Title: The Care And Feeding Of Alien Fluffs - Part 1/2
Characters/Pairing: Jack/Ianto, Tosh, Owen and Nosy. Andy, Mickey and Gwen mentioned
Rating: PG-13 for Owen being slightly… Owen
Spoilers: Don’t think so. Set after Exit Wounds and Doctor Who, Journey’s End, but everyone’s still alive and the team has been expanded.
Summary: The boys go shopping for Nosy supplies.
Word Count: 7186
Warnings: Blatant silliness, bizarre ideas.
Series: Fourth in the Nosy-Verse, follows How To Live With A Neurotic Alien
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood or any of the characters, but I do own Nosy!
A/N: Finally, after nearly two years, it’s here! Thanks to everyone for being so patient. Thanks also to zazajb, angelsphonebox and totally4ryo for ideas on food and toys for Nosy, remuslives23 for reading some scenes and saying they were fit for reading, and also to timelordshines for prodding at me to get back to writing!
A/N2: The St. David’s Shopping Centre is a product of my imagination – there may be one, but if there is it probably doesn’t resemble this one at all!
There is a Pet World in Cardiff, though I have no idea what it's like or who owns it. The interior of my Pet World is a vastly expanded version of the late, lamented Petmart in my hometown, a victim of so-called progress. Anne is the female version of Petmart's owner, Steve Zlotowitz, who knew all his customers and their pets, and was always welcoming and helpful. What he didn't know about animals wasn't worth knowing.
Breakfast away from the Hub was a chance to catch their breath and make plans. They decided they would visit Pet World first for the more usual pet supplies, then the St. David’s Shopping Centre for… well, whatever they could find that might appeal to six metres of vaguely snake-shaped furry alien. Nosy had already proved itself both intelligent and inquisitive; it would need to be kept occupied in order to keep it out of trouble.
Despite the long day of shopping ahead of them, they were in no rush, so after a leisurely breakfast, they headed for their first port of call. Jack was lucky enough to find a short stay parking spot quite close to Pet World, so Ianto didn’t have far to walk. Still, he found himself grateful for Jack’s cane; it was a big help, considerably easing the strain of limping.
Jack pushed the door open and stood to the side, letting Ianto enter ahead of him. The shop was enormous, stocking not only every conceivable piece of equipment you might need for any pet from a humble goldfish to a budgie, a dog or even a python, but an impressive array of animal feeds and even a varied selection of creatures waiting to become someone’s beloved pet.
“Morning, Ianto,” a cheery voice called from over at the till, “Be with you in a minute.”
“No rush, Anne,” Ianto called in reply.
“Come here a lot, do you?” Jack asked in a low voice, frowning slightly.
“Yep! Where do you think I get the supplies for our guests? Not to mention Owen’s rats and Tosh’s spider mouse colony.”
“I hate those things!” Jack shuddered dramatically.
Ianto chuckled. “So you keep saying. She named one after you, you know. The one with the spiky fur. Said the resemblance was quite striking.”
Jack pouted and glared at him, but soon got sidetracked and wandered off to look at the animals, gazing adoringly at puppies, kittens, rabbits, guinea pigs and even, to Ianto’s amusement, a chameleon which nearly sent Jack cross-eyed as he tried (with no success whatsoever) to copy the way its eyes moved independently of each other.
Ianto’s attention was pulled back to the task at hand by a voice just behind him.
“Sorry to take so long. So, what is it this time? Ferret? Alligator snapping turtle? Llama?”
Ianto turned and smiled at the middle-aged woman who’d spoken. Jack paid no attention, continuing to fuss over the animals.
“Nothing so exotic this time, thank God, though I swear if Jack found an octopus washed up on the beach he’d bring it home with him. Furred, feathered, scaly; it makes no difference. If it’s lost, he brings it home.” He lowered his voice, “Though if you mention spiders, he’ll be out the door before you can blink, they’re the one thing he can’t stand.”
“There are a lot of people who feel the same way,” Anne said with a smile, “So, what can I help you with?”
“We’re fostering a dog for a friend who’s had to go overseas for a few weeks on business. It was very last minute and unfortunately, some of the necessary equipment got mislaid somewhere along the way. We have no food or water dishes, and the grooming brushes have vanished too.”
