Characters: Ianto, Jack, Alien.
Summary: Working for Torchwood can be hard on the legs, especially when the Rift drops off something alive.
Word Count: 1595
Written For: Challenge 188: Trek at beattheblackdog.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
“Typical,” Ianto sighed when he and Jack had finally caught up with and secured their New Year gift courtesy of the Rift. “Couldn’t just wind up back where we started, could we? All that chasing around to catch our friend here and now we’re miles from where we left the SUV, with an alien in tow.” He didn’t particularly fancy the long trek back, not after chasing the creature halfway across the city. He scowled unhappily at Jack. “Now what are we supposed to do? It’s not like we can just shove it in a pocket to hide it from sight, and it’s hardly inconspicuous.”
The alien, a squat, rotund, yellowish brown creature a bit like one of Thelwell’s short-legged Shetland ponies, but with two-toed feet, delicate, glossy black antlers, and a bushy tail, seemed quite unconcerned by its situation, dipping its head to tug at the grass around their feet. At least that indicated it was an herbivore, meaning it could go out on the reservation once Owen had given it a thorough medical examination and it had been through quarantine.
“I suppose one of us could stay here with it while the other goes to fetch the SUV,” Jack suggested.
“Right, because who wouldn’t be happy to stand around in a park in the bitter cold, with the sun already going down, waiting for a lift home? Besides, it’ll take twice as long to get it back to the Hub that way.” As much as he didn’t fancy the long walk ahead of them, Ianto liked the idea of waiting around even less; he knew full well Jack wasn’t going to suggest that he wait while Ianto went for the car.
“So what d’you suggest? Call a taxi?”
“Don’t be daft; most taxi drivers won’t even let dogs in their cars, never mind aliens. They don’t want to get fur all over the upholstery. We’ll just have to walk back with it and hope not too many people notice. It’ll be dark soon; that should help matters a bit.”
“Maybe people will just think it’s a dog in fancy dress. I mean it wags its tail a bit like a dog.”
Ianto rolled his eyes at that. “They’d have to have very bad eyesight to make that mistake, Jack! It looks nothing like a dog, more like a cross between a pony, a deer, and a squirrel. It’s not like we can disguise the antlers.”
“You’re the one who’s saying we should walk it back to the SUV.” Jack was starting to get a bit exasperated with his lover.
“Yes, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s a good idea, just none of the other options are any better.” Ianto rubbed at his forehead like he was developing a headache. “We’ll have to stick to side streets as much as possible, try to avoid pedestrians. People going past in cars might not notice the antlers, but I’m betting anyone on foot would.”
“Fine, let’s get going then. The sooner we start the sooner we’ll get there.”
“I suppose there’s no time like the present. Come on, you.” Ianto tugged lightly on the harness they’d cobbled together from their belts. Reluctantly the creature abandoned its grazing and started to move in the direction he wanted, heaving a heavy sigh as if resigned to its fate. Ianto sympathised; the poor thing was probably as tired as he was from the long chase and no more enthusiastic about the equally long trek ahead of them, wanting nothing more than to relax and have a bite to eat. It wasn’t the only one.
They made their way across the park as dusk settled around them, the captive alien plodding along beside Ianto almost as if it had been trained to do so, occasionally dipping its head to grab another mouthful of grass. Maybe it was a domesticated creature and had just been spooked into running because of all the noise and the traffic.
It could move pretty fast considering the shortness of its legs; with any luck, anyone who’d spotted it earlier might have simply mistaken it for a fat deer, perhaps drawn into the city by the harsh winter weather. There were still patches of snow everywhere, although quite a bit had melted in the slightly milder temperatures of the last two or three days. The reprieve was set to be short-lived as more and heavier snow was forecast for the coming week, possibly starting later tonight. The temperature was certainly dropping fast enough.
Jack fell into step beside Ianto. “This isn’t so bad, not like having to carry a sedated Weevil. At least this little fella gets along under its own steam.”
