Title: Stranded On Halloween – Chapter 1
Characters: Owen, Tosh, Ianto, Jack, Gwen
Word Count: 1518
Spoilers: None in this chapter.
Summary: The team run into a spot of trouble one Halloween.
Written For: Challenge #98: Haunted at fan_flashworks.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
A/N: Back in 2012, I wrote a Halloween drabble about the Torchwood team getting stranded on the spookiest night of the year; I intended to expand on it at some point, but I forgot. Someone reminded me earlier this year, but I’ve been so busy with various challenges that I didn’t think I’d have time. Then along came the perfect challenge, and after nine days and over 9000 words, it’s finally finished. Only problem is, I’ve had to divide it in chapters to post because it’s so long!
This also goes back to the original version of the drabble which never got posted because severe storms hit America; it seemed in bad taste to echo that in a piece of fanfiction at the time. Hope you all enjoy the Torchwood team’s Halloween odyssey.
October 31st had seen the whole team traipsing about the countryside chasing a signal that turned out to be a computer glitch. As if that hadn’t been bad enough, as they scrambled into the SUV with the light fading fast, the storm that had been threatening all afternoon finally broke. Rain came pouring down in a solid sheet and the wind hit the SUV so hard it actually rocked on its axles. Owen slumped into his seat.
“Bloody great. Just what we needed.”
“At least we’re not still out in it,” Tosh said, pushing a lock of hair behind her ear.
“Small consolation. Now we’re stuck here until the rain lets up.” Owen had to shout to be heard above the sound of rain pounding the metal roof of the SUV. “It’s like bein’ inside a bleedin’ drum!” Ianto twisted in his seat and tossed something into Owen’s lap, where he sat between the two girls. “What the fuck?”
“Earplugs!” Ianto shouted. “Hand them out!” He popped a pair in his own ears.
“I take back everything insulting I ever said about you; you’re a bloody marvel, teaboy!”
Earplugs reducing the deafening racket to a distant rumble, Jack turned the key in the ignition and fired up the SUV’s engine. The only way any of them could tell it was running was from the faint vibration through their seats. With the windscreen wipers on their fastest setting and the headlights on full, Jack pulled out cautiously onto the deserted two-lane road and set off in the general direction of Cardiff. It had taken them nearly two hours to get here with Jack driving in his usual reckless fashion, but it looked like the return journey would take a lot longer. Jack seemed to be taking the treacherous conditions seriously and driving at a more sensible speed, probably because of the poor visibility.
About half an hour later, the rain started to ease off and Jack speeded up a bit. The rest of the team pocketed their earplugs, glad that they could talk to each other again. Time dragged when all you had for entertainment were your own thoughts and the sight of rain pouring down the windows.
The rain might have trailed off to a drizzle but if anything, the wind had only increased. The trees along the roadside were whipping about in a frenzy and they could all feel the SUV being buffeted by fierce gusts. Despite his apparent recklessness, Jack was actually an excellent driver; he kept them at a steady speed, quick reflexes compensating easily when the wind tried to force them off the road. It was these same 51st century reflexes that saved them from what could have been complete disaster.
Up ahead, lightning flashed suddenly, almost dazzling them, and with a loud crack one of the roadside trees, its roots unable to withstand the force of the wind, suddenly toppled across the road barely thirty metres ahead of them. Stamping on the brakes and clutch, Jack spun the wheel, sending the SUV into a skid. They would probably have been alright if the road at that point hadn’t been bordered by wide ditches, which were now full to overflowing thanks to the torrential rain. Try as he might, Jack was unable to prevent the SUV sliding inexorably sideways, coming to rest tipped at an angle and mostly in the ditch. Water immediately began to flood the interior and as if to add insult to injury, the clouds opened once more.
“Everyone out!” Jack yelled as the vehicle settled deeper into the freezing cold water. “Grab what you can.”
Snatching up the kits they’d been carrying earlier, everyone scrambled up and out the passenger side doors, since the driver’s side was mostly underwater. As luck would have it, one rear wheel remained on relatively dry land and with Jack’s help, Ianto was able to open the boot and toss some emergency equipment to the other members of the team. He couldn’t reach everything, but hopefully they’d have the essentials. Right now, their top priority was finding shelter for the night. This far out in the country and in weather this severe, getting a phone signal, even on Torchwood’s alien-tech augmented mobiles, was unlikely.
