Ianto burst through the TARDIS doors, just a stride or two ahead of Jack, breathing hard from their mad dash to safety. Depositing the last few fuzzy creatures on the floor, where they mingled with the dozens already present, the two men, smudged with volcanic ash and slightly singed around the edges, stumbled up the steps onto the raised dais housing the TARDIS controls, set in the exact centre of the console room.
Ianto disengaged the handbrake almost casually, then slumped against the railings. “Alright, beautiful, get us out of here; we’ll watch the fireworks from orbit.”
“As you wish,” the sentient ship replied, out loud, and they felt the faint vibrations beneath their feet as the ship dematerialised to reappear at a safe distance above the world they’d just left.
Jack laughed as Ianto rolled his eyes. “It’s your fault for buying me that DVD of ‘The Princess Bride’ for our last anniversary. You’re the one who got her hooked!”
Ianto gave him a weary smile. “It’s one of your favourite movies, there was no way I was missing the chance of getting it for you. It’s amazing what old-earth items you can acquire out here if you just know the right people to ask.”
“And you certainly do know the right people,” Jack agreed, a note of respect in his voice. “Or your alter-ego does anyway.” Among the criminal elements in certain sectors of space, Ianto was better known as Des Llewellyn, bodyguard and gun for hire, among other things.
“Burl is a useful sort to know, and a pretty decent guy despite his occupation. Besides, he owes Des a few favours and can get his hands on pretty much anything, given enough time.”
“Don’t I know it!” Jack grinned. “Speaking of which…” He reached into a drawer on the control console and pulled out a neatly wrapped package, tied with a red ribbon, offering it to his husband. “I’ve been meaning to give you this but I haven’t had time until now. Happy Birthday, Ianto, sorry it’s late”
Ianto’s eyebrows went up. “But my birthday’s not until tomorrow.”
“Actually, it was yesterday, but I can see why you might’ve lost track of time in all the chaos and deaths.” The two of them had spent the last ten days, and several deaths each, rescuing as many of the residents as they could from a planet that was about to suffer the kind of volcanic event that had helped to end the reign of the dinosaurs on earth.
In a century or so, life would be regaining a foothold on the wrecked world, and once the environment stabilised and became hospitable again, they’d put their temporary guests back so they could continue their evolution. In the meantime, the resident Tallans were already busy running the last batch through the TARDIS’s medical suite to be treated for burns and smoke inhalation, before herding them into the garden room, where they’d be taken care of until they could be repatriated.
Ianto eyed the offered gift, then looked down at his stained and filthy hands. “One moment while I wash my hands.” He stepped down from the dais and picked his way through the throngs of weird creatures to the small kitchenette just off the console room, where he could clean up a bit, returning a few minutes later looking slightly more presentable. “I can’t believe I missed my own birthday!” he exclaimed, joining Jack at one of the tables set around the wall of the spacious room.
“Only by a few hours. Besides, it’s probably still August 19th somewhere.”
“I suppose so. Okay, gimme!” Ianto held out his hand, grinning, and Jack put the gaily wrapped package on his open palm, leaning across to give his husband a birthday kiss and smudging Ianto’s freshly washed face with ash again. It didn’t matter; they could get thoroughly clean together in a bit.
Slowly, Ianto untied the ribbon, setting it to one side before carefully removing the colourful paper. Jack was used to the way Ianto liked to draw his present opening out for as long as possible, relishing the anticipation, but he still fidgeted with impatience.
“Why can’t you just get on with it?” It was a familiar complaint, practically part of the expected ritual.
“I’ve known snails faster than you!”
“It’s my birthday, I get to do things my way. I don’t complain when you rip the paper off your presents and drop it on the floor.”
“Oh yes you do!”
“Well you’re messy!”
“And you’re compulsively tidy.”
They grinned at each other.
Finally Ianto removed the last of the wrapping to reveal his present, and stared at it in wonder. “Oh, Jack! This is perfect, thank you!”
“You really like it?”
“Of course I do!” Ianto ran his fingers gently over the cover of the copy of ‘A Pictorial Guide to Cardiff and Surrounding Areas.’ Carefully, almost reverently, he opened the book, turning the pages slowly, lingering on pictures of familiar and much missed places. “Look! Do you remember the day we battled that squad of Myrkens and you fell off that bridge into the Taff?”
“I remember. You had to get a rope to pull me out, and you made the Myrkens help.”
“They weren’t happy about that!”
“They weren’t happy about anything, as I recall.”
After they showered and changed into clothes that weren’t full of holes caused by flying sparks, the rest of the day was spent in their quarters, reminiscing. They talked of their favourite places in and around Cardiff, of family and friends, the people they’d worked with, and their adventures with Torchwood in the early 21st century. They told each other stories from before they’d met, memorable incidents from Ianto’s childhood, tall tales of the decades Jack had spent in the Welsh Capital, and discussed how Cardiff had changed over the years.
As birthday celebrations went, it was low-key, but that was just fine with them. The last week and a half had been exhausting even for a pair of immortals, and it was good, though bittersweet, to remember their friends, making Ianto feel that in a way they were right there with them, if only in spirit.
Later, they’d find a planet where they could party in style, with good food, alcoholic drinks, and maybe even dancing, but for the moment all they needed was each other and their memories. That was celebration enough.