Characters: Jack, Ianto, Owen, Tosh, Alien.
Summary: Out looking for the latest creature to come through the rift, Jack and the others get caught by some unexpected weather.
Word Count: 1624
Written For: My own prompt ‘Torchwood, Jack (& others?), Even Jack's never seen hailstones this big before,’ at fic_promptly.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
It was springtime in Cardiff, or it was supposed to be anyway, but as so often happened, the bright sunshine they’d been blessed with first thing that morning had quickly turned to stinging rain, driven by a chilly wind. The members of the Torchwood team were all used to the changeable Welsh weather, but it was always at its most unsettled in spring, the March winds ushering in April showers to make the daffodils and bluebells grow.
The whole of Britain was a green and pleasant land because it rained so often; you couldn’t have one without the other, but that didn’t mean it was always pleasant to be out in.
“Ah, don’t you just love these refreshing spring showers?” Ianto asked sarcastically, turning up his collar as raindrops trickled out of his hair and down the back of his neck, like chilly fingers running down his spine.
“Shower?” Owen hunched his shoulders, keeping his head low as he pushed forward against the biting wind; if he’d known the weather would turn so unpleasant he wouldn’t have left the Hub. “This is no shower; it’s a bloody downpour!”
“Give it a rest, Owen.” Jack glared at the medic, who’d been complaining ever since the clouds swept in and the first drops of rain had started to fall. “It’s only water. A bit of rain never hurt anyone.”
“You say that now, but just you wait until I come down with pneumonia from bein’ out in this.”
Ianto rolled his eyes. “And you call yourself a doctor! You of all people should know you can’t catch diseases just by getting a bit wet.” He wasn’t in the best mood himself, with the cold water plastering his hair to his head, dripping off the tip of his nose, and soaking into his clothes, but he was a native, and it was a well known fact that the Welsh were hardier than the British. Owen was being a wimp, as usual.
“A bit wet? I’m soaked to the skin; you could wring me out!”
“Don’t tempt me,” Jack muttered.
Ianto smirked. “So when we get back to the Hub I’ll just hang you up beside our coats to drip dry.”
“Har bloody har, Teaboy! I don’t even know why I had to come.”
“Because I said so, and last time I checked, I was still the boss,” Jack snapped, thoroughly fed up with Owen’s whingeing. “Deal with it, Owen; you don’t hear Tosh complaining and she’s just as wet as you are.”
Owen spared a glance for Tosh, dripping wet but silently trudging along in Jack’s wake, using him as a windbreak so she didn’t get knocked off her feet by the sudden gusts as she used her PDA to direct the four of them to whatever it was the Rift had brought them. The only thing she’d been able to tell them from her computer readings back at the Hub had been that it was alive.
Tosh swept wet hair out of her eyes with one hand and squinted at the small screen, almost wishing she was the one at home with the flu rather than Gwen. “Bear left a bit, Jack.” She glanced away from her PDA, peering past her boss and through the haze of raindrops. “Going by these readings, it looks like it might have taken shelter in that little copse of trees over there.”
Ianto wasn’t sure three scraggly trees and a scattering of small bushes really merited the term ‘copse’, but as they were the only halfway decent shelter in sight, it made sense that whatever they were seeking would have made a beeline for them to take advantage of what little protection they provided from the miserably wet and blustery weather.
Jack altered course, stepping briskly cross the uneven, rain-slicked grass, Ianto more or less keeping pace beside him and Tosh almost having to break into a trot to keep up with their longer strides. Owen plodded grumpily along a few yards behind them, muttering curses; the trees were still a good half a mile away and he wasn’t going to risk breaking an ankle on the rough ground. Why did the countryside have to be so lumpy? It was full of health hazards; only an idiot would choose to live in such primitive conditions. Probably wasn’t even cell service way out here.
The wind blew harder, the clouds overhead seemed to loom even more menacingly, and they hadn’t gone more than another half a dozen steps when something hit the ground off to Owen’s right, bouncing into the air before falling again.
“Ow!” Jack yelped indignantly as something hit him on the head. “What the hell…?”
“Not hell, hail!” Ianto yelled. “Run!”
