Title: You’re Never Alone With Your Towel
Characters: Jack, Ianto.
Summary: Growing up on an isolated colony planet, you have to make do without luxuries.
Word Count: 832
Written For: My own prompt ‘Torchwood, Jack. He never had a soft toy as a child. On Boeshane, kids had a towel. He still has one now under his pillow for comfort,’ at fic_promptly.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
A/N: Today is Towel Day, so here’s a little something for the occasion.
It had been a tough life where Jack had grown up on the Boeshane Peninsula. Because of its distance from the nearest planet inhabited by humans, and the fact that Boeshane had been a relatively new colony, it had been considered too expensive to ship anything out there except for things necessary to the colonists’ survival, mostly tools, seeds, clothing, certain essential machinery, and spare parts. Anything else they wanted, they had to make for themselves from local materials and what they could trade with other races for.
Luxuries, on Boeshane, were almost unheard of, and that included children’s toys. Stuffed animals of the sort Jack grew used to seeing everywhere after he became stranded on earth just didn’t exist when he was a child. Some kids had crude rag dolls as comforters, but most had a towel. For some reason, towels were considered essential equipment by the people responsible for sending regular shipments of supplies to new colonies. Or perhaps it was just that they made good packing material so that nothing was sent that couldn’t be used. Whatever the reason, towels were one thing Boeshane didn’t have a shortage of.
One of Jack’s earliest memories was of his first towel, a pale yellow one with blue spots. Like all the other babies and toddlers, his towel went everywhere with him, both at home and at the crèche where pre-school children spent their daytime while their parents were working. That towel had been lost a few months after he started school, though later Jack realised his mother had probably thrown the ragged, much-mended scrap of fabric away, replacing it with a bold purple and blue striped one. It had taken him a while to warm to the new towel, but eventually it had become just as faithful a companion as his original.
By the time he joined the Time Agency, Jack had been on his fourth towel, a green and yellow checked one that made him think of fields full of flowers. It went with him to the Academy along with the rest of his luggage, and if anyone knew that it was anything more to him than just something to dry himself on when he got wet, they never said a word about it. Most of the time it hung over the back of his desk chair in his room, but whenever he had a bad day, he would put it under his pillow at night, so that he could hold the edge of it while he slept.
After his arrival on earth, one of the first things Jack bought for himself was a new towel, even though the drying cloths of the time bore little resemblance to the ones he’d grown up with. Being without one just didn’t bear thinking about. Towels came and towels went over the years; Jack always had several for the usual purpose of drying with, but he also always had one special one that mostly lived under his pillow. It wasn’t until he met Ianto that he finally understood why the humble towel would come to be considered such an essential piece of equipment by the time he was born.
It was some months after Lisa’s discovery and demise that Ianto finally spent the night with Jack in the little cubbyhole beneath his office. Making the bed in the morning, he discovered Jack’s towel hidden under the pillow. Jack expected to be made fun of, but instead, Ianto carefully folded the towel and put it back in its place.
“Nice towel. A man should always know where his towel is,” he told Jack solemnly. “I keep one in my car and another in my desk drawer in the archives, just in case. Never good to be caught without your towel.”
“You don’t find it odd?”
Ianto laughed. “Lisa thought I was odd until I persuaded her to read The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Actually, she still thought I was a bit odd, but working for Torchwood I suppose she understood why I followed the book’s advice about keeping your towel handy. Whether you’re hitchhiking through space or working for an organisation that catches aliens, towels remain about the most massively useful thing anyone can have. It’s oddly reassuring to know we have something else in common aside from work.”
As soon as Ianto was busy, Jack slipped out and bought a copy of the book he’d mentioned, reading it while he was supposed to be doing paperwork. That night, sleeping alone, he cuddled up to his current towel, an understated blue and white striped one that sort of matched his favourite coffee mug. One day, he’d tell Ianto about the traditional uses of towels on Boeshane, but for now it was just nice to know that he didn’t need to hide his towel away like some kind of dirty secret.
Some people thought that a dog was man’s best friend, but Jack knew the most loyal companion anyone could have was their towel.