Word Count: 3027
Characters: Jack, Ianto, Owen, Tosh, Gwen, OCs.
Written For: My own prompt ‘There's a very bad-tempered snowman lurking in one of Cardiff's parks. Torchwood has to deal with it’, at torchwood_fest 2018.
Summary: When Kathy calls Torchwood about reports of a snowman causing trouble, Ianto and Jack have to investigate.
Beta: My lovely friend milady_dragon. Thanks so much!
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
“That was Detective Inspector Swanson,” Jack said, hanging up the phone. “Apparently the police have received several reports of a snowman going berserk in Pontcanna Fields.”
“Not something you hear about every day; not even in Cardiff.” Ianto leaned casually against the edge of Jack’s desk, hands in his trouser pockets.
“Makes a nice change from Weevils, don’t you think?”
“I’ll reserve judgement until I see it. I’m assuming we are going to check it out?”
“Couldn’t really say no to Kathy, could I? That wouldn’t be polite after she took the trouble to let us know.”
“Give me five minutes and I’ll change into something more appropriate for the weather conditions.” Ianto pushed away from the desk and headed for the door. “I’m not ploughing through knee deep snow dressed like this.” He indicated his tailored suit and smart loafers.
“Take ten; I should put a call through to Owen; tell him where we’re headed so he can join us once he’s dealt with that retrieval he went on a bit back. We might need an extra pair of hands if this snowman is as feisty as Kathy says. Tosh and Gwen can watch the Hub while we’re out.”
“I’ll be five minutes,” Ianto repeated. “If this isn’t some kind of hoax then it’s probably an alien and we need to deal with it as soon as possible. Can’t have whatever it is wandering around scaring people. Or worse.”
Being a master of the quick change, Ianto was back from the locker room in just under five minutes, dressed in jeans, a thick sweater, and waterproof boots. There’d been heavy snow over the past few days and while the snowploughs had been keeping the main roads clear, parks and gardens were buried beneath a thick white blanket. In places it was over a foot deep. Cardiff’s children had been having a field day, sledding, having snowball fights, building snowmen… Maybe it was one of those that had come to life and decided to join in the fun, shades of the animated movie.
“Did you get through to Owen?”
“No. Either he left his phone in the car, turned it off while he nipped into a bar for a drink, or the weather’s screwing with communications again.” Even Torchwood’s dedicated alien tech enhanced mobile phone network wasn’t a hundred percent immune to the vagaries of the British weather. Maybe the strong winds had brought one of the nodes down, or maybe a build-up of snow and ice was blocking the signal. “Tosh is giving the system a thorough check, just in case. She’ll let us know if there’s a problem with any of the nodes, then maybe we can check into it on our way back.”
Jack held Ianto’s coat for him to slip into it, then Ianto returned the favour, settling the vintage greatcoat onto Jack’s shoulders with the ease of long practice. Thick scarves followed, and woolly hats, and fleece lined leather gloves; they looked like they were about to embark on an arctic expedition, but what with the wind chill factor outside, Ianto thought that might not be far off the truth.
“Be careful out there!” Tosh called as the two men trooped out of Jack’s office on their way to the underground garage. “The roads are slippery.”
“We will!” Jack replied through a mouthful of scarf as once more Torchwood set out to brave the unknown, for the good of Cardiff and her citizens. They had a duty to investigate any peculiar happenings in and around the city, even if, as seemed likely, the snowman story turned out to be a hoax.
Jack and Ianto barely had time to park and get out of the SUV before a terrified family ran up to them, a mother and father with their two young boys.
“Are you Torchwood?” The father didn’t give Jack a chance to answer, immediately continuing, “You have to do something! We were just taking the kids sledding and this… thing came charging towards us, roaring and snarling. We just grabbed the kids and ran as fast as we could!”
“It was a big snowman,” the oldest boy said, nervously glancing back in the direction they’d come from. “I used to like building snowmen, but I don’t think I like them any more.”
