Cardiff in the middle of winter was utterly dismal, cold, dreary, and above all, wet. Ianto hurried into the Tourist Office, briefly shaking his umbrella outside to get the worst of the water off it before closing and locking the door to keep the pouring rain out. He loved his home city, most of the time, but when the weather was at its worst, he often found himself wishing he lived somewhere warmer and drier. It had been raining nonstop for almost two weeks and not only was he getting to the point where he could barely remember what the sun looked like, he was starting to worry that he might wind up shrinking from the constant drenchings he was receiving.
With a heartfelt sigh of relief at being back indoors again, he pressed the big red button behind the counter and gloomily trudged down the secret passage to the lift, praying that the Rift would stay quiet so he wouldn’t have to venture out into the deluge again before he even had the chance to dry out and warm up.
It was bad enough that he’d already had to brave the horrible weather because they were out of milk; it was about time the rest of the team started taking some responsibility for keeping the kitchen stocked with essentials. At the very least, whoever used the last of the milk yesterday should have told him right away, instead of leaving him to find out for himself first thing in the morning when he’d opened the fridge. If he’d known, he could have picked some up on his way back from the Rift retrieval the previous evening instead of having to make a special early morning trip just so he and Jack had milk for their breakfast cereal. Now his trouser legs would probably remain disgustingly damp and clammy for hours.
When he reached the main Hub, Ianto dropped his umbrella in the bucket he’d set up just inside the cog door to avoid wet brollies leaving puddles everywhere. Trudging to what passed for the kitchen, he put the fresh four-pint container of milk in the fridge, then left his soaking wet coat hanging from the handrail of the spiral staircase, with newspapers spread below it to soak up the stream of water pouring off it.
Grabbing a towel, he dried his face and hands, and got the worst out of his hair. That would have to do; it was time to make the first round of coffee for the day. At least a hot drink would warm him up, both inside and out. Breakfast would have to wait until after he fed the various residents in the cells; his schedule for the day was completely disrupted and it wasn’t even eight o’clock in the morning yet. It was lucky there were a few corner stores that opened early, otherwise they still wouldn’t have any milk.
Arriving in Jack’s office a short while later with two steaming mugs, Ianto was surprised to see how cheerful his lover looked. “What’s put you in such a good mood?” he asked grumpily, wondering if he should have sent Jack out instead of going himself; that would have wiped the smile off his face! “Haven’t you seen the weather outside?”
“Still raining, is it?”
Ianto huffed. “Understatement of the decade; it’s coming down even harder than it was last night. If this keeps up much longer, the whole of Cardiff is either going to drown or be washed out to sea.” He set Jack’s mug in front of him, perched on the corner of the desk, and sipped carefully at his own drink. It was still a bit too hot, so he cradled the mug in both hands, feeling his fingers slowly thawing out and wishing his knees would do the same. They felt like blocks of ice, and his feet were even worse. Maybe he should have worn his wellies so he could have put dry shoes on when he got in. His socks were uncomfortable damp. “It’s so wet out there my feet are probably going mouldy.”
Instead of expressing sympathy, Jack’s smile widened. “Perfect timing for my surprise then.” Opening his desk drawer, he pulled out an envelope and held it out to Ianto.
“Why don’t you open it and see?” Jack suggested, looking insufferably pleased with himself.
Ianto eyed the other man suspiciously. “What are you up to?” It wasn’t that he didn’t trust his lover, but he’d learned to be cautious whenever Jack used the word ‘surprise’. Nevertheless, his curiosity was piqued. Setting his mug down, he took the envelope and turned it over. It wasn’t sealed, so he opened it and peered inside, frowning, then pulled out the contents. His eyes widened. “Airline tickets?”
“Yep! And there’s more!” Ianto wouldn’t have thought Jack’s smile could get any wider, but somehow it did. “Remember last year when I got the SUV stuck in the mud and we had to call a tow truck to get us out?”
“As if I could ever forget.” That had been such a miserable experience it would have engraved itself indelibly on anyone’s memory, never mind someone with near total recall.
“Remember what we talked about while we were waiting to be rescued, playing Anywhere But Here?”
“Is this about what you imagined?” Jack handed over a holiday brochure, open to a page showing a picture of a tropical beach, cloudless blue sky overhead, a wide expanse of pure white sand leading down to an impossibly vivid turquoise sea, and a cabana nestled among palm trees. It looked glorious, the perfect vacation destination, and Ianto stared longingly at it, unwilling to tear his eyes away from the idyllic scene. This couldn’t possibly mean what he thought it did, could it? There was only one way to find out; he’d have to ask.
