Chapter 11 The colour of Christmas
It was late afternoon on Christmas Eve. The day had been rather dark and dreary due to the fierce gale force storm that was blowing across Cardiff. The rain was coming down in spades blowing sideways and everything not sufficiently heavy or bolted down became airborne with surprising ease. Earlier that day the local police had to deal with a large garden trampoline flying down one of the main streets before it ended its flight crashing into a sporting goods store. A rather fitting end for such a device, Ianto thought, as he navigated the SUV down the street. Jack was sitting beside him, singing along to the Christmas song that was playing on the radio. Orion was sitting on the backseat, joining in the song, though he didn’t know all of the lyrics.
“Daddy, was does that mean? Mantle of white. A heaven of diamonds shine down thru the night?” Jack broke of the singing and half turned to look back at their son.
“Well, mantle of white mean snow, the ground is covered with snow; and a heaven of diamonds are the stars.” He replied with a smile.
“But, there isn’t any snow and the stars are hidden by the clouds.” Jack nodded wondering where this was leading. “So why do they put it in a Christmas song?” Ianto smirked at their clever boy. Jack however tried to answer seriously.
“Well… it’s romantic, you see,” Orion gave him a blank look. “People want snow for Christmas and all that. It’s nostalgic and warm and… yeah, romantic.” Orion considered this for a moment, before asking:
“But isn’t snow supposed to be cold? And doesn’t it make traffic difficult? They said so on the news about that snowstorm in central Europe. People were freezing to death in the streets.” His eyes were wide at the mere thought of all the people of Cardiff suddenly keeling over in the middle of their Christmas shopping due to cold weather. He could just envision people’s terror of being struck by so much as a single snowflake; each one bringing instant death.
“Oh, no, sweetheart,” Ianto interjected, having seen the kid’s frightened face in the rear view mirror. “It isn’t like that. People only die if they don’t have proper shelter and warm clothes. If you dress warm and can get inside to warm up, then there is no danger. Those people that died were homeless people that didn’t have anywhere to go.”
“Yeah,” Jack joined in. “snow isn’t anything to worry about. It’s actually quite fun. You can do all sorts of things with snow.” He looked sideways at Ianto who nodded his confirmation.
“Yes, like have a snowball fight, that’s were you make balls out of snow that fit in your hand and throw them at others.” He said, glancing in the mirror.
“Yeah, and you can make a snowman and snow angels.” Jack said enthusiastically. Ianto smiled at him.
“And igloos, like the Eskimos.” He nodded.
“Like in the song?” Orion asked hesitantly. They gave him a quizzical look. “We frolic and play the Eskimo way”
“Yes, just like that.” Ianto smiled encouragingly. It wouldn’t do to have their son scared of ordinary snow; not when there were so many other more frightening things out there. Jack laughed.
“You know,” he said addressing his lover with a particular gleam in his eye “I can remember another more interesting way of frolicking in the snow and it doesn’t involve Eskimos.” He leered and winked at him. Ianto rolled his eyes, but before he could speak his attention was completely grabbed by the huge tree that had just fallen on the road directly in front of them. He screamed as he stood on the brakes. Orion screamed as well. Jack was frozen, just staring at the obstacle; silently praying that this wasn’t the moment he lost them, his family. Time seemed to slow down, as the car skidded toward the massive tree trunk. It was a tall Christmas tree torn loose from the square in front of the corporate building beside them. Its lights were still shining, Jack noticed in an abstract calm way; he felt as if he had stepped outside of him self and was observing events from without.
Then the SUV struck the tree.
They all went flying forward. The seat belt was cutting into his skin; leaving an ugly bruised burn. The airbags deployed and he and Ianto both struck their heads on them. Jacks awkward sideways position caused him to strike the airbag at a wrong angle. The last thing he heard was the snapping of his own neck. Orion was strapped into his car seat, but it wasn’t enough to hold him. Just a fraction of second before his head would have impacted with the back of Jacks seat, he teleported away.
Moments later he teleported back in again. The vehicle was stopped. Ianto groaned as he regained his senses and leaned back in his seat.
“Tad!” his son was screaming frantically. He sounded terrified and was now crying. Ianto slipped the seat belt loose and turned a bit in his seat. Jack was hanging in his seat belt at an odd angle. Ianto straightened him with a groan. It felt like a wonder that he was able to move at all. He looked back at Orion and reached out to him. The kid was out of his seat and was standing just between the two front seats. Orion clambered over the cup holder and the gear shift and into Ianto’s lap. Ianto held him tight; letting the child cry and comforting them both. ‘It could have gone so wrong’ he thought. ‘We could have died and left Jack all alone.’ The thought was unbearable. He looked over the top of Orion head at Jack. ‘Come back, Jack. Come back to us. Now. We need you.”
