“I’ve been thinking,” Jack said over breakfast one day towards the end of November.
“Oooh, that sounds dangerous!” Ianto said, staring across the table, wide-eyed with horror, making their kids giggle. “Should we be worried?”
“What is this, pick on daddy day?” Jack pouted at his family. “I do have some good ideas you know. Whose idea was this place?” He gestured around at their spacious home, with its surrounding roof garden.
“Alright, yes,” Ianto agreed. “You do on occasion have some excellent ideas, but you have to admit you’ve had your share of disastrous ones as well, like when you tried to invent the first submersible SUV.” It had sunk without trace in the bay on its first test run and been a nightmare to retrieve, not nearly as waterproof as Jack had expected.
Jack shrugged, unconcerned. “Nobody’s perfect, present company excepted. Besides, if no one ever made mistakes we’d never have the chance to learn from them, would we?”
“That’s true, I suppose,” Ianto agreed. “Alright then, enlighten us; what brilliant thought did you have this time?”
“Well, you know how Her Majesty sends out special greetings cards at Christmas? I thought this year maybe we should do the same!”
“Jack, we already send out Christmas cards every year; I write them, and you add your name, remember? I know you’ll sign just about anything I put in front of you, but I was under the impression you at least took the time to look at what you were signing first.”
“Of course I do!” Jack gave a quite creditable eyeroll; he’d learned it from a master of the art. “But we always use store bought cards; Lizzie gets a family picture taken and makes that into cards so why don’t we do the same? A family portrait Christmas card; you, me, the kids and the Fluffs!”
“Yes!” the twins squealed in unison, already loving the idea.
“Can we, Taddy?” Jenna begged.
“It would be so cool!” her brother agreed.
Dreading the idea of trying to get everyone to cooperate, Ianto racked his brain for a reason to say no, but found he couldn’t come up with one; now that Torchwood was out in the open, and the existence of aliens, Fluffs included, was common knowledge, there was no reason to keep the friendly creatures a secret. Nosy was already a familiar sight around Cardiff; its picture was all over the internet, in photos and videos taken by both locals and tourists, and there was even an official ‘make your own Fluff’ knitting pattern available, designed by Jack, and sold to raise money for a children’s charity.
“Well, if we can persuade the kids and their Fluffs to keep still long enough without having to nail them in place, I guess we could give it a try,” he finally said, his mind already conjuring visions of all the ways Jack’s latest brainwave could go off the rails.
The twins were nine and would probably behave, more or less, since they both liked the idea. Meriel was seventeen so she wouldn’t be a problem, but Rhosyn was only three and like the Duracell bunny, she never stopped until she completely ran out of steam, at which point she’d fall asleep wherever she happened to be, her devoted Flufflet in attendance to make sure nobody tripped over her.
“Yay!” Jack beamed across the breakfast table at his husband. “It’ll be perfect, you’ll see! I’ll hire a photographer, and we’ll have the picture taken right here in out own home, in front of the Christmas tree, to give it a properly festive look.”
Ianto could see a problem with that idea right away. “Jack, we don’t even have a tree yet!”
“We will soon,” Jack promised. “I’ll get one as soon as they’re on sale. A good, big one we can all help to decorate. It’ll be fun!”
Less than a week later, the tree had been purchased, the whole family, including the Fluffs, had helped decorate it, along with the rest of the flat, and Jack had a photographer lined up. He’d chosen a man who was apparently excellent with kids and animals, at least according to all the glowing reviews he and Ianto had read online.
When the day of the photoshoot arrived, Jack let the photographer in while Ianto was doing Rhosyn’s hair, trying to tame her messy curls with a big red bow. Rosie had her taddy’s cute button nose, but unfortunately had inherited her daddy’s impatience, along with his temper. She didn’t want her hair done, she wanted to play chase with Daisy, her Flufflet, a frizzy green creature with pink and white spots.
“No, Taddy!” she protested, squirming like an eel, and trying to pull away until Nosy slithered up and hummed sternly at her. Rosie’s bottom lip jutted out in a very Jack-like pout, but at least she stopped struggling.
“It’s only for a little while, Princess,” Ianto soothed her calmly. “Then you and Daisy can play all you want. You don’t want to be the only one not in our special family picture, do you?”
Still pouting, Rosie shook her head. “No.”
Max, the photographer, looked a bit nervous, as well he might; dogs and cats were one thing, but he already had three inquisitive Flufflets slinking around him, studying the equipment he was settling up, and when Nosy slithered over to join them, he abandoned his camera tripod and took several very hurried steps backwards. Five and a half metres of furry alien could be a bit intimidating if you weren’t used to it.
All Nosy did, however, was offer a genial hum before chivvying its offspring to their places with the rest of the Harkness-Jones clan, making sure they coiled themselves neatly in front of their respective charges. It spent several minutes trying to get Daisy’s wayward fluff under a modicum of control but gave up with an exasperated sigh as Ianto propelled Rosie into place.
“Are we ready, boys and girls and Fluffs?” Jack asked, hustling into place behind the kids.
“Almost.” Ianto joined him, pulling out a comb from somewhere to tidy his husband’s hair. Meriel sat beside Jack and Nosy coiled up beside Ianto.
“Okay,” said Max. “Everybody smile for the camera!”
“Smile, Gareth,” Ianto said. “That doesn’t mean cross your eyes and stick your tongue out! I thought you wanted to do this. Think of the cookies and hot chocolate you’ll all be getting after we’re done.” At this point in proceedings, he was not above resorting to bribery. Whatever it took to get this photo before Rosie got bored and ran off; it had been difficult enough to corral her in the first place.
“Really?” A wide smile broke out across Gareth’s face as at the same time, Nosy surreptitiously tickled Rhosyn with the tip of its tail, making her giggle.
The camera flashed several times, then positions were changed, and more photos were taken. Rosie pulled the bow from her hair and tried to put it on Daisy, but Ianto merely shrugged; trying to put it back in place would only cause more problems.
Surely out of all the photos taken today there had to be one that would be suitable for the family Christmas card, and if not, at least there would be pictures of them all together, something he and Jack could keep for the rest of their long lives as a reminder of this chaotic but happy day.