrait that was back in its place over the mantle. He may have started out not liking it there, but after Jack had left it was like a calming presence to him, and he'd moved it from where he'd kept it on the opposite wall.
Shaking his head, laughing at himself for imagining things, Ianto got out of his bed, his morning ablutions taking a bit longer than they had when he'd been younger. He dressed and headed slowly down to the kitchen, where he began his morning ritual of coffee making. Per doctor's orders he could no longer drink caffeine, but he'd found a decaf that tasted just as good. He couldn't hear anything from upstairs; Evan obviously wasn't awake yet, but then it was early; Ianto had been getting less and less sleep the older he became, and it would be hours yet before his grandson would be up and about.
Carefully balancing his coffee cup, Ianto decided to go back up to his room until Evan was awake. He played around with eating, but wasn't very hungry that morning. He'd sit in his chair by the fireplace, and perhaps read a bit…
Getting settled, Ianto picked up the ereader that Gareth had gotten him for his birthday a couple of years ago. He still loved the feel of real books, but he could certainly see where the small device was so handy.
He reached across to the coffee that he'd set on the table beside the chair, and a sharp pain rippled down his left arm.
Ianto recognized the signs, of course; it was another heart attack. He leaned back in the chair, letting the ereader slip into his lap, breathing through the sudden weight in his chest. He had to get Evan's attention, let him know what was happening…
That beloved voice breached the drumming in Ianto's ears, and he looked up to see Jack standing in front of the chair, smiling down on him. Ianto wanted to say something, but the discomfort in his chest was rising into his neck, and he found he couldn't speak.
"I know," Jack said quietly. "Here, take my hand. It's time for you to come home with me."
Reaching up was easier than it should have been, but the moment Ianto's hand touched Jack's, the pain was gone, and Jack was pulling him upward and into an embrace, hugging him fiercely. "Oh, I've missed you," his lover murmured into Ianto's neck. "It's been so long."
"I've missed you, too," Ianto answered, a bubble of laughter rising from his chest instead of agony. "But if you ever leave me again, Jack Harkness, I'm going to hunt you down and punch your lights out."
"You'll never have to worry about that ever again," Jack promised, pulling back a little. He pressed his lips – his oh-so-warm lips – against Ianto's kissing him hungrily.
Ianto returned the kiss just as hungrily, needing the contact to prove to him that Jack was really there. He opened his mouth to Jack's probing tongue, letting his own sweep into Jack's mouth, tasting him as he had all those years ago.
They finally broke apart, and Ianto stepped back a little. "How can I be touching you like this?" he asked. "Shouldn't you be expending too much energy?"
"I don't have to worry about that anymore," Jack assured him. He nodded his head toward the chair Ianto had been sitting in. "Look."
Ianto turned, and saw himself in the chair, the ereader in his lap, his head leaning against the chair's high back.
Then he turned back. "I'm dead then."
"I'm afraid so," Jack confirmed.
"I'm not." Ianto kissed him again, revelling in the knowledge that he could now be with Jack for all eternity.
This kiss didn't last long, as Jack pulled away. "Let's go home, Ianto."
Ianto nodded, happier than he'd been in so very long. Entwining his fingers around Jack's, he let the captain lead him toward a white light he was just now noticing. "I thought you said there wasn't a light," Ianto teased.
"I was wrong," Jack confessed. "It only appeared in my most unselfish moment…when I gave up you and Gareth. It was wrong for me to stay then, I had to let you go to live your own lives."
"But now we're together," Ianto grinned.
A sudden gasp drew Ianto's attention back to the room. Evan had found his body, and was desperately trying to resuscitate him.
"Did you get a boy toy while I was gone?" Jack teased lightly, although there was a very slight undertone of jealousy to the question.
"Idiot," Ianto answered playfully. "That's Gareth's oldest, Evan. He's a good kid, and he'll be happy here like I was. I do wish I could say goodbye…"
"Why don't you?" Jack encouraged.
Ianto turned back to Evan, who had obviously given up on trying to bring his granddad back, and was using his mobile to dial for an ambulance, tears running down his face. "Are you sure?" he asked.
"Go for it."
He called Evan's name, but the young man didn't hear him…at first. It was obvious when he did; he glanced down at the body he'd taken from the chair, and then up and around, his eyes going wide as he must have seen Ianto standing there. "Granddad?" he gasped.
"It's going to be fine," Ianto reassured him. "It's my time."
Evan's eyes flickered to Ianto's side, and he grinned. "And you're with Uncle Jack."
"I am." Ianto was so glad that Evan could see the both of them. "Take care, and we'll see each other again someday."
"I love you, granddad and Uncle Jack."
"I love you too, Evan."
"Me too, kiddo," Jack returned, winking. "Have a good life." He tugged on Ianto's hand. "C'mon, we have people waiting for us."
Ianto grinned. "I can imagine. Oh, did you meet Lisa? How does she feel about this?"
Jack rolled his eyes. "She threatened to find a way to castrate me if I ever hurt you."
Ianto laughed freely. "That's my Lisa."
"Let's go; she's expecting us for dinner. Oh, and you have to meet her new boyfriend; a guy named Mickey…"
Ianto walked beside Jack, and into the light…and to whatever awaited them beyond.
He couldn't wait to face it, with Jack at his side.