Amazingly the radio was still playing. The sound of Judy Garland telling them to have a merry little Christmas now was joining the sound of Orion crying and the howling of the wind.
Two hours later they arrived at Rhiannon and Johnny’s house. Jack had come back to life. The SUV had been towed. They and their suitcases and packages had been stuffed into a taxi. And here they finally were. A bit bruised and very shaken.
When Jack and Ianto tried to help with the unloading of the taxi Orion clung desperately to the both of them and no amount of coaxing could persuade him to let go. In the end Johnny ordered the three of them inside, while he and David saw to their belongings. Rhiannon immediately busied her self with tending to the hapless trio. Within moments they were placed on the living room couch and a mug of hot coffee with a dash of brandy was thrust into their shaking hands. Well, Ianto’s hands were shaking. Jack was calm outwardly, but that didn’t fool Rhiannon. She knew the signs of shock when she saw them. Jack had been the one to take charge of the situation. He had done the damage assessment, called the tow truck and Rhiannon and arranged for the taxi. She could tell the situation was just now beginning to sink in. Orion was ignoring his cocoa and just sat there. Rhiannon frowned. She had never seen the brave child like that. She didn’t like it.
“Hi, Orion. Hi, Uncle Ianto. Hi, Uncle Jack.” David and Mica entered the living room, all smiles and childish excitement. They were followed by Johnny, who set down a large gift wrapped parcel by the Christmas tree. Orion shuttered when he noticed the tree and flung his arms around Jack. Both parents looked at him in concern. Ianto leaned in and gently stroked Orion’s hair and back.
Mica cocked her head. Her mum had said they had had an accident, but they were fine now. Weren’t they? She walked over to stand by Jack’s side and put her delicate hand on Orion’s shoulder.
“Orion?” she asked. He looked up at her. “Are you okay?” her voice sounded timid and scared. She didn’t want her little cousin to be hurt. He nodded slowly, but still kept a hold of his daddy. Jack sighed.
“He’s a bit scared and shaken up right now. We all are. But he’s going to be fine. You’ll see.” He assured the girl.
“Uncle Ianto, what happened to the car? Is it totalled?” David said excitedly. He had been hanging back uncertain of how to react, but the excitement got the better of him. He looked at Ianto with such expectation that Ianto couldn’t refuse to answer.
“No, it can be repaired. Got a bit bent out of shape in front, but nothing that can’t be fixed.”
“Won’t you tell us what happened? Were you scared?” the boy asked again full of excitement. It was as if he thought they had had some big adventure on the way here; rather than a mere road accident. As Ianto told the story of their encounter with the flying Christmas tree Orion seemed to calm down and gradually loosened his grip on Jack’s shirt. He actually smiled when Mica kissed Jack’s cheek and told them she was glad they were all right. Rhiannon smiled. She knew they would be all right now. Clapping her hands together she said:
“Let’s get dinner on the table, shall we?”
The sun was barely over the horizon, when Mica and David came bouncing into the living room. Mica almost stepped on Ianto, who was sleeping closest to the door. The sleeping Orion was being held in an embrace by Jack, who had been awake for a while. He smiled at the two children and put a finger to his lips. They nodded. David looked slightly disappointed that they couldn’t get to the presents just yet, but bowed in gracefully. Mica tiptoed over and squatted by Jack’s side.
“Good morning, Uncle Jack. Sleep well?” she asked politely, thinking her mother would be proud if she knew. Jack beamed at her and she felt real happy inside all of a sudden.
“Yes, like a log.” He said. “Orion slept fine too.” He added, knowing who she really wanted to know about. The connection between the two children was a strong one. She smiled. Orion started stirring, stretched and slowly opened his eyes.
“Morning.” He mumbled and snuggled closer to Jack, who stroked the child’s hair with a grin and told him good morning in return. Ianto was still out, snoring softly.
Jack looked around at the kids and at Ianto. Coming to a decision he said:
“How about we make breakfast? Would you like some pancakes? Eggs?”
Half an hour later the sound of children’s laughter woke up the rest of the adults. Jack was entertaining the kids with outrageous stories, while cooking breakfast. David was setting the table and Orion and Mica were helping. Orion handed Ianto a mug of steaming coffee, which he took and drank without comment. He really wasn’t much of a morning person. Certainly not until he had had at least one cup of coffee. Even if the coffee had been made by Jack. Well, at least it was drinkable.
