Characters: Ianto, Jack, Nosy, OC.
Summary: At a market on an alien planet, someone makes Ianto an offer he has no problem refusing.
Word Count: 1150
Written For: Prompt 063 – Priceless at fandomweekly.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
Marketplaces like these were always packed with all manner of weird and wonderful creatures, both sentient species and their various livestock. Ianto had found it all rather dizzying at first; the crowds, combined with the sheer variety of noises, scents, and the dazzling arrays of produce and manufactured items on sale, had been almost more than his brain could take in. But now he and Jack had been travelling the universe for a while, carrying out their duties as earth’s ambassadors to the stars, he was at last growing accustomed to the multitude of sights and sounds.
After two years of visiting such places, he was now able to recognise more than half of the intelligent species he could see around him, busy selling or buying the bewildering array of goods displayed on the stalls. Markets were the perfect place to scout out items that might go down well with the population of earth. Aside from making peaceful contact with other races, another of his and Jack’s duties was to set up trade deals with other cultures.
Despite being considered a rather backward planet, only just beginning to take baby steps out into the wider universe, there were a number of earth commodities that were already proving popular with the people of other worlds, among them zip fasteners, Velcro, Jaffa Cakes, sage and onion stuffing, which apparently worked on several species as an aphrodisiac, and of course coffee beans. After all, wherever Ianto Jones went, he had to have coffee, and always made sure to bring a plentiful supply along with him.
Today, earth’s first official ambassadors were mostly just re-stocking supplies aboard their ship. Fresh produce was always welcome, and Ianto was enjoying sampling new things. He carried with him a nifty little device, developed some years ago by one of Torchwood’s technical geniuses, which would scan food and drink and let him know what was safe for human consumption. Even though he was now as immortal as Jack, that didn’t mean he wanted to go around poisoning himself to death all the time by eating or drinking the wrong things.
Hand-in-hand, he and Jack ambled unhurriedly from stall to stall with Nosy, the long, green, furry, snakelike alien Fluff that was their friend and travelling companion, slithering along behind them, carrying its own shopping basket in its mouth.
“’Ere, what’s that?” a gruff voice demanded in Galactic Standard as they paused at a stall selling fruits from a dozen worlds. Ianto wanted to get some loofs, having developed a taste for them on a trip with the Doctor many decades earlier.
Ianto turned to the person who’d spoken, a short, squat, heavy-set Nedramian, proprietor of the stall next to the fruit seller’s.
“What’s what?” he enquired in the same language, raising an eyebrow.
“The furry thing. Is it with you?”
“Yes; it’s our Fluff.” Technically, Nosy was a Dellabrixian Fluff Worm, but that was a bit of a mouthful, and anyway, Jack had dubbed it a Fluff when they’d first met it over a century ago, and the name had stuck.
“Niiiiice. What d’you want for it?”
“Name yer askin’ price!”
Ianto shook his head. “Sorry.”
“I’ll give ya ten thousand Galactic Credits for it.”
“Not for sale.” Ianto kept his tone polite and respectful; buying and selling was a way of life to most of the people who did business in markets like this one. There was no point getting offended by the Nedramian’s offer.
“Twenty thousand! Thirty, and I’ll throw in a case of fifty-year-old Irian Liquor.”
It was quite an offer; properly aged Irian Liquor was similar to the finest cognac, smooth and velvety, instantly warming, but drinking it didn’t result in a hangover. Only the wealthiest people could afford to buy it in bulk; it didn’t come cheap and a whole case would amount to twenty-four bottles. Not that Ianto was at all tempted to sell his friend, but he could still appreciate the stallholder’s efforts at bargaining.
“Not for any price,” he said firmly, a hint of steel in his voice. “It’s family. It would be like selling one of my children.”
“What’s wrong with that? Just sold the last of my brood into service a month ago; got a good price for him, even though he was a bit on the scrawny side. It’s why he was the last to go. Runt of the litter, ya know. Sharp mind though, he’ll do well.”
Ianto’s mind boggled. Sometimes aliens were so… alien.
The Nedramian was still talking. “What’s a man to do with ‘em if not sell ‘em? My mate’s already got another lot coming along and it costs a lot to raise ‘em. I didn’t sell ‘em I’d ‘ave gone bankrupt long since. So, about that Fluff o’ yours; forty thousand and the case of liquor, and that’s my final offer.”
Ianto slashed one hand sideways through the air in a short, chopping motion, one of the many gestures involved in trading. “No deal.”
“Suit yourself, but if ya change your mind, ya know where ta find me. I’m here every day.” The stallholder turned to deal with a customer, throwing one final glance Nosy’s way.
“Maybe we should’ve left Nosy on the ship,” Ianto murmured to Jack, returning to the fruit stall to select and pay for his loofs.
“You can’t blame the guy,” Jack said mildly. “Who wouldn’t want a Fluff? That won’t be the last offer we get for our furry friend. Not that anyone’s getting it at any price.”
“HUM!” Nosy agreed, a bit muffled around the handle of its basket.
“There’s not enough money in the universe!” That was all Ianto had to say on the matter; Nosy was not a thing to be sold, it was a living, breathing, feeling person, more than a friend, as much a part of the family as any of their children, and in Ianto’s opinion it was priceless. He knew Jack felt the same way. He thought about what the Nedramian trader had said, and frowned. “How can anyone sell their own kids?”
Jack shrugged. “Different culture, different biology. Nedramians have litters of twelve to fifteen young at a time, selling the youngsters into service works for them. It’s like an apprenticeship; they leave home to work for another household and learn a trade.”
That didn’t sound so bad, but the idea of accepting money in exchange for a member of his family… no way! Selling people just felt morally and ethically wrong. Granted, that was a human point of view, but despite all the alien cultures he’d learned about on their travels, Ianto had no intention of abandoning his humanity.
Nosy seemed completely unconcerned; as an empath it felt what its friends felt, and knew they wouldn’t sell it, any more than it would try to sell them. The friendship that existed between them was beyond price.