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Jack made a snuffling noise in his sleep and tried to turn over and away from whatever it was that was poking him in the side. He succeeded for a bit before he groaned, coming slowly to conciousness as he felt weight on his chest and then a finger in his nose.

"Wassat?" Jack tried to sit up but there was a small child sitting on his chest, stopping his movements.

"Who are you?" The little boy asked, moving his fingers over Jack's face again.

"What?"

"You're in bed with daddy." Jack turned his head and saw a dark haired girl at his elbow.

"Er, yeah."

"Why?"

Jack decided to ignore the question, hoping that maybe the little girl would too. "Do you know where your daddy keeps his coffee?"

“Away from Jack.” Nia nodded solemnly, sticking her tongue out as the little boy glared at her.

“Why are you in bed with Tad?” She asked again, poking the man in the side as her brother grabbed hold of his braces, pulling them up, standing, leaning back….and then letting go and watching as they pinged against Jack’s stomach, and Ianto’s naked arm.

Ianto flinched and groaned sleepily, rolling over and blinking at Jack. “Wh’s that f’r?” He scowled at the other man, not remotely near awake yet.

"I didn't do it," Jack insisted blearily, unable to understand why people, even pint-sized ones, were up so early.

"Y's y'u did..." came Ianto's sleepy voice. Jack could feel Ianto rolling over and then feel his arm snaking across his stomach to hold Jack close. "Go b'ck to sl'p," Ianto yawned and nuzzled into Jack's neck and Jack could feel two sets of eyes staring at him.

“Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad…” the younger Jack whined, bouncing up and down on the bit of space between Ianto’s legs. “Why’re you in my bed?” He made a face at his dad, who was hugging the strange man. “Why’re you hugging him? Hugs are for sleeping and for when you are sick and when can I have breakfast I’m so hungry I’m a starving child who is going to starve and be all thin and have a sticky out tummy like the babies on the adverts you don’t like and can I watch Power Rangers while I have breakfast and can I have toast and cereal because I am starving and hungry and-“

“Oh, shut up, Jack!” Nia had her hands on her hips, looking scarily like a miniature version of her father. She grabbed her brother’s hand, jerking him off the bed as Ianto sat up blearily, his kid’s energy overwhelming when he hadn’t quite woken up yet.

“Tad needs hugs too. It’s not just for when you’re sick. Stupidhead.”

"Your son, is an insistent one," Jack groaned, rolling over onto his side and smiling at Ianto softly. "And has a hard finger." Jack couldn't hear Ianto's response as it was muffled into the pillow.

Waking up with an armful of someone was always a much pleasanter experience than waking up alone (with the exception of some bed partners...) and despite how rudely he had been woken, Jack was finding this particular morning to be amazing.

"How old are they? Jack and Nia I mean."

Ianto had hidden his face in the pillow as Nia dragged her brother out of the room, groaning sleepily. Although, truth be told, this was the best night’s sleep he’d had in a while.

“Yeah, he gets that from his mum.” Ianto mumbled, turning his head at last, finding himself nose to nose with Jack.

“Morning.” He smiled softly, taking a moment to just look. In fact, it took him a moment to realise that Jack had asked a question.

“Five. Or as I’m sure one of them will inform you, five years, 4 months, and 3 days.”

Jack smiled, chuckling and pressing his head against Ianto's own, taking a moment to indulge himself in the way Ianto looked in the morning with light streaming in from the windows.

Before he had left, it was rare for the two of them to spend a night together outside the hub, Ianto instead staying in Jack's subterranean fortress and hiding away. "How old were they when your, ah, wife died?"

Ianto’s eyes darkened a little, as if a shutter had fallen down over his gaze.

“Four.” He murmured shortly, turning over and sitting up with a soft groan. “I need to get the kid’s breakfast ready, get them dressed. Help yourself to a shower, Jack.” He left the room quickly, pausing in the hallway, eyes closing as he listened to Jack and Nia playing happily in the lounge. Taking a deep breath, he pasted a smile onto his face, clapping his hands together and rubbing them as he strode into the kitchen, grinning at his kids over the top of the breakfast bar which separated kitchen from lounge.

