Characters: Ianto, Jack, Owen, Tosh, Gwen, Snocks.
Word Count: 2017
Summary: It’s time the team attempted to find out exactly how many snocks there are lurking around the Hub. What better way than to do a snock-take?
Content Notes: None needed.
Written For: Challenge 224: Hunt at fan_flashworks.
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!
“I’ve been thinking…” Ianto said at the start of Torchwood’s regular morning meeting, also know as breakfast since most of the team didn’t bother eating until they arrived at the Hub. The coffee there was so much better than anything they could get elsewhere.
Owen cut Ianto off, mumbling through a mouthful of doughnut. “I don’t like the sound of that. Every time you start a sentence that way it ends up meaning more work for the rest of us.”
“Yes, because it’s my goal in life to make sure you earn your pay,” Ianto snarked back. “You’re not being paid to sit on your arse all day playing computer games. Her Majesty deserves to get full value for money spent.” The Rift had been quiet for the past couple of days and looked like staying that way into the following week. Everyone had been making use of the downtime to catch up on routine tasks, with the exception of Owen, who’d been finding more enjoyable, and far less productive, ways of passing the time.
“What d’you expect me to do? I’m a doctor with no patients to treat, and no dead bodies to study, although if you’re volunteering…”
This time it was Ianto who cut Owen off before he could finish his sentence, raising his voice to be heard. “I’ve been thinking that since we have time on our hands, this might be a good opportunity to round up all the snocks and microchip them, so we can keep track of their movements around the Hub. If we know how many there are and where they live, we can hopefully avoid any more of them coming to harm.”
Scrap, the injured snock, was almost fully recovered and would soon be released back into its natural environment. Owen had already implanted a tiny microchip in its hump so he could track it and make sure it was accepted back into its flock, but that had set Ianto thinking about all the other resident snocks. How many of them had been injured or even killed before the team had become aware of their presence? Now they’d been discovered, it was only right that certain precautions should be taken to ensure they remained healthy.
“You want to carry out a snock census?” Jack asked, grinning.
“I was thinking more along the lines of a snock-take,” Ianto replied, somehow managing to keep a straight face as he delivered the terrible pun.
Jack chuckled. “Snock-take, nice one! It’s a good idea though; it might prove useful to know exactly how many snocks are lurking out of sight. Right, we’ll do it; today is set aside for snock-taking. As soon as we’re finished here, we’ll each take a box, pick a section of the Hub, and round up all the snocks living there. Make sure you keep a record of which snocks come from where, so we can release them back into their home territories as soon as Owen’s checked them over and microchipped them.”
Ianto nodded approval. “That’s more or less what I was going to suggest. Right, so now that’s sorted, what else is on the agenda?”
For the rest of breakfast, the team discussed other matters, but as soon as everything had been cleared away and the assorted plates and mugs were in the dishwasher, Jack gathered everyone together by the old sofa, where Ianto handed out large plastic containment boxes, judging that the slippery sides should make it impossible for captured snocks to climb out.
“Okay, listen up, kids! I’ll take the flock under the spiral staircase to start with; they know me so I shouldn’t have any trouble catching them. Ianto, take the area behind the armoury, Gwen, behind the Rift pool, Tosh, over near the interrogation room, Owen, around the invisible lift. When you clear an area, take your box of snocks down to the autopsy bay for Owen to deal with, then pick up another box, and search somewhere else.”
“Oi! That’s not fair!” Owen grouched. “I have to hunt snocks and then spend ages examining and microchipping them?”
“Owen’s right for once,” Ianto said. “He should wait in the med bay and ‘chip the snocks as the rest of us bring them to him. Afterwards, before we let them loose again, I want to photograph them all so we can identify them later if necessary.”
“Sensible,” Owen agreed. “We can number the ones that don’t have names, maybe assign each flock a letter, ‘A’ for the armoury flock, ‘S’ for the ones under the staircase…”
Jack frowned. “I don’t know; numbers seem a bit impersonal. Snocks are living, feeling creatures; imagine going through life being called A-7, or S-4.”
“I am not a number, I am a free snock,” Ianto intoned, making everyone laugh. “Maybe we could give all the armoury snocks names beginning with A or something, a different letter of the alphabet for each flock, except for the ones under the staircase, since they already have names.”
Owen nodded. “Yeah, that’ll work.”
“Okay, now we all know what we’re doing, let’s get on with the snock-taking!” Jack said cheerfully. “Happy hunting, kids!”
Unsurprisingly, hunting snocks turned out to be quite a pleasant pursuit. Who wouldn’t enjoy playing with snocks all day given the opportunity? It beat doing paperwork or battling monsters. Snocks were a whole lot friendlier than the average Weevil, and much more appealing to look at.
While some snock flocks were less used to humans and therefore more timid and harder to catch, they were also inquisitive little creatures, and could often be coaxed out of hiding with a nice fat dust bunny. That still didn’t make catching them a straightforward task. Their tendency to make their homes in awkward places meant the team were required to scrabble about under catwalks, behind old machinery, and in various gaps and crevices. Crawling around on the concrete floors, particularly in the areas Ianto didn’t generally bother to clean, left everyone a bit grimy, but that was nothing compared to the kinds of substances they got splattered with on a regular basis when out in the field. Dust washed off a lot easier than blood or slime so nobody was overly bothered about getting mucky. Gwen said searching out snocks reminded her of Easter egg hunts when she was a kid, except that Easter eggs didn’t try to wriggle away when you got hold of them.
