Characters: Jack, Ianto, Coat.
Summary: Jack’s Coat is acting very out of character; what on earth is the matter with it?
Word Count: 3287
Written For: Amnesty at beattheblackdog, using challenges 23: Explanation, 39: Black, and 58: Temper.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
A/N: Written for falconwing on Teaspoon who wanted to know how Coat would react if Jack got a new jacket. Also for cynthia2015 who pointed out that long coats look great but there’s always a risk of getting tangled in them when running.
As always Ianto was right, the bomber jacket was very chic indeed; supple, butter-soft black leather, not flashy and eye-catching like his coat, but not so plain as to look too ordinary. Jack turned back and forth in front of the shop’s floor length mirror, admiring it from every angle, deciding that yes, this was just the sort of jacket he could wear when out on a date with his boyfriend. It wouldn’t draw people’s attention to them the way his World War II era greatcoat did, and it would go well with jeans, smart slacks, or even the tan chinos Ianto had bought him the previous summer, when unusually hot, sunny weather had made his legs feel like they were being cooked in his darker-coloured trousers.
It had been Ianto’s idea that he should get a more casual coat or a stylish jacket to wear on their dates, because as much as they both loved Jack’s coat, it was such a distinctive garment that half of Cardiff recognised it on sight. People would give them funny looks when they entered restaurants, or queued up outside the cinema, as if waiting for something weird to happen now Torchwood was on the scene. Jack couldn’t blame them, because most of the time when he showed up in his coat it did mean that something of a Torchwood nature was going on, but the scrutiny and suspicion directed at them tended to put a damper on their dates. It was difficult to have a nice, normal evening out when everybody kept staring at them, making Ianto feel uncomfortable and vaguely embarrassed, hence the shopping trip to get a new jacket. Jack freely admitted it was a very sensible and practical solution to the problem, just like the majority of Ianto’s brainwaves.
“What d’you think?” Jack asked, turning away from the mirror just in time to catch Ianto staring at his arse. That was another advantage or wearing something that only came down as far as his waist; it showed off his assets to full advantage. After all, he’d been voted rear of the year more than once, and it was a shame to keep it completely hidden from view instead of giving the good people of Cardiff the opportunity to admire and appreciate such a splendid specimen.
Ianto smiled, nodding approval. “I like it.”
“Of course you do,” Jack agreed, giving his arse a good wiggle. “What’s not to like?”
“I meant the jacket,” Ianto said primly.
“Of course you did.” Jack winked, flashing his best smile at his lover and getting an eye-roll in response. Slipping the jacket off, he made his way down the shop to the checkout, handing over his credit card to pay for the new addition to his wardrobe. It was pricey, but well worth the cost.
Back at the Hub, Jack carefully removed the labels and hung his new jacket on the coat stand in his office, next to his coat, fingering the expensive black leather gently; it really was the softest and most supple he’d ever come across. He couldn’t wait to wear it the next time he and Ianto went somewhere that wasn’t work-related. Turning away, he left his office and went to find Ianto, who was making coffee to have with the crusty filled rolls they’d picked up for lunch.
After eating, Jack returned to his office to get on with work, only to find his new jacket on the floor. Picking it up, he dusted it off and checked for damage, annoyed with himself for being so careless. It was brand new, and far from cheap, yet he’d just hung it on a peg; he was lucky the casual treatment hadn’t stretched the back of the jacket’s neck out of shape, which was going to happen eventually if he wasn’t careful. The last thing he wanted was to ruin it when he’d only just got it. Slipping it onto a hanger, which was what he should have done in the first place, he hung it back on the rack.
Sometime during the afternoon, while Jack was industriously playing spider solitaire on his laptop, he heard a slithery noise and looked up just in time to see his jacket slip off its hanger onto the floor. He was on his feet in an instant, picking it up again, giving it a gentle shake, and then replacing it on the hanger. The lining must be slipperier than he’d realised so this time he took the precaution of zipping the jacket up before hooking the hanger back of the coat stand and returning to his game, satisfied that it couldn’t come to any harm now.
