Characters: Ianto, Jack, Gwen, Tosh, Owen, Snocks.
Word Count: 1781
Summary: After a difficult mission, the team are all feeling a bit down until the snocks make their presence known.
Content Notes: None needed.
Written For: Challenge 219: Amnesty at fan_flashworks, using Challenge 130: Identity. Also fits 36, Introductions, and 46, Comfort.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
A/N: Thanks to smallhobbit for inventing snocks and generously giving me permission to write about them!
It was late evening again, just over a week since Ianto and Jack had discovered what had become of Jack’s lost socks; some of them anyway. The team had just returned from defending the earth, or the part of it known to most of the world as Cardiff, from a band of extremely hostile alien invaders, and all of them were feeling tired and dispirited. They’d won, but it had been a long and hard fought battle, and although they’d tried their best to save everyone, there had been two civilian casualties.
Kathy Swanson had tried to convince Jack and the others that it hadn’t been their fault, but they couldn’t help feeling that if they’d arrived just a few minutes sooner, they might have been able to get the hapless camping couple to safety before the would-be invaders’ spaceship landed right on top of their tent while they were still inside it. Not a pleasant way to go.
Traipsing disconsolately into the main Hub, they’d each made for their own work area while Ianto headed to the kitchen to make them all a consoling cup of hot chocolate. Slumping down silently at their desks, intending to write their reports quickly before going home so they could put recent events out of their minds, they were just getting started when Gwen let out a squeal and jerked her feet up off the floor.
“Something just went under my desk!”
Ianto paused, almost to the kitchen area, and turned back. “What did it look like?”
“I’m not sure, I only caught a glimpse, but it was long and grey, and… I think it was a snake! It hissed at me!”
“Oh that’s alright then.”
“What do you mean it’s alright? There’s a snake in the Hub! You have to get rid of it, Ianto! What if it bites someone?”
By now, Tosh and Owen had shifted away from their desks and were peering cautiously into the gloom beneath. “Gwen’s right,” Owen said. “Could be venomous. Might even be alien.”
“It’s neither. There’s nothing to worry about; it isn’t a snake, it’s a snock, and they’re not at all dangerous, unless you happen to be a dust bunny. Then you’d have to be on your guard.”
“Did you say ‘snock’?” Owen was torn between disbelief and laughter.
“What the fuck’s a snock when it’s at home?”
“Used to be one of my socks.” Hearing the commotion, Jack had come out of his office to lean on the catwalk railing. “I’ve lost a few around the Hub, and it would seem they’ve somehow evolved into a new life-form. Ianto decided because they’re snakelike socks that makes them snocks. It suits them; they’re cute.”
“And you knew about these things and didn’t think to tell the rest of us?” Gwen asked indignantly. She bent awkwardly in her seat to peep under her desk, trying to spot the errant snock without putting her feet on the floor, just in case Ianto was wrong about the identity of the intruder.
Ianto shrugged. “Didn’t think I’d need to. They keep to the shadows, as far as we can tell they’re mostly nocturnal, and I honestly didn’t expect them to venture into the more frequently used areas of the Hub. I keep things clean around your desks so there’s not much there for them to eat.”
“How can socks come to life though?” Tosh wanted to know. “I mean, they’re machine made, mostly from synthetic materials. I can understand living creatures undergoing genetic mutations over time, but socks don’t have genes, it shouldn’t be possible for them to mutate!”
“How did Jack’s coat take on a life of its own?” Ianto asked in return. “We still don’t have an explanation for that, but it happened. I suppose there’s no reason why his socks shouldn’t follow suit. Anyway, I’m not really sure the how of it matters. They’re alive now; their own independent species, and they’re not doing any harm. Quite the contrary, in fact; they’re keeping the dust bunnies down so as far as I’m concerned they’re welcome to stay.” He didn’t mention that he’d been dubious about them to start with as well; the others didn’t need to know that. During the last week or so they’d started to grow on him, and they only hissed when alarmed. The rest of the time they were really quite charming, in an odd sort of way.
“I want to get a look at one of these snocks,” Owen declared. “Study it, find out how it works…”
“No way! You are not cutting up any of my snocks, Owen Harper! They’re a protected species!”
“Relax, I never said anything about dissecting them, I just want to run a few scans.”
“And what if scanning harms them in some way? Do you want to be responsible for the death of an innocent snock?”
Coming hard on the heels of their failure to save the campers, that question hit a nerve and Owen winced. “Okay, fine, no cutting and no scanning of snocks. Do I at least have permission to look at one?”
“Well, okay, but only if you can catch one without scaring or hurting it. Snocks are very shy, sensitive creatures.”