Rhiannon and Johnny came down moments later. Rhiannon was delighted to see food already on the table. Feeding everyone was usually her chore, since Johnny was pants at that sort of thing. So she really enjoyed getting a morning off and made a big deal of it. Johnny grumbled a little, knowing perfectly well that he should do more in that department, but still. He was a bloke, and a Welshman and he did other stuff that she never did. Like… like… ehm… mowing the lawn and cleaning the garage. ‘Oh wait she did that too. Okay so maybe I could help out a bit more’, he decided. ‘She would probably appreciate that. Either that or be totally freaked and accuse me of usurping her’ he chuckled to himself. ‘You never know with that woman.’ That was one of the reasons he loved her so. She kept him on his toes, and she was always there for him and the kids. He kissed her on her cheek, as he stepped past her to his chair. She sent him a what-was-that-for look, but he just shrugged and sent her a smile, as he sat down.
Having eaten breakfast it came time to open the presents. Finally! The kids all agreed. Johnny, being the supposed head of the house, assumed the role of Santa; handing out the presents. And there were a lot of them. Especially for the kids. David got the new computer game he had wanted and Johnny joked that they wouldn’t see hide nor hair of the kid, once he got started playing it. Mica’s favourite gift was a pretty princess dress with a tiara, shoes and pretty purse to go with it. Orion also got a lot of presents, but the two that stood out was a necklace with a pretty pendant from Toshiko. It was a tracking device in disguise, so they could always find him. The other gift was the large parcel Johnny had carried into the house when they arrived. It had been delivered to the Hub by a staff member from the royal household. It turned out to contain a large Lego Kingdoms medieval castle, complete with little knights and burning torches. Rhiannon thought she was going to faint when she saw the card: to Orion Harkness-Jones from Elisabeth, Queen of England.
“Harkness-Jones… I like the sound of that.” Ianto whispered in Jack’s ear. Jack turned to give him a cheeky oh-yeah-?-look, but was startled when Ianto held up a little package for Jack to unwrap. With a quizzical look he took the gift and unravelled the string and the paper. It was a jeweller’s box. He opened it. His breath caught. Rhiannon gasped and clamped her hands over her mouth, her eyes brimming with happiness. Johnny raised an eyebrow but smiled at them. Orion was sitting on the floor looking excitedly at his parents. He knew what was in the box. He had helped his Tad pick it out.
Mica looked over, but couldn’t see what was inside. So she asked:
“What’s that, Uncle Jack? What did Uncle Ianto get you?” Jack didn’t respond. He looked at the gift and at Ianto and back at the gift again. His mouth moved, but no sound came out. Ianto smiled.
“Breathe, Cariad” he whispered and Jack did so. Softly he nodded at Ianto and squeaked out a tiny, almost inaudible “Yes.” Ianto beamed at him and kissed him. Orion squealed and jumped up and threw himself into their arms, catching them unprepared. Rhiannon and Johnny laughed, David smiled and Mica looked happy, but confused. She still didn’t know what was in the box or why they were now so happy. She looked from one to the other. Catching Orion’s eye, she asked:
“Orion, what’s going on? What did he get?” he beamed at her, grabbed the box and held it so she could se the contents: two rings, made of platinum and matted white gold, with a band of red gold down the middle.
“Oh!” her face lit up in a radiant smile as she understood. ‘Oh, I love weddings!’ she thought delightedly. ‘I wonder if they’ll need a flower girl?’
That afternoon the kids were playing in Mica’s room. David was fumbling with the assault rifle on his action figure, making gunfire noises and pretending to kill Mica’s doll collection. Mica and Orion were playing dress up. Mica was dressed in a blue Disney princess dress and pink plastic play-high heeled slippers and a green and pink beaded purse, handed down from one of Rhiannon’s friends. Orion was putting on a pink gown, which Mica had worn to a wedding a few years ago.
“What are you doing?” David asked with consternation. Both Mica and Orion looked at him.
“Playing dress up.” Mica answered matter-of-factly. Her brother could be so stupid sometimes. ‘Didn’t he have eyes? Honestly!’
“But you’re a boy!” he pointed at Orion.
“So boys don’t play dress up. Not like that.” He indicated the dress Orion was now in. Orion looked down at him self. He couldn’t see what the problem was and said so.
“You’re a boy! Boys don’t wear dresses. And they don’t wear pink either!”
Orion was beginning to feel outraged. What was so wrong with wearing a dress? Or with wearing pink?
“What about that man that plays the bagpipes at the mall? He wears a skirt.” David snorted at him.
“That’s not a skirt, that’s a kilt. He’s Scottish. Scottish people wear kilts.” Orion was getting angry. What was the difference between a kilt and dress? They were both looked like skirts.
“What about the nice Mr. Mahmoudi, from the book store? He wears a dress too.”
“No he doesn’t.” David laughed derisively. “He wears a kaftan. It’s a traditional robe in other parts of the world.”
“I don’t see what the difference is. They look like dresses and skirts.” Orion said in a last ditch effort to keep his temper in check. David seemed not to notice.
“Yeah, well… maybe you’re colour blind as well, eh?” he indicated the dress Orion was wearing.
