Ianto ran a hand through his hair, sighing in frustration as he pulled yet another towering pile of paperwork towards him. It was four days before Christmas, and it didn't look like he would be getting any reprieve. He was supposed to be at his parents' right now, but the Rift had put a stop to that when it had practically exploded with odds and ends the day before. All of them were running themselves ragged trying to find everything, catalogue it, make sure it wasn't potentially harmful, and store it. Of course, that was fine for the rest of the team; they got to go out and do all the legwork. Ianto, on the other hand, had been chosen to sort out all the 'official' things, such as properly filing things. To be fair, he was the best for the job; Owen and Jack couldn't be trusted to fill out a proper report, and he didn't think he'd seen a single one of Gwen's that didn't have a smiley face of some sort doodled on it. Tosh was usually pretty good, but she was already in Japan visiting her brother.
Deciding that he wouldn't survive this next pile with his sanity – admittedly, already dwindling rapidly – unless he had coffee, he got up from his chair, wincing as his back clicked loudly. Ducking through the beaded curtains to the stairs down to the main Hub, he peered out over the empty main room with a small frown. The Hub was empty bar Owen, who was grabbing some extra supplies to restock his medical kit. Ianto wondered which one of them had been injured this time; he presumed it was Gwen, as Owen rarely bothered healing Jack anymore. Waiting for the coffee to pour, he hoped she wasn't too badly hurt. He didn't think Rhys would be too happy if his girlfriend spent Christmas in hospital.
Smiling in relief as his coffee finished, he took a long sip of the hot liquid, his cold fingers curling gratefully around the blue-striped mug. He started back up the stairs, drink cradled in his hands, and nudged the beaded curtain out of the way. His eyes landed upon his desk, already dreading having to resume writing, before stopping in his tracks, eyebrows rising in shock. There, sat neatly on top of the mound of files, was a Lindt chocolate Santa. No note, no card, just the foil-wrapped chocolate, Santa's cheery grin beaming up at him. Frowning suspiciously, Ianto set down his mug and picked up the treat, turning it over in his hands. Nothing.
Shrugging to himself, he began to peel away the foil, putting it down to a gift from one of the old ladies who liked to visit the tourist office. Besides, who was he to turn down free Lindt chocolate?
Three days till Christmas, and it was snowing. A lot. It seemed like everyone in Britain had decided to give up and stay in their homes, letting the weather have its way, only a few brave few venturing out to the shops for last-minute Christmas presents and the final touches for Christmas dinner, all bundled up in thick coats and gloves, scarves wrapped around their necks. Children of all ages took full advantage of the reprieve from school, laughing and squealing with delight as they had snowball fights, went sledding, made snowmen and topped it all off with a return home, where warm clothes and hot chocolate awaited.
Everywhere had stopped; except, of course, Torchwood. As Jack liked to say, 'the Rift never has days off, why should we?' Ianto could think of several reasons they should get days off, but he never voiced them, merely giving Jack icy glares as the immortal man begged him to stay a few more hours, to file a few more objects, to make a few more cups of coffee. If Jack gave him those bloody puppy-eyes one more time, he was going to strangle the man. No one could resist the Harkness puppy-eyes, it was physically impossible, and Jack knew it!
"Ianto, I don't suppose you've got a few free minutes, have you?" Jack called from the walkway overhead, and Ianto groaned under his breath.
"Not really, sir, but I'm sure you don't care either way," he replied shortly. Jack's face turned apologetic, but Ianto resolutely didn't meet his eyes, determined to stay mad at the man for keeping them all here over Christmas.
"I'm sorry, Ianto, I just need you to take this down to the Archives for me. I'd go, but…"
"But you've been banned from the Archives. Several times. And it's never seemed to stop you before," Ianto retorted, already turning towards the stairs. At least in the Archives he could have five blissful minutes of peace. He took the object from Jack, turning it over curiously in his hands. It was triangular, fitting easily in his palm, and seemed to be made of some glossy purple metal, with several indentations and grooves cut into it. The tag was fastened securely around one of the corners, and just as Ianto turned to leave, a tanned hand covered his own.
"Ianto…" Jack sighed, shaking his head. "I'm really, really sorry about this. I know you wanted to spend this Christmas with your family."