“Ok, toast or cereal?” He called out, flicking the switch on the coffee machine and immersing himself in the routine of getting his kids ready for their nanny. School holidays were always hellish.

Jack frowned as he watched Ianto rise and head into the other room, could hear the muffled yells of excitement from the kids and the deeper laughter from Ianto. Sighing, Jack shuffled off towards a shower, turning the water up to hot and hoping that such things would ease the ache in his shoulders.

He languished in the shower for perhaps longer than he should have, but it had felt nice. By the time he had gotten out and pulled his clothes back on, the children were already set in front of the tv with bowls of cereal.

Ianto handed him a large cup of coffee with a small smile and Jack smiled gratefully. "Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.” Ianto murmured quietly, slightly at a loss as to what to say, what to do. Last night, it had been different. Easy, to talk and listen, to hold and be held. But in the light of day, everything seemed different.

He sipped at his coffee for want of something better to do, watching Jack over the rim of his mug.

“There’s toast, if you want. Or porridge, or cereal.”

“ ‘ice k’ispies!” Jack shouted from next door, showering the floor (and his sister) with half-chewed cereal. Ianto chuckled softly into his coffee, shaking his head.

“Rice Krispies indeed. Or cornflakes.” He fell silent for another long moment, thumb rubbing at a coffee stain on the edge of the counter.

“How long are you here?” He asked quietly. Jack wouldn’t be staying forever, of course. He’d travelled with the Doctor; and this was just another pitstop. Check up on his team.

Jack shrugged, "Uhh, don't know really," he said with a hint of apology. "The Doctor and I, well we'll keep in touch and I'll probably travel with him again, but right now I'm my own man again."

Jack found the sugar and dropped just a bit into his own coffee and swirled it around. "The Doctor asked if there was anywhere I wanted to be dropped off and well, here I am."

He paused for a second as he took another sip of coffee, "I have my own ship now, though."

Ianto made a bit of a face as Jack added more sugar to his coffee; either Jack’s tastes had changed, or Ianto had forgotten how to make Jack’s coffee properly. Even with near-perfect recall, over a dozen years could dim memory somewhat.

“Your own Tardis?” He asked quietly, glancing at the clock quickly. No, he was fine; Polly wouldn’t be here for another half an hour at least, and he had an hour until he was due in at the Hub.

Jack nodded, "Of a sort, yeah." Jack paused again, "It's well, it's a new species of Tardis, not quite the same as the Doctor's but essentially does the same things. Still as temperamental as well...." He chuckled softly before turning to Ianto with a slow grin.

"You wouldn't want to see it, would you?"

Ianto couldn’t help but smile back, seeing that gleeful and just slightly wicked expression on Jack’s face. He bit his lip, clearly tempted.

“I can’t, Jack.” He murmured regretfully, looking next door. “I have to get those two ready for Polly coming, and then I have to get showered, dressed, and get to work before Myfanwy eats Owen’s next autopsy.” He took a deep breath before asking his next question, fully prepared for Jack to say no.

“You could…come with me? Owen’d be glad to see you…” A lie, but a well-meaning one nonetheless.

Jack could see the old gleam in Ianto's eye, the desire to learn something new, play with more alien tech and broaden horizons even further than before. But he watched as Ianto declined and turned towards his children, herding them into their rooms to get ready.

Left to his own devices, Jack picked his coffee up and looked around the room. There was a large bookshelf, mostly filled with books (non-fiction, as was Ianto's preference) with some DVD's on the lower shelves.

Ianto's vast music collection had apparently grown as well, as Jack ran his eyes over names he didn't recognize. Pausing, Jack looked up to the picture that was sitting on the shelf, a bright smiling picture of Ianto and Tosh and another woman with dark hair.

There were more pictures scattered around the room and Jack looked at each one, picking up the photo of Lucy and Ianto, laughing and holding one another while being attacked by their two children. He really had lost alot.

Ianto had hurried out of the room before Jack could reply; too scared that he would say no. He had one wriggling child under each arm, growling like a monster as he attacked each of them in turn, manouvering them out of pyjamas and into their clothes, socks and shoes on, and hair that, if not brushed, was at least slightly tamed. Teeth were brushed, and Ianto sent them scurrying through to the lounge with a gentle tap against their bottoms, smiling as they both giggled and ran away.