“Stop it, David!” Mica half yelled. Her brother was being mean and she didn’t like it.
“What do you mean?” Orion said through gritted teeth.
“Boys don’t wear pink. Pink is for girls. Boys wear blue.” Orion was very angry now.
“But that doesn’t make any sense. Look at Mica. She’s wearing a blue dress.” He pointed to her. She nodded in agreement. “And my Tad is wearing a pink shirt.” David was looking a bit flustered now. He hadn’t made the rules. They just were.
“Well… it’s different for girls.” He was starting to get uncomfortable. He had noticed the growl Orion was letting out and he remembered the dragon form the kid normally assumed when angry or protective. He swallowed.
“What?! Why is it different for girls?”
“I don’t know, do I?! It just is! And your Tad wears pink ‘cause he’s a poofter.” He said with dismissal, tired of the discussion. He realised his mistake instantly. Orion growled furiously at him, changed into a dragon and went straight for him. David grabbed the small chair next to him and used it to block Orion from getting at him. Orion tried again and this time David managed to fling him away; throwing him over at the radiator beneath the window. Orion landed in a heap, changed back into human form and glared at David from his position on the floor. The next moment David was dressed in pink all over. His jeans, his t-shirt, even his socks were bubble gum pink.
Both Orion and David stopped every movement and stared open-mouthed at the now pink clothes. Mica seemed to startle her self and bolted from room.
“Mum! David and Orion are fighting and now David’s turned into a girl!” she could be heard screaming as she ran down the hall.
In the living room the adults choked on their coffee and they looked at each other. Surely not..? He couldn’t? Could he?
When they reached the room they saw a most unusual sight. A very pink, but still male, David was standing over Orion, intimidating him. Orion was crying, also dressed in pink.
“Change me back!” he yelled and grabbed the smaller child’s arm.
“I don’t know how!” Orion screamed in frustration, anger and fear. He really had no idea how he had done that. He hadn’t meant to. He had just been so angry and thought his cousin should try wearing pink him self, then he would see that there was nothing wrong with that.
“What is going on in here?” Rhiannon bellowed. David jumped and let go of Orion, whose eyes were huge. He had never seen her look quite so pissed. Then he spotted his Tad standing behind his aunt in the doorway. He got up and ran over to him. His Tad picked him up and held him.
“I’m sorry, Tad. I didn’t mean to.” He blubbered with tears streaming down his cheeks.
It took Rhiannon a while to get the full story out of the kids. David got a ten minute time out and a serious scolding. Later he was also pulled aside by Ianto and given a talk about how it wasn’t nice to discriminate against people and calling them poofters. Orion also got a three minute time out by Rhiannon. Jack didn’t approve, seeing that their son needed to be comforted more than punished. But he conceded that Rhiannon had a point; that the child had attacked another child in anger. Even though he was provoked. Besides three minutes wasn’t very long.
But to Orion they felt like an eternity. He sat on the step on the stairs where Rhiannon had placed him and he felt so utterly ashamed and confused. He just couldn’t understand any of it; but he knew he had responded wrong. He shouldn’t have attacked his cousin. But how had he turned him pink? He looked at the dress he was wearing. He didn’t feel like wearing it any more. With a pout he gently yanked the shoulders of the dress down until it was resting along his middle. He couldn’t remove it completely, because Rhiannon had told him to sit and not get up. He frowned. He really wanted to be rid of the garment. He was still glaring at it, when Rhiannon came back for him.
After having apologized to David and having a change of clothes, he was allowed to join the others in the living room. He rushed over and hugged his Tad and was lifted into his lap. Seeing the unhappy look on his son’s face broke Jack’s heart a little. He had to do something. Sometimes he really hated this world and the time they lived in - and all the ridiculous labels they attached to every thing and every body. He looked over at Rhiannon and was suddenly struck with an idea.
A few minutes later he came daintily wagging down the stairs. When Orion saw him his eyes became huge and the rest of the family burst into laughter. Jack was dressed in nylons and a floral woman’s dress that was open in the back to allow for his larger frame. A shawl was tossed over his shoulders, a hand bag was dangling from his arm and he was even wearing a silly novelty straw hat with orange pom poms as decoration. Two big blobs of lipstick adorned his cheeks as well as his lips and blue eye shadow coloured his eyelids. He looked ridiculous.
He strutted around the living room as if it were a catwalk and sent a flirty kiss to Ianto, who by now was doubled over with laughter. He then bent down and picked up his son and swung around the living room with him. The child squealed with laughter.
“You’re silly, Daddy.” He said and hugged him.
“And proud of it!” Jack beamed.
A/N: A bit of angst, a whole lot of fluff and kids that will be kids. That is some Christmas.
Oh, the Christmas song was Winter Wonderland, in case you missed that.