Characters: Gwen, Jack, Ianto, Owen, Andy, Mickey, Nosy, Alien.
Summary: There’s something loose in the Hub; can the team catch it?
Word Count: 1407
Written For: My own prompt ‘Torchwood, Any, "All I know is it was small, pink, fuzzy, and it went under there!",’ at fic_promptly.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
Gwen’s piercing shriek echoed through the Hub, bringing the whole team running. They found her standing on a chair in the night duty room, nervously looking around at the floor.
“What happened?” Jack demanded, taking charge of the situation in his best authoritative way.
“There was a mouse!” Gwen replied, then frowned. “Or something furry anyway. I only caught a glimpse of it.”
“You’re scared of mice?” Mickey laughed.
“Of course not,” she scoffed. “It just startled me, that’s all.” They noticed she didn’t get down off the chair though.
Jack was looking uncertainly around at the floor now too. “It wasn’t one of those spidery mouse things, was it?” he asked.
“I don’t know. What do they look like?”
“Black, furry, eight legs, ears, a long tail.” Ianto shrugged. “More or less what you’d expect a spider mouse to look like.”
“Oh. No, it definitely wasn’t one of those then.” Gwen sounded very certain.
“You’re sure about that?” Jack turned slowly, peering into corners but seeing nothing.
The tension went out of Jack’s shoulders. “That’s good, I wouldn’t want to think we’d got another infestation of those little menaces. Last time they built webs in the archives and chewed up some of Ianto’s paperwork.”
“If you only got a glimpse of it, how can you be sure it wasn’t a spider mouse?” Mickey asked reasonably.
Gwen sighed in exasperation. “Look, all I know is it was small, pink, fuzzy, and it went under there!" She pointed at the bunk beds that stood against the wall, to the right of the door from where they were all standing.
Nosy had followed everyone into the room, as curious to know what was going on as the rest of the team, and when Gwen pointed, it decided to have a look. Slinking across the room, it poked its head under the bottom bunk with a questioning hum.
Instantly there was a scuffling sound and something small, pink, and fuzzy shot at speed out of its hiding place, making a beeline for the open door.
“Someone shut the door!” Jack yelled, but before anyone could move, the pink thing had zipped through the opening and was halfway down the corridor outside. “Damnit! It’s getting away again!” Jack started after it, but Nosy was faster, zooming through the doorway and giving chase as only a Fluff could, with the rest of the team racing along behind it. All of them, that is, except for Ianto.
Of all the members of the team, he was the one who knew the layout of the Hub best, and he was fully aware that after a number of twists and turns, that particular corridor re-entered the main Hub at the far side. There were rooms and passages leading off it, but he kept all the doors closed and most of them locked so that Nosy wouldn’t wander through them and get lost. The Hub was vast; it was very easy to get completely turned around and wind up wandering deeper into the maze of tunnels by mistake, thinking you were going back the way you’d come, and he preferred not to have to keep rescuing lost team members, human or alien. He had enough to do as it was.
Hurrying in the other direction, Ianto snatched up an empty containment box and made his way quickly across the Hub to the tunnel’s other end, positioning himself to one side, out of sight. Sure enough, a few minutes later, he heard the approaching sound of running footsteps, and closer than that, a skittering noise, as of quite a few small feet, little claws clicking on the concrete. Slithering sounds indicated that Nosy was gaining ground on the smaller alien.
Ianto risked a quick peek around the corner; the alien was less than five metres from the end of the tunnel, and clearly tiring, with Nosy maybe three metres behind it. He pulled back, counting under his breath. One… Two… Three… Lunging around the corner, Ianto stuck the containment box directly in the alien’s path, so close that it couldn’t stop or turn aside in time and instead ran straight into it.
“Gotcha!” Tipping the box upright, he dropped the lid on top, leaving a small gap to allow air in. Nosy slithered to a halt, looking very pleased with itself, and Ianto reached down to pet it. “Well done, young Fluff.”
The team caught up moments later, breathing hard, straggling to a halt and bending over, hands on knees. “How’d we get back here?” Andy asked, looking around himself, confused.
“That tunnel goes all the way around the far end of the Hub,” Ianto explained. “Most of the rooms aren’t in use though, just the three or four closest ones.”
“Oh. It would’ve been nice to know that sooner, save us all some time and effort.”
Ianto shook his head. “If you’d stopped chasing it, then it would’ve slowed down and maybe even gone back the other way. We might never have caught it then.”
“You got it?” Jack asked, pushing past the others.
“Yep!” Ianto gestured at the containment box.
“Amazing!” Jack peeped in the gap, grinning. “It’s grown a bit, I think. I wonder how it’s managed to survive for so long and what it’s been eating.”
“You know what it is?” Gwen asked, leaning down alongside Jack to peer in too.
“Well, yes and no,” Jack replied cryptically.
“What he means is, we don’t know what it is, but Jack’s seen it before,” Ianto explained.
Jack was nodding. “It came through the Rift, what is it now, four years ago?”
“Just over,” Ianto agreed.
“Anyway, it was a bit dazed when I found it, and I caught it pretty easily, but when I got it back to the Hub and tried to put it in a cell, it gave me the slip and vanished into the lower levels. I chased it, but as you just saw, it’s very fast.”
“Hardly surprising with that many legs,” Ianto pointed out.
“Ten,” Gwen put in, making a quick count. “It has ten legs! It’s sort of cute, like a headless pink multi-legged ferret. If you happen to like ferrets.”
“It has a head; it’s just part of the body, there’s no neck. More like an elongated guinea pig with no ears,” Jack corrected. “Where was I?”
“You got lost and I had to guide you back,” Ianto smirked.
“Right, that.” Jack grinned sheepishly. “There’re a lot of tunnels; getting lost is easy. So anyway, ever since then, there’ve been occasional sightings, mostly in the lower levels, but it’s been more than a year, maybe closer to two, since either of us has seen it. I thought it must have died by now.”
“Apparently not.” That was Owen. “I’d best check it over, then we’ll put it somewhere more suitable than one of the cells.”
“The first resident in the new small-animal pens,” Ianto agreed. They’d just been finished, four spacious runs, each with a double-doored entrance so occupants couldn’t escape when he went in to clean up and feed them, and comfortable hutches on several levels, raised off the cold concrete. “At least we can make sure it’s properly cared for now. Maybe one day we’ll even figure out what it is.”
“I’m just glad it wasn’t a mouse,” Gwen said feelingly. “I know it’s silly, but I’ve never liked them. I’ve always been scared one might run up my leg. You know, inside my trousers.”
“Like Owen and the alien gerbil?” Ianto suggested, grinning. “I thought that was funny.”
“So did everyone,” Jack agreed. “Except Owen.”
“You wouldn’t have thought it was funny if it’d been you,” Owen grumbled, then looked sidelong at Jack. “On second thoughts, you probably would’ve enjoyed it.”
“I miss George the gerbil,” Ianto sighed. “He was cute.”
“You’ve got a new pet now.” Jack draped an arm around Ianto’s shoulders as Torchwood’s archivist and animal keeper picked up the containment box to carry the creature down to the autopsy bay for its check-up. “What’ll you call it?”
“Hmm, I’ll have to think about that. I’ll let you know.”
“You do that. Okay, fun’s over; back to work, everybody, I’m sure you’ve all got plenty to do!”
Everyone scattered, albeit reluctantly, back to their interrupted tasks and gradually things went back to what passed for normal at Torchwood.
And that was how Torchwood caught the one that got away.