“Oh Jack, you didn’t!” It wasn’t the most eloquent Ianto had ever been, but thankfully Jack was fluent in Ianto-ese.
“Oh, but I did! We fly out the day after tomorrow, so you’ll have just enough time to buy sunscreen and pack your suitcase for two weeks in the su…”
Jack never got to finish his sentence, because he was too busy being kissed into the middle of next week by an overjoyed Ianto.
A couple of days later, after an uneventful flight, travelling first class no less, Jack and Ianto arrived at their holiday home and dumped their suitcases in the bedroom. Not wanting to waste a second of their holiday, they quickly changed into shorts, slathered waterproof sunscreen over every millimetre of exposed skin, before stepping out onto the covered veranda. For a few moments they stood in silence, just soaking in the view of white sand leading down to where the sea lapped gently against the shore. It was almost identical to what they’d seen pictured in the brochure.
This was a very exclusive resort, with the cabanas set far apart, so their nearest neighbours weren’t even visible, far along the beach and hidden by palm trees and other tropical vegetation. It felt like there wasn’t another living soul for miles; they were all by themselves in a tropical paradise.
Back home in Cardiff it was the middle of a long and miserable winter, but here it was full summer, and not the Welsh version of summer either. The sky was an endless expanse of flawless cobalt blue, and the sun shone down hotly, warming the sand and turning the impossibly turquoise sea to shimmering silver. Ianto was thankful for his sunglasses; he would have been dazzled without them, his eyes unaccustomed to so much sun. A warm breeze played with their hair, and the air smelled spicy and clean, a far cry from the exhaust fumes, ozone, and decaying seaweed of Mermaid Quay and the bay area.
Drawn irresistibly by the sea, Ianto made his way down the steps to the sand, feeling it hot and gritty beneath his bare feet as he wandered down to the water’s edge, where he stood letting the sun warmed wavelets lap over his toes. Surely he must be dreaming; he’d almost forgotten what it was like to go outside without bundling up in multiple layers and carrying an umbrella.
“Like it?” Jack asked, coming to stand beside him and digging his bare toes into the wet sand.
Ianto turned towards his lover, his smile as bright as the sun. “It’s perfect, Jack!”
“We even have sun loungers.” Jack gestured off to one side, where the beach chairs stood beneath an awning in the shade created by the palm trees, low tables set beside them to hold the essentials of beach life, such as cool drinks, fresh fruit, suntan lotion, and a good book.
“It’s exactly what I pictured. How did you find it?”
“With a lot of research and some help from Tosh; your dream holiday sounded so good when you described it that I wanted to make it a reality. So, what d’you want to do first?”
There was no need for Ianto to think about his answer to that question. “Swim, definitely.” He turned and padded back up the beach towards the cabana, with Jack hurrying after him.
“Um, Ianto? I don’t know if you noticed but the ocean’s the other way!”
“I know that, twpsyn,” Ianto laughed. “I have to take off my sunglasses, change into my swimming trunks, and get a towel!”
“Who needs trunks? There’s no one else around, and you won’t need a towel either, not in this heat. You’ll air dry as soon as you come out of the water.”
“I’m not swimming naked,” Ianto insisted. “There might be fish in the water, and I don’t want them nibbling at sensitive places.”
Jack just laughed. “Suit yourself, but I’ll be in the water before you!” Stopping in the middle of the beach, Jack started to pull off his shorts, balancing awkwardly on one leg.
Ianto hesitated, then dropped his sunglasses on the edge of the veranda and pulled his own shorts off. “Oh, what the hell.” Seconds later, he was streaking past Jack, who was having trouble disentangling himself from his underwear, and plunging into the water, wading out until it came up to his chest.
“Hey! I thought you said you wouldn’t go in naked!” Jack kicked his underwear off at last, leaving everything right where it fell on the sand, and hurried after his lover.
“Changed my mind!” Ianto shouted back at him before diving beneath the surface. He came up again some distance further out, shaking water from his hair, and turned to float on his back, eyes closed against the bright sunlight. “This is the life!” Already rainy Cardiff was becoming nothing more than a distant memory.
