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2 February 5114 (Earth Standard Date)

Ddraig Llyn, Earth



The tingle of the transmat subsided and Merlin left the closet where the family kept their personal teleportation hub under the stairs of the Harkness-Jones home. 

He knew he probably should have warned them he was coming, but Merlin hadn’t honestly thought about it until he’d actually programmed the coordinates into the control pod of the public transmat on Hubworld.  The transmat system was one of the oldest in the Human Empire, but it had become more long-distance as more and more advancements were made although people mostly relied on spaceships for their lengthy travels.

But transmat was still a good way to go if a person wanted to get somewhere fast, and so Merlin found himself making his way into the large family room of the Harkness-Jones house. 

It was empty, but he could hear movement in the kitchen, so he headed in that direction, and the smells of cooking wafted toward him.  Despite his upset, his stomach made itself known, growling petulantly.

“Cousin Merlin!”

He turned at the louder than necessary scream, just as a brown blur slammed into him, sending him to the ground.  He couldn’t help but laugh as one of the newer additions, William, climbed all over him, greeting him exuberantly.

Merlin wrapped his arms around the twelve-year-old dragon, hugging him roughly.  “It’s good to see you too, Bug.”

A familiar golden glow surrounded the child, and in seconds a boy with brown hair and brown eyes was hugging him back.  “I’m not a bug,” William denied hotly. “I’m a dragon!”

“You’ll always be Bug to me,” Merlin chuckled, rubbing his knuckles over William’s head, causing the young dragon to wriggle in excitement.

The five young dragons that had been discovered back in the past had all been accepted into the family, and Merlin adored them all, even standoffish Lisa.  Each of them had issues; of the five, only William and Oswyn truly could recall their lives before they’d been encased within their shells and had been hidden away in that cave in the Bavarian Alps.  But those vague memories had taught both of them what it was like to be abandoned, even though their parents had most likely been trying to save them from some danger.  James didn’t have any of those early memories, but William and Oswyn’s fear of abandonment had affected him as well, and Robyn and Lisa had their own demons to deal with.  In matter of fact, Lisa still hadn’t gained her human form, even she should have by the time she’d turned ten, and she didn’t speak all that much to anyone.  Robyn still didn’t fly.

“Didn’t we teach you not to tackle people, William?” the amused voice of the family’s dragon patriarch, Ianto Jones, came from above the wrestling pair.

“It’s not people, Tad!  It’s Cousin Merlin!”  It was said in that logic that children often employ in order to get themselves out of trouble.

It gave Merlin a pang in his chest, thinking of his own child that Arthur appeared to not want.

Something must have shown in his face, because his Grandtad Ianto was looking at him knowingly.   “Leave Merlin alone and go bother your siblings,” he told William gently.  “Dinner will be ready in about half an hour.”

“Okay, Tad.”  William got up, changing back into his brown dragon form and flitting away.

Ianto held out a hand to help Merlin up.  “I take it something’s wrong?”

Merlin sighed, accepting the assistance.  “You could say that.”

“Come on into the kitchen.  Jack’s in there, attempting to help with dinner.”

He followed the elder dragon. The kitchen was enormous, but then with so many family members sometimes the sheer amount of food that left it was truly magical. 

Granddad Jack was standing over the stove, his sleeves rolled up, stirring a bubbling pot of what smelled like stew and wearing a frilly apron that looked faintly ridiculous on him.  Merlin’s stomach grumbled again, and Jack winked at him playfully.  “You’re welcome to stay,” he said, “there’s plenty for you and Arthur.”

“I’m here by myself, actually,” the sorcerer admitted, leaning against the long island that bisected the kitchen area.

Jack lost his smile.  “What happened?”

And so, under the sympathetic gaze of his only living grandparents, Merlin explained what had happened and why he’d stormed out of his home and why he’d come to Ddraig Llyn.

After he was finished – and it wasn’t a long story – Merlin actually felt better.  No matter what Jack and Ianto said, just telling them what had occurred removed a weight that had been around his hearts.  He trusted his grandparents to give him at least some advice on what to do.

When he was done, Ianto looked sad, while Jack simply sighed.  “You know it’s his choice, right?” his granddad asked.  “Whatever Arthur decides, it’s his body and his choice.”