A while later, as he was just debating whether to start another game of solitaire or get on with some actual work, the Rift alert started blaring. Jumping to his feet, Jack fastened the holster of his Webley onto his belt, fetched his coat, and shrugged into it as he hustled down to the main Hub to find out what was happening.
“What’ve we got, Tosh?”
“Inanimate, big, and it registers as metal, an alloy not found on earth. Readings indicate it’s quite heavy so it’s most likely junk, maybe another bit of that Crevellion cruiser.”
Once in a while a spaceship in flight had the bad luck to get caught by the roving mouth of the Rift. When that happened, bits tended to get torn off only to crash to earth somewhere in Cardiff. If the people on board were fortunate, they didn’t lose anything too essential and were able either to continue on their way or send out a distress signal, but there were times when bits of the same ship would show up for weeks, or even months on end. So far there had never been any bodies among the wreckage, indicating that those on board had probably managed to escape in the life-pods. Spaceships didn’t tear apart easily though; it took the Rift some time to dismantle them.
“Okay, Ianto, with me! Let’s go see which bit we got this time.”
Ianto appeared, shrugging into his own coat. “I just hope it’s not another engine; those things are heavy.”
“It won’t be; Crevellion light cruisers only have two engines and we’ve already got both of them.”
“Good to know. After you.” Ianto gestured for Jack to precede him.
Jack strode ahead to the garage, his coat feeling heavier than usual on his shoulders, but he paid it no mind, assuming it was just because he’d had the new jacket on earlier, showing it off to the rest of the team. The difference in weight was very noticeable; the leather bomber weighed almost nothing in comparison to the sturdy wool garment.
The drive out to the coordinates of the Rift spike was uneventful, and finding the piece of junk wasn’t a problem either; it had left a deep gouge in the grass of Tremorfa Park that was clearly visible even from a distance. Jack and Ianto did their best to tread the torn up divots back into place as they followed the trail. Hopefully the damage would be put down to kids mountain-biking across ground still wet from recent heavy rains.
True to Jack’s words, the Rift’s latest unwelcome offering turned out not to be an engine, just a twisted and buckled section of the hull. Between them, Jack and Ianto lugged it back to the SUV, the trek across the park made more difficult than it should have been, even taking the weight of the hunk of spaceship into account, because Jack kept tripping on his coat. Three times he dropped his side and narrowly avoided falling over. It was a blustery day, so obviously the gusting wind must be causing the bottom of his long coat to tangle around his ankles. At least Ianto, in his much shorter overcoat, didn’t seem to be having similar problems. If they’d both been tripping every few steps the retrieval would have taken the rest of the day.
They’d barely got the bulky piece of metal stowed in the SUV’s boot when Tosh called them over their headsets to let them know a Weevil had been spotted just down the way at the Seawall Road Industrial Estate, maybe a five-minute drive from their current position. Ianto slid behind the wheel as Jack almost fell headfirst into the passenger seat, slamming the door behind him and eventually managing to disentangle himself from the heavy folds of his coat.
Arriving at the industrial estate, Ianto parked just inside; the place was relatively quiet at this time in the afternoon because most of the people who worked there were still inside the buildings. Come six or six-thirty, there’d be a general exodus, people heading out and perhaps some others arriving for their shifts. Ianto checked his watch; it was just before half five, so they had somewhere between thirty minutes and an hour to find and deal with the Weevil before the local workers started getting in the way.
Tosh directed them via their headsets to where the creature had been sighted and they took it from there, peering into the shadowy gaps between buildings and among the ubiquitous dumpsters until they caught a glimpse of the boiler-suited alien shambling around a corner some distance ahead of them. Jack took off in hot pursuit, Ianto a stride or two behind. For the first few strides, Jack’s coat flared out behind him in dramatic fashion, the way it always did when caught up in the thrill of the chase, but then for no apparent reason, its tails suddenly flipped to one side, swung around him, and tangled in his legs, sending him sprawling. He only just managed to keep from face-planting into the concrete.
