Ianto had long since decided he wasn’t a fan of winter; he’d just as soon hibernate right through it if he could. It was too cold, too icy, even wetter than summer, which was saying something, and there were more hours of darkness than there were of daylight. He much preferred spring, with the sun rising a little earlier every day, the air growing warmer, buds bursting on the trees, and daffodils starting to bloom, their cheerful colour brightening their surroundings like sunbeams fallen to earth. Unfortunately, to reach spring it was necessary to endure winter first.
“Come on, Ianto, time to get up!” Jack’s cheery voice was a most unwelcome intrusion. Ianto was cosy and warm in bed, fully intending to go back to sleep for a while longer. He deserved the rest, and it wasn’t as if he had anywhere to be today.
“Why should I get up? I was under the impression this was our day off,” he mumbled, keeping his eyes firmly closed, and the bedcovers pulled up warmly halfway over his head, covering his ears.
“It’s a beautiful winter morning; why would you want to stay in bed?”
That was a stupid question, in Ianto’s opinion, and one Jack should have already known the answer to.
“I hate winter mornings,” he replied. “It’s bad enough having to get up and face them on a workday, so why would I want to on my one day off a week?” He tried to retreat further under the covers, but Jack foiled that by pulling them back, exposing Ianto’s pyjama-clad body to the cool air of the bedroom. “Argh, you fiend! Give me my covers back!”
“Nope, sorry.” Jack didn’t sound the least bit apologetic. “The sun’s shining, and so is everything else; there’s been a heavy frost and it’s so pretty, but it won’t last for long. If you stay in bed, you’ll miss it. I thought we could go for a walk.”
Ianto was sitting up by now, fumbling for the bathrobe Jack had dropped on the bed. “What part of ‘I hate winter’ are you failing to understand? It’s cold out, and I have no intention of leaving my cosy house until I have to leave for work tomorrow morning.”
Apparently Jack wasn’t listening to him, which was no surprise. Selective hearing was a Jack thing; anything he didn’t want to hear he simply ignored. “You’ve been spending every day recently cooped up in the archives; you need to get some fresh air into your lungs.”
“I get more than enough fresh air travelling to and from work every day.” Ianto finally managed to get both arms in the correct sleeves of his bathrobe, and he pulled it tightly around him, shivering, and feeling thoroughly miserable.
“In your car, with the windows closed and the heating turned up,” Jack pointed out. “You spend all of two minutes outside, between shutting the front door and getting in your car, and that’s not enough. Now come on; a hot shower will soon warm you up, and then you can make coffee and fill a thermos while I finish breakfast. There’s porridge on the stove, just the thing for a chilly morning.”
Now that he was awake, Ianto realised he was quite hungry. “Fine, I’ll eat your porridge, but that doesn’t mean I’m going anywhere with you. I’ve got laundry to do.” The nerve of Jack, waltzing in at the crack of dawn and taking over his kitchen, then expecting Ianto to fall in with his plans! He checked the clock by his bed; it was just after eight-thirty. Okay, so maybe not quite the crack of dawn; the sun had been up for about an hour already, but still, it was much too early for Ianto to be getting up; he’d been planning on staying in bed until at least ten.
“I already put a laundry load on,” Jack cheerfully informed him. “It should be almost done; I’ll toss it in the drier and get the second load on while you get showered and dressed. Make sure to wrap up in plenty of layers.”
“You’re doing my laundry? What time did you get here?” Ianto wasn’t sure whether to feel resentment at Jack for just taking over without so much as asking, or grateful at having one less chore hanging over him. He’d still have ironing to do, but he’d have the rest of the day to get that finished.
Or maybe not.
By the time Ianto was showered, shaved, and dressed comfortably for a day off, the porridge was almost ready, and Ianto’s winter coat, boots, hat, scarf, and gloves were warming by the radiator, along with Jack’s greatcoat. The tumble-dryer was running, and Jack was bundling the second load of laundry into the washing machine.
“I’ve filled your thermos with hot water to warm it and got the mugs out for breakfast. All you need to do is make the coffee, and then we can eat. Do you want jam or honey on your porridge?”