“Did you build this snowman?” Ianto asked, but the boy shook his head.
“No, it was already there.”
“Where was it when you saw it?” Jack might have appeared more authoritative if he hadn’t been wearing a green scarf with reindeer on it, and a brown woollen hat with a massive red and green bobble on the top.
“Up near the weir,” the mother said, eyes wide with horror. “I’ve never seen anything like it! I thought it was going to kill us!”
“Maybe it was an escaped polar bear,” Ianto said, handing out sweets. “You’ve all had a nasty shock; here, eat these, the sugar will make you feel better. None of you are diabetic, are you?”
“No. Thank you.” Taking the sweets, the woman unwrapped them, handing them around.
“Don’t worry about a thing; we’ll look into it. Now, perhaps you’d all better get back home where it’s warmer. Do you have far to go?”
“Just across the way, we live on Fairleigh Road.”
“Alright then, you hurry along now.” It was a relatively short walk from here to Fairleigh Road; there’d be plenty of time for the family to get indoors before the Retcon in the sweets took effect, sending them to sleep. If they’d had farther to go, Ianto would have given them a lift in the SUV. They wouldn’t have remembered it afterwards anyway.
As soon as the family had hurried away, Ianto turned to Jack. “Any idea what weapons might be effective against a belligerent snowman?”
“Heat ray? Flamethrower?”
“Sadly, I don’t recall seeing either in the boot recently.” Ianto opened the SUV’s rear hatch and rummaged about. “Nope, no flamethrower, but we do have a portable cell; that might be useful. And the laser pistol you confiscated from that Jovix a couple of weeks ago. I wondered where that had got to. I thought you’d said you were going to put it in the armoury.”
“I forgot. Sorry.”
“You would’ve been if it’d gone off and sliced a hole right through someone; the safety’s off.” Ianto turned it on and checked the pistol. “The power pack’s only about half charged, but I suppose it’s better than nothing.”
“We’ll just have to make do. Let’s see what we’re up against first, and then we can call Tosh and Gwen to bring some additional firepower if needs be.”
“Right, let’s be off, shall we?” Ianto slammed the boot shut, making sure the SUV’s doors were locked and the security system was operational. “Lead on.”
“Why do I always have to lead?” Jack had a pout that would put a two-year-old to shame, and he wielded it expertly.
Unfortunately for him, Ianto had long since grown immune to it. “Because you’re the leader.”
“Logic!” Jack huffed, as if it was a dirty word. “Can’t we walk side by side?”
“But you make such a good windbreak!” Ianto teased.
On their way across the park, heading for the weir, Jack tried Owen’s mobile phone again, but still didn’t get an answer. “I hope he’s alright; it was just a routine retrieval, he should have been back at the Hub by now.”
“If I find out after all this that he was skiving off somewhere nice and warm when he’s supposed to be working, he’ll be on COLD instant decaf for the next month,” Ianto vowed.
“Rather him than me; you have a fiendish gift for punishments.” Then again, Jack had a healthy appreciation for all of his lover’s many talents.
“He’d deserve it,” Ianto said firmly.
“No argument there. Remind me not to annoy you.”
“I would, but it never does any good. Sometimes I think you like being punished.”
Jack winked. “Depends on the punishment.”
It was a fair distance to walk across the uneven snow-blanketed field, but they kept to a brisk pace to stay warm in the biting wind, following the tracks the fleeing family had left through the snow and only slowing when the weir came into view. They paused for a moment to draw their guns, just in case they might be needed, then continued on, moving apart so that whatever this creature might be, it would only be able to attack one of them at a time. They were almost to the weir when it suddenly appeared, rising up out of the snow maybe thirty feet away. Both men stopped dead.
“Okay, that’s definitely a snowman,” Jack said, his voice muffled by his scarf.
“It’s smaller than I was expecting,” Ianto replied. “And you don’t often see snowmen with legs. Usually they’re just a pile of snow with a big snowball balanced in top.”