“Keep going!” Jack yelled, struggling to regain his feet as Ianto raced past him, Weevil spray at the ready, trying not to laugh at his lover’s ignominious fall from grace. Ianto was well ahead by the time Jack was able to rejoin the chase, so he didn’t see Torchwood’s leader crash to the ground twice more, legs impossibly ravelled in the heavy wool of his coat. In all the time Jack had owned it, he’d never once been tripped by it, not until today.
By the time Jack reached Ianto, the Welshman already had the Weevil sedated and prepared for transport.
“What kept you?” He took in Jack’s scuffed appearance and the bloodstained tear in one knee of his trousers. The scrape visible through the tear was already healing, but it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. Jack’s trousers were made of a very durable fabric; one fall wouldn’t have been enough to rip them.
“I fell over three times! My coat keeps tripping me!” Jack pouted.
If anyone else had said that, it would have been cause for amusement; the average coat does not have a will of its own, never mind the independent mobility required to deliberately trip its wearer. Jack’s coat, however, was not in any way average.
“Why on earth would it do that?”
“How should I know?”
“Maybe it’s just the wind.” From Ianto’s frown, he didn’t believe that any more than Jack did.
“I don’t know…”
Ianto kept a close eye on Jack’s coat as they lugged the juvenile Weevil all the way back to the SUV. Despite the brisk wind, Coat was doing very little in the way of fluttering; in fact, it looked oddly stiff, except on those occasions when it twined around Jack’s legs, making him stumble. As they bunged their captive in the backseat, because the boot was already full, Ianto broached the subject that by now was foremost in both their minds.
“It may be my imagination, but it seems to me your coat is in a bad mood. I might even go so far as to say it seems peeved about something.”
“You think that’s why it keeps tripping me?” Jack looked down at his coat as he moved towards the passenger door.
“So what can I do?”
Ianto paused before getting in the SUV, leaning on the roof, studying Jack as he gave the question some thought. “Apologise?”
“For what though? I have no idea what’s got its lining in a twist. It’s not like I can ask it what’s wrong.”
“You could, but I doubt you’d get an answer, or at least not one we could understand. Neither of us is fluent in Coat.” Opening the door, he slid into the driver’s seat again.
Jack floundered about for a minute before half falling into the passenger seat, hampered once more by his uncooperative coat. “Yeah, I’ll really have to do something about that some day. Maybe Tosh can come up with something. A special translation programme.”
“If anyone could translate for a coat, it would be Tosh. She is a genius. Unfortunately for you, I doubt she can come up with anything soon enough to solve your current problem. You may have to figure it out for yourself.”
“That’s what I thought you’d say.” Jack slid down in the seat, racking his brains for any reason the coat might be annoyed with him, but drawing a blank. He hadn’t got it soaked or damaged recently, he hadn’t bled on it or got it doused with some disgusting gunk or slime, and he was even giving it a daily brush to keep it in prime condition. Few coats enjoyed that level of care.
He was dragged from his musings as Ianto pulled the SUV into its space in Torchwood’s underground garage and turned off the ignition. “Better deal with the Weevil first. Don’t want it waking up back there and taking its annoyance out on the upholstery.”
Nodding agreement, Jack opened his door, put one foot out onto the concrete, and promptly toppled sideways, landing in a heap half in and half out of the car. Somehow his coat had got hooked around the gearlever. With an exasperated sigh, he wriggled out of it and left it on the passenger seat to sort out later. The last thing he needed was to be tripped again and go headfirst down the stairs while he and Ianto were carrying the Weevil down to the cells.
Once their new guest was settled, Jack joined Ianto in manoeuvring the piece of spacecraft onto the antigrav trolley, which they steered into the archives’ freight lift, leaving it there to be dealt with later. There was no mad rush and anyway, Jack wanted to change out of his torn trousers. He went back to the SUV first though, untangling his coat and bundling it up his arms so it wouldn’t be able to trip him this time.
