Characters: Jack, Ianto, Owen, Tosh, Gwen, OC.
Summary: While trying to locate a carnivorous alien, the Torchwood team discover something very unexpected.
Word Count: 2257
Written For: wallwalker’s prompt ‘Any, Any, gemstones running through their hands,’ at fic_promptly.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
“Hey! You guys have got to see this!” Jack, his voice echoing from the acoustics of the cavern he was searching, sounded excited.
“If it’s not what we’re looking for then we don’t have time,” Ianto called back, probing the darkness with his torch, alert for potential dangers.
Tosh, safely ensconced in the SUV, which was parked by the roadside several miles away, and linked in to Mainframe’s systems via the vehicle’s enhanced wifi capabilities, had been able to direct them to the cave system’s concealed entrance, but beyond that it was up to the rest of the team to track and apprehend whatever it was that was hiding out there. The only thing they knew for sure was that it was alive and about the size of a tiger, though the grainy images Tosh had managed to acquire from the CCTV network indicated that it lacked a tail.
The alien had come through the Rift a week earlier, and had immediately fled the city for the open countryside, meaning it was most likely an animal of some kind, spooked by its new surroundings, rather than a sentient being. The only clue to its whereabouts since its arrival was a series of sightings of a ‘big cat’ up in the area of the Brecon Beacons closest to Cardiff, along with several mostly eaten sheep carcases. Whatever it was, it couldn’t be allowed to continue killing livestock, especially since there was every possibility it could turn its attention to humans; a lot of campers and hikers frequented the area at this time of year. Torchwood had no choice other than to attempt to capture, or if necessary, kill the creature; hence their current excursion, wandering around somewhere underground, exploring a remarkably well-hidden system of caverns that as far as Ianto knew, didn’t appear on any map.
And now Jack had found something he considered interesting enough to shout about in an effort to get the attention of the rest of the team, at least one of whom wasn’t too happy with the method of communication being used.
“Don’t shout!” Owen hissed at Ianto, alarmed. “What if these caves collapse and we get trapped inside, buried alive under piles of rock?”
Ianto fixed the medic with a withering look and tapped his scanner. “They’re not going to collapse, Owen, they’re perfectly stable; that was the first thing I checked when we came down here.”
Owen didn’t look convinced, but he didn’t get a chance to reply, because Jack appeared just then and almost scared the life out of him. “Jesus, you’re getting nearly as bad as the Teaboy for sneaking around!” he yelped, clutching at his chest one-handed as if to calm his racing heart.
Jack brushed that off with a careless wave of the hand. “Seriously, I really think you guys should come and see what I’ve found! You’ll never believe it.”
With an exasperated sigh, Ianto turned back from his search of a side passage. “Fine, but if this cat creature slips past us and escapes because of you, you’ll be drinking decaf until the cows come home. We had a difficult enough time tracking it this far.”
Jack pouted at that thought but it didn’t prevent him starting back down the tunnel he’d just emerged from. “Tosh will alert us if it leaves the caves; she’s watching on the satellite feed. Now come on!” Without waiting to see if the other three were following him, he led the way along a curving tunnel that sloped gently downwards for a bit, and then more steeply upwards, finally opening into a wide cavern with a high ceiling. Several other passages radiated out from it, but it was what was in the middle of the floor that captured everyone’s attention.
Masses of jewels and gemstones in every colour imaginable were piled on the dry, sandy floor, splintering the light from their torches and bouncing it around the walls in scintillating rainbow sparks.
“Fuck me!” Owen exclaimed, making a beeline for the treasure and scooping up handfuls, allowing the gemstones to trickle through his fingers before picking up more. “There must be a king’s ransom here! We’re rich!”
“They’re so beautiful!” Gwen agreed, kneeling down and running her fingers trough the pile. “We should fetch some containment boxes from the SUV, but I think it’s going to take several trips to collect them all. There’re so many! Diamonds, rubies, emeralds… Just think; Rhys and I will be able to afford a house with our share!”
“Don’t start spending money you don’t have, Gwen,” Ianto said with a chuckle, examining a few pieces. “What we have here is Quartz, Calcite, Fluorite, a few Garnets, Amethyst, Citrine, Moonstones… they’re pretty, but they’re not going to turn us into millionaires.”
Gwen’s face fell and she dropped her handful of gems back into the pile. “You mean they’re worthless?”
“I wouldn’t say that, they’re just not as valuable as you were thinking. Sold online at auction, they might bring in a few thousand on a good day. Individually, most would sell for three or four pounds, a bit more for the best specimens. They’re what’s termed semi-precious stones, as opposed to the more highly valued kinds prized for jewellery.”
“Still, you’ve got to admit they’re worth seeing,” Jack cut in, picking up a handful himself and shining his torch on them. “I wonder how they came to be here.”
“Maybe they were stolen and when the thieves realised their booty wasn’t worth as much as they’d hoped, they hid it here,” Owen suggested.
“Maybe.” Jack sounded dubious. “There’s an awful lot though, would’ve taken the thief or thieves quite a while to transport them all across miles of moorland and into this cave, and why would they just leave them in a pile on the ground?”
“Well they didn’t come here by natural means, washed down by underground rivers,” Ianto said. “There are too many different kinds, and anyway, some are polished while others are raw. Water would have worn them all smooth over time.”
“You know, a few thousand pounds would still be worth having,” Gwen decided. “Which would be the most valuable, do you think, Ianto? We should take those first.”
“We’re not here to collect gemstones,” Ianto reminded her. “We’re looking for a carnivorous alien. Besides, I don’t think we should take any of them; they might belong to someone.”
“Like who?” Owen scoffed.
