Characters: Nosy, Ianto.
Summary: Nosy likes its new home and new friends, but it has yet to learn how to communicate with the humans. Maybe Ianto will help.
Word Count: 1731
Written For: Challenge 151: Talk at beattheblackdog.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
A/N: Happy Pangalactic Fluff Day!
Nosy the Fluff can’t talk like a human; it doesn’t have the right vocal chords, or the other physiological stuff that humans have because of course it isn’t a human. Fluffs and humans are very different from each other, on the inside as well as the outside.
Fluffs have their own language, of course, which they use to communicate with other Fluffs; it’s mostly made up of different hums, combined with an empathic, even slightly telepathic, link with their own kind. Not that there are any of Nosy’s own kind here on this strange new world; so far it’s an only Fluff, but that’s fine. One day it will do something about its singularity, but not just yet. It wants to get used to its new home and learn as much as it can about humans before it makes more Fluffs.
There’s no hurry, it’s still a relatively young Fluff by the standards of its kind, barely two hundred rotations of its home planet around the sun; it has a few thousand rotations ahead of it yet, maybe longer considering the abundance of the nutritious substance it requires to maintain good health. When the time is right the delicious substance will also enable it to reproduce, but there are some things it’s best not to rush into.
Although not being able to speak the human language can be a bit of a problem; it doesn’t mean that Nosy is unable to understand its new friends. Even with beings as alien to it as these humans, Nosy’s empathic sense allows it to correctly interpret their emotions, and from there, learning the meanings of the sounds they make is fairly straightforward.
The humans are even learning to understand some of Nosy’s various hums, which is reassuring; that means it’s able to communicate with its new friends, albeit in a limited way. Perhaps given time, communication between their two species will improve, but at present it’s still a bit hit and miss, with frequent misunderstandings. Nosy isn’t worried; a certain amount of confusion is to be expected.
Humans don’t always talk to each other with sounds though, which is interesting. Sometimes they communicate via odd marks they make on pieces of something they call paper, or by similar but much neater marks that appear on the machines they spend a lot of their time playing with. Like empathy or telepathy, these marks that appear on one screen can be transmitted directly to another, so the humans can talk to each other even though they can’t see each other. It’s very clever, humans are obviously very intelligent beings, but so are Fluffs and Nosy wonders if maybe it could learn to make the talking marks, and to understand what they say. That would be fun.
Nosy’s friend Ianto has given it wooden blocks to play with. Some are in lots of different shapes and colours, and all kinds of things can be built with them, but there are other square ones that have the talking marks on them, different marks on each of their sides. That’s very exciting because if Nosy can learn to put the blocks in the right order, maybe it can talk to its humans that way. For obvious reasons that might prove to be rather a slow method of communication, finding the right marks on the blocks and arranging them in the correct order, but it would be a start. Maybe it should ask one of its friends to help.
Lining up all the talking blocks in its play area, Nosy goes to find the one called Ianto and manages to persuade him to follow, like it did back in the cave after they first met. Humans are usually very quite quick to catch on. Seeing the blocks all laid out, Ianto crouches down and turns some of the blocks around. Nosy understands immediately; the talking marks must need to go a certain way up, but it had put some of them upside down or sideways. Ianto is correcting that.
Then Ianto changes the order the blocks are laid out in, turning some of them so a different side is uppermost. Nosy watches, humming curiously.
“This is called the alphabet,” Ianto says. “Each of the symbols on these blocks is a different letter, and these are all the letters that make up words.”
Nosy listens intently; this is its first lesson in human talk and although it doesn’t completely understand everything Ianto is saying, it gets the gist of it through the strong empathic link it has with its friend. Ianto goes through the line of letters, naming each one. Each equates to a different sound, which Nosy memorises. It has a very good memory, especially for sounds.
Ianto picks out some of the blocks and puts them in a row. N-O-S-Y. “That’s your name; Nosy.”
“HUM!” Nosy exclaims, wriggling. That means ‘this is exciting!’ in Fluff speech.
“This is my name.” I-A-N-T-O.
That looks odd to Nosy; now it knows how the letters are supposed to sound, it hears each one in its head, but put together they don’t sound the way Ianto says his name. Shouldn’t he have used the letters Y-A-R-N-T-O? It hums a question, and Ianto seems to understand.
“When letters are put together in groups it can change the way they sound.”