Reaching his office, he shook Coat out and hung it up next to his new jacket, then went to fetch his clothes brush from his bunker. Even though the bits of grass and other things stuck to Coat’s fabric were its own fault, he wasn’t going to leave it in that state to get even more peeved with him than it already was. Semi-sentient Coats weren’t as much fun to own as people might think. In some ways it was like having a pet that required regular grooming, except that pets were generally more tolerant and not so ready to hold grudges.
Coming back up the ladder, brush in one hand and a spray can of an alien version of Scotchgard fabric protector wedged in the crook of his arm in order to leave one hand free for climbing, Jack stepped back into his office to find his new bomber jacket, complete with its hanger, once again lying on the floor.
That was when a light bulb went on in his brain, making him blink as realisation hit. “Oh.”
“Mm,” Ianto agreed from the doorway. “Looks like your coat is jealous of the newcomer, a little case of sibling rivalry.”
“Well isn’t that just wonderful!” Jack’s voice fairly dripped sarcasm as he glared at his coat. He stalked across the intervening distance to stand in front of the misbehaving garment. “After everything I do for you!” He held up the brush and fabric spray. “You should be ashamed of yourself! You’ve tripped me time after time today, made me tear a hole in my pants that I doubt even Ianto can fix,” he indicated the ripped knee of his trousers, “and yet despite all that, I was going to take proper care of you before seeing to myself. I’m not sure you deserve it now. Maybe I should just leave you grubby all night as punishment.”
Coat sagged on the coat stand.
Pushing away from the doorjamb, Ianto crossed the office and picked Jack’s leather jacket up off the floor, hanging it on the back of a chair before joining his lover and addressing Coat. “If you want to be mad at someone, it should be me. I’m the one who persuaded Jack to buy a jacket, something he could wear on dates. It’s not like you enjoy being scrunched up and wedged into cinema seats, or hung over the backs of chairs in restaurants and bars, getting your hem trampled underfoot and drinks spilled down your back.”
If anything, Coat drooped even further.
“Did you think you were being replaced?” Jack asked.
Coat twitched, a sort of shrug.
“Well that’s just silly! Who did I reach for when the alarms went of?” Jack asked. “Did I take my new jacket? No, of course I didn’t. What use would a short jacket be on Torchwood business? It can’t flare and flutter, or make me look dashing. That’s your job, and no other coat could do it better. I get a jacket so you can have an occasional evening off duty, and this is the thanks I get?”
If something made of wool could ever be said to look ashamed, Coat did.
“Jealousy doesn’t become a hero coat,” Ianto added. “You should be above that kind of thing. Your nonsense tripping Jack during a Weevil chase could have got someone badly hurt, or even killed!
A shiver passed through Coat at the idea; no doubt it realised who would have been the most likely to suffer serious injury: Ianto himself.
Turning to Jack, Ianto continued, “I’ll put your jacket in your wardrobe, out of the way, shall I?” Coat hated being stuffed in a wardrobe, isolated from everyone and unable to perceive what was happening around it.
Jack gave Ianto a grateful smile. “Yes, thank you.” He turned his attention back to Coat as Ianto disappeared down the manhole, carrying the bomber jacket. “Now that’s sorted I’d better give you a good brushing; you may not deserve it, but you definitely need it. No more acting out though, alright?” Coat twitched again, which Jack took as agreement, and he set to work with the brush. “Just for the record, I would never trade you for any other coat. I’ll wear my new jacket when it’s appropriate to, but it’s not a replacement for you. Jackets will come and go as they get worn out or fashions change, but you and I are partners and that’s never going to change. But if you ever deliberately trip me up for any reason other than to save my or someone else’s life, you’ll be taking a long dip in the Rift pool, alone. Understood?”
Coat got it, loud and clear; the Rift pool was often stagnant and disgusting; no self-respecting Coat would ever want to wind up in there! Even without such a terrible threat hanging over it though, Coat vowed it would never let Jack down again. It had learned its lesson!