Half an hour later, coming out of the sea after their swim, Jack was proved right; by the time they reached the clothes they’d shed earlier they were already mostly dry. They’d worked up a bit of an appetite, splashing about in the water, so pulling their shorts back on, they went into the cabana’s kitchen, finding it freshly stocked with a wide variety of foods and drinks. There was even a dedicated resort phone line that allowed them to order anything they needed and have it delivered right to their door to save them wasting time shopping for everyday essentials.
Ianto selected a bottle of chilled fruit juice from the fridge and filled two tall glasses, adding plenty of ice, while Jack carved a pineapple from the fruit basket on the kitchen counter, piling the cubes into a large dish and adding chunks of mango, dried dates, and slices of star fruit to make a light and refreshing fruit salad for their lunch.
“Sorry, I know I’m supposed to be your slave, feeding you grapes, but there don’t seem to be any,” he told Ianto. “Probably the wrong climate for growing them.”
“Doesn’t matter, I’m not picky; any fruit will do, and that looks really good.” Ianto grabbed a couple of forks out of the cutlery drawer, sticking them in the dish with the fruit. “Where are we eating?”
“The sun loungers?”
Lazing in the shade, they sipped their drinks, occasionally spearing a piece of fruit to eat. It was a pleasure not having to rush their meal for once, and they made the most of it, savouring every morsel.
“I was thinking,” Jack started, breaking the comfortable silence that had fallen between them as they gradually unwound.
“Don’t strain yourself.”
“Funny. No, the resort has several five-star restaurants; I thought we could go to one of them for dinner tonight. Island cooking, music and dancing, how does that sound?”
“Mmmm, why not? Might as well sample everything this place has to offer. I don’t want to spend half our vacation cooking when I could be kicking back and enjoying the good life.”
“My thoughts exactly,” Jack agreed. “I think I’ll take a siesta after lunch.” He speared one of the last bits of pineapple from the bottom of the bowl; the fresh fruit was so much better than the tinned variety.
Ianto snagged the last piece of mango. “Think I’ll join you, after I put everything in the dishwasher.
“Leave it; it’s not going anywhere.”
“It’ll attract pests, Jack! I don’t want flies and bugs buzzing around me. Besides, I left the sun cream inside and we’ll probably need it.”
“Fine, suit yourself!” Popping the last date in his mouth, Jack flaked out on his lounger and closed his eyes.
Ianto gathered up their empty dish and glasses, carrying them into the cabana’s kitchen where he loaded them into the dishwasher; it only took a couple of minutes. He freshened up a bit, got out clean glasses and poured more juice, grabbed the sunscreen and a book, then went back to join Jack and drowse the hottest part of the day away.
Late in the afternoon, when it was a bit cooler, they went for a walk down the beach, paddling through the shallows, finding shells and the occasional sea bean. It was so different from what they’d left behind. The beaches around Cardiff were often strewn with litter left by holidaymakers, driftwood and rubbish collected amid the tangled masses of rotting seaweed, and some stretches of the coastline were more pebbles than sand.
“I keep half expecting Ursula Andress to come up out of the sea with a bag of shells,” Ianto chuckled, referring to the famous scene in Doctor No.
“She’d better not.” Jack caught Ianto by the hand and pulled him close. “Because I’m not sharing you with anyone.”
Ianto smiled, kissing Jack lightly on the lips. “I can live with that; I have no intention of sharing you either.” Arms loosely around each other’s waists, they ambled back along the beach and went inside their cabana to test out the bed. The sun was setting by the time they came up for air.
A shared shower later, they dried each other off and dressed in short-sleeved cotton shirts and casual slacks, then drove their electric golf cart, the main form of transportation on the island, into the centre of the resort, where the shops, night clubs, and restaurants were, choosing one with tables set outside and much of the food being cooked in the open air. Most of the other restaurants were the sort of places they could find back in Cardiff, serving steaks, and chicken, and other familiar foods for the less adventurous tourists.
Seated at a table eating freshly caught fish that had been baked over hot coals, Ianto wondered how anyone could come all this way to an island paradise and demand fish and chips, kebabs, or pizza. Anyone doing that was cheating themselves out of one of the best things about travel, trying different delicious foods.
After they finished eating, they made their way to a nearby open-air bar, where they sipped fruit laden cocktails, and danced the night away to the music provided by a band on the stage at the opposite side of the dance floor from the bar. They didn’t get back to their holiday home until the early hours, falling onto the bed, more than a little tipsy, and laughing as they tried to undress each other.