“I do know,” Merlin said.  “But I think he’s so upset by it that he’s not taking the alternatives into consideration.  And he’s so hung up on being Torchwood and how being pregnant would damage his dignity...I guess maybe I just learned that Torchwood’s not the end-all, be-all.  And I’d hoped that one day we’d have our own family.”

 Jack and Ianto exchanged looks, silent conversation passing between them in that familiar way of long-term couples.  “I’ll go and talk to him,” Jack finally said, removing his apron and abandoning the pot on the stove.  “I should be back pretty quickly.”

“You’re leaving me to feed the ravening hordes,” Ianto mocked, putting his hands on his hips.

“You’re so much better at controlling them than I am,” Jack replied, holding his hands up in a warding off gesture.

“That’s because I’m the strict father, and you’re the fun one.”

Merlin couldn’t help but snort at their antics.  He truly adored his grandparents, and had faith that they’d be able to fix things.

“Should I come too?” he asked, almost dreading the answer.

“No,” Jack answered.  “Stay here and eat.  I think it’s better if I talk to Arthur alone.”

“Jack’s right,” Ianto added.  “Things might flare up again if you went along.”

Merlin had to admit they were right. 

Jack put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed.  “It’s going to be fine, Merlin.  No matter what Arthur decides.”

“I know,” he admitted.  “Now I feel just a bit guilty bringing this to you and not trying to work this out on my own…”

“Don’t do that,” Ianto chided lightly.  “There are some things that need a bit of intercession on.  Once Jack talks to Arthur you’ll know best how to proceed in patching things up.  You’re just a bit too raw at the moment and there’s no telling what might happen if you faced him now.”

“I’ll be back soon,” Jack said.  He left the kitchen, smiling reassuringly back at Merlin as he walked out.

“Come on,” Ianto urged, “help me get ready to face the starving masses.”

Merlin couldn't help but chuckle as he did as his Grandtad bid.




Arthur heard the door slam, and it sent him slumping onto the sofa, his head banging against the back almost hard enough to hurt despite the overstuffing of the cushions.

Why couldn't Merlin understand what this meant?  There was no way he could afford to carry any sort of child to term, let alone raise one while running Torchwood?  It was simply too much, with their duties and responsibilities that they each had?

Merlin was more often than not led by his hearts and not his head.  It was one of the things he dearly loved about his mate, but there were times when the head just had to overrule the heart.  Having a child would put undue pressure on both of them, and would interfere with their jobs.

They’d been in charge of Torchwood for nearly fourteen hundred years.  They’d made certain promises to each other when they took over, including not having children.  Yes, he knew that Merlin was constantly hoping he’d change his mind, but in all those years it had just become clearer that not starting a family had been the right thing.  Torchwood was far too dangerous to bring children into it as well.  Why couldn’t Merlin understand that?

Arthur had no idea how long he sat there, wallowing in what he could only admit to himself was self-pity, but he sat up when he heard the front door open once more.  “Merlin?” he called, craning his head around the couch to see the entry.

“Afraid not,” answered the unmistakeable voice of his Grandfather. 

Jack came down the short hallway, looking relaxed in rolled-up sleeves and with his ubiquitous braces down around his hips.  He must have come the moment Merlin had shown up; of course, Merlin had gone to Ddraig Llyn.  It would have been the first place Arthur would have looked if his mate had stayed away overnight.

He took a seat in one of the chairs near the sofa, his wise blue eyes meeting Arthur’s.  “I’d say congratulations but I get this feeling this isn’t the best news.”

Arthur leaned forward, forearms resting on his thighs.  “It really isn’t.”

“Want to talk about it?”

Yes, he did.  He poured out everything: the decision they’d made when the two of them had chosen to take over Torchwood; the reasons Arthur felt were valid to not bring a child into this universe when they would be too busy to take care of it; the indignity of running Torchwood while pregnant.  He explained that he’d long known that Merlin had wanted a family, but how Arthur had thought his mate would go along with his decision not to have it. 