Anne chuckled, pushing a hand through her short, greying brown hair. “That happens more often than you’d think. Whether it’s animals or children, whenever you transport them from one place to another, something is bound to go missing. What sort of dog is it?”
“Bit of everything, I think. It’s big, and very fluffy.”
Behind him, Jack gave a choked off snort of laughter. Ianto turned to give him a glare that said quite clearly ‘If you think you can do better, be my guest.’
“Right, let’s get you sorted out. Brushes are his way.” Anne set off down the shop, with Ianto limping along beside her. “What happened?”
“What?” Ianto looked confused.
“To your leg,” Anne said, pointing at the cane.
“Oh, we were out hiking yesterday, got caught in a storm and I sprained my knee getting to shelter,” Ianto explained. It was true, after all; it just wasn’t the whole story. Ianto had long ago decided it was safer to stick as close to the truth as possible. It avoided unnecessary complications.
“That’s a bit of bad luck,” Anne sympathised, “especially now you have a big dog to exercise.”
“Could have been worse. Anyway, I plan to let Jack do all the walking; I‘ll just sit in one place and throw balls for it to fetch.”
A few minutes later, Anne was showing Ianto a wide and varied selection of grooming brushes when Jack, finally tearing himself away from the animals, sauntered over and slipped one arm around his lover’s waist.
Ianto half turned to smile at him, “Jack, meet Anne, owner of Pet World and Cardiff’s foremost authority on anything with fur, feathers or scales. Anne, this is my partner, Jack.”
“Ah, so you’re the one. Nice to finally meet you,” Anne said with a grin.
Jack looked puzzled, “Umm, what one?” he asked as he shook Anne’s hand.
“Ianto’s told me all about you, always bringing home lost and homeless creatures, finding them new homes.”
“Ah, well, yes, I suppose I do,” Jack mumbled a bit sheepishly.
“Oh, you shouldn’t feel embarrassed about it,” Anne assured him, “It’s an admirable thing to do. I wish there were more like you.”
“Thank you. Can’t just leave them wandering the streets, no telling what might happen.” Jack turned to look at the brushes, quickly changing the subject. “They look a bit vicious,” he said, gesturing to several that had what appeared to be bits of bent wire rather than bristles.
“Those are slicker brushes. They’re really not as vicious as they look,” Anne assured him with a smile. “They’re quite painless, very good for removing loose hair when an animal’s moulting.”
“We should probably get one of those,” Ianto decided. He picked one up and studied it for a moment. “Are they all the same?”
“Not quite. That one is for coarse-haired breeds. What sort of coat does the dog have?”
“Very soft, long and fine.”
“Then you’d be better with this one, it’s designed for gentle grooming of fine-coated breeds.”
“What about for regular, daily grooming?” Jack asked.
“For that, I’d suggest this one.” Anne held up what looked like an oversized hairbrush. Jack raised his eyebrows and Anne laughed. “A small brush is no good for a large dog, grooming would take all day. This one’s a mixture of natural and nylon bristles, good for keeping the coats of long-haired dogs clean and tidy.”
Just then, a family wandered into the shop looking a bit lost, so Anne bustled off to help them while Jack and Ianto moved on to look at food and water bowls.
“So,” Jack started, as they tried to decide what would be best for Nosy, “you’re telling everyone I bring home stray creatures now?”
“Not everyone, just Anne. She’s been a mine of useful information and I didn’t want to keep retconning her. Anyway, it’s the truth. I just neglected to tell her the creatures are aliens,” Ianto replied innocently.
Jack grinned at him, “You have a very economical way with the truth, Mr Jones.”
“Thank you, Captain Harkness.”
After considering all the available options, they finally decided on a pair of enormous, slip-proof and guaranteed un-tippable stainless steel bowls for Nosy.
“Might as well see what toys there are while we’re here,” Ianto suggested, gesturing to the shelves that lined the rear of the shop. Jack’s eyes lit up and he practically bounced over to look while Ianto followed more slowly.
At first glance, nothing really stood out. The selection was no doubt ideal for dogs, with many chew toys and things to hide dog treats in, but not really suitable for an alien that didn’t want to chew everything in sight. Then Ianto spotted something.
“How about one of these?” He handed a large, solid white ball to Jack. “It lights up and changes colours when touched. Says here they make good night lights for puppies.”