“Hm.” Human talk is clearly not going to be as easy to learn as Nosy had thought. Still, it’s determined to persevere; learning human words is very important.
Ianto shows Nosy some other letter combinations, demonstrating the sounds they make, and Nosy starts to understand; there are so few letters and so many sounds in human talk, the only way to make all of them with the talking marks is to group letters together in different ways. It’s quite clever really.
Then Ianto shows Nosy the names of the rest of its new friends. JACK. TOSH. OWEN. ANDY. MICKEY. GWEN.
Nosy hums another question at the last one.
“Oh, you haven’t met Gwen yet; she’s not here at the moment. She and her husband are on vacation.”
“Hum.” Having no idea what a ‘husband’ is, never mind a ‘vacation’, Nosy lets that slide for now; it can find those things out some other time, perhaps when the Gwen human is here. It thinks for a moment, then slinks to its toy box and brings back one of its stuffed toys, plonking it down by the blocks.
Ianto does that thing with his mouth that means he’s happy, and a bit amused; Nosy’s own mouth doesn’t bend like that. It can feel the emotions radiating from its friend, and they’re nice, they make Nosy feel warm and happy inside and it squiggles a little on the ground, one of the ways Fluffs express happiness.
“Shaun,” Ianto says, moving some blocks. SHAUN. “Shaun is a sheep.” SHEEP.
Then of course Nosy has to learn the names of its other soft toys. SID is a SNAKE and FRED is a TEDDY BEAR.
Nosy wriggles with delight. Learning is fun.
“Who are you?” Ianto asks then, and for a moment Nosy is confused, even a bit worried. Has Ianto forgotten? No, it realises almost immediately; of course he hasn’t, this is a test to see if Nosy can remember what it’s been taught so far. Nosy finds the correct blocks, laying them out carefully, making sure they’re the right way around.
“That’s right, very good!” Ianto radiates approval.
He tests Nosy on the names belonging to the rest of the team, then teaches it that word too: TEAM, meaning all of its human friends, and Nosy as well, because now Nosy is one of them; it belongs. Then he shows Nosy a new word, the longest one yet: TORCHWOOD, which is the name of the team. That’s a big word and Nosy studies it carefully because it’s a very important one. Then it realises it’s seen the word before, on the wall above what its friends call the sofa, so it looks in that direction, humming enquiringly.
Ianto laughs. “Yes, that’s right, it’s the same word that’s on the sign.”
Nosy hums proudly; it’s learned a lot already so it decides to try something by itself. Moving some blocks, it spells out the name of the delicious substance Ianto makes: KOFI.
“Good try, but not quite right,” Ianto tells it, replacing the blocks with COFFEE. “Shall I go and make some?”
Nosy is enjoying learning, but it decides it has enough to think about for the moment. There’s no way it can learn all the human words in one short lesson and it’s feeling a bit thirsty from all the thinking and moving blocks; coffee would be very good. It studies the blocks, thinking hard about the way each one sounds, and tries…
“Excellent, young Fluff, that’s exactly right!”
Nosy fluffs up with pride, really feeling it’s starting to get the hang of this clever way of talking.
“There’s one other word you need to add though.” Ianto corrects Nosy again by spelling another word, placing it alongside the YES: PLEASE. “It’s polite to say yes please when you want to accept something you’re being offered,” he says. “It’s also good manners to say please when asking for something.”
Nosy remembers seeing Jack with a pleading expression on his face, radiating want, and asking, “Coffee please, Ianto?”
With a thrill, Nosy realises it knows all those words and squiggles with delight again. “Hummmmm!” It can now ask for its favourite drink whenever it wants! It knows it might not always get what it asks for, sometimes Ianto says ‘No’ when Jack asks, but having the ability to ask is what’s important. In time it will learn how to ask for other things too.
Ianto gets to his feet, dusting off the knees of his trousers; humans seem to collect dirt far more easily than Fluffs. “We’ll have another lesson tomorrow, if things aren’t too busy around here,” he promises Nosy. “I’m impressed; you’ve already learned so much. I wish I could spare more time, but I’ve got work that needs my attention so I’ll leave you to practice by yourself. First though, coffee for everyone; biscuits too, I think.”
To Nosy that sounds like a splendid idea; biscuits are almost as wonderful as coffee. Maybe next lesson it can learn how to ask for a biscuit.