Characters: Jack, Ianto, Team, OFC.
Summary: There’s a weird hairy creature on the floor of Jack’s office…
Word Count: 2077
Content Notes: None necessary.
Written For: Challenge 39 – Black at beattheblackdog.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, or the characters.
A/N: For what Jack saw on his office floor, check out the fourth picture down on this page.
Jack stared at the thing in a kind of horrified fascination. It was jet black and hairy, and it was hunched in the middle of his office floor, looking a bit like a very small fur rug, or possibly a shaggy toupee, with something shoved underneath it. Worse, it reminded him uncomfortably of the fur rug Ianto had bought the previous year, the one that had turned out to be a shape-shifter.
Cautiously, he inched his way around it to get to his desk, where he kept his Webley in the top right-hand drawer; it never hurt to be prepared, just in case this thing proved to be hostile.
Gun in hand, he was wondering whether to approach the mystery object or not when Ianto burst into his office, looking a bit frantic.
“Jack, I don’t suppose you’ve seen…” He trailed off when he spotted the black, hairy thing. “Oh thank God! I found it on my way to work this morning and I had to bring it with me, but then it gnawed a hole in the box I’d put it in and escaped. I thought it might be wandering around out there somewhere.” He pointed in the direction of the main Hub. “If Myf saw it, she’d probably think it was a snack, and after it somehow managed to cross Adam Street during rush hour while miraculously avoiding being flattened by traffic, it hardly deserves the ignominious fate of being gobbled up by a peckish Pteranodon!”
Jack looked sternly at Ianto. “What is it doing up here anyway, Ianto? You know that aliens are supposed to be locked up in the cells. We can’t be certain whether or not something is dangerous until it’s been properly examined and identified!”
Ianto quirked an eyebrow at his lover, a small smile tugging at his lips. “I’m well aware of that, Sir, and if it had been an alien I would have treated it accordingly, but as it’s not actually an alien, I didn’t feel that level of incarceration was warranted.”
That was surprising. “Not an alien?”
“No, Jack. It’s a stray guinea pig.”
A frown crinkled Jack’s forehead as he studied the object sitting on his floor, and he kept his gun trained on it, just in case. “Are you sure?” he asked dubiously. He’d seen guinea pigs before and this creature didn’t look anything like those. In fact there were several marked differences between the guinea pigs he’d seen over the years and this weird black shaggy thing. “It doesn’t have any ears. In fact it doesn’t even have a head!”
An amused snort greeted that statement. “Yes it does, it’s just hard to tell under all that fur; I don’t think it’s been groomed recently. It’s probably some kid’s pet that escaped, so I thought I’d put an ad in the local paper’s lost and found column, and look after it until it’s claimed. I found an old cage down in the archives, which should be suitable for now, and I’ll go over to Pet World in a bit to get it some food. Maybe Anne knows who it belongs to. If not, I’m sure she’ll ask around. Maybe she could put a notice up in the shop window.” Ianto walked over to the supposed guinea pig and scooped it up off the floor. “Come on, let’s put you in your new house and I’ll get you a carrot.”
“How are you going to work out which end to feed?” Jack asked, trailing along behind as Ianto made his way down to the kitchen, where he’s left the freshly cleaned cage, now lined with newspaper and some of Myf’s wood-shavings and straw.
Ianto shrugged. “By using logic. I’ll put carrot at both ends and see which end eats it,” he joked.
Jack nodded, taking him seriously. “That should work, I guess.”
Ianto deposited the hairy creature in the bottom of the cage, closing the door behind it, and fetched a carrot from the small supply of vegetables in the rack, leftover from Gwen’s Team Health kick the week before, when she’d tried to interest them in snacking on veg and fruit instead of biscuits and chocolate. There was some slightly wilted celery too, so Ianto tore off a stalk of that and put the rest in a glass with a drop of water in the bottom, hoping to revive it. Slicing the carrot, he put the pieces and the stalk of celery in one corner of the cage.
“Wait,” Jack protested, “I thought you said you were going to offer food to both ends?”
“I was joking, Jack. I don’t need to shove food right in front of him. I’m sure he’ll be able to sniff it out.”
Sure enough, the black bundle of fur turned ponderously and trundled through the wood-shavings to the corner where the food was, where it started gnawing on a piece of carrot. Now that it was eating, Jack could just about make out its head through the cascade of long fur.
“There, see?” Ianto smiled. “Poor little chap is hungry, I wonder how long he’s been wandering the streets.” He looked up at Jack. “Can I leave you in charge here while I go to the pet shop? I need to get him a water bottle, hay, dried food, and a brush. He’s seriously in need of a good grooming, and probably a haircut so he can see where he’s going.”
“Sure, fine, whatever,” Jack replied distractedly, eyes glued to the new guest. “He’s sort of cute, in a weird way. I think I’ll call him Sooty.”
“We’re not keeping him, Jack. We’re just taking care of him until we track down his owner.”
“I know, but he still should have a name.”
“Fine. Just don’t spend the next hour watching our temporary guest; you still have paperwork to do.”
Jack pouted. “This is the most interesting thing to happen in days, and you want me to do paperwork?”
“Yes, and I expect it to be finished by the time I get back.”
“Procrastinator.” Ianto straightened up and turned to leave the kitchen. “If you get it all done before I get back, you might get a treat,” he called over his shoulder. “If not, you’re on decaf for the rest of the day.”
As soon as Ianto was out of sight, Jack stuck his tongue out at him. “See the way he treats me?” he asked the guinea pig. Then a thought occurred to him. “Don’t go away! I’ll be right back.” He dashed up to his office, grabbed his paperwork, and returned to the kitchen, smiling to himself as he settled at the table. This way he could work and watch Sooty at the same time.
Ianto sent in his ad to the paper from the computer in the tourist office: ‘Found on Adam Street, guinea pig. Contact this number.’ He added his mobile number and the date, but no description; that was the best way of making sure the little creature got claimed by the right person. He wrote the same message on the back of a postcard to go in Pet World’s window, then slipped into his coat, made sure the ‘Closed’ sign was up, and locked the door on his way out, choosing to take the bus instead of driving so he wouldn’t have to hunt for a parking space.
Anne greeted him cheerily as he entered. “Morning, Ianto, what can I do for you today?”
“You don’t happen to know of anyone who’s lost a guinea pig do you? I found one on my way to work this morning.”
“No one’s reported losing theirs so far,” Anne replied. “What does it look like?”
“Jet black, long-haired; I’m thinking it’s a Peruvian.”
“Sounds about right,” Anne smiled. “I’ll put a notice in the window and keep my ears open.”
“Great, thank you. I have one all ready.” Ianto handed Anne the postcard, and she immediately stuck it to the inside of the shop window, