Title: Homeward Bound - Sequel to 'Northern Lights' by Willow08 on ff.net
Characters: Ianto, Jack, Owen, Tosh, Gwen, OCs
Summary: The team are stranded in the countryside on a bitterly cold night. How will they get their SUV back and get home?
Word Count: 2000
Written For: Willow08, with their permission, a sequel to their fic ‘Northern Lights’. The opening section is based on Willow08’s suggested beginning, with some changes. Hope you like it. It ended up a lot longer than I’d expected!
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
It was one thirty am and they were all frozen, stamping their feet on the frost-hardened ground and flapping their arms, trying not to freeze to the spot.
“When we get back to the Hub, I swear I'm gonna kill Jack,” Owen muttered with quiet vehemence.
"I heard that, Owen, but if memory serves, you were the last out of the SUV, so if anyone's to blame for its disappearance it would the one who didn’t check the doors were locked." He glared at Owen for a moment until the medic looked away then turned to the rest of the team. “Please tell me someone is checking for the tracker!”
“I am,” called Tosh, her teeth chattering as she studied the PDA clutched awkwardly in her gloved hands. “It’s that way,” she pointed down the road, “about ten miles, and as far as I can tell at this distance, it’s not moving.”
“It might not be, but we should probably start,” Ianto put in. “We’ll be warmer, or at least less cold, if we keep moving.” He pulled out his phone and checked it. “Typical, no reception way out here, should’ve known. I’ll keep trying as we go, maybe we’ll get lucky and reception will pick up so we can call a taxi.”
“Don’t bank on it,” Owen grumbled. “The way our luck’s going, it’ll be Christmas before we can call for help and by then we’ll be frozen solid.”
“There’s a cheering thought. Why d’you have to be so bloody negative all the time?” Gwen snapped.
“Because I live in the real world, love,” Owen snarked back.
“Are you two done? You’re acting like children and it’s not helping!” Ianto glared at the pair.
“Well excuse us for being a bit narked!” Owen was on a roll.
“That’s enough, Owen! Ianto’s right, we should get moving.” Jack turned to Tosh. “Lead the way. Everybody keep to the side of the road. Chances of traffic at this time of night are slim, but you can’t be too careful.”
“Terrific, a night time hike, the perfect end to this disaster.” Owen made his displeasure clear.
“Less whining and more walking, Owen.”
“Yes sir, Captain.” Owen made a rude gesture.
“Careful,” Ianto ribbed him, “it’s cold enough that your hand might stick like that.”
“Up yours, Teaboy!”
“You wish.” Ianto strode past Owen and fell into step beside Tosh. “We can take turns with the scanner, so you can warm your hands up.”
“Thanks, Ianto.” Tosh smiled up at him as the ragtag little bunch set off down the dark and narrow road, illuminated only by the light of the moon.
Apart from Owen, they saved their breath for walking rather than talking. Besides, Owen was doing more than enough cursing and complaining for all of them. Ianto and Tosh led the way followed by Gwen and Owen, with Jack bringing up the rear, carrying the alien device and silently lamenting the long coats everyone wore which hid their rears from sight. Not that he could have seen much even with his 51st century eyesight; the hedges bordering the road cast shadows across its surface, making visibility poor despite a clear sky and a moon just past full.
Ianto reckoned they’d walked about four miles when they heard the sound of a car coming along the road behind them. They all stopped dead, turning towards the sound, spotting headlights approaching down the long hill, and Jack stepped into the centre of the road, waving his arms frantically, hoping the driver would see him in time to avoid running him down. Thankfully, the road was straight enough that the headlights picked him up while the vehicle was still some distance away, and the driver braked, slowing to a stop before Jack needed to jump out of the way. The driver’s side window of the battered pickup truck opened and an old man stuck his head out.
“Oh thank goodness!” Gwen pushed past Jack and approached the truck. “Can you help us please?”
“City folk are ya? Picked a bad time for a hike.”
“It wasn’t meant to be a hike,” Ianto put in. “We were driving to Caerdydd, pulled over and got out to stretch our legs and someone stole our car.”
“Stole it, did they? What’s the world coming to? I can take you a little way, but not as far as Caerdydd.”
“There’s a tracker on our car,” Ianto continued, “it’s about five miles down the road, if you could take us that far we’d be very grateful.”
“Five miles, you say? That’ll probably be the Pig’s Whiskers, I can take you there alright. I can guess who took your car too, it’ll be Old Huw, an won’t he be gettin’ an earful from his daughter when she finds out he’s been sneaking off fer a quick drink agin. Hides his car keys, she does, but he just hops on his bicycle and goes down the pub anyway. Wiliest old bugger in these parts.”
“Wouldn’t the pub be closed at this time of night?” asked Tosh.
“Oh aye, but Old Huw, he used to tend bar there, still has a key. Waits until Annie goes to bed then slips out for a few beers. Landlord’s doesn’t mind, long as Huw locks up when he leaves. Well, hop in the back, sooner started, sooner there. Got room for one up front with me if any of ya want to keep an old man company.”
Gwen slipped into the front with the man who introduced himself as Evan Owens, while the others piled into the bed of the truck. Jack and Ianto settled down with Tosh between them, sheltering her and sharing body heat. Owen sat a little apart, scowling.
“This is a bad idea. How do we know he’s not taking us to more cannibals?” he hissed.
“If you’d rather walk, you’re welcome to,” Jack told him. “Just because we’re out in the countryside doesn’t mean there’s cannibals under every rock.”