Jack nodded. “That might go down well with Nosy. Okay, we‘ll have one. Doesn‘t look like there‘s anything else it might like though,” he added with a disappointed sigh.
“Pet shops don’t really cater for giant alien snakes,” Ianto agreed, turning away to head for the till.
Jack took a final glance at the packed shelves and was just turning to follow his lover when something caught his eye. He grinned to himself as he picked up the box and hurried after Ianto.
“What’ve you got there?” Ianto asked as Jack caught up with him.
Jack held out the box for inspection. “A bubble machine!”
Ianto laughed. “Is that for you or for Nosy?”
“Well, I’m sure Nosy won’t mind sharing. Come on, it’ll be fun! Can you imagine Nosy chasing the bubbles?”
“Alright, why not? Just don’t set it off near the computers. Tosh will go mad if you get bubble residue all over the monitors!”
“There’s plenty of space at the back of the main Hub, away from the computers. We hardly use that area, I thought we could turn it into a sort of playroom for Nosy.”
Ianto looked thoughtful. “That’s actually not a bad idea. Nosy would be nearby where we could keep an eye on it, without being underfoot all the time.”
Jack beamed. “I had a good idea!”
“Yes you did, I’ll try not to faint from the shock.”
They reached the till just as the family ahead of them finished paying and headed out of the shop, laden with their purchases and a small box that was emitting squeaking noises.
Anne turned to smile at them. “Did you find everything you need?”
“I think so,” Ianto replied, setting the Rainbow Ball and the dishes down on the counter beside the brushes they‘d chosen. Jack plonked the bubble machine next to them. “Knowing him,” Ianto tilted his head in Jack’s direction, “he’ll want to keep the bubble machine for himself.”
Jack smirked and waggled his eyebrows. “I’m sure there are lots of fun things we could do with it.”
Ianto just rolled his eyes and paid for their purchases as Anne laughed.
Back at the car, Ianto settled into the passenger seat, thankful to be off his feet for a few minutes, while Jack loaded their shopping into the boot.
Climbing into the driver’s seat, Jack glanced across at his partner as he started the engine. “Sure you’re up to this? We could go back to the Hub and shop online instead.”
“I’m fine, Jack. I’ll admit it’s nice to sit down for a bit, but I can manage, the cane helps a lot. Besides, there are plenty of benches in the shopping centre so I can take a rest whenever I want. Now stop fussing and drive, I want to order the bunk beds today.”
“I thought you did that online before we left the Hub?” Jack said with a frown as he pulled away from the kerb.
“I was going to, but there were two possible choices and I want to look at both, see which is the most sturdy before I decide,” Ianto told him.
“Sensible, I guess. I suppose you’ll tell the shop assistant they’re for the dog, too,” Jack said with a grin.
Ianto snorted. “Hardly. If I have to tell them anything, I’ll say they’re for when my nephew and niece stay at my place overnight,” he replied. “I could hardly tell Anne the brushes and stuff were for a giant, furry alien snake.”
“True,” Jack agreed. He was silent for several minutes as he drove. Then, “Maybe we could get a dog. I like dogs. Not in the way John Hart likes dogs,” he added hastily, catching the expression on Ianto’s face out of the corner of his eye, “I just think they’re good pets.”
“We have a pteranodon and a Fluff, Jack, we don’t need a dog.”
“I suppose you’re right,” Jack sighed.
“I am. Besides, Nosy is much smarter than a dog and no one else around here has got anything like it!”
Jack nodded. “Our pets are unique. Oh well, even if we got a dog, Myf would probably just eat it.”
“Best not to risk it then,” Ianto agreed solemnly.
After parking in the underground car park beneath the St. David’s Shopping Centre, they made their way via the lifts to the ground floor, deciding on the way up that as there were toy shops and department stores on both levels, they would split up to shop. Ianto would remain on the ground floor while Jack explored the upper level, then they’d meet for lunch at a small café near the South entrance where they knew the food was excellent and the coffee surprisingly good.
Once Ianto had assured him that he’d stop to rest his leg frequently, Jack hared off through the crowds of shoppers and ran straight up the empty down escalator, making Ianto roll his eyes and mutter “Show off” before setting off at a far more sedate pace towards a massive furniture store that claimed to stock ‘everything you need to make your house a home’.
