Characters: Ianto, Jack.
Summary: On a rainy night in the countryside, Ianto and Jack take on a dangerous alien creature.
Word Count: 2041
Written For: Challenge 6: Northern Exposure Episode Titles at ficlet_zone, using ‘Mud and Blood’.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
Whoever had decided mud wrestling was a great idea for a fun sport obviously needed their head examined. Ianto couldn’t see anything appealing about it whatsoever, but then that might have been because it was a cold night, the mud was a smelly mixture of wet earth, decaying vegetation, and probably animal… products he’d rather not think about, and he was fully dressed.
Fortunately for his wardrobe, he wasn’t wearing one of his bespoke suits, just a battered army surplus jacket over faded jeans and a threadbare sweater. Keeping up a professional appearance was important, but there were some occasions when dapper tailoring was completely unsuitable, and this was one of them. You didn’t wear wool and silk blends and Italian leather dress shoes to trek across swampy farmland on a rainy autumn night, not unless you had more money than sense and didn’t care about ruining your clothes. Ianto liked to think he was blessed with good sense, so when Jack had called him in the early hours he’d slipped into something more suited to the weather and the terrain instead of his usual attire.
The majority of aliens that got sucked through the Rift were small creatures, scared and confused, ripped from their herds or packs or family groups and dumped unceremoniously in an unfamiliar place, with unknown dangers. Some of them had various means of defence, venom glands, poisonous spines, sharp teeth and claws, but others were completely defenceless and didn’t always survive long enough to be rescued.
Similarly, most of the sentient beings who wound up in Cardiff by accident were peaceful, civilised folk who just wanted to be returned to their homes, or failing that, live out their lives as unobtrusively as possible on earth. Every so often though, something would come through that was anything but friendly, and tonight’s new arrival definitely fell into that category.
From what they’d seen so far it wasn’t sentient, nor even semi-sentient as the Weevils and Hoix might be described. It didn’t walk upright the way they did, it ran on four legs, and it was naked apart from its thick, shaggy, black and grey pelt, so it seemed reasonably safe to assume it was an animal, and a dangerous one at that. Ianto didn’t need to be a zoologist to deduce that it was a predatory carnivore. It had big paws, each equipped with seven viciously sharp retractable claws at least an inch in length, and its heavy jaws were lined with massive serrated teeth that could probably slice through a human arm or leg in a single bite.
It also quickly became apparent that it had way better night vision than most humans. Ianto and Jack had to rely on torches in order to follow its trail while it could see them clearly even in pitch darkness. They were at a serious disadvantage from the start, and they knew it, but nobody ever said working for Torchwood was without risk.
It would probably have been a better idea to wait until sunrise before beginning the search, but leaving a dangerous creature wandering about only a couple of miles beyond the suburbs, even just for a few hours, was asking for trouble. In the best case scenario livestock would likely be attacked and eaten; that would be bad enough, but what if the creature decided that central Cardiff was a better place to hunt for its dinner? Chasing a predator through crowded city streets would be a nightmare, a lot of innocent lives could be lost, and covering up the incident would be nigh on impossible.
That was why they were out here now, long past midnight, floundering about in a swampy field, trying to take down a creature the size of a bear but with the speed and ferocity of a big cat. Ianto had a horrible feeling they were already losing the battle. A slash from a massive paw had taken Jack out of the game a couple of minutes ago, the blood from his shredded leg mingling with the mud; Ianto didn’t know whether his lover was dead or alive, but either way he was doing his best to defend his fallen captain. He’d fired off a full clip and knew he’d hit his target at least once from the screech it had made, so much different from its intimidating snarl, but he didn’t know how much damage he’d done to it. Would it drag itself away to lick its wounds or would the pain drive it to attack again? Either way, he couldn’t afford to drop his guard.
He turned in a slow circle, his reloaded gun at the ready, powerful torch firm alongside it so he’d be able to see what he was aiming at if, or more likely when, it came back to have another try at them. He squinted against the steadily falling rain, trying to see beyond the range of his torch beam, into the heavy darkness, ears straining for the slightest sound, but all he could hear was rain pattering on the mud and grass, and his own panting breaths. Despite its massive bulk the creature could move far more quietly than human hearing could detect. All Ianto could do was keep turning slowly while he waited for Jack to heal or revive. He didn’t even dare risk glancing down at his lover; a split second of distraction might be all it took for the predator to lunge at him out of the rainy night, and he had no desire to be dinner. Jack would never forgive him if he let himself get killed.
