Toshiko pouted, her bottom lip sticking out and her brow furrowed as she studied the paneling. Then, without warning, she picked up the toy and flung it against the far wall.
Ianto sighed and placed the peanut butter back on the counter.
“What did I say about throwing things?” he sighed, resisting the urge to run his fingers through his hair. He’d somehow managed to get a smear of jam on his thumb, and there was no way that would end well.
“Aim for the head,” Tosh repeated dutifully. If hadn’t known better, he would have thought she’d said it innocently. But she was much smarter than the baby fat and pigtails would imply, and the way her lips tugged upwards was more indicative of horns than a halo.
“No,” he said, as patiently as he could. “The other thing. For when Mickey isn’t in the room.”
“If I can’t figure out how to make it do what I want it to, ask for help,” she recited with a put-upon sigh. “Don’t throw it.”
“So why did you throw it?” he asked. Tosh’s pout deepened.
“Because I knew what to do, I just couldn’t do it!” she cried.
“And that prevents you from asking for help, does it?” Ianto crouched down and retrieved the toy. He leaned against the counter next to Tosh- one of her pink-laced trainers brushed against his trousers as she swung her legs idly back and forth. “Now, what were you trying to do?”
She twisted the toy until it was upside down in his hands, and jabbed at the ‘insert battery here’ sign. “I need to get inside.”
“Why for?” Ianto asked.
“I need the voice box. It’s not making the right sound, but it’s close. Besides, I can probably change the sound if I can just find it,” she explained.
“The right sound for what?” he asked, curious.
“It’s a surprise,” Tosh sad shiftily. He raised an eyebrow. She squirmed uncomfortably.
“It’s half for you,” she muttered. “I’m not telling.”
“Do your parents know you’re taking apart your toys for this surprise?” he asked.
“Of course,” she protested. “They said it was alright as long as I was sure I was finished with them first before I dem-demon- demolished them.”
She beamed, obviously trying to cover up for the fact that she’d stuttered over the unfamiliar word. Although why the word demolished should be unfamiliar to Tosh at this point was something of a mystery to him.
“They even let me have the box,” she insisted, pointing to the new refrigerator. “And that’s the most important part.”
Ah. He remembered hearing about that vaguely not too long ago. Of course, at about the same time he’d come down with an alien virus that rewired his pain and pleasure centers and gave him synesthesia. And a tail. Hence his current position as the babysitter; he couldn’t walk very straight at moment, although whether that was due to the tail or the sex was anyone’s guess and therefore the subject of more contemplation than he was really comfortable with.
“So this is going in the box then?” he asked.
“It’s the alarm, so people know you’re coming,” she explained, before realizing that she might be giving too much of the surprise away and clamping her mouth shut.
He pressed down on the button- the toy made a very high pitched sort of vwoorp-vwoorp-vwoorp, vwoorp-vwoorp-vwoorp sound that made his teeth grind together.
“Well, people will certainly run away when they hear that,” he commented.
“It’ll be slower,” Tosh assured him. “Slower noises are less annoying. Can you get it open?”
“Well,” he said. “I think your main problem is that you need a screwdriver.”
“No I don’t,” Tosh insisted. “I need to get the screws out.”
“Well, if you don’t use a screwdriver, what are you going to use?”
Tosh blushed, and then sheepishly drew out a fork from behind her. One of the tines was bent. “Well, I was trying with this…”
“And was that working?”
“No.” She pouted again.
“Which brings us back to my original question: Why don’t you just ask for help?”
“Because it’s a surprise,” Tosh repeated, tears of frustration springing into her brown eyes. “It’s a secret surprise. No one’s supposed to know but me!”
She was, Ianto noted with some panic, gearing up for one of her earth-shattering tantrums. “It’s okay, Tosh. You don’t have to do this alone, I’m not going to tell any-”
“But you know!” She cried. Oh dear Lord, it was times like these that he wished she hadn’t inherited Gwen’s stubbornness and Rhys’ lungs. “You aren’t supposed to know! It’s supposed to be just me!”