Limping slowly through the store, Ianto made straight for the bed section and finding what he was looking for, set about thoroughly examining the two possible options. There wasn’t much to choose between them - both were sturdily built with metal frames and easily long enough to accommodate even the tallest members of the Torchwood team comfortably; however, on one the ladder to the top bunk was situated on the side, while on the other, it was at the end.
“Can I help you, sir?” Ianto turned carefully to find a tall, young, fresh-faced sales assistant smiling hopefully at him. Obviously new to the job if he was still so eager to be helpful, Ianto thought rather cynically.
“Just trying to decide which of these bunk beds would be the best choice,” Ianto explained.
“Ah. Well, aside from the position of the ladder, they’re almost identical, so it really depends on the room they’re to go in. If it’s a small room and the end of the bed will be close to the wall, get the one with the side ladder. Otherwise, I’d choose the one with the end ladder. It doesn‘t get in the way so much.” At Ianto’s puzzled expression, the sales assistant admitted sheepishly, “My brother and I had bunk beds with a side ladder and I had the bottom bunk. It was fine when I was little, but by the time I was fourteen, I was nearly six foot tall and I was forever bashing my legs on the ladder getting out of bed.”
Ianto though about Mickey or Andy having to get up in a hurry in the middle of the night for a Rift alert and colliding with the ladder. He smiled at the assistant.
“Thank you, you’ve been very helpful. I’ll take the one with the end ladder, please.”
“Certainly, sir, if you’d come with me to the checkout. There’s free delivery on all our beds; will you be needing pillows and bedding as well?”
Bunk beds and bedding - including duvets - ordered and paid for, Ianto headed back out of the furniture store and found a vacant bench to rest on for a few minutes while he consulted the shopping list he’d hastily scribbled that morning in between feeding Nosy, researching on the internet and pouring the coffee. He crossed off the items he and Jack had already bought, along with the beds, and added a couple more items he’d just thought of. Idly, he wondered how Jack was getting on.
On the upper level, Jack stood in front of Toys R Us with a smirk on his face. ‘Oh yeah,’ he thought, ‘This is gonna be good, bet I get the best toys!’ Straightening his shoulders and smiling broadly, he strode confidently into the store.
Half an hour later, he was feeling much less confident and was actually beginning to droop. Everywhere he looked was a bewildering array of toys in all shapes, sizes and colours, everything a child could ever wish for. Sadly, there seemed to be very little that would be of any use whatsoever to a fluffy alien who didn’t have any hands and could only pick things up with its mouth. Jack idly wondered whether he should have a word with the manager about the lack of suitable playthings for intelligent aliens, but dismissed the idea after a moment’s consideration. Ianto wouldn’t be amused if he had to break out the retcon.
His previously confident stride reduced to a despondent shamble, Jack turned into the next aisle and stopped, head tilted to one side, cheering up visibly as he studied the item in front of him. It was far and away too small for Nosy, but the general idea had potential and there was a large sunken area to one side of the section of the Hub that would become Nosy’s playroom. All they’d need to do was line it and maybe erect some kind of barrier around it to deepen the pit… He hurried off to find an assistant to see if he could order what he needed in a large enough quantity to fill the pit.
Ianto pushed open the door to the small shop and breathed in the rich aroma that filled the air. The shelves around him were packed with old-fashioned wooden toys, everything from simple carved animals to elaborate dolls houses and rocking horses. He was sure he would find what he wanted here.
An elderly man with grey hair and calloused hands stepped into the shop from the back room.
“Mr Jones! So good to see you again,” he greeted Ianto warmly. “Oh my,” he added when he saw the cane Ianto was leaning on, “whatever have you done?”
Ianto chuckled softly, “Good to see you too, Mr Morgan. I was hiking in the Beacons yesterday, slipped on the wet grass and sprained my knee.”
“Easily done,” Mr Morgan nodded sagely, “wet grass can be treacherous. How did your little niece like the dolls house?”
“She’s barely stopped playing with it since I gave it to her,” Ianto said with a smile. “My sister still can’t believe how quickly she abandoned her video games in favour of it.”
“What did I tell you? Traditional toys still have their place, even among all the modern, electronic gadgets and fancy bits of plastic children beg their parents for these days.”
“They do indeed,” Ianto agreed, “and they outlast those flimsy bits of plastic too.”