The snowman was about as tall as a man of average height, maybe two or three inches shorter than Ianto or Jack. It had a lumpy body, and a round head like a large snowball, with two pebble-like eyes, and a carrot nose. As Ianto had noted, it did indeed have two legs, plus two arms that it was waving around as it lumbered towards them, roaring and snarling in a very un-snowman-like manner.
Jack raised his gun. “Stay right where you are or I’ll shoot!” he commanded.
Surprisingly the snowman obediently ground to a halt, but it continued to roar and wave its arms. Ianto frowned; there was something about it that seemed oddly familiar. He shook his head. No, that was ridiculous, it couldn’t be, although this being Torchwood… Maybe he shouldn’t be too hasty to rule out even the most bizarre possibilities.
The snowman threw both arms in the air and roared, as if to say ‘Finally!’ then dropped its arms by its sides, snarling unintelligibly. If Ianto listened closely the snarls sounded a lot like swearing.
“What happened to you?” Jack asked, dropping his gun in his coat pocket and folding his arms over his chest. “One simple little retrieval. ‘I can handle it on my own,’ you said, and now look at you. You’re a…”
“Snowen,” Ianto cut in, grinning behind his scarf. “Half snowman, half Owen, all attitude, most of it bad. Why have you been going around scaring people? No, wait; don’t tell me. You wanted Torchwood to get called in and rescue you, right? Because there’s no way you could drive back to the Hub like that, and anyway, I’m assuming your car keys and phone were in your pockets when this happened.”
“Grrrrrr!” Snow Owen replied, sounding thoroughly disgusted with the whole situation.
“Well, that explains why you weren’t answering your phone.” Jack looked Owen up and down. “It’s certainly different. I’m guessing whatever you came to retrieve did this to you.”
The coordinates for the retrieval had been at the top end of Bute Park, just across the Taff. Snowen must have wandered over the bridge above the weir into Pontcanna Fields, but exactly why was anybody’s guess. Maybe he was just looking for people to scare and couldn’t find enough of them in the park.
“So now what?” Ianto asked. “We still have to collect the item Owen came out here for.”
Snowen raised one arm and shook it vigorously, growling.
Ianto took a few steps closer and peered at the snowman’s arm. “Oh, is that it?”
Turned out snowmen didn’t nod very well, but Snowen gave it a good try. He waved his arm again, as if trying to dislodge what he’d picked up, but the small blue device was clearly frozen to his snowman hand.
Jack frowned. “How many times do I have to tell you not to pick up unknown objects with your bare hands? You use gloves, or better yet, tongs!”
“You didn’t have your field kit with you, did you?” Ianto glared at Owen, hands on hips. “You took your own car because I was out in the SUV, and you forgot to take any equipment. I bet you didn’t even have a containment unit, but instead of nipping back to the Hub or calling one of us to bring what you needed, you decided to do without. Am I right?”
The snowman’s shoulders slumped.
“You only have yourself to blame for this, Owen,” Jack told the snowman. “I’d make you walk back to the Hub as punishment, but I think you’ve terrorised enough people for one day. Come on, you’ll have to collect your car later, assuming we can get you back to being yourself before the spring thaw.”
“I’ll spread the tarp in the boot and you can sit on that,” Ianto added. “I’m not having you melting all over the upholstery.”
Snowen roared and snarled at that, and listening carefully Ianto could just about make out a few very uncomplimentary insults.
“Language, Snowen!” he chastised, smirking, although Owen couldn’t see that thanks to the warm folds of Ianto’s scarf covering his mouth.
With the lumpy snowman trailing grumpily along behind them, Jack and Ianto set off back towards where they’d parked the SUV. Luckily they didn’t encounter anyone on the way, because the living snowman would have been difficult to explain. Reaching Torchwood’s official vehicle, Ianto opened the boot and shifted most of the equipment from there onto the back seat before spreading the waterproof tarp out. He and Jack stood back as Snowen scrambled awkwardly in, looking thoroughly pissed off at being consigned to the area usually reserved for transporting Weevils, but not having any other option open to him.
