Meriel had met Sean Merriman shortly after starting university; they’d been in the same computer science class and had quickly become close friends. They’re remained friends through two years of dating other people before realising the reason none of their relationships worked out was because they preferred spending time with each other to being with their respective partners. Since they came to that realisation, there’d been nobody else for either of them.
Sean was a dark-eyed, deceptively serious young man, but once people got to know him they soon found he had a keen mind and a wicked sense of humour. From the first time Meriel had brought him home he’d fitted in wonderfully with her family, even though he’d understandably been a bit in awe of her two dads. By the time the two young people had returned to their studies, Sean had been fully accepted into the Harkness-Jones clan. Even the Fluffs had approved; their opinions were always taken very seriously since their empathic abilities made them excellent judges of character. They were never wrong about anyone.
Now, a year and a half after graduating, Meriel and Sean were getting engaged. Ianto and Jack had willingly helped their daughter and future son-in-law plan the engagement party, and Sean’s mother and younger sister had been flown in from Ireland for the occasion, his father having passed away when Sean had been fourteen.
The party itself was being held in one of the function rooms at the St David’s Hotel. There was a buffet spread out across several long tables with enough food to feed an army, a DJ playing music for everyone to dance to, champagne to toast the happy couple, and about sixty human guests, plus a few Fluffs, because no one would have ever considered leaving their alien family members off the guest list.
Aside from family and Fluffs, Meriel and Sean had invited the close friends they’d made at university, as well as the friends Meriel had grown up with, and two of Sean’s oldest friends from his hometown of Killarney. Most of the Torchwood team were there as well, leaving the Hub manned by a skeleton crew, who’d been instructed not to interrupt the party for anything less than the imminent end of the world.
“Enjoying yourself, sweetheart?”
Meriel turned to see a man who didn’t look much older than her own twenty-two years smiling down at her. “It’s wonderful, Tad!” She threw her arms around Ianto, hugging him tight. “Thank you so much! And thanks for not letting Dad go too over the top with the decorations.”
Ianto hugged her back. “It wasn’t easy; you know what he’s like. He wanted to have a thousand gold and silver heart-shaped balloons float down from the ceiling, but I managed to talk him out of it. Told him it wouldn’t be much of a party if he buried everyone, so he settled for a more modest number as part of the décor.”
Meriel giggled. “That’s so like Dad. Sometimes I wonder how you put up with him.”
“Practice.” Ianto pulled back, his smile widening as he looked between Meriel and Sean. “So, are you two ready to open your gifts?” He pointed to a table that had been set up in an out of the way corner and was now piled high with gaily wrapped presents.
“Oh my God!” Meriel’s eyes widened in disbelief. “Where did all those come from?”
Ianto laughed. “You didn’t expect all your friends and family to show up empty-handed, did you?”
“Um, well, kind of. I mean, we didn’t ask for anything. I thought people would wait until the wedding…”
“Well,” Sean cut in, smiling wryly, “Looks like they haven’t. I guess we really ought to open everything so we can thank everyone properly for their generosity.”
“My oh-so-practical husband-to-be.” Meriel reached up to kiss Sean. “You’re right though, we should. We don’t want to appear rude.” Taking her fiancé’s hand, Meriel led the way to the table as the music fell silent, and her dad commandeered the DJ’s microphone to call for everyone’s attention.
“Ladies, gentlemen, and everybody else, if you’d please pause whatever and whoever you’re doing for a moment, it’s time for the happy couple to open their gifts.”
Ianto rolled his eyes in fond, if exasperated, amusement. “Typical. He always has to get himself into the spotlight somehow,” he muttered, following his daughter.
The gifts were many and varied: household items, things with sentimental value such as framed photographs, a few joke items, and even a pair of crystal champagne flutes engraved with their names and the date, a memento of a day they were never going to forget anyway.
“This is from your tad and I,” Jack eventually said, handing Meriel and Sean a sealed envelope once all the other gifts had been unwrapped and the gift-givers thanked. Meriel slit it open; inside was a cheque for a substantial amount of money.
“Dad, Tad…” She was almost speechless. “You really shouldn’t have. This is too much!”
“No it isn’t,” Ianto told his daughter. “Getting married is even more expensive now than it was when your dad and I got hitched. You can put that towards your honeymoon, use it as a deposit on a house, or whatever you want; we’ll leave that up to you. We just want to make sure you two get your life together off to the best possible start.”
Sean was looking a bit shell-shocked at seeing the amount written on the cheque. “A deposit? That’s enough to buy a house outright!”
“Depends on the house,” Jack said, grinning. “If you want something the size of Buckingham Palace you might be a bit short. I don’t think the Royal Family’s selling though.”
“Jack,” Ianto interrupted, cutting his husband off with a stern look. “Behave.” He turned back to their daughter and her fiancé. “There’s one more person with a gift for you. It’s been waiting patiently because it wanted to go last, but I don’t think it should have to wait any longer.”
At that, there was movement beneath the long, white cloth covering the table where the gifts were displayed, and Nosy slithered out, carrying a covered wicker basket in its mouth.
“HUMMmmm!” it said as it carefully set the basket down in front of Meriel and Sean.
“Thank you Nosy!” Meriel crouched to hug her oldest friend. “Whatever could this be?” She knew the Fluff loved to buy gifts for its friends, and it always came up with something thoughtful.
Reaching out like a conjurer doing a magic trick, Nosy grasped the basket’s cloth cover in its mouth and whisked it away to reveal the gift.
Meriel gasped as a fluffy green and russet head popped up with a squeaky little hum, a miniature version of Nosy.
“A Flufflet!” She scooped it from the basket. “Oh, aren’t you just the sweetest?”
“It’s about time you had a Fluff of your own,” Ianto told her. “Nosy made this one especially for the two of you.”
The Flufflet sniffed curiously at Meriel’s fingers and clothes, then had a good sniff at Sean too, getting acquainted with the scents of its human family as it bonded with them.
Meriel laughed with delight. “I’m going to call you Snuffles.”
“HUM!” Snuffles declared, fluffing itself up proudly, clearing approving of its new name.
While she deeply appreciated all the gifts she and Sean had been given by their friends and family, Meriel couldn’t imagine anything better than having a Fluff of their very own, a loyal friend and confidante who would share their joys and sorrows for the rest of their lives, and be there for future generations when they themselves were long gone.
“We’ll take very good care of you,” she promised. “We’re going to have such a happy life together, full of wonderful adventures, you’ll see.”
Humming contentedly in the arms of its new human family, Snuffles the Flufflet thought that sounded just perfect.