Mr Morgan nodded. “So, Mr Jones, what is it you’re looking for today?”
“Building blocks suitable for a toddler, for a start.”
“I have several kinds,” Mr Morgan said, leading Ianto towards the end of the shop. “There are the standard plain square blocks,” he showed Ianto boxes of brightly coloured blocks, “These have letters and numbers, while this set has pictures of animals. Or, there are these for slightly older children.” He indicated sets of colourful blocks in a variety of sizes and shapes - cubes, rectangles, triangles, cylinders and more.
“Perfect!” Ianto exclaimed. “I’ll take two sets of the different shapes, and a set with letters and numbers.”
Mr Morgan nodded happily and moved the chosen items to the counter.
A short while later, Ianto had added several colourful wooden jigsaw puzzles and a push-along cart to his purchases.
“Would you like these delivered to Mermaid Quay like last time?” Mr Morgan asked.
“If it wouldn’t be any trouble.”
“No trouble at all, my youngest grandson does local deliveries for me now. He’s studying computers at the University, set up a website so I’m selling online now as well. Business is booming, I get orders from all over the world!”
“I’m not surprised. There aren’t many places these days handcrafting traditional wooden toys. I think I’ll take this one as well,” he added, placing a pull-along bright green wooden caterpillar on the counter.
Several shops later, and laden with a selection of carrier bags, Ianto limped his way back through the shopping centre and settled himself at a table in the café to wait for Jack. He was early, so he ordered a cup of coffee and explained to the waitress that he was meeting someone and that they’d order lunch when his friend arrived.
Fifteen minutes later, Jack dropped heavily into the chair opposite Ianto, dumping a number of bags beside him. He glanced at the smaller number of bags beside Ianto’s chair.
“You didn’t get much.”
“That’s where you’re wrong! I bought quite a lot, but the larger items are being delivered. I‘ve ordered the bunk beds, pillows, bed linen and duvets. They‘ll be delivered to Mermaid Quay this afternoon. I called Tosh and she promised someone would be there to sign for them.”
“I’ve ordered some stuff to be delivered too, but it’ll be a week to ten days for delivery as they don’t have what I want in stock.”
“And what would that be?”
Jack winked, “That would be telling. So, did you order yet?”
Ianto shook his head. “I was waiting for you.” He handed Jack a menu and opened his own.
The next few minutes were spent discussing what to have for lunch, both of them finally choosing from the café’s range of home made pasties, with jacket potatoes and side salads. Food ordered and coffee delivered to their table, they set about showing each other what they’d bought for their new pet.
Jack went first, proudly unveiling a smiling, plastic alien. Ianto just looked at Jack and raised an eyebrow.
“Press the button on the top and it moves and makes noises,” Jack explained. Ianto conceded Nosy might at least find it interesting.
Next up was a set of different sized bells with wooden handles. Ianto gave an evil grin and nodded approval.
“Nosy can sneak up behind Owen and scare him with those.”
A ring toss game came out of the next bag - brightly coloured plastic hoops and short posts to toss them over. Ianto had to admit Jack was making an effort to find things Nosy could use. In the same bag was a garden noughts and crosses game - a large, rolled up plastic mat with the grid marked on it and a set of plastic noughts and crosses.
“I think you’re supposed to toss the noughts and crosses at the mat and try to make a row,” Jack told Ianto. I don’t know if Nosy could manage that, but I thought we could try to teach it to play anyway.”
“I don’t see why not. Nosy’s smart and it’s a simple game,” Ianto agreed. “Is that everything?”
“Not quite. Wait ‘til you see this,” Jack said, reaching to open the largest bag and pulling out… a child’s painting easel with paper, brushes and a selection of colourful non-toxic paints.
Ianto nearly choked on his coffee, images filling his head of a paint-splattered Nosy wandering around the Hub leaving a multi-coloured trail everywhere like some kind of psychedelic slug.
“You give that to Nosy and you can be the one that baths it and cleans up the mess it makes!”
“Nosy won’t get in a mess,” Jack explained patiently. “I bought it this to wear when it’s painting.” Out of another bag, he pulled a child’s rain cape. It was blue and had a pattern of yellow ducks with umbrellas on it. “There’s even a matching hat,” he added, holding it up.
Ianto nearly fell off his chair laughing.
