Title: Out Of Cardiff
Characters: Jack, Ianto, OC.
Summary: A simple Rift retrieval in the countryside beyond Cardiff throws an unexpected problem Jack’s way. His solution? Ask for advice from the person he trusts most.
Word Count: 2507
Written For: My genprompt_bingo square Trust.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters. They belong to the BBC.
A/N: Jack’s side of the story briefly told in ‘Backpack Invasion’, written at the request of Coralie14.
When the Rift alarm went off mid-morning, Ianto checked the details and location with a resigned sigh. With Gwen off sick and Tosh out helping Owen dealing with another problem, he and Jack were the only people in the Hub.
“I’m sorry, Jack, you’ll have to handle this one alone. I wouldn’t be much help in the field like this.” Sitting at the computer, one ankle in a cast, Ianto looked apologetically up at Jack. “You can manage by yourself, can’t you?”
“Of course I can!” Jack flashed his best smile, full of confidence. “It’s not as if I’m new at this game. I’ve been dealing with the fallout from the Rift since before your grandparents were born!”
Ianto tilted his head to one side thoughtfully. “That’s true.” He quirked a smile. “Of course, that makes you the oldest person on the planet, so...”
“Cheeky! I’ll give you old; I’m still in my prime!” Jack struck a macho pose, indicating his manly physique. “Check it out! Impressive, right? All muscle.”
“Yes, very impressive.” Ianto nodded solemnly, a teasing twinkle in his eyes.
Turning serious, Jack added, “Besides, how hard can it be to drive out of Cardiff and retrieve one small, inanimate object? It’s hardly rocket science.”
Ianto chuckled. “Fine, I believe you; you’re the man for the job. I’ve sent the coordinates to the SUV, just try not to get any speeding tickets? Oh, and if there are any unforeseen problems, call me. Tosh and Owen shouldn’t be much longer dealing with the bugs.”
“Ianto, stop worrying; nothing will go wrong, I can handle this, no problem. It’ll be a piece of cake! Don’t you trust me?” Jack asked plaintively.
“Of course I do! Mostly.”
“Well, thanks for the vote of confidence.” Jack bent down for a goodbye kiss. “You concentrate on looking after yourself. No running up and down stairs while I’m gone.”
“Running is off the agenda for a few more weeks yet,” Ianto said gloomily. “Walking with crutches is hard enough.”
“You’ll be back on your feet before you know it,” Jack assured him. “You’ll see. Okay, gotta go, see you in a bit!” With a swirl of his coat, he was off, striding across the Hub in a way that made Ianto envy him. Being sidelined because of a broken ankle sucked.
Realising he’d be out in the wilds of the Welsh countryside for at least a couple of hours, Jack stopped off at the supermarket to pick up snacks in case he got hungry. Being Jack, he made a beeline for the bakery section, picking up a box of doughnuts, and a bag of freshly baked giant oat and raisin cookies. He would have preferred chocolate chip, but those were sold out, the spot where they should have been completely empty. He shrugged. Raisin cookies would do; he could get chocolate chip next time.
Paying at the checkout, Jack returned to the SUV, shoved the cookies in the backpack containing his field kit, and set the box of doughnuts on the seat beside him. There were five so he ate one, deciding to take the rest back to the Hub with him to share with Ianto, then he started the SUV and headed out of Cardiff
Half an hour later, he parked just off the road at the beginning of a rutted track that was too narrow for the SUV. Grabbing his PDA from the glove compartment, he slung his backpack over one shoulder and set off through the woods on foot.
It was a beautiful day, and Jack found himself wishing that Ianto could be there to share it with him. Birds were singing from the branches overhead, and he even spotted an occasional squirrel bounding across the woodland floor between trees and scampering up their trunks to stare down at him, chittering at his intrusion into their peaceful world. Jack grinned; they were cute, flicking their fluffy tails and acting all annoyed.
Following the readings on his PDA, he homed in on the object he’d come to collect, tracking its location to a small, sunlit glade, where it rested on the grass, twinkling prettily.