So their idyllic holiday continued, with days spent swimming, going for walks, lounging in the shade reading, or making full use of the king-size bed. They tried their hands at snorkelling and spear fishing, and even ventured further inland on a day trip to visit spectacular waterfalls and see the native wildlife.
In the evenings they went out to dinner, alternating between the two restaurants that served predominantly local cuisine, sometimes going to a bar for drinks and dancing, but more often returning to the privacy of their stretch of beach, swimming in the moonlight and lying on the sand, looking up at a night sky full of more stars than Ianto had ever seen.
All too soon, they were nearing the end on their second week, and Ianto struggled not to think about how they’d soon be leaving all this beautiful sunshine behind in order to return to the cold Welsh winter.
“I wish we could stay here forever,” he mumbled against Jack’s shoulder as they lay sprawled across the huge bed basking in the afterglow. Outside, the moon was almost full, riding high in the sky, shining through the open French doors of their bedroom to bathe them in its light. It was so beautiful it almost hurt, especially knowing they only had two more nights after this one. “Do you think we could move the Rift here so we wouldn’t have to go home?”
Jack chuckled softly. “Nice thought, but would you really want to inflict that kind of weirdness on the people here?”
Ianto sighed. “I suppose not, it wouldn’t be fair to them. At least Cardiff is used to it.”
“There’s always next year; we could book the same two weeks, so no matter how miserable the weather gets we’d know we have this to look forward to.”
“Could we though? Leaving the team to cope without us…” It surprised Ianto to realise he’d barely spared a thought for the others, back in rainy Cardiff.
“So we recruit a couple more people when we get back. Mickey and Andy have settled in well, so if we get a couple more field agents, and maybe another medic to share Owen’s workload, we should all be able to take regular vacations. Now, enough talk about work; let’s just enjoy the rest of our time here.” He patted Ianto’s bare arse. “I’m going to take a dip in the moonlight; care to join me?”
“Why not?” Smiling, Ianto followed Jack down the beach and into the water.
It was nearly dawn before they fell back into bed to sleep for a few hours.
The last two days flew by much too fast for them. Almost before they knew it, they were packing their suitcases again, checking everywhere to make sure they hadn’t forgotten anything, and climbing into a taxi for the ride back to the airport at the other end of the island. Even Jack was a bit subdued on the long flight home.
It was late evening when they landed in Cardiff, dark and with a chilly wind blowing.
“Can’t say I missed this!” Ianto pulled his jacket around him, shivering, as they made for the taxi rank, loading their luggage into the first one they came to and climbing into the back seat. The heated interior was more than welcome, and they rubbed their hands together trying to get the feeling back into cold fingers. “The worst part of spending two weeks in the sun is having to adjust to cold, miserable winter weather again.”
“I’ll be glad to be reunited with my coat,” Jack admitted. “We’re really not dressed for Wales in winter.”
The taxi dropped them off at the Plas, and they took the invisible lift down into the cavernous, draughty main Hub. All was silent except for the background hum of the computers in night mode. Checking the time, they found it was just after midnight.
“Who’s on duty tonight?” Jack asked quietly, knowing that Ianto had the schedule memorised, not surprising since he was the one who set it.
“Owen; he’s probably already asleep since he can’t go to the pub when he’s on call.”
“Good. We can just creep down to our quarters, take a shower to warm up, and get to bed. Everything else can wait until morning.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Ianto agreed. They started towards Jack’s office and the manhole leading down to their shared quarters, but only got to the bottom of the steps before a quiet but excited humming sound came from behind them. Turning around, they found themselves subjected to a very enthusiastic welcome home from Nosy, who was slithering round and round them so fast it was almost tying itself in a knot.
“Good to see you too, Nosy,” Jack smiled, leaning down to pet the Fluff. Ianto joined in, ruffling the long, silky green fur, practically burying his hands in the soft warmth.
When things calmed down a bit, the two men continued on their way, with the Fluff trailing behind them. Normally, it slept in the night duty room, but they decided to let it spend the night in their quarters, as long as it behaved. They hadn’t missed many things about Torchwood while they were away, but their furry friend was top of the list.
Warm from the shower, dressed for once in cosy pyjamas since their rooms in the Hub felt a lot colder than they remembered, they snuggled together in bed, Nosy coiled warm and heavy over their feet. It had been a long day and all they wanted to do was sleep. Pulling the covers up around his ears, Ianto closed his eyes, drifting off to dream of their idyllic retreat on the coast of somewhere beautiful, where it was always summertime, and the living was easy. Next year’s holiday couldn’t come soon enough.