“We passed a building of some kind about a mile back,” Ianto shouted over a deep rumble of thunder, gesturing back the way they’d come. “That might be our best bet.”
“Okay,” Jack shouted back. “The sooner we get out of this rain, the better. Let’s get moving, people.”
Already soaked through by a combination of rain and ditch water, and feeling chilled to the bone, the team turned and started back along the road, heads down, battling against the fierce wind, hanging on to each other to avoid getting separated.
None of them had any idea how long they’d been walking before they finally saw the building, a darker shape looming against a backdrop of storm-tossed trees in the deepening gloom of approaching night. It was set well back from the road at the end of a long, rutted and overgrown drive, surrounded by neglected gardens and tangled shrubberies. As they stumbled towards it, tripping on roots and rocks, they realised it was quite a lot bigger than it had seemed from the road, a solidly built and once-grand three-storey manor house gradually falling into ruin.
Owen stared at it gloomily. “Here I was, hoping for a nice country hotel or even a farmhouse and what do we get? A ruin. Why’d we have to come here?” He scowled at Ianto. “Couldn’t you pick somewhere better?”
“This could be the only building of any kind in miles; it’s certainly the only one we passed. We should all be thankful, at least we’ll have some shelter from the wind and rain.”
“Yeah, I suppose. What a crap way to spend Halloween! I had plans.”
Jack slapped him on the back.
“Look on the bright side, Owen; maybe it’s haunted!”
Owen glared pityingly at him. “I’m a scientist, I don’t believe in ghosts.”
“Suit yourself. Let’s get inside.”
The front door was half-open, hanging by one hinge, so they squeezed through the gap one by one. Owen and Jack did what they could to wedge the heavy wooden door closed against the howling wind while Ianto rummaged through what they’d salvaged from the SUV and produced three torches, handing them out.
“Try to use them as little as possible. We only have one spare set of batteries and we’re going to be stuck here all night.”
“First things first,” said Jack, taking charge. “We should find the best room to camp out in. One with a fireplace would be good. There’s enough broken furniture that we might be able to get a fire going.”
“Assuming the chimneys aren’t blocked. We’d better make a small test fire first, don’t want to fill the place up with smoke,” Ianto cautioned.
A quick check of the nearest rooms provided just what they needed in what seemed to be the front parlour or receiving room, which had a wide stone fireplace almost big enough for a man to stand up in. While Ianto used a broken plank to sweep debris to one end out of the way, Owen stuck his head up the chimney and shone his torch upwards briefly.
“Looks clear to me. I think we’ll be okay if we’re careful.”
“That’s good news. Owen, give me a hand collecting firewood. Ianto, you’re in charge of getting the fire started. The sooner we can get out of our wet clothes the better.” It was testimony to the seriousness of their situation that Jack didn’t even leer when he said that.
“Hey guys, look what we found!” said Tosh as she and Gwen came back into the parlour from the adjoining dining room. They were each carrying a couple of tarnished and slightly bent candelabra and some candles.
“Brilliant! That’ll save the torches.” He tossed Tosh a box of matches. “Find somewhere safe to stand them. I could do with some light so I can see what I’m doing.”
Half an hour later, with a roaring fire going in the hearth and the candles providing flickering light the team, stripped down to their underwear, were wrapped in emergency thermal blankets. Their outer clothes, draped over a makeshift washing line, were drying out in front of the fire. As they only had three blankets, Ianto and Jack were sharing one, Gwen and Tosh had the second, and Owen had the last one all to himself. Ianto had shared out the emergency food rations and water, so they were nibbling on energy bars, nuts, dried fruit and chocolate; not the best meal ever but a lot better than spending the night hungry.
As they’d expected, getting a signal on their phones had proved impossible, so in the spirit of both Halloween and making the best out of their situation, they did what any sensible group of people stranded in a spooky house would do. They told each other ghost stories until eventually they all fell asleep.