“Relax, Owen,” Ianto added. “We’re all together this time, we’re armed, and we’re ready if there’s trouble.”
“Well, I am, and I know Jack is.”
“Me too.” Tosh patted the pocket of her coat. “And Gwen always has hers in her bag.”
“Oh. Mine’s back at the Hub, didn’t think I’d need it.”
“We’ll protect you,” Jack grinned, “if the need arises.”
Jack’s assurances didn’t seem to improve Owen’s mood, but by now the old truck was chugging down the road, so he just wrapped his arms around himself, hunched his shoulders against the chill night air, and scowled out at the darkness.
Twenty minutes later, they could see buildings ahead and then they were travelling through the outskirts of a village that probably looked very pretty in daylight. Most of the cottages were in darkness, but there were streetlights spreading a familiar orange light across frost-rimed pavements and low stone walls. A larger structure loomed on their left, a hanging sign declaring it to be the Pig’s Whiskers public house, and Mr. Evans turned into the small car park alongside it, pulling up a few metres from the Torchwood SUV. The boot was open and there was a battered bicycle propped against its rear bumper. There was also an elderly, wizened man arguing with a police constable.
“I found it, didn’t I? Just left by side o’ the road with the door open. Couldn’t just leave it there, someone might’ve stolen it, there’s a lot o’ thieves about these days.”
“Huw, you can’t just drive off in someone else’s car! What about the owner? Some poor sod’s probably stranded out there in the dark!”
“I didn’t see no one.”
“That’s beside the point. Anyway, I don’t imagine you looked very hard.”
“I should get a reward for findin’ lost property!” Old Huw sounded hopeful.
Climbing out of the pickup truck, Jack and the team thanked Mr Evans for his assistance, waving as he drove away, then approached the constable.
“Excuse me,” Ianto said politely.
“Be right with you folks, just got to sort this little problem out first,” the constable replied.
“We can probably help you with that,” Jack butted in, and when the constable turned towards him, added, “We’re the poor sods who ended up stranded when someone drove off in our SUV.”
“Ah, right. Um, can you prove it’s yours? Can’t just hand it over to anybody.”
Ianto pulled out his wallet and produced the SUV’s registration documents.
“That seems to be in order. Quite a fancy ride that, looks expensive with all those gadgets.”
“Very,” Ianto agreed. “It’s an official vehicle. We were up on a nearby hill running a scientific experiment when it was taken. Seems someone didn’t shut their door. It’s lucky we were able to get a lift to catch up to it.”
“How’d you know where to look?”
“Like you said, it’s very expensive, so it’s fitted with a state-of-the-art tracker.”
The young constable nodded. “Sensible, that. So gentlemen. And ladies. Will you be wanting to press charges?” he asked nervously.
Jack was checking the SUV. “Nothing’s missing and there’s no obvious damage, so I think we’d all just as soon forget about it and go home. It’s been a long night already and we still have to drive back to Cardiff. Besides, I don’t think this gentleman meant any harm. Not exactly the type to go joy riding.”
“That’s true enough. I’m sure Huw’s sorry for inconveniencing you. Right?”
“Shouldn’t go leavin’ your car just lyin’ around like that,” Huw told Jack sternly. “Can’t be too careful these days. I always lock me bike.”
“We’ll remember that in future,” Jack assured him.
“How will you get home?” Tosh asked. It was almost three in the morning by now and the temperature was below freezing. She didn’t like the thought of the old man trying to cycle back up the hill.
“Not to worry, I’ll see he gets home alright,” the constable assured them, moving Huw’s bicycle away from the SUV and closing the boot for them. “Won’t be the first time; probably not the last either. Drive carefully now, folks.”
“We will,” Ianto replied, sliding behind the wheel as the rest of the team piled in.
“Turn the heating on full,” Owen demanded. “Can’t feel my feet.”
“Yes, Owen, because I wouldn’t have thought of that otherwise.” Ianto rolled his eyes.
“What a night!” Tosh pulled off her gloves and flexed her fingers as the interior of the SUV began to warm up.
“Not one I’d like to repeat,” Gwen sighed.
“Yeah, next time you have a brilliant idea for a field trip, count me out,” muttered Owen. “Probably got frostbite thanks to you.”
“Owen, if you don’t stop moaning, I’ll pull over and you’ll be walking home.”
“You wouldn’t dare!”
“Try me! We’re all as cold and tired as you are, but none of us are bitching about it, so shut up.”
Owen opened his mouth to say something else, but thought better of it. Ianto was perfectly capable of carrying out his threat; sometimes it was better not to tempt fate.
Jack turned the radio on, soft music filling the vehicle, and everyone fell silent, staring out into the darkness and gradually thawing in the warmth from the heaters. This late at night, with next to no traffic on the roads, they should be back in Cardiff in about forty minutes, and at their respective homes soon after that.
Jack suddenly chuckled. “Left stranded by the world’s oldest car thief; that’s a first.”
“How old do you think he was?” Tosh asked.
“Had to be ninety at least,” Gwen replied.
“The Welsh are a tough people.” Jack winked at Ianto. “I know that from experience.”
Ianto snorted. “Yep, that’s us! Built to last, and experts at hotwiring cars. It’s hardwired into our DNA.”
“Always knew you sheep-shaggers were a bunch of crooks!” Owen smirked.
Laughing and teasing each other, the Torchwood team drove on through the night, heading home.