His smile faded swiftly now he was alone, leaning with his back against the wall, eyes closing. Despite the long night’s sleep, he was exhausted, the effort of appearing cheerful in front of his children and Jack almost too much. He forced himself to walk into the bathroom, stripping off and stepping under the shower with a loud sigh.

"That's mummy and tad," Nia said, coming to look at the photo with Jack. "We were three." Jack looked down at the little girl and smiled.

"You all look very happy," he said, able to see the smile on Ianto’s face in the picture and unable to recall it's match any time he had known the man.

"Oh yes, Daddy says that those were the best years. Before Mummy died." Nia paused and picked up her doll. "Now Daddy never really smiles anymore..."

Ianto tilted his head back under the pounding spray of the shower, loving the feeling of the water in his face, air so thick with steam that it was hard to breathe. He could pretend he was somewhere else, for a moment. Some far-off country, or planet, somewhere with no toys to tidy up or fall over, no screaming weevils to capture, no reminders of who he was, who he’d been.

But it never lasted long. Sighing, he switched off the shower, shaking his head from side to side, water droplets flying in all directions. He ran his fingers through his hair, longer now – he needed a haircut, now he thought about it. Drying off, he wrapped a towel around his waist, brushing his teeth and scowling at his reflection in the mirror. He was about to head into his bedroom when the doorbell rang – Polly was early.

Walking through to the lounge, he hurried Nia and Jack along, shoving them into their coats, not even caring that he was half naked, hair still dripping water down his face and neck.

Jack looked up a he saw Ianto come out of his room, a question on the tip of his tongue before he noticed the towel. His eyebrows went up as he looked Ianto over, taking in the differences and the changes, noting a few new scars and that his chest was broader than before.

The doorbell rang again and Jack spun around as Ianto answered the door, letting in a rather attractive young blonde girl in with one hand, while grabbing his towel with the other.

“Sorry, bad timing.” Ianto grinned, blushing a little as he rather belatedly realised he perhaps should have put some clothes on. Polly squeaked, blushing bright red and trying (and failing) to not look at her very damp and very naked employer.

“Come in, hang on, I’ll just grab some clothes and get the kids’ things together.” Ianto waved her into the flat, where she was pounced by the two children, each claiming a leg to hug. Polly laughed, kissing them both, then looked up and blushed a bit more.

“Um…”

“Oh, this is Jack. He’s um, he’s a friend. Jack Harkness, this is Polly, my nanny.” Polly straightened, and tried to push her hair behind her ears, ignoring the bright redness of her cheeks.

“He stoled my name.” Jack muttered into a denim-clad kneecap.

"Captain Jack Harkness," Jack said with a grin, shaking her hand but noting the way Polly blushed and the way her eyes were following Ianto, roaming over his wet back. interesting... Jack thought as he knelt down on the ground to be eye level with little Jack.

"You sure you didn't steal my name?" Jack asked, grinning and joking with the young boy. He nodded and Jack looked very serious. "Well then I guess I'll just have to change my name to Bert."

Jack giggled and peered at him from around Polly's leg, "You're silly."

Ianto disappeared into his bedroom, swearing as he looked around for clothes to pull on, at least for long enough to get the kids ready. He pulled on jeans and the tshirt he’d worn to bed last night, running a hand through rapidly-drying and messy hair, and darting through to Jack and Nia’s bedroom. Thankfully, he’d got their stuff ready last night before putting them to bed; swimming, today, and then the cinema.

He reappeared with a smile, rescuing a rather flustered-looking Polly from Jack’s advances. It was in Jack’s nature to flirt, of course. Didn’t mean it hurt, just a little. They weren’t anything, were they? Not now. But still.

“Here you go. You alright for money today? I’ve got some change if you need it for buses.” He was trying to get a wriggling Nia to put her backpack on, looking up at Polly, who smiled and shook her head, biting at her lower lip. Ianto really was lovely. It was a crime, what had happened to him.