“Well, think about it; piles of gems hidden in caves… Maybe we’ve found the lair of a dragon and this is its hoard.” Ianto wasn’t entirely sure whether or not he was joking. “Anyway, we have an alien to locate and catch, right, Jack? These gems aren’t going anywhere.”
“Right.” Jack nodded, putting his handful carefully back on the pile, suddenly all business again. “I noticed what could be paw prints in the sand when I first came in here; it might have come this way. We should search these tunnels.” He gestured at the openings in the walls with his torch and the four teammates spread out, each of them taking a different passage, and using pieces of chalk Ianto had provided to mark their way so none of them would get lost.
Ten minutes later, Ianto contacted the others via their earpieces, a little surprised to find that the Bluetooth system was working this far underground. He’d only tried it because it had suddenly seemed like a very bad idea to shout and draw attention to himself.
“I think I’ve found our alien,” he said quietly.
“We’re on our way. Are you okay?” Jack asked.
“I’m a lot better than the creature is. It’s dead.”
“I didn’t hear a gunshot.”
“That’s because I didn’t shoot it; it was already dead when I found it. There’s just enough of it left to tell that it’s not an earth species; I think… it looks like something ate the rest.”
“Oh dear. Was I not supposed to?”
Ianto almost jumped out of his skin at the voice coming from the darkness at the back of the cave. He froze in place, eyes wide, as the deep, rumbling voice continued to speak.
“It’s so hard to be sure these days. Nobody notices the occasional lamb going missing, and rabbits are plentiful, but that one just walked right into my lair, and it was so big and meaty I couldn’t resist. I thought perhaps it was a tribute. It tasted different, but quite good. I was going to save the rest for later, but if you want it…” The voice trailed off.
Ianto shook his head. “No, no, that’s fine. It’s been killing livestock; we were just here to catch it before it could kill anything else. Probably would have had to shoot it anyway, so you saved us a job.”
“Oh, that’s alright then.” A rustling sound came from the back of the cave and a large head on a sinuous neck stretched out towards him. Ianto couldn’t help noticing the large, sharp, gleaming white teeth that were bared in something that might possibly have been a smile. “Hello. Please forgive my dreadful manners. I wasn’t expecting company, you see.”
“I’m sure I should be the one apologising for coming into your home without being invited,” Ianto replied, distantly surprised at the steadiness of his voice considering he was caught somewhere between awe and abject terror. “Hello. I’m Ianto Jones.”
“A pleasure to meet you. I can’t remember the last time I had visitors. I used to get them all the time, you know; they’d bring tributes, cows and sheep, in return for my protection. Sometimes they brought more than I could eat. Frankly I preferred when they brought gems; not having to hunt for my food made me lazy and fat, but pretty things are always worth having. People don’t come here any more though, not for a very long time. Well, not until today, that is.”
Jack burst into the cave just then. “Ianto! Who are you talking t… whoa! Is that a dragon?”
“I… rather think it might be, although I’m not entirely sure whether or not I’m dreaming.”
“Fuck!” Owen yelped, skidding to a halt behind Jack. Further back, Gwen was standing there gaping, eyes so wide it was a miracle they didn’t fall out.
Jack pulled himself together surprisingly quickly under the circumstances, flashing a dazzling smile at the dragon. “Well hello there, big boy! I’ve never met a mythical creature before!”
“Jack!” Ianto elbowed his lover in the ribs. “Mind your manners. We’re guests here.”
To be honest, the dragon wasn’t anywhere near as big as Ianto would have expected, its body probably no bigger than an elephant’s, but low to the ground, supported by four muscular legs and with a long neck at one end, a long tail at the other, and a leathery wing folded against each side. Its scales shimmered green and gold, depending on how the light from their torches refracted from them, and its eyes shone silver.
The dragon stretched its head towards Jack and sniffed him. “You are different from the others; human, yet not.”
“Yeah, fifty-first century pheromones,” Jack agreed. “Gives me away every time!”
“Ah, from the future then, that explains it. A different world too, I’d wager, where humans have mingled with other species.”
Jack nodded. “A lot of mingling goes on in the future,” he agreed. “Very few pure humans left by the fifty-first century. As they spread to the stars they interbred with practically every compatible race they met. The stories I could tell you.”
“Splendid!” The dragon’s smile widened. “I should very much enjoy hearing them. Always loved a good story.”
“And I love a good audience!” Jack sat down on the floor, his back against the rough rock wall. “Where should I start?”
The team spent over an hour with the dragon, as Jack regaled him with several of his stories, but finally had to take their leave before it got too dark out to find their way back to the road, although they promised to visit again soon. Brynmor, as he had introduced himself, had not received visitors in several centuries and had thoroughly enjoyed talking with them. Though he slept a lot of the time and was mostly content with his own company when awake, being alone so much became boring. His hoard, while very pretty, could not engage him in stimulating conversation and he relished learning more about the world as it was now.
They left the remains of the alien behind; there was no point in taking what was left with them anyway, they’d only have to dispose of it so the dragon might as well eat it. It seemed less wasteful that way.
As they trekked back to the SUV, where Tosh was waiting, Ianto decided that the next time he visited he’d bring some new gems for the dragon’s hoard. It was the least he could do to thank their new friend for saving him from having to dispose of the alien’s body, one of the most unpleasant of his regular duties. He’d also bring Tosh with him, since she’d only been able to join in the conversation over Ianto’s phone on the speaker setting.
All this time and a dragon still existed in Wales without a single person being aware of its presence until now. Ianto had made some amazing discoveries through working for Torchwood, but this one capped them all! It was almost a shame he couldn’t actually tell anyone about it.