His grandfather just sat there, listening and not judging.  Arthur was so grateful to have someone there who was willing to hear what he had to say, although a part of him was dreading what Jack would say in return.  After all, his grandparents had a total of sixteen children, including the five orphans they’d adopted into the family, and he was well aware that they both loved all their children.  In the back of his mind he could hear his grandfather giving a lecture about family and togetherness and how he should listen to Merlin about keeping their child…

Instead, once he’d explained everything, Jack replied, “It’s your body, Arthur.  It’s your right to do what you want.”

Alright, that was a surprise.  “You’re not going to talk me into keeping it?”

Jack shook his head.  “No, it’s not my right.  This is between you and Merlin.  But I can tell you this: that I understand what you’re saying better than you think, because I found myself in nearly the exact same circumstance when I found out I was carrying your mother.”

Arthur’s mouth fell open.  Certainly he’d heard the stories of how much of a surprise his mother’s conception had been, but this was the first time he was being told that his grandfather had almost ended his own pregnancy.  “What happened?” he asked, needing to know.

Jack shrugged.  “Ianto and I were Torchwood; we’d lived and breathed it for over six hundred years at that point.  We never even thought about a family, because we always thought we were genetically incompatible and that it would never happen.  We’d only been off Earth for little over a year when we got the news.

“At first, both Ianto and I were over the moon.  It was something we’d never thought we’d have.  But then reality hit: Torchwood had just moved to Hubworld, the terraforming hadn’t even been completed yet…and let me tell you, the groundquakes were not fun while the planet was settling.  We were in the process of getting the Tower built and we didn’t even have a proper house yet.  We both knew it would take at least a hundred years before everything was in place, and there was just so much work to do that carrying for an infant was going to be impossible.

“But Ianto…he wanted a family.  He’d lost his so long ago and he still carried that loss with him, so when I got pregnant he was the happiest I’d ever seen him.  The way he coddled me…well, you’ve heard stories.  So when I talked to him about the difficulties we’d have with all the work we’d have to do, he was devastated.  He understood, but his heart just broke.”

Arthur nodded.  These were his exact reasons for not keeping the baby.  “Why did you decide to keep her?” he asked curiously.  He couldn’t even think about his mother not being born, if only because it would have meant Arthur never having been born as well.

“It came down to the fact that the doctors we consulted kept telling us that I wouldn’t carry to term,” Jack said calmly.  “Ianto and I really weren’t compatible; I should never have gotten pregnant.  No one could explain how we conceived her, except that I’d just come off nearly seven hundred years of forced contraception and my reproductive system went into overdrive.”  He sighed.  “We realised then that Anwyn was our miracle and we couldn’t just let her go.  Back then, there weren’t the alternatives that there are now; you don’t even have to carry a child yourself, you can use an outside womb, or a transfer surrogate…if we’d decided to not have Anwyn, it would have had to have been an abortion.  Plus, as far as the doctors were concerned, I wouldn’t carry her to full term, let alone ever get pregnant again.”

Arthur couldn’t help but laugh.  “Little did they know!”

Jack joined him in laughing.  “Well, to be fair they didn’t know we’d be getting magical help centuries later, and I didn’t actually ever get pregnant again until after we’d moved back to Earth.” Then he sobered.  “So, you see…I really can understand what you’re going through.  I’m not saying you should do what Ianto and I did, because this really is your life, but I do hope you might consider some of the alternatives out there.  If you don’t want to raise a child, Ianto and I would be perfectly willing to do it.  I’m also sure your mother would offer to do the same.  You have choices, Arthur.  Please don’t forget that, because we’re not going to force you into anything.”

“I know that, Grandfather,” Arthur admitted.  “I just wish Merlin understood that.”

“I think you can believe that Ianto is having his own little heart-to-heart with him as we speak.  But I think there’s something you’re not taking into consideration about your mate, and you might want to consider this as well: Merlin hasn’t had the family experience that you have.  He hardly ever sees his father – although I’m not so sure that’s the Doctor’s fault, he just gets caught up and loses track of time, which is ironic considering he’s a Time Lord.  Sure, he’s had all of us, but we aren’t blood related to him.  His mother is gone, his maternal grandparents are gone, so all he really has is you.  He doesn’t even have a home planet, with Gallifrey having been destroyed.  So, this child will weigh more heavily with him than it will with you, because you’ve always been surrounded by family.”