He set his backpack at the base of a tree and opened it, rummaging around until he located his scanner, a pair of tongs, and a small containment box. Despite him being immortal, and therefore immune to permanent harm, Ianto always insisted that Jack take sensible precautions like the rest of the team, and that included not handling the things that fell through the Rift until they’d been declared safe. Crossing the clearing, Jack crouched beside the small device and ran his scanner over it. Unsurprisingly, it was soaked in Rift energy, but aside from that, readings showed it wasn’t emitting any kind of radiation. No harmful microbes were detected either, which was always good news. Using the tongs, he poked at the object carefully, turning it over, and sighed; he knew what this was, just a fancy alien version of a pocketknife, more decorative than useful. Still, he supposed boring was better than dangerous.
Opening the containment box, because Ianto would be annoyed if he didn’t use it, Jack scooped his find into it, snapping it closed and stowing it in his coat pocket. He straightened up, dusting his trousers off, and that’s when he saw in, a bushy tail sticking out of his backpack and waving around. Oh, this couldn’t be good! A squirrel up a tree was one thing, but a squirrel in his backpack… He took a couple of steps towards it, then stopped as the squirrel’s head popped up. It had a piece of oat and raisin cookie held in its forepaws and was industriously nibbling on it with sharp little teeth. It stared fixedly at him, and he took a couple of steps back; now what was he supposed to do?
It came to him in a flash: Call Ianto. Ianto would know how to deal with the situation; he knew everything, and there was no one Jack trusted more. He pulled his cell phone out of his trouser pocket and turned it on, relieved to see that because of Tosh’s modifications, he had a clear signal even out here in the back of beyond. Pressing speed dial one, he waited for the call to connect.
“Jack? What’s up?” There seemed to be a note of trepidation in Ianto’s voice, but Jack shrugged it off. Ianto was probably worried that he was in some kind of trouble. Well, he was, but he was sure that all he needed was some advice on how to deal with the situation.
“Um, well… Don't ask me how, but I have a squirrel in my backpack and I don't know what to do with it.” The words came out in a rush.
There was silence on the other end of the phone for a moment, then a hesitant reply. “A squirrel? What kind of squirrel?”
That was a bit of a daft question, in Jack’s opinion. Maybe the signal wasn’t as clear on Ianto’s end. “What do you mean what kind? It’s a squirrel!”
“An alien squirrel or an earth squirrel?” Ianto asked. “And is it grey or red?”
Oh. Well, in their line of work Jack supposed it was really quite a logical question after all. “Earth squirrel definitely. I think. Sort of greyish?” He was pretty sure of that. At least, it looked the same as the squirrels he’d seen earlier
“In your backpack?”
“How should I know? I didn’t ask it!” This conversation wasn’t going the way Jack had expected. He’d thought Ianto would just take charge and tell him what to do. Then again, Ianto did like to get the facts straight first, that was usually the wise thing to do.
“Well, can’t you just tip it out?”
That was an alarming thought. “But it has teeth!”
“Yes, they generally do.” Ianto sounded like he was rolling his eyes.
“What if it bites me?”
“As long as it’s not a rabid squirrel you’ll be fine.”
Rabid? Now Jack was really getting worried; did Ianto know something he didn’t? Had there been a report about rabid squirrels and he just hadn’t read it? It was probably buried somewhere in the big pile of paperwork on his desk… “How would I know?”
“Is it foaming at the mouth?”
Jack looked at the squirrel, paying special attention to its mouth. He couldn’t see any foam, but there were plenty of cookie crumbs. “No, just shedding crumbs.”
“What?” The incredulous note in Ianto’s voice would normally have made Jack smile. It wasn’t often he could startle him quite that much; the man was practically unflappable. Right at that moment though, Jack had other things on his mind.
“It’s eating the cookies I brought with me. I thought I might get hungry, so I packed a snack.”
An exasperated sigh came from Ianto’s end of the phone. “Jack?”
“Pick up your backpack, tip the squirrel out, and let it have the cookies. Then find what you went out there for and come home.” Ianto’s tone was calm and patient as he explained what Jack needed to do, and Jack was instantly reassured. He’d known all along that he could count on Ianto; there was no one better in a crisis, probably not even the Doctor.
“Oh, I already found that. It’s in my pocket.”
“Oh. Good.” Ianto seemed relieved about that. He muttered something else about squirrels, but Jack didn’t quite catch it.
“What did you say?”
“Never mind, just get back here, without the squirrel.”
Jack looked towards his backpack again and chewed his bottom lip nervously. Knowing what to do and actually doing it were two different things. Still, Ianto said it would be okay, and he always knew what he was talking about. “Well, if you’re sure it’s safe.”
