“Well, Ianto, that’s about it. Basically. Basically because I don’t feel like wiping your mind right now.”
“Course, sir. God... Jack hasn’t been by yet, sir. Are you worried? I know I am, after a tale like that.”
The Time Lord reached over, grasping the Welshman’s strong cheek between two slender fingers and giving him a good pinch and shake.
“Don’t be. Our favorite chew toy will be about, sooner or later. Have you made yourself comfortable, young man? There’s tea somewhere... I know I bought it.”
He turned to the big black leather chair, where the twins were beginning to rouse.
“You’ve done us proud, with those two... which, in essence, settles it, at least in my book. You’re hired!”
They both laughed.
“Honestly, I could whip up some eggs and sausages for you, if you like, Mister Jones. Adric and Jamie won’t need feeding for a few minutes, and that’s just enough time to make a tidy little omelet. I know I could use something... ”
The Doctor started to get up from the sofa, but Ianto shook his head.
“I already made some bangers and mash. Quality stuff, the bangers in your fridge. I’ll get some onto the china for you while you get into your cozies. Can’t have you walking around hungry in day worn trousers all afternoon, can we?”
But Theta Sigma wasn’t listening. He was looking at his two boys, one hand holding his chin below a deepening frown. Easy to get lost in such an ocean of thoughts, Ianto supposed, with his usual grim certainty. It wasn’t remotely his place to bother the man, or any man really, whose eyes held that much darkness. He really couldn’t help watching though. The alien was just so... intriguing, so...
“Fascinated are we, Ianto Jones? Well, once everyone’s gotten their nibble and kip, I don’t think Earth’ll mind too much if we leave her on her own for a few minutes...wot say?”
Ianto felt happy and sick at once. The Doctor was asking him to... he’d asked him to... Abruptly he clapped a hand into his mouth and ran to the toilet. A few seconds after, a cool, smooth hand flattened itself against his back, rubbing and patting gently, while another felt his forehead.
“We all right then, Jonesy?” said The Doctor as he helped Ianto to his feet, “... thought you looked a fair bit green in there. So, figured this would happen, from experience. Got loads of experience, me! Heh, heh. Well... you should wait a bit before you eat anything, eh? Mustn’t let ourselves get too overwhelmed, else the unpleasantness tends to creep up and bite us on the, erm... ”
Ianto coughed once, then wiped his mouth with a clean flannel.
“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”
“Oh, my pleasure. Just don’t call me sir. Any mate of Jack’s is a mate of mine. And besides, I hear you’ve been pining after a trip for some time. But first, we’ve got to get some milk in you, settle your stomach. Here we go, off to the sofa, one two three!”
Then the alien grabbed the wall, balancing the younger man as they made their way back to the den. He settled Ianto onto the couch with a last pat on the back, then traipsed off to the kitchen to round up his dinner and some milk.
“Nothing like a base to neutralize an acid, eh? Acid... reminds me of those pesky Krillitanes... poor sods.”
Ianto looked up and grinned. “Oh, could... could we meet some of those?”
“Ermmm... no. You don’t want to, trust me. We might end up as lunch. In fact you could say would. They’ve gotten a bit cheeky for the taste of Time Lord, these days. It couldn’t do for the future of the universe if they got their hands on me. Now, drink your milk, Ianto. We don’t want you chucking over Jack’s nice hardwoods. I swear... the man’s barmy over the floors, if you ask me.”
Ianto looked at the glass with wide eyes and stuck a hand out. He still felt queasy, but the milk would help. And so would getting to know the man who’d gotten it for him. It was hard to believe The Doctor was just standing there, holding his milk for him like a doting granddad.
“We all set then? Coz I really need to fetch me some eats ‘fore I end up in a face plant.”
Ianto nodded and drained the last of the milk. Then he frowned. “Doctor... didn’t you say you were going to get that plate I set for you when you got me this?” He held up the empty glass. The alien blinked at it, then came around to sit beside him, flopping down heavily on his right.
“I did say that, didn’t I? Bollocks. Must be more out of it then I thought. Why don’t we both go fetch some dinner after a short kip?”
“After a kip, then. Those boys of yours are adorable, but... Are you sure you’re all right, sir? I mean, Doctor? Jack said you’ve been looking a bit pale since you woke up.”
The Time Lord turned to smile at him then leaned back against the sofa, arms stretched out languidly over the back.
“Hah! He said that, did he? Well, I am a trifle yawnish, I’ll admit it. And I do want something to eat, but, right now, I think I should like very much to just rest here and listen to you tell me how lovely my boys are until we both fall asleep, huh? Does that sound very much like a winner to you, Ianto Jones?”
“Oh, yes sir! Yes Doctor, I mean! Promise you won’t, er, forget to take me for a spin in that lovely ship of yours, sir? I rather have been pining... I just, never had a chance to ask till now. Didn’t think it proper to ask yet.”
Ianto gulped, watching as The Doctor eyed him like a bird after a worm, and then all at once the alien’s face broke into a soft little grin.
