Characters: Jack, Ianto.
Summary: Sometimes, Rift retrievals can be unexpectedly enjoyable.
Word Count: 1903
Written For: My genprompt_bingo square Autumn.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
Autumn brought longer nights, colder temperatures, frost and fog, strong winds and falling leaves. Plants were slowly dying, and soon much of the colour would leach out of the world; winter wasn’t far off. It was a depressing thought. Ianto wasn’t keen on winter, it made Rift retrievals, Weevil hunts, and battling hostile aliens so much more difficult, not to mention more hazardous, than usual.
Winter wasn’t here yet though, and autumn did have its good points. There were still sunny days, some of which even felt reasonably warm, and the changing colours of the leaves on trees and shrubs were beautiful, uniform green turning to red and yellow, russet and gold. The parks were a riot of colour, and there were still late flowers blooming too, adding their own bright highlights to the scene.
Crunching through leaves made dry and crisp by sunshine, Ianto found himself smiling. It was a nice day to be out and about in Cardiff, the recent dry spell enhancing autumn’s best features, and he kicked at the leaves in his path, sending them flying. Last autumn had been so miserably wet that leaves had squelched underfoot instead of giving off that satisfying scrunch when stepped on; this was so much better.
“Ianto? Find anything yet?” The voice in his ear startled him; he’d almost forgotten what he was supposed to be doing and quickly turned his attention back to the scanner in his hand. If it had registered anything, it would have beeped to alert him, but so far it had remained resolutely silent. Whatever they were looking for, he hadn’t passed within range of it yet.
“Not so far, Jack. I gather you’re not having any luck either.”
“Depends on what you mean by luck. It’s a beautiful autumn day, the sun is shining in a blue sky, it’s unseasonably warm, there are piles of leaves everywhere to jump in…” Ianto heard a series of scrunches through his earpiece as Jack demonstrated the delights of jumping into piles of dry leaves, and he smiled. Captain Jack Harkness, stalwart leader of Torchwood Three, could be such a child at times. Mind you, Ianto was hardly in a position to criticise. Spotting a particularly tempting swathe of leaves in front of him, he followed suit, scrunching back at Jack through their comm. units and hearing his lover’s laughter.
Neither of them was in any mad rush to find the new Rift Gift that had arrived an hour or so ago; Tosh had told them that whatever it might be, her readings indicated one small, harmless inanimate object, no significant radiation besides what could be expected from travelling through the Rift, and no detectable power source. They’d no doubt find it at some point, but they might as well make the most of the fresh air while they had the chance. By the end of the week, the forecast was for much lower temperatures, heavy frosts, rain, and maybe even snow over high ground.
Ianto continued his search, ambling along at an unhurried pace, kicking through the leaves strewn across pathways, and idly waving his scanner back and forth in front of him. He paused to breathe in the scent of a late-flowering rose, again to watch a blackbird flipping leaves over, looking for insects and worms underneath. “What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare,” he murmured.
“What was that?”
“Poetry, Jack. William Henry Davies. Heard of him? No, don’t answer that, you probably met him and there are some things I’m better off not knowing about.”
“Could be, I don’t remember though. Where are you?”
“Just coming down towards the duck pond.”
“Right, I see you!”
Ianto cast his gaze around, spotting Jack in his distinctive coat coming along another path leading in the general direction of the pond. He picked up his pace, intending to get there first, but then his scanner beeped. “Hold up, Jack, I might have something.” He stepped to the side. Another beep. “Yep, something’s registering off to my right.”
“Be with you in a minute.” Jack broke into a jog across the leaf-strewn grass between their paths, catching up to Ianto as the Welshman cast about with his scanner, trying to determine in which direction the signal was strongest. “Not seeing anything,” he said.
“I’m not either, which means either it’s very small or it’s hidden under the leaves.”
“Or it’s invisible!”
“Better hope not or we could be here all day,” Ianto groaned.
“And that would be bad because?”
Ianto looked up at the eggshell-blue sky overhead. “Point taken. Then again, it’ll probably get quite chilly once the sun starts going down.”
“We’ll find it by then, and even if we find it sooner, we could always tell the others we didn’t find it until later.” Jack sounded hopeful.
“That’s a bit sneaky and underhand even for you.”
“Thank you!” Jack beamed.
“I didn’t mean it as a compliment.”
“Right, as far as I can tell from my scanner, whatever we’re looking for is somewhere between these three trees.” Ianto gestured to a trio of trees, one with leaves turned red and purple, one whose leaves were a mix of yellow and a fair smattering still of green, and one that was a blaze of orange and gold. Their spreading branches formed a canopy overhead, allowing dappled sunlight to filter through. “I suppose we’d better start turning leaves over.” This was the least appealing part of their search as far as Ianto was concerned; it was going to be backbreaking work with all the bending. He stooped and started to toss leaves behind him.