"It's not your fault, sir, you can't control the Rift," Ianto replied neutrally, making no move when Jack stepped easily into his personal space. They hadn't had any time alone since the whole mess had begun, having to work through the night and get sleep when they could, seemingly never at the same time. While reluctant to admit it, Ianto missed Jack's comforting presence while he slept, he missed the strong arms that wrapped around his waist as he woke. He just missed Jack.
"As much as I would like to," Jack agreed wryly, his hand sneaking up to cup Ianto's unshaven cheek. A thumb rubbed over his jaw, and Ianto's eyes began to close in pleasure. "You look good with a little stubble. I like it." Slightly chapped lips pressed against his own, and Ianto welcomed the contact for one long moment, before remembering Jack was supposed to be in the doghouse. He pulled away, hating how hard it was for him to do so, and pulled a blank expression on his face, feeling a guilty pang in his chest at Jack's hurt expression.
"I should get this to the Archives, sir," he said, holding up the purple object, stepping away from Jack. The Captain sighed, but nodded, and Ianto felt a familiar blue gaze following him as he walked away. He knew in his mind that this wasn't Jack's fault; like he'd said, Jack couldn't control the rift. But still… he missed his family, and Jack was an easy target to take out his frustrations on.
Wandering down the rows of the Archive, looking for the correct shelf, he turned a corner and stopped. Sat on an empty place on one shelf – the empty place he was about to occupy with the purple object – was another Lindt Santa, just as anonymous as the one from the day before. Peering over the surrounding shelf, and the floor, he hunted for a note, unsurprised when he didn't find one. That counted out the old ladies from the tourist office, then. It had to be one of the team. Maybe Gwen? It definitely wasn't Owen; the doctor wasn't nearly this thoughtful or generous. Jack? He doubted it. Jack wasn't the type for small gestures.
Pocketing the chocolate in his hoodie – suits had gone out of the window after the third day of being Hub-bound – he placed the purple object in its rightful space and turned to leave, a soft smile on his face. Maybe the chocolate might make the rest of the day a little more bearable – if he could resist the urge to eat it all at once, that was.
Christmas Eve Eve, and there were only three of them in the Hub. Gwen had demanded to go home and spend Christmas with Rhys, having an outright tantrum in Jack's face until the poor bugger had no choice but to dismiss her. Ianto wished he was able to do the same, but not only did he have far too much dignity to 'tantrum', he knew he wouldn't last very long against Jack's eyes. Bastard.
Owen was the only one who didn't seem to have any problems, but Ianto had the sneaking suspicion that his only plans for Christmas had been a stool at the nearest bar and several bottles of beer. Either way, the doctor didn't grumble – well, not more than usual – at being stuck in the Hub, other than bemoaning the terrible company. Jack's usual response to that was to suggest he look to Janet if he wanted better company, because that was his only other option.
Ianto was still giving Jack the cold shoulder, thought it became increasingly hard to maintain it, especially when night fell and he was given a rest, wanting nothing more than to ask Jack to join him for a nap down in the bunker. He knew Jack hadn't been sleeping; he could see it in his eyes. He tried to pretend it wasn't because of him, but it was a feeble attempt at best. "Oi, Teaboy! Get us another coffee, would you?" Owen called from the autopsy bay, where he was closing up the chest cavity – or what Ianto assumed was a chest cavity – of the bizarre, grey-skinned creature that looked vaguely like a cross between a rhinoceros and a beaver.
"I think the word you're looking for is 'please'," Ianto muttered under his breath, but dutifully headed towards the coffee machine, only mildly surprised to find a third Lindt Santa propped up against the machine. This was just getting ridiculous. Making a mental note to check the CCTV footage to find his mysterious chocolate-supplier, he made Owen his coffee, deciding to brew for himself, too; Jack was out somewhere near Aberystwyth hunting a Blowfish.
Setting the mug on the ledge above autopsy, well out of the way in case the alien decided to spurt fluid of some sort – it wouldn't be the first time – he wandered over to the main computer, bringing up recent CCTV footage. Trawling through the files until he found the right time, he switched to the camera focused on the coffee machine, and growled in frustration as he was met with a blank screen. The footage had been deleted. Quick searches showed him that the same had happened for the previous two chocolate deliveries. His secret Santa-giver would have to remain anonymous for the time being.
Christmas Eve, and he had given up hope of ever getting home in time for Christmas. By five in the morning, the Rift had opened three times, and they had another five openings by noon. Ianto had been drafted to go out and help, as they were so short-staffed, and more than once it had crossed his mind to say sod Torchwood and drive to his parents' house instead. However, while they had been relatively lucky so far, he knew that any one of the next Rift openings could bring something potentially fatal. He couldn't take that chance.