They took off as fast as they could go towards the tiny cluster of trees, Jack opening his coat and wrapping one side of it around Tosh in an attempt to protect her from the stinging lumps of ice falling from the sky. Ianto gave a grunt of pain as a hailstone the size of a golf ball ricocheted off his right shoulder so hard it made his whole arm go numb, but despite that, he was right there when Owen slipped on the wet grass and crashed down on one knee, hauling him back to his feet one-handed and half dragging him towards cover.
By now, the hailstones were bouncing around and off them, drawing repeated gasps of pain and making the already uneven footing even more treacherous, rolling beneath their feet at every step. Jack had given up trying to pull Tosh along and had instead picked her up, sprinting the last few hundred yards, putting her down among the trees before dashing out from cover again to help Ianto and Owen.
Up close, the trees were bigger than they’d at first seemed; May trees, their spreading, densely woven canopy of thorny branches serving quite effectively to keep the huge hailstones from braining the four of them. They huddled close to the trunk of the biggest trees, assessing themselves for damage.
“Are you okay?” Jack asked, noticing the way Ianto was flexing the fingers of his right hand and rubbing his shoulder.
“I’ll live, just got clipped by a big one. The feeling in my arm’s starting to come back now.”
“Better let me take a look at that when we get back to the Hub,” Owen told him. He owed Ianto, who could have just run for the trees and left him when he fell, but had instead hung back and helped him. “Make sure you don’t have a fracture. Come to that, I’d probably better scan the lot of us, I think we all took a few good hits.”
Reassured that Ianto wasn’t seriously hurt, Jack moved away to stand just at the edge of the copse, staring out at the hailstones. They were still falling, fewer and more slowly now, but the ground was littered with them, a carpet of icy blobs, some of them broken, ranging in size from marbles to ping pong balls. Some were white and others were so clear you could see the underlying grass through them.
“Look at the size of them! I’ve seen a lot of hailstones in my time, but never any that big.”
Ianto walked over to him and stared out too. “I haven’t either. Never would have believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself. They’re quite impressive.”
They were silent for several minutes, watching the hail gradually peter out. The clouds thinned, starting to break up, and sunlight peeped through the gaps, turning the swathe of hailstones into a dazzling chiaroscuro of light.
“Would you look at that!” Jack breathed in a hushed tone.
“No thanks.” Ianto shut his eyes. “It’s a bit bright; should’ve brought my sunglasses.”
They turned towards Tosh, who was crouched down beside a small clump of bushes.
“Everything okay, Tosh?”
“Fine. I think I’ve found what we’re looking for.”
Jack blinked. “I’d completely forgotten about that, what with the hail and everything.”
“Mind like a sieve,” Ianto teased, wandering over to Tosh and peering under the bushes. There, curled up among the dry leaves, was a small dappled bluish-grey deer-like creature with huge ears and bright blue eyes.
“Don’t touch it, Tosh,” Owen warned. “It looks harmless enough, but you never know with aliens.”
“No, it’s fine, Owen. I know what that is,” Jack said calmly, stooping to look at the new arrival. “It’s a Ragnian Plorb, a female. They’re peaceful herbivores.” Reaching under the bush, he picked the small animal up. It trembled a bit but didn’t struggle, probably too shocked by its ordeal. “We should probably head back before the hail makes a return visit.”
Ianto looked up at the sky. The wind had dropped to almost nothing and only a few scattered clouds were left in a wide expanse of pale blue. “I just hope the SUV is still in one piece after that. Otherwise it’ll be a long walk back to Cardiff.”
“We won’t know until we get there.” With the Plorb tucked securely against his chest Jack strode out from beneath the trees, slipping and sliding on the hailstones, steam rising from his coat as the sunlight started to dry it. Ianto and Tosh followed, with Owen once more bringing up the rear.
“Bloody weather! Can’t make up its mind,” he muttered, kicking at melting hailstones with every step, sending them skittering away to be lost amidst all the others.
“I heard that,” Jack called back over his shoulder. “The sun’s shining now, so stop complaining and hurry up, unless you want to be left behind. There’s just no pleasing you, is there?”
Grinning, Owen hurried to catch up.