The sound of the invisible lift lowering interrupted her before she could really get started; Tosh pushed herself off the counter and peered out the doorway.
“It’s Tad!” she cried, looking expectantly up at him.
“Come on then,” he said, relieved. He took her hand and did his best to keep up with her as she bounded towards Rhys.
“Hey!” he greeted her. “How’s my favorite little girl?”
Tosh giggled, and let him swing her around in his arms in reply. Rhys’s eyes met his over the top of her head, and Ianto sent him a silent ‘Thank you, your timing is impeccable’ that he knew would be understood.
“So how was school? You still on the coral kick, yeah?”
“Yup,” she replied. “It’s really cool, did you know that..?”
As she chattered away, Rhys began to slowly but surely wend his way towards the tourist office. He wasn’t comfortable having her in the Hub, and to be completely honest Ianto didn’t blame him one bit. Torchwood and kids didn’t mix, and the fact that Tosh even existed was probably due more to the fact that her mother was a statistical anomaly of epic proportions than anything else. It was best not to press their luck, all things being equal.
Once they actually entered the tourist office, Rhys relaxed considerably, letting Tosh down among the pamphlets and post cards. More out of force of habit than anything else, Ianto took a seat, managed to wince only slightly as he was reminded why he was off active duty.
“Thanks for picking her up,” Rhys said.
“No problem. Once I’d fed Myfanwy and the Weevils, there wasn’t much else to do,” Ianto assured him.
Rhys’ mouth quirked into an ironic smile. “Jack doesn’t have you sorting through venues and catering services?”
“Nope. He wants to do the whole partnership ceremony himself. Granted, I’ll probably end up sorting out whatever mess he managed to make the day before anyway.”
“Couldn’t get a thing done without you, couldn’t he?” Rhys said with a roll of his eyes.
“And he knows it,” Ianto replied, holding up his hand to demonstrate. The gold band glinted even in the dim light of the dingy reception area.
“I know the feeling,” Rhys sympathized. They sat together in companionable silence for a while, watching Tosh poke around the knick-knacks with her characteristic curiosity.
“So, have you and Jack considered kids?” Rhys asked.
Mentally, Ianto winced. He was hoping to avoid this conversation, at least until right before the ceremony when his sister pounced on him. “Yes. And no.”
“Well, that clears that right up,” Rhys replied.
“We’ve considered it. And it’s not going to happen.”
And they had, too. They really had. It wasn’t like they didn’t have options for the actual act of getting a child. The legal and fiscal hurdles to adoption could easily be surpassed with Torchwood influence- the same with surrogacy. Jack was, with the introduction of certain hormones, theoretically capable of carrying a child to term. There was an alien device in the vaults which could combine DNA in any which way they like into a life form.
It had been a strangely exhilarating conversation, before reality intruded, not in the least because Jack had gotten as desperately into it as he did.
But, when you got right down to it, it wasn’t all that viable. The alien device required vast amounts of power beyond what they could safely generate. Pregnancy would mean pulling Jack from active duty, and there would be no telling how his immortality would affect the child. And as for the rest…
They were Torchwood. Beyond the government, above the police, and more important than their relationship- that was how it had to be. Having a child would change that, and when it came down to a choice between their child and the world, it was easier to do the right thing when the child in question was nonexistent.
“Why not?” Rhys asked.
“I’m too old,” Ianto quipped. “Far, far too old to be thinking about children.”
“You’re the same age I was when Gwen had Tosh,” Rhys pointed out unnecessarily. Ianto’s memory of that event was very painfully clear, thank you very much.
“Yeah, but I’m about eighty in Torchwood years."
“Tad,” Tosh called suddenly. “I left a toy in the kitchen.”