“Wait a minute.”
Ianto stopped what he was doing and straightened up. “What?”
“I just had a thought. Why are we assuming what we’re looking for in on the ground?”
Turning his attention upwards, Ianto sighed. “Somewhere up there? Terrific. That’s a lot of branches, and the ones overhanging this area are mostly too thin to take my weight. If it’s up there, we might have a problem reaching it.”
“What do you have in mind now?” Ianto eyed Jack suspiciously.
“Nothing bad.” Jack picked up a sturdy fallen twig. “Come on, you can’t tell me you never did this trying to knock conkers down when you were a boy. Stand back!” He tossed his twig upwards where it hit some of the branches and brought down a shower of leaves before falling back to the ground. “You keep your eyes on what comes down.” Moving a couple of steps to the side, Jack tossed the twig again, getting another shower of leaves. He kept on like that for several minutes, his hair and the shoulders of his coat soon becoming peppered with bits of leaf and bark. When his twig broke, he found another one and carried on, until Ianto spoke.
“Hold it, I think I see something up there. Move three steps this way and aim at the big branch.”
Jack did as requested, but his twig wasn’t strong enough, it bounced off the branch without having any effect.
“I need a bigger twig.” Leaving Ianto for a few minutes, Jack moved among the trees until he found a fallen branch, maybe seven feet long, and breaking off twigs to leave a single long pole he returned to his spot and poked upwards at the object he could now just about make out wedged in a fork of the big branch. He couldn’t quite reach it.
“Damn! It’s about a foot too short! You’ll have to get on my shoulders,” he decided, looking at Ianto.
“Jack, I’m almost as heavy as you are!”
“I can lift you, it’s not like I haven’t done it before.”
“Well, just try not to drop me; it wouldn’t look good if I fell and broke my leg. Or my neck.”
“Perish the thought! Anyway, you won’t need to stand on my shoulders, sitting should give you enough reach.”
“Alright, I suppose you’re technically still the boss.” Ianto walked over to Jack, who had crouched down, and straddled his shoulders.
“Hold this.” Handing Ianto the branch, Jack got a firm hold on his lover, looping his arms over the other man’s thighs to keep him steady. “Okay, not sure how long I’ll be able to stay upright, so as soon as I stand up, start poking with your stick.” The leer in Jack’s voice was audible.
“You could make anything sound filthy, couldn’t you?”
“It’s a talent. You ready?”
“As I’ll ever be.”
“Good. Going up!” It was a considerable strain with Ianto’s weight to contend with, but Jack managed it, planting his feet firmly as Ianto stretched upwards, trying to poke the dimly seen object from its resting place.
“Almost got it,” Ianto gasped. “Just a little bit more… Yes!” he cried triumphantly, watching as the as yet unidentified thing toppled slowly off the branch and fell to the ground a few feet away with a gentle thud.
Legs shaking, Jack lowered Ianto back to earth and sat down on the grass to catch his breath. “You should think about giving up pizza,” he panted.
“Oi! Are you saying I’m fat?”
“Fat? Definitely not, just heavy.”
“Isn’t that the same thing?”
“Not from where I’m sitting,” Jack smirked, eyes almost level with Ianto’s crotch.
Ianto didn’t dignify that with an answer, instead pulling his scanner out of his pocket and cautiously approaching the thing on the grass, just in case the fall might have rendered it hazardous in some way.
“Is that what we were looking for?” Jack called.
“Yep, judging by the amount of Rift energy, this is our new acquisition.”
“Any idea what it is?” Jack hauled himself to his feet and went over to take a look at it himself.
“No, I was hoping you might have some idea.” Ianto cocked his head to one side Looks a bit like a Rubik’s Cube to me.”
It was a black cube, about five inches square, each side made up of twenty-five smaller cubes, and each of those bearing different symbols in a range of colours.
“You’re not too far off the mark, I’ve seen these before; it is a puzzle cube, it’s just not from earth. Tosh will probably enjoy playing with it.” Jack pulled his coat tighter around him. Now that they were standing still, it was starting to get a bit chilly. “We should head back now we’ve found what we came for.”
“Mm,” Ianto agreed. “I suppose so. Do we need a containment unit for it?”
“No, this will do.” Jack pulled one of the bags they used for harmless smaller objects from his pocket and slipped it over the cube, sealing it shut and stuffing it back in his pocket again. “Okay then, let’s go home.”
Side by side, they returned to the path and set off back the way they’d come. Winter still lay ahead, with all the problems it would no doubt cause, but they’d deal with that when they had to and not before. For now, they’d simply enjoy the last of the autumn sunshine and a pleasant, leisurely stroll back through the park, perhaps with a pause to watch the ducks on the pond along the way. Torchwood didn’t get enough opportunities to just stand and stare; best to make the most of those that came along.