The constant turning started to make Ianto a bit dizzy after a few rotations so he reversed direction to go the other way, and that was probably what saved his life. As he started to turn he caught sight of movement out of the corner of his eye, and swinging his torch and gun together, he opened fire as the creature leapt towards him, round after round hitting its heavily muscled chest without noticeably slowing it. At the last moment, Ianto threw himself to one side, rolling in the mud, ejecting the empty clip from his Torchwood special, dropping his flashligt in his lap just long enough to slam in another clip then snatching it up again and taking aim. The alien skidded, falling heavily onto its side as it tried to turn faster than the slippery conditions would allow, but it was back on its feet almost immediately, claws unsheathed for better traction, and barrelling towards him once more, teeth bared in a snarl, and bloodstained foam dripping from its jaws.
Coming up on one knee, Ianto resumed shooting. How many bullets was it going to take to stop this thing? It was almost on top of him and he had only two bullets left, when a grotesque figure loomed out of the mud right alongside the alien. There was the sharp retort of a gunshot and the predator reared back with a keening shriek before crashing over onto its back. Its legs thrashed for a few seconds, spattering mud everywhere, and then it lay still.
The swamp monster approached Ianto and held out a hand, white teeth showing through its glutinous covering of mud. “Nice shooting.” Aside from the smile, Jack was almost unrecognisable. Ianto gripped the muddy hand with his own equally muddy one and let his lover help him to his feet.
“Is it dead? We should probably check.” If it was only stunned or injured they might only have seconds before it was back on its feet.
“I put one through its eye,” Jack said, leading the way to where the alien lay. “If it’s not dead yet it soon will be.”
“I just want to be sure. I can do without it suddenly getting up and having another go at us. Are you okay?”
“I should be asking you that. I think I had the easy part in all this; I got to lie down through most of it.”
They looked down at the powerfully muscled body; the creature was still breathing in shallow, intermittent gasps, its jaws agape. Blood oozed from close to twenty bullet wounds in its chest and shoulders. Leaning over, Jack thrust the muzzle of his Webley into what seemed to be an ear cavity and pulled the trigger; the dying creature jerked once and then went still, no longer breathing.
Ianto’s shoulders sagged. “I hate this. All it was doing was following its natural instincts and we had to kill it.”
“There was no choice; it was dangerous, it couldn’t be reasoned with, and capturing it was out of the question. Weevils are one thing, but something this big and strong… There’s no telling how many people it might have killed if we hadn’t taken steps to stop it.”
“I know that,” Ianto said tiredly. “I just wish it hadn’t been necessary.”
“So do I, but we do what we have to, even when we don’t like it. We should just be thankful it doesn’t come to this too often.” Killing wasn’t what Torchwood was all about, not anymore. Aliens were protected wherever possible, but there were always exceptions to any rule.
Now it was over Ianto felt worn out, cold, and depressed, the adrenaline rush fading, but he knew the job wasn’t over yet. “What’re we going to do with it now?”
As if it had been holding back until they’d dealt with the alien the rain started coming down more heavily and they heard a rumble of thunder in the distance. Wonderful. Jack and Ianto just stood there beside the body of the alien, already so wet there was no point seeking shelter. At least the rain might wash some of the mud off. Finally Jack sighed heavily.
“Can’t leave it here; guess I’d better call in the rest of the team. Maybe Rhys can bring a lorry.”
“Even with all of us we’re not going to be able to move this thing. It would be heavy enough even without all the mud and the rain soaking into it. You might want to tell Owen to bring the laser saw.”
Jack pulled a face. “Dissection in the field, literally; he’s going to love that,” he muttered, voice rich with sarcasm.
“Good. He’s been sleeping in a warm, comfortable bed while we’ve been out here risking life and limb and practically drowning in mud. It’s time for someone else to do the rest of the dirty work; I’ve got mud in places I don’t even want to think about.” Ianto shifted uncomfortably, grimacing. What he wouldn’t give for a hot shower and dry clothes. He turned away, swinging the beam of his torch across the mud, looking for the empty clip he’d ejected. Bad enough there were probably bullet casings everywhere, there was little he could do about that, but leaving the clip behind was not on. Luckily it weighed little enough that it hadn’t sunk in the mud and he was able to locate it quite quickly, along with a few of the empty casings. The rest had probably been trodden into the mud.
Scooping up what he’d found, he trudged wearily along behind Jack back to where they’d left the SUV parked on a strip of gravel at the side of a narrow road. Every step they took made a horrible sucking sound, but they made it back to firmer ground without losing their boots. Ianto stood by forlornly while Jack retrieved his phone from inside the unlocked vehicle and called the rest of the team.
“Yes, Owen, now. And bring the laser saw and a dozen or so body bags; you’ll have to dismember this thing for transport, it’s too big and heavy to move in one piece.”
Even from where he stood dripping mud on the gravel Ianto could hear a string of colourful language coming from Jack’s phone and it lifted his mood a little, bringing an evil smirk to his lips. Owen didn’t sound at all happy. Despite everything he and Jack had just gone through, it looked like the next few hours might prove quite entertaining; mud wrestling was much more amusing as a spectator sport.