“I’ll have them back at 6, as usual.” She smiled. “I can keep them later, though, if…?” She looked between Jack and Ianto, not entirely sure what was going on between them. “If you and Jack need to catch up a little?”

Ianto looked like he was about to turn down the offer, "Oh come on. We can go grab dinner down by the Hub. The old place you liked, if it's still there anyways. My treat."

Jack smiled winningly at Ianto and felt a rush when he knew that Ianto was going to give in. "Alright, eight o'clock?" Ianto offered and Polly nodded as she herded the kids outside.

Jack turned to Ianto slowly, "Thanks."

Ianto looked at him, a little puzzled. “What for?” He murmured, curling his toes into the thick carpet which had more than one or two interesting stains from little Jack’s ‘experiments’ gone wrong. Things suddenly felt more awkward now they were alone, and once again Ianto found himself wrong-footed, not knowing what to do or say.

Jack shrugged slowly, this was more awkward than he thought it was going to be. But then, he hadn't counted on children and an ex-wife and a dozen other things either. "you could have easily said 'No Jack, I want to have dinner with my kids' and kicked me out. And you could have done that this morning after breakfast... Or after we got up... Or even last night before anything happened."

Ianto smiled, the expression a little melancholy.

“When have I ever kicked you out, Jack?” He murmured, looking at the other man, and fighting the urge to just give in and kiss him, drag him back to bed and forget about the world. He took a slightly shaky breath, hoping that desire wasn’t visible in his eyes. Turning away, for good measure, he busied himself with the kids’ breakfast dishes left abandoned in front of the TV, placing them in the sink and running some hot water over them before the rice krispies became super-glued to the side of the bowls.

Jack let Ianto slide by and into the kitchen, letting him think he had closed the door on the subject.

"Not as often as you perhaps should have," Jack said softly, coming up behind Ianto and wrapping his arms around his waist, settling his chin on Ianto's shoulder. "Nia tells me that you don't smile anymore. Well, you don't smile for real anymore."

Jack turned Ianto in his arms and looked down on him, he had had three lovers in his short life. All of which had left him; two by Jack's own hand. "Oh to be able to make you smile again," he said softly, chuckling.

Ianto stiffened just for a moment, then relaxed back into Jack’s embrace. He let the other man turn him around, smiling just a little.

“Knew I shouldn’t have left her alone with you…” He murmured wryly. “Should’ve known that’d end badly.” At Jack’s arched eyebrow, he sighed, running nervous fingers through his hair.

“She’s…perhaps ‘empath’ is too strong a word, but…she has a way of knowing things. Things she shouldn’t.” He grinned. “Likes to try and ‘help’ people. It doesn’t always work.” Still smiling softly, he looked at Jack’s shirt, his hands pressed against blue cotton, halfway between pushing him away and drawing him closer.

“I’ve tried using scavenged tech to shield myself, but…” He shrugged. “She knows, anyway. She shouldn’t have to…” Giving in, he slid his arms around Jack’s waist, slowly, cheek against Jack’s shoulder as he slowly relaxed. “She shouldn’t have to deal with the mess her father’s head’s in.”

Jack rested his head on top of Ianto's and held on to him gently, just holding him in the middle of his small kitchen. "Neither should her father," Jack said softly with a small sigh.

He wondered what Ianto was thinking, what he would do if Jack were to slowly move so that he could kiss him. Would Ianto let him? Would he kiss back? Ask him to stop? To leave? To keep going?

Jack mentally shook himself. It didn't really matter because he wasn't going to be risking it. Wasn't going to destroy Ianto's life all over again.

“I know…” Ianto began, eyes closed, nose pressed against Jack’s neck, warmth and scent surrounding him, the gentle confinement of strong arms undoing all his defences.

“I know I have no right to ask, but…stay?” He murmured, face still buried against Jack’s throat. “Not here, I mean…um…we could use your help. Back at Torchwood. If….if you wanted to?” His voice was soft and hesitant, not daring to ask properly,not daring to hope.

"I can't promise for how long," Jack said softly, afraid to promise Ianto too much and knowing he was offering too little. "But I'll stay Ianto. For as long as I can."

TBC