“I’ll go-” Ianto offered, seizing the chance to leave the conversation before it got even more depressing. Unfortunately, his back took that moment to seize as well.
“I’ve got it,” Rhys assured him, already heading back for the Hub. “You’ve got Tosh.”
“It’s on the counter,” Ianto told him, buzzing him through. “And thanks.”
No sooner had the door swung shut behind him than Tosh skipped over to his desk, plunking a can of blue paint down on the surface. Ianto had hidden it behind some truly disgusting posters, and it had remained there from his days of trying to make the place look serviceable.
“Can I have this?” she asked sweetly.
“Is this for your project as well?” Ianto asked unthinkingly. Tosh’s smile disappeared, to be replaced by a fierce glare.
“Okay, fine,” he relented, throwing his hands up in the air. “Just make sure you check with your Tad first alright?”
“Okay,” she chirped, suddenly all sweetness again.
Jack took that moment to sweep into the Hub, greatcoat flapping behind him like a cape. “Toshiko, my lovely, what are you up to today?”
“It’s a secret,” Tosh answered.
“And we’re very not supposed to ask,” Ianto supplemented pointedly. From behind him, Gwen appeared, having just enough time to roll her eyes tiredly at his comment before Tosh ran up to hug her enthusiastically.
Jack leaned over the desk and placed a kiss on his forehead. “And how about you? Any chance that your itinerary today included coffee?”
“Not really, I’m afraid,” Ianto said apologetically. “Although there are some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with the crusts cut off if you’re in the mood.”
“It’s not the same,” Jack moaned with a dramatic sigh. “Need help getting up?”
“As a matter of fact, yes,” Ianto answered, groaned as Jack slung his arm across his back and helped him into the standing position. “However did you guess?”
“You haven’t made the coffee yet,” Jack quipped.
“You’re only marrying me for my coffee,” Ianto groused.
Jack snorted. “Of course I’m not; your neckties are a significant factor as well. And your vowels.”
Ianto rolled his eyes.
“Not to mention the fact that you have a wonderfully expressive face.”
“Mickey and Martha not home?”
“They’ve got clean up. It wasn’t anything big; just some tourists with a faulty navicomputer, but we’ve still got some villagers to retcon,” Jack replied.
Rhys emerged from within the Hub, carrying the toy which had so frustrated his daughter earlier. He handed it back to her, and as he and Gwen kissed, she slipped it into her knapsack, on top of the can of paint. Ianto frowned.
“Second thoughts?” Jack whispered.
“About what?” Ianto asked.
“The whole partnership thing,” Jack said. “We don’t have to go through with it if you don’t want to.”
“Yes we do, Gwen would kill us otherwise,” Ianto muttered absently. “Why, are you having second thoughts?”
“Not about wanting it, no,” Jack replied distantly, staring at Gwen with glazed eyes as she balanced Tosh on her hip and Rhys gently took the girl’s knapsack. “But…”
“I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to be having kids whether we have the ceremony or not,” Ianto said bluntly. Jack winced. “I’m not going to get normal, Jack, and when you get right down to it, I don’t think I could handle normality.”
“You’re still giving up a lot,” Jack said quietly.
“I’m getting a lot, too.”
And he was, too. And if he didn’t have any children, than so what? He had Torchwood, he had Jack, he had Myfanwy, he had Luke Smith angling for his old desk job, and he even had a none-too-small part of the force of nature known as Toshiko Cooper-Williams. He had a legacy; it was just a nontraditional one.
“We’re going out for ice cream,” Gwen called out. “Somebody has a craving for banana splits. Are you two coming?”
“I don’t know, are you feeling up to a walk across the Plass?” Jack asked.
“I’ll get my coat,” Ianto replied.
Tosh wriggled out of her mother’s grasp and shimmed into her backpack, which made a clunking sound as it bumped against her back.
“Let’s go,” she cried, smiling brightly.
She stopped when Ianto informed Rhys about the contraband she had secreted away over their sundaes.