“Course not, sweetheart. Come here and hug me. You know you want to!”
His arms were open, inviting... and the Welshman couldn’t help but give it a try, snuggling into the man’s chest, filling his nostrils with that sweet, otherworldly scent. Oh, that scent... the Time Lord smelled of Christmas cookies and banana bread, of floury kitchens and grandmothers’ aprons... the studies of old men, full of delicious smoky tobacco and cool deep woods and fragrant, spicy fruit.
“Jack will tease me... ” he whimpered, burying his face in that long ginger hair.
“Oh, come on! Let’s not think of such things, my boy! Just... let yourself drift, get some of that pent up anxiety off your shoulders, eh? That’s it... just... let it go... let it go... let it go... ” The Doctor sank back further into the sofa, drawing Ianto’s head into his lap.
“That’s it... sleep. Just... sleep. You want to sleep. Sleep will renew you, let you dream, sort this out. Oh, yes. This is what you want. You want to dream, to sleep, deeply... comfortably... and now you’re drifting... sleeping, quite deeply... preparing to dream... and it’s a long dream, isn’t it? Oh, yes... ”
Then he touched the Welshman’s forehead with his thumb, stroking just above the eyes. “... a very long dream... happy and pleasant. You like this dream. It soothes you, fills a need... and when you wake from this dream, you will be refreshed, enthused, ready for our trip. I’ll be waiting.” He sat there, caressing the man’s face for a little while, tamping down shivers because, well... the Welshman reminded him of Susan, when she’d been so small, so innocent. Deftly he removed his hand and slid out from beneath Ianto’s body, then grabbed up a throw, placing it over the man.
“I promise you’ll have your turn, Ianto Jones. But I need to skip over to 2032 Japan and drop off the Major.”
His feet carried him as far as the kitchen door. Motoko was waiting just outside, probably, if she hadn’t returned to the TARDIS to get her cyborg body out of the cold. She didn’t need to, of course, but old habits seldom died gracefully. And as he turned from that egress, he saw that there was indeed a modest plate of sausages with sour cream and scallion potatoes on the table. He tucked in, quickly cleaning the plate of all but one lonely sausage, which he stuck in his mouth as he backtracked to the den to glare at the boys, who were eyeing him.
“Mum,” they said in unison, their shady little grins dripping with infantile hunger as he came toward them.
“Aren’t you going to feed us before you drop her off? We ate this morning, but you were still asleep. The fare wasn’t as good. Sure gave Daddy a fright, though.”
That was Adric, the sandy haired one.
Then the dark-haired brother Jamie chimed in, and Adric fell silent.
“Ha! You should have seen him, running about! He thought you were dying till he reached under your shirt and found your lactation.”
“Oh yes, Da. Father has quite the filthy mind.”
Adric again. Lovely little chap, he was, with hair just like Fivey’s.
“You noticed? I’ll have to speak to him about that. Thank you for telling me, Adric m’love. Don’t know what I’d do without you two to keep us in line.”
He ruffled their still sparse hair, and both boys leaned into his touch, their joy in his maternal caresses waxing exotic with a purity that was... utterly intoxicating.
“Mmmm. My darling, precious devil children... have you shown your father you can speak yet? Or are you saving it for later, you little rascals? You’ve got something planned, I can tell! Be good boys and tell me, then. I want to be in on this.”
Two thin little heads swerved left and right, and then a sound emerged from the two headed beast that sounded suspiciously like an ultimatum.
“Uh- uh. No. Not till you feed us, Da. We’re starved.”
They were positively plaintive, learned that from Jack, they did. But Theta wasn’t moved.
“So that’s it, eh? Maybe I’ll just hold my milk for ransom.”
The Time Lord cocked his head, playfully twirling with his hair and looking around, making a point to ignore them.
“We shall shrivel and die. Daddy is punishing us for being naughty.”
But blue-eyed, black haired Jamie put a finger to Adric’s mouth and said, “... wait, Ad. He wants us to reason it out. Let us discover what it is he wants us to do. Then we shall be able to bargain much more effectively.”
One quiet chuckle from the man who gave them birth froze them in place.
“No chance of that, boys. Oh, I love you dearly, but you’re still no match for me, I’m afraid. Try again when you’re older. Besides,” he looked away slowly, a sort of manic darkness washing over his face, “... I was going to feed you anyway, you little beasts. Up we go!”
Pulling the green top over his head as he grinned at them, he scooped both boys into his arms and then eased himself down into the black chair. Each boy sought out a hard teat swollen full of milk, and soon they were busily drinking him dry. “Atta, boys! That’s the spirit! Oi... what a way to drain the keggers.”
“Indeed.” A distinctly feminine voice pervaded the chorus of muted suckling.
“Major? Fancy meeting you here, love! I thought you’d decided to wait in the TARDIS. Well, seeing as you didn’t, it’s nice to have you,” he paused, craning his neck to avoid disturbing the twins, “... though, you’ll have to find your own seat. I’m a bit busy, at the moment.”