“There’s that,” Ianto agreed. “Just wish we didn’t have such a long trek. It’ll be even longer what with trying to avoid people as much as possible.”
The wind was getting up and the alien moved closer to Ianto, using him as a handy mobile windbreak; it gave Ianto an idea. He tugged his gloved hand free of Jack’s
“Walk the other side of it,” he told his lover.
“What, you’re so mad at me over this that you don’t want me holding your hand?” Jack pouted, hurt by the inexplicable rejection.
“No, you twpsyn! Seems our friend here doesn’t like the wind, so if we walk close together and let it shelter between us, no one will see its head; with luck all they’ll see is the rear end with its fluffy tail and shaggy hind legs.”
Jack caught on. “And we’ll just be a couple of guys out walking their dog on a cold night!”
“Exactly! As long as it doesn’t panic when there’s traffic about we might even be okay taking the direct route instead of wandering the back streets and alleys. I mean, we should still try to avoid too many main roads, we don’t want it getting spooked again, we should cut through open spaces wherever possible, but it shouldn’t be too bad.”
Ianto’s overcoat and the heavy folds of Jack’s greatcoat did an admirable job of concealing the alien’s head, even if the short, spiky antlers did keep poking them in the legs, and they made reasonably good speed. Passers by barely glanced their way, and as far as they could tell no one bothered giving their ‘pet’ a second look. Wrapped in their own cold weather gear, shoulders hunched against the strengthening wind, they were all more intent on reaching their destinations and getting indoors out of the cold than in paying attention to the people they encountered along the way. For once the worsening weather was working in their favour.
It was still a long trek though, a good two and a half, possibly even three miles, through Cardiff’s suburbs and almost to the city centre, where the unfortunate riftnapped alien had made its first appearance. At last though, Ianto spotted the welcome sight of the SUV, parked at the edge of a stretch of wasteland not far from the bus station. The thought of sitting down and resting his feet at long last almost made him groan out loud, but he managed to restrain himself; there were still things to do.
Digging the keys out of his coat pocket, Jack clicked the fob to unlock the SUV’s doors as they approached. Ianto swung the upper door of the boot open and lowered the tailgate, but it took both men to lift the weary alien into the back of the vehicle; it’s legs were far too short for it to get in by itself.
As soon as they’d heaved it up and shoved it unceremoniously inside, the alien folded its stubby legs beneath itself and sank down with a grunt.
“I know just how you feel,” Ianto told it. “Now, you behave in there, no eating our equipment, understand?”
It snorted, closing its large, dark eyes. Ianto almost wanted to crawl in the back with it and go to sleep; instead, he raised the tailgate, closed the boot, making the alien open its eyes and give him a disapproving look through the rear window, and trudged around to the passenger side, sinking gratefully into the seat and fastening his seatbelt. He felt the car dip slightly as Jack climbed into the driver’s seat, but didn’t bother opening his eyes; right at that moment it would have taken more energy than he could muster.
The engine roared into life, drawing a startled snort from their passenger.
“Nothing to worry about,” Ianto said through a yawn. “Go back to sleep.”
A softer snort issued from the rear compartment as the SUV accelerated smoothly away from the kerb.
Contrary to what most people believed, Jack could drive carefully and obey the rules of the road when he chose to, and he did so now, not wanting to upset the weary alien creature, or disturb his dozing lover.
“Jack?” Ianto murmured sleepily.
“Next time we have to deal with something living that’s come through the Rift, can we please bring reinforcements so someone can follow us in the car? I have nothing against healthy exercise, but a five-mile run through the city followed by a three-mile walk is not my idea of fun, especially after barely two hours’ sleep last night.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Jack promised.
Silence fell in the SUV and Jack smiled to himself, following the familiar route through the dark streets back to the Hub, hoping for a quiet night with no more disturbances. Surely the Rift owed them that much.