“How did you and Grandtad Ianto do it?  How did you handle Mother and Torchwood?”

“Personally, I don’t think we did all that well, to be honest,” Jack answered plainly.  “There were many times that we had to be gone for long periods of time, off on Torchwood business.  Sometimes I wish I could go back and change things and have a closer relationship with her as a child, but that’s impossible.  We did have Phillip who helped out a lot, but once he was summoned to the Imperial Throneworld by the then-Emperor it was either let her go with him since she already considered him her uncle, or we hire a nanny to take over raising her, which is what we eventually did.  I do regret that.  However, at least we were able to get closer the older we all became, for which I’m grateful.”

Jack leaned forward, meeting Arthur’s eyes directly.  “But you don’t have to worry about that, son.  You have plenty of people to help you.  You don’t have to sacrifice one for the other, although if you decided to, retirement certainly is an option, and you can choose to go back at any time if it doesn’t work out.  You and Merlin have been Torchwood for longer than Ianto and I were, and we knew when it was time to leave.  You’ve done a lot of good work for the Empire, Arthur.  Maybe this is a sign that it’s time for the two of you to take back your lives from the Institute.  I know I regret sometimes that Ianto and I didn’t step aside and raise Anwyn like we should have, although she doesn’t think we did anything wrong.”

Arthur didn’t know what to say.  He was hearing things he hadn’t before, and it was shocking.  That his grandparents – two of the most loving people he knew – had seriously considered ending the pregnancy that had resulted in his own mother… 

That was when he figured out just how controlling Torchwood was.  That it took over your life, and when you’re effectively immortal it makes it worse.  Yes, he was proud of the work he’d done, but now he had to consider this choice: Torchwood or his own blood.  If he chose Torchwood, would Merlin understand?  Certainly there were other choices to be made, and he would trust his grandparents to raise any child they were given.  Jack and Ianto had settled into retired life with grace, and were surrounded by friends and family back on Earth.  Any child would only benefit from being taken into such a group of caring individuals.

“I’ll also add these two credits in,” Jack said, “there’s nothing like carrying a child.  It was so hard with Anwyn; so many things went wrong, and Torchwood was still struggling…it was no wonder Ianto had to practically force me to sit down every once in a while, for my sake and for Anwyn’s.  If I’d died…well, I would have come back, but Anwyn wouldn’t have.  After we’d decided to keep her, it was a fight to balance the three of us, and let’s face it…Torchwood is every bit of this family than any flesh and blood person.”  He chuckled.  “It was like living in a threesome without any of the benefits.  But I will never regret keeping her.  Your mother is the strongest person I know, and that includes your Grandtad.  I like to think the struggle we had in bringing her into the world gave her that strength.”

“I…think I have a lot to think about,” Arthur murmured. 

He truly did.  His grandfather had given him the benefit of his own experience, and Arthur had to digest everything that he’d learned.  Both his grandparents often joked about carrying his mother, but to know that there had been something more to it changed his perspective.

Certainly, he and Merlin could always try for another child later, when they were both ready to step down, but Arthur wasn’t sure if he was ready for that yet even if the idea was tempting.  The problem was, Arthur was too much a child of duty to just walk away, and carrying a child would only make things more difficult.

Still, Jack was right: there were many alternatives.  He was only about nine weeks along, so if they decided to go through a transplantation: either to an outside womb or a surrogate there would be plenty of time to work out the details. 

 “I think I need to talk to Merlin,” Arthur said, “and this time without the yelling.”

“That would be an excellent idea.”  Jack stood up.  “Now, I’m pretty sure you haven’t eaten anything, so let’s go and grab a bite and by that time Ianto will have sent Merlin home.”  He rested a hand on Arthur’s shoulder.  “It’ll all work out, you know.  No matter what your decision is, it will work out.”

“I’m glad to know you have that kind of faith,” Arthur said, little just a little of his uncertainty show.

His grandfather smiled.  “Of course I have faith!  I have faith in both you and Merlin to handle this, no matter what you eventually decide to do.”

And this, Arthur knew, was yet another reason why he loved his grandfather so much.