Motoko Kusanagi laughed at the sight of him, a shirtless domestic breastfeeding his twin children, born the week before on the floor of a bomb shelter in the middle of an alien invasion.
“Have you gotten any sleep yet, Doctor? I noticed the Welshman in there sleeping particularly deeply. Please tell me you didn’t help that along. Your mental voice belies your own need for a reprieve. Has Jack been-”
“No. I thought he would be here by now... but he might just be off at a pub, or gone to Torchwood. I’m never quite sure what’s on his mind unless I’m standing next to him, but by then, you pretty much know, because he’s stroking your bum like a filthy letch, the handsy blighter.”
“Yes, but he’s your handsy blighter.”
“True. Major... let’s continue this on the uplink. I have a feeling things may turn personal, and I don’t want the children to hear.”
She nodded, crossing one leg over the other as she settled herself carefully on a kitchen chair. The Doctor had fixed it so that her new body could sit on an egg without breaking the shell, if circumstances required. She had to make sure the brilliant alien got some rest.
“As you wish, Doctor. But doesn’t this require a bit more of your mental energy? Ah. I take it you haven’t re-engaged the Imprimatur, yet. Don’t make me tie you to the bed.”
Feeding done with, he put the twins to bed behind him and rose, moving to stand closer to her chair. She rose as well, and their gazes met.
“I’m too tired to sleep. I am sorry, Motoko. I realize that everyone’s worried about me, especially after I told everyone I’d turned off the Imprimatur, but I just... I just can’t... face them again.”
He yawned, holding to the side of the wall as his sleep-deprived sense of balance threw him against it.
“I know I need to rest. But my dead won’t let me.”
Abruptly his face lost its brightness, and she could see him begin to sag against the wall.
“You’re worrying me, Doctor. You’re too weak to stand up. Why not just reactivate the Imprimatur and take this up with the TARDIS? Surely she can find some way to relieve your grief long enough for you to take an hour, process a sedative, something to help you find some respite.”
“Huh. Don’t you think I’ve tried, Motoko? She can’t, I can’t. They won’t leave me be! And now that I’ve... relived it yet again, after leaving Rose and all of this... I don’t know that I ever want to reactivate the nuclei. I have to eventually, to preserve the Time Lines... but... perhaps I won’t, just for a little while. I’ll leave in the TARDIS, and then everyone can stop worrying about me. It’ll be all right. I’m fine. I’m always fine, I’m always...I’ll be fine. I’ll be fine! You’ll see! I’m right as rain... ”
He raised one hand, preparing to give her what for, but fell asleep instead, propped up solely by the wall.
She sighed and carried him to the bedroom, where she settled him under the bedding, keeping his spine straight and covering anything that needed covering.
“Huh? Oh dear. I’m not... I don’t feel at all well. Is that you, Major? There’s this obscene ringing in my ears... ” he breathed the words, turning to his bypass system out of necessity this time, rather than convenience.
At least he was awake again.
“I apologize for... deactivating the Imprimatur, Major. That... that was... beyond foolish on my part, and it’s affecting my... immune... system. Moving me is not a good idea, at least... until we get this fever down. Stupid stress! I don’t have time for this!”
“I could say I told you so, but I’d be abusing an absent man,” she murmured, then she withdrew into the uplink to connect with the TARDIS.
If not for Her, she would be running scans on him till nightfall, trying to figure out which chemical compounds would be safe to sedate him with. “Don’t worry, Doctor.” She placed her hand over his forehead and felt his temperature. “Mm. You have a fever again. I’m going to have SalingerFan17 track down Captain Harkness and alert him. Someone’s got to have their hands free while I hold you down, or else you’re not getting any medication tonight.”
“Hah! Syrus’ Maxims! I take it you... already had the old girl whip up a batch of... uh... ”
His eyes closed briefly, and he drew a hard breath, wheezing a little.
“Oh, bollocks. It’s... mucking up my autonomic nervous systems... difficult to breathe... trying to... switch to bypass. Going to attempt sitting up, get the hearts running smoothly... ”
His fingers clutched at the sides of the bed, and he pushed upward into her waiting hands. To his failing vision, the room resembled the Titanic, dipping and swaying and turning like an Escher portrait. It hurt to focus his eyes, so he closed them again, and the Major helped him lie back.
“Eh! Absentem laedit, cum ebrio qui litigat. Something... to that effect. Oh, I really don’t feel like staying awake. Have you got that sedative, yet? I can’t wait much longer... In fact, I think I’m going to faint. Good night, Susan!”
He wilted into unconsciousness then, just as a knock came at the front door of the flat.
“Captain Harkness, It’s me, Kusanagi Motoko! We’re in here!” Kusanagi called from the bedroom, “... he’s feverish... I don’t dare leave him, either. He’s done something with the nuclei. He said it was stupid, but that doesn’t help him much now, does it? He needs monitoring... ”
All Jack could see was the bedroom door as he rushed through the flat.