“What?” Jack sounded bewildered.
“Sorry,” Ianto gasped, wiping his eyes, “I was just picturing you trying to persuade Nosy to wear that!”
Jack shrugged. “The proper aprons had sleeves, they wouldn’t have fit. This was the best alternative I could find.”
“Oh what the hell. I still think the paints are a bad idea, too much potential for mess, but maybe we can get some crayons. Assuming, of course, that Nosy wouldn’t just try to eat them.”
“I think it’s too smart for that,” Jack replied, shoving the last of the toys back in the bags as the waitress approached their table with their lunch.
Silence reigned for a time as they dug into their food appreciatively, both men ravenous after their busy morning. When they finally pushed their empty plates aside, Ianto looked across the table at Jack and asked, “So, what’s in the last couple of bags?”
“What Owen suggested - squeaky pet toys. There‘s a small pet supplies shop upstairs, they had quite a good range.” Jack reached down for one of the bags, pulling it into his lap. “I got a squeaker stick,” he squeezed it to demonstrate, making the other diners look at them. “Thought it would be good for playing fetch!” He dug in the bag again, “Squeaky dumbbell,” he placed that beside the stick, “some squeaky tennis balls, and a ball with bells in it!” He shook it gently to make it jingle. “If nothing else, they’ll amuse Owen.”
Jack piled everything back into the bag and put it back on the floor. “Oh, and I got this.” He pulled something from the final bag and held it up.
“Ianto blinked. “A teddy bear? You bought Nosy a teddy bear?”
Jack looked at the large, soft, brown plush bear in his hands, then across at Ianto.
“Why not? You don’t think Nosy might like something soft to snuggle up to at night?”
“No, no, it’s not that,” Ianto assured Jack as he reached for one of his own bags, “I just thought you’d say I was being daft getting these,” he said as he pulled a long, friendly looking green plush snake and a cuddly sheep out of one of the bags surrounding him.
Jack grinned. “Didn’t know you could get cuddly toy snakes!”
“Neither did I, just spotted it in a window. I know it doesn’t look much like Nosy, but this was the closest thing I could find as a friend for it.”
Jack picked up the sheep. “A reminder of Nosy’s first friends on this planet?“
Ianto blushed slightly and nodded. “Something like that.”
“So we both bought cuddly toys. What else did you get?”
“Some wooden building blocks, a cart so Nosy can take its toys from place to place, and a few wooden jigsaw puzzles, all of which are being delivered. I got a wooden toy box and a set of shelves too, since Nosy seems to like keeping things tidy. Then there’s this,” Ianto reached for a bag and got out a box.
“My First Laptop?” Jack chuckled.
“We use computers all the time, so I though Nosy might not try to play with the Hub computers if it had its own.”
“Hmmm, games, logic, music, maths, languages,” Jack murmured to himself, reading from the box. He looked up at Ianto, “Do you think Nosy will be able to make sense of any of this?”
“No idea,” Ianto admitted, “We won’t find out how smart it is unless we try though.”
Jack nodded thoughtfully then peered around the table. “What’s in the other bags?”
“Just a few little bits.” Ianto rummaged around amongst his bags and pulled out a box of giant dominoes, a football, a set of wooden skittles, and a toy truck. “There are a few shops I haven’t been to yet,” he admitted.
“We have the rest of the afternoon, there’s no rush,” Jack assured him. “We can check out the shops you didn’t get to, then come back here for coffee before heading home.”
“Best get started then.” Ianto gathered up his purchases, packing them back into bags in such a way that he had fewer bags to carry than before. Even so, it was a struggle trying to manage the cane as well as all the bags.
“Here,” Jack said, reaching out to take the bags from Ianto, “give those to me. I’ll take this load back to the car and meet you by the fountain in twenty minutes if I don’t find you before then.”
Ianto looked at Jack, already loaded down with at least a dozen bags of various sizes. “Probably more sensible than lugging all this around with us,” he agreed, handing his bags to Jack. He pulled out his stopwatch and set it. “Twenty minutes and counting,” he grinned.Jack laughed, leant in for a quick kiss, then headed off towards the lifts, trying to keep the multitude of bags from getting tangled up with other shoppers. Ianto watched for a moment, smiling fondly, then turned and made his way towards the next shop on his list.
Part 2 is here