The snow was still coming thick and fast, and as far as his family knew, that was his reason for being unable to make it. He'd been fielding calls left and right from various family members begging him to 'bloody walk if you have to!' and 'please get here for Christmas, Uncle Ianto!' but had been unable to give them any good news as of yet.
By five to midnight, he finally found a spare ten minutes to sit down and have a breather, his thoughts wandering wistfully to his nieces and nephews all tucked up in bed at his parents' place, waiting up excitedly in hopes of hearing Santa's arrival. They did it every year, he knew, and yet none of them were ever brave enough to tiptoe downstairs and peek when his father put on the Santa suit and thumped around downstairs, making hushed noises for their benefit and happily taking the cookies and milk from the plate by the fireplace, depositing presents in return. His heart clenched as he realised he'd miss the wonder on their faces as they raced downstairs at an unholy hour of the morning to find a pile of presents under the tree, all from 'Santa'.
"Hey." Startled from his thoughts, he looked up to see Jack leaning in the doorway, watching him with a fond smile. "How you feeling?"
"Tired," he replied, stubbornly attempting to keep up a stony expression. Jack took a tentative step further into the room, and Ianto watched as he brought an arm out from behind his back, holding it out to Ianto. There, in his palm, was a Lindt chocolate Santa. A sheepish, apologetic smile was tugging at the American's lips, his blue eyes wide and earnest, and at that moment, any anger Ianto had managed to keep hold of melted. "It was you," he murmured softly in realization. "How? Why?" Jack's smile turned mischievous, and he stepped closer, allowing Ianto to take the chocolate from him.
"A little sneaking around on my part, and a lot of bribing Gwen to nip out and buy them for me. I'm sorry you've not been able to go back to your family for Christmas, I know how much it means to you to spend time with them," Jack said sincerely, and Ianto sighed, standing up to be face-to-face with his lover.
"Oh, Jack…" he twined Jack's fingers loosely in his own, stepping closer, the chocolate Santa abandoned on the sofa. "I know, and I'm sorry I've been such an arse to you about it. It's not your fault, you can't help it that the Rift is active. I just… I miss them. Half of them I've not seen since Christmas last year, it's the only chance we all get to be together. I shouldn't have taken it out on you, Cariad." Ianto leaned his head on Jack's shoulder, stepping happily into the older man's embrace, feeling Jack's lips on his forehead and arms wind around his waist.
"It's fine; I'm a big boy, I can take it," Jack teased quietly.
"But you've gone to all this trouble to give me the chocolate and I've been such a twat to you!" Ianto protested, lifting his head, only to be cut off by a kiss.
"It's fine," Jack repeated firmly. "Just so long as we're fine now. I've missed this," he added, squeezing Ianto tighter. Ianto kissed him, and the two stood in silence for a long moment, before a slow grin spread across Jack's face. "You know, the Rift seems to be quieting down; Tosh's programs say it should stay closed for the next three days or so. And most of the roads have been cleared; there's still time for you to get to your parents' and make it for Christmas morning, if you'd like to." Ianto looked up at him hopefully.
"But what about you?" he asked, not liking the idea of Jack spending Christmas alone in the Hub. Jack shook his head, shrugging his shoulders.
"I'll be fine here, I'll have Myfanwy for company," he joked with a small smile.
"Come with me," Ianto urged softly. Jack looked at him in surprise.
"It's your family, I wouldn't want to intrude," he began, but Ianto shook his head firmly.
"You won't be intruding; I want you there. Besides, I think it's about time mam and tad met my boyfriend, don't you?" There was a playful glint in his eyes that made Jack chuckle.
"Your boyfriend, huh? I like the sound of that," he mused, before tugging on Ianto's hand. "Okay. Come on, we'll swing by your place and pack a bag."
"I can't wait to see the kids' faces when they get downstairs to find Santa brought them Uncle Ianto for Christmas," Ianto murmured with a grin, making Jack chuckle. Ianto suddenly stopped them, pulling Jack into a deep, sweet kiss. "Thank you. Merry Christmas, Jack," he breathed, and while neither of them had actually said the words yet, Jack didn't need Ianto to say aloud what he could read clearly in the young man's eyes. He grinned back, knowing he was conveying the same thing in return.
"Merry Christmas, Ianto."