“A lot safer than bringing it home with you would be.”
Jack frowned at that. Why would he want to bring it home? A squirrel in the SUV would be ten times worse!
“Alright. I’ll see you in a bit.”
“Goodbye, Jack.” Ianto hung up.
Jack took a deep breath and started towards the offending squirrel, a stern expression on his face. Maybe he could intimidate it. “Right, Ianto says you need to get out of my backpack. Well, actually he says I have to tip you out but I’d just as soon have you leave voluntarily. What’s it gonna be?”
The squirrel ducked back inside for another piece of cookie.
“You wouldn’t be doing that if Ianto were here. Trust me on this; he’d have you out of there like a shot! He has ways of making people, and other things, do what he says. Usually it involves withholding coffee though, guess that wouldn’t really bother you would it? You don’t seem like the coffee-drinking type.” He was almost to the backpack now and the squirrel was looking at him funny. What would Ianto do? Show it who’s boss, that’s what.
Jack crossed the last few metres in three long strides, snatching the backpack straps with one hand and getting a hold on the bottom edge with the other, flipping the whole thing upside down and giving it a good shake. The rest of his equipment tumbled out, along with the half empty cookie bag, which showed evidence of having been ripped open by sharp teeth. The squirrel clung on with grim determination. Jack shook harder. “Let go! I need my backpack!”
After what seemed like forever, the squirrel finally dropped to the ground and shook itself, twitching its tail with annoyance. Jack backed up a bit, keeping the backpack in front of him like a shield, flipping it at the small creature in an effort to scare it off. Beady black eyes watched him, and he checked out its mouth for foam again, just in case, but could still only see traces of crumbs. The squirrel chattered angrily, stamped a tiny foot on the ground, grabbed half a cookie in its mouth and bounded towards a nearby tree, quickly scaling the trunk and vanishing among the branches. Jack sighed with relief; squirrels weren’t at all cute up close!
He kept his eyes open for the squirrel as he gathered his field kit, shoving everything into the backpack in a jumble; he could sort it out later. As an afterthought, he snatched up the cookie bag, shaking out the remains of what was meant to be his snack and shoving the crumpled, empty bag in his pocket. Ianto disapproved of littering. Closing the backpack to keep squirrels out, you could never be too careful, he slung it over his shoulder and strode back through the woods to where he’d parked the SUV, throwing the backpack in the boot and jumping in behind the steering wheel. He felt a lot safer once the doors were shut.
The drive back to the Hub was quite a bit faster than the outward journey had been, but with Ianto’s earlier words ringing in his mind, Jack kept right on the speed limit all the way to avoid being ticketed. At last he pulled into the underground garage, plucked his backpack out of the boot, and went to find Ianto.
“I’m back!” he announced, striding across the concrete floor to where Ianto sat on his wheeled chair at Gwen’s workstation.
“So I see. Survived your close encounter of the furry kind, then?”
“Yep. It was a hard fought battle, but the squirrel was evicted.” Jack held up a box. “I bought us some doughnuts!”
Ianto smiled. “That’s nice. I’ll make coffee to have with them in a minute.”
Jack beamed back, nodding. “Coffee would be great, I could really use it after that.”
Pushing his chair away from the desk, Ianto swivelled to look at his captain. “It’s probably a stupid question, but I’ve got to ask it anyway; why was your first thought on finding a squirrel in your backpack to call me?”
The question completely stunned Jack. How could Ianto not know? “Because I trust you! I knew you’d tell me what to do about it, and I knew you’d be right because you know everything. There’s no one whose advice I trust more.”
Ianto’s eloquent eyebrows did a sort of dance before leaping towards his hairline. “Not even the Doctor?”
“Oh, pffft. What does he know about squirrels?” Jack replied dismissively. “He has his areas of expertise, I’ll grant you, but when it comes to earth-based problems, I’d rather get advice from someone who really knows what they’re talking about!”
“Well, thank you, I appreciate that.” Ianto smiled, tugging Jack down for a kiss. “Now, why don’t I make that coffee?”
“Allow me.” Jack steered Ianto’s wheeled chair over to the coffee machine, handed him his crutches and helped him stand, then stuck around fetching mugs, coffee beans, and anything else Ianto asked for. It was the least he could do for the man who’d solved his squirrel problem!