“Honey,” Ianto decided, frowning at Jack, who didn’t notice because he was facing the wrong way.
At least the porridge was good, hot and filling, sending a warm glow right through Ianto from the top of his head to the tips of his toes. The coffee was also excellent, naturally, since Ianto had made it himself, and Jack cheerfully cleared the dishes away after they’d finished eating.
“Go and brush your teeth while I empty the dryer, and then we can get our coats on.”
“I never said I’d go for a walk with you,” Ianto reminded his lover.
Jack paused. “How can you say that? Have you even looked out the window? Look at that sunshine!”
Reluctantly, Ianto looked. The sun was indeed shining, the sky a clear eggshell blue, and every twig, leaf, and blade of grass in the back garden was edged with silvery hoarfrost, sparkling like jewels in the bright morning light. It looked cold, but undeniably pretty.
“Okay, it’s nice to look at, but why do we have to go out in it when we can see it perfectly well from indoors?”
“Because the fresh air is out there, and a walk will do us both good,” Jack explained patiently. “Come on, Ianto, please? I made you breakfast and did your laundry!”
“You did, and I… appreciate that.” After all, why feel resentful over Jack feeding him and doing his household chores? He probably should be grateful, even though some of the laundry was Jack’s anyway, from the nights he slept over.
“So does that mean you’ll come for a walk with me?” Jack was as eager as a puppy; if he’d had a tail, it would have been wagging.
Ianto sighed, giving in to the inevitable. If he refused, Jack would just keep nagging him all day. “Fine, I’ll go with you, but just for a short walk. It looks slippery out.”
“Yay! I’ll be ready as soon as I’ve got the laundry going.”
“Wonderful.” If Jack noticed the heavy sarcasm in Ianto’s voice, he had enough sense not to mention it.
Ten minutes later, they stepped out into the cold, crisp air, their breath steaming. Ianto pulled his scarf up over his nose and mouth, and his hat down over his ears, protecting as much of himself as he could. The temperature probably hadn’t risen above freezing yet, and Ianto half wished he was still tucked up in bed. Instead, here he was, a reluctant participant in a walk through a winter wonderland. Where the sun caught it, the hoarfrost was already beginning to melt, but in the shadows, it resembled filigree lace, outlining everything in silvery-white. Cobwebs were strung between twigs like delicate lace doilies, and droplets of moisture shone like tiny fairy lights. Jack was right; it was a beautiful morning.
Despite the time, already getting on towards ten, nobody else seemed to be out and about, apart from an occasional car passing them on the suburban streets. As they strolled along, hand-in-hand, they pointed things out to each other; the way two rime-edged leaves were positioned so they looked like angel wings, droplets of melting frost turning a spider’s web into strings of jewels glistening like rainbows, a glassy frozen puddle that resembled a miniature skating rink.
When he’d agreed to the walk, Ianto had envisaged a quick turn around the block, fifteen minutes and home again, but Jack had other ideas and they didn’t get back to Ianto’s little end-of-terrace house until it was almost lunchtime. By then, the flask of coffee Jack had tucked in one of his capacious greatcoat pockets was empty, most of the frost had melted away, and while the weather was still cold, it was noticeably warmer than it had been when they’d set out.
“D’you still wish you’d stayed in bed?” Jack asked, as he followed Ianto through the gate and up the path to his front door.
Part of Ianto wanted to say yes; he’d been looking forward to a leisurely lie-in, something he seldom got, but the walk had been far more enjoyable than he’d expected.
“I suppose not, but that doesn’t mean you get to drag me out of my cosy bed every time I have a day off.”
“Only on days like today, I swear,” Jack promised. “Or when it’s snowing, because snowball fights work a lot better with two people.”
Ianto chuckled, reaching to unlock the door. “Come on, the second laundry load should be done by now so you can bung it in the dryer while I fix us some lunch.”
“Sounds fair.” Jack followed Ianto into the hallway and closed the door behind him to keep the cold out. Neither of them left the house again until the following morning.