Jack was unsympathetic. “Maybe this will teach you to follow retrieval protocol in future.”
“Grrrrup grrryours!” Snowen snarled.
“Physically impossible in your current state,” Ianto replied mildly. “Not to mention too bloody cold. I’ll pass.” He slammed the boot closed and went round to the driver’s seat.
Half an hour later, back at the Hub, Snowen stood on the tiled floor of the autopsy bay, dripping, as Tosh studied the device fused to his hand. “I think I might be able to prise it free with a pair of tongs.”
“What will that do to Owen’s hand?” Ianto asked.
Snowen bellowed and pulled his hand back. He wasn’t just a doctor; his hands were those of a surgeon and if one of them got damaged…
“Stop it, Owen,” Tosh snapped. “If that device isn’t removed and disabled, you could stay like this permanently, and then what good would you be to anyone? We’d have to freeze you to keep you from melting away completely. The scans I took prove you’re snow right the way through and you’re already starting to melt despite the heat being turned right down. If you keep still while I detach the device from your hand, any damage should be minimal, but the longer we wait the worse it’ll be; I might accidentally snap off a few fingers.”
The snowman whimpered and extended its hand.
Ianto passed Tosh a pair of tongs and held a containment box under Snowen’s outstretched hand.
“Okay, keep very still,” Tosh warned. She gripped the small piece of alien tech with the tongs and slowly twisted. “Got it!” There was a quiet crackling sound and the device came free. Placing the small blue rectangle in the containment box, Tosh instructed Ianto to take it up to her workstation then picked up her scanner to scan Snowen again.
No change. “According to this, he’s still one hundred percent living snow.”
Snowen gave a despairing snarl.
“What now?” Jack asked from where he stood, leaning on the railings overlooking the autopsy bay. He’d been standing there since he and Ianto had arrived back at the Hub with their frozen teammate.
“Now I study the device, see if I can switch it off, or reverse its effects.” Tosh looked at Snowen. “In the meantime, I suggest you get into one of the morgue drawers to keep cool.”
Reluctantly, Snowen did as he was told.
It took Tosh a couple of hours to figure out and disable the device. As soon as she was sure it was switched off she hurried down to the autopsy bay and pulled open one of the drawers. Owen lay there, human again, and scowling up at her and shivering.
“About bloody time! I’m freezing my balls off in here!”
“That’s the thanks I get for saving your life? Maybe I’ll just…” Tosh started to slide the drawer closed again.
“No! Wait! I didn’t mean that!”
Tosh paused. “I’m waiting.”
“Thank you, Tosh. I owe you my life, and if you let me out of here I promise I’ll take you out for a nice dinner. I’ll even pay!”
“I’ll hold you to that. Just remember I could quite easily turn you back into Snowen again and let you melt.”
Owen shuddered. “Please don’t! You have no idea what it’s like being made of snow.”
“We’ll see.” Tosh pulled the drawer all the way open and Owen scrambled out, shivering uncontrollably. His clothes were wet and his teeth were starting to chatter.
He wrapped his arms around himself, shoulders hunched, tremors racking his body.
“You should have a hot shower and get into something dry before you catch your death,” Ianto said, taking pity on his frozen colleague. He held out his hand. “But first, give me your keys and I’ll fetch your car back for you.”
For once Owen didn’t balk at someone else driving his car. “Thanks, mate.” Digging the keys out of his jacket pocket, he tossed them to Ianto, told him where he’d parked, and headed for the stairs to the locker room.
Jack pushed away from the railings. “I’ll call Kathy, tell her the snowman problem has been dealt with.”
“You can do that on the way to pick up Owen’s car,” Ianto told him. “Someone’s got to drive the SUV back. Grab your coat.”
Sighing, Jack followed Ianto up the steps to his office. Even when you were the boss, a Torchwood agent’s work was never done