Just then, Tosh emerged from under her workstation, a snock coiled around her arm. “Look! Isn’t it adorable? I coaxed it out of hiding with a bit of fluff from the back of my desk drawer.”
“Give it here!” Owen held out his hand, but Tosh turned away, shielding the snock.
“No! Find your own snock, this one’s mine.”
Jack pouted. “They evolved from my socks, so technically, that means all snocks are mine.”
“Don’t be greedy,” Tosh chastised. “It’s not fair to the rest of us if you hog all the snocks.”
“Tosh is right,” Ianto said, taking his best friend’s side over his lover’s. “The rate you lose socks, there’s bound to be plenty of snocks to go around.” He glanced towards Tosh. “Just don’t get into the habit of feeding them. We don’t want them to get lazy and fat, so they stop hunting dust bunnies. Besides, they might start eating fluff off your clothes, and then graduate to eating the clothes themselves.”
“That’s a good point. We can still play with them though, can’t we?” Tosh pleaded.
Jack emerged from under the spiral staircase with two snocks. “I’m going to teach mine to play fetch.” He handed a snock to Ianto. “I think this is the one you caught last week, I recognise the ribbed pattern. This one,” he held up the other snock, “is the one I was playing with. She has a little darned area right on the tip of her nose. I’m calling her Patch.”
“How do you know it’s a female?” Ianto asked curiously, looking closely at the snock wound around his hand. If there was any way of determining snock gender, he didn’t have a clue what it might be.
“I don’t. Just looks like a girl to me.”
“Do you think they can breed?” Tosh wondered.
“No idea,” Ianto said. “We don’t even know how many of them there are. I’ve seen five or six, but there could be more.
Gwen was under her workstation now, searching for the snock she’d seen and wondering if that was the one Tosh had found, but no; there was the snock, tightly coiled against the leg of her desk, watching her warily. It was a darker grey than Tosh’s. “Come on, I won’t hurt you,” she coaxed, holding out her hand. It hissed a warning so she straightened up and dug in her jacket for some pocket lint before trying again. Eventually, the small creature accepted her offering, but it was still several minutes before it allowed itself to be picked up. “Oh! It’s soft and a bit fuzzy.”
“Like your head,” Owen muttered to himself.
“What was that?”
“Nothing, just clearing my throat.”
Tosh hid a smile. “I suppose it stands to reason they’d feel sort of woollen. They must be warm-blooded though, or whatever it is they have in place of blood. They’re quite solid too, and strong for their size.”
“I wouldn’t know,” Owen grouched, slumped in his desk chair, arms folded over his chest. He was the only one without a snock now, not having found one under his own desk.
Jack took pity on him, fetching one for him from the cluster beneath the stairs. “Just don’t do anything to harm or scare it.” He set the snock on Owen’s lap, but remained close enough to rescue it if necessary. “That one’s Scratchy. I remember that pair of socks; they looked good but the wool they were made of was too rough to be comfortable.”
Ianto eyed Jack suspiciously. “Wait a minute; have you named all the snocks under the stairs?”
“Um, yes?” At Ianto’s raised eyebrow, he continued, “Okay, I admit it, I’ve been playing with them when you’ve been elsewhere.”
Ianto rolled his eyes. “Typical. I should’ve known. So what’s this one called?”
“That’s Frodo. He’s one of the smallest, but very brave. Tosh has got Merry, and Gwen’s got Pip, the darkest one.”
“Is that all of them?”
“No, there’s four more under there; Itchy, Mo, Fred, and Tiny Tim. I think there’s another pack living behind the armoury, and a third down near the interrogation room. This lot are the friendliest because their nest is the closest to where we spend most of our time. Would you agree they’re likely to be territorial, Owen?”
“Huh?” Owen didn’t even bother looking up; he appeared to have completely forgotten about studying snock anatomy and behaviour. Scratchy was curled up on his thigh, vibrating with barely audible purrs as the medic ran one finger along its body, tracing the spiral it made from head to tail, then returning to its head to begin again.
“Never mind, it’s not important.”
The girls too were sitting at their desks, absorbed in petting and playing with the snocks, and Ianto belatedly realised that without intending to, he was gently scratching Frodo’s head with a fingertip. When he stopped, the snock nudged his finger to make him continue. It seemed to be enjoying the attention; indeed, they all did. Chuckling, Ianto went to join Jack, who had gone to sit on the sofa with Patch. As he sat down beside his lover, he decided the drinks he’d been going to make when they arrived back could wait a while longer; no one really needed them right now, too busy discovering the simple pleasures an odd snock could provide. Snocks, it seemed, were almost as comforting as hot chocolate.
The Joy Of Snocks