Even Owen was happy, sitting in the medical bay, surrounded by carefully labelled boxes of snocks, microchipping them one boxful at a time, and giving each snock a quick health check as well. Most of the snocks were various shades of grey, making them difficult to distinguish from one another, so he made notes of distinguishing marks such as darned patches, ribbing, and scars. A couple had narrow stripes around their tail ends, some blue, and some black, and there were even a couple of white snocks among the armoury flock. Whether or not those had once belonged to Jack was anybody’s guess.
By lunchtime, thirteen flocks of snocks had been collected from different locations around the Hub, each flock numbering between seven and twelve individuals, for a grand total of a hundred and twenty-seven snocks. Ianto raised an eyebrow at that.
“Exactly how many socks have you managed to lose?” he asked Jack, who looked equally surprised at the number.
“I didn’t think it was that many; maybe they really are breeding somehow. Then again, I’ve lived here for a very long time, so I’ve probably misplaced quite a few over the years.”
“Ianto’s not the first person you’ve played naked hide and seek with then?” Owen piped up, then winced, clearly wising he’d kept his mouth shut. Some things were best not mentioned if you didn’t want to wind up reaching for the Retcon.
“Never thought I was,” Ianto said mildly.
“Are you volunteering?” Jack leered at Owen. “We can always use a third.”
“No way, leave me out of your games!”
“You don’t know what you’re missing.” To everyone’s surprise it wasn’t Jack who spoke.
Owen’s eyes nearly popped out of his head and he stared at Ianto in disbelief. The snock he was examining squeaked in protest as he squeezed it a bit too hard. “I can’t believe you just said that! You’re getting as bad as Jack!”
“I prefer to think of myself as open-minded,” Ianto smirked.
“Disgusting is more like it.” Owen petted the snock in apology, injected its microchip, and logged the number beside the snock’s description, weight, and measurements. He figured if they were going to keep records of the snock population, it might as well be done properly, with a file for each snock. Maybe Ianto would insist on an annual snock-take to keep abreast of numbers, and it would prove interesting to find out how much a snock grew in the course of a year. If they grew at all and didn’t just go from sock to snock spontaneously and remain unchanged for the rest of their lives. Despite all the notes he’d made while caring for the injured Scrap, he still knew so little about the creatures. Someday snocks might become more widespread; especially if it turned out they were able to breed. The more he could learn about them, the better. He’d be the foremost authority on snock-kind.
“Do you think this is all of them?” Tosh asked.
“Don’t really know,” Ianto told his friend. “It’s always possible a few managed to stay hidden when we rounded up the other members of their flocks, and there could be other flocks elsewhere in the Hub, maybe in the archives or near the cells. I think we’ve rounded up most of the ones living in the main Hub though. We could try setting box traps elsewhere and see if we catch anything, that would tell us whether or not snocks are confined to this immediate area. For now, we should concentrate on the ones we’ve got. If, when we go to release them, we spot any others, we can grab them for chipping.”
“Maybe we should each keep an eye on two or three flocks,” Tosh suggested. “Get to know each snock by sight. That way if we missed any, we should be able to spot the stragglers and bring them to Owen for a health check and… um… registration?”
Surprisingly, Owen was all for that idea. “Yeah, that would be a good way to study snock behaviour in their natural habitat.”
“You all just want an excuse to play with my snocks,” Jack pouted.
“They’re not just your snocks, Jack,” Ianto said firmly. “They’re communal property now. There’s more than enough to go around. If you want sole ownership, that means you’ll be doing the next snock-take all by yourself.”
“Wouldn’t I? Your snocks, your responsibility. But if you agree to shared ownership and shared responsibility…”
“You drive a hard bargain. Fine, you win; we share the snocks, and the snock-taking, equally.”
“Good. Now…” Ianto picked up Jack’s digital camera. “Photo time!”
Jack beamed. “Do you want me with clothes or without? Personally, I think without would be best…” Jack started to unbutton his shirt.
“Not you, twpsyn, the snocks!”
“Oh.” Jack looked disappointed; then he had an idea and perked up. “I could pose with them!”
“One hundred and twenty-seven times?” Ianto raised an eyebrow at his lover.
“I’m game if you are!”
“You would be, but I think not. I’m not taking family portraits; these photos are for identification purposes only.”
“Snock mugshots,” Owen deadpanned.
The infamous Jack Harkness pout made an appearance. “Fine,” Jack grumbled, then a hopeful note entered his voice. “Maybe you could take some of me after?”
“No promises. Let’s get started.” Ianto turned the camera on. “Owen, first snock please.” He adjusted the camera’s settings to get the clearest possible picture as Owen set the first snock on a white tray for contrast. Snapping a couple of pictures, one from each side, he sighed. “One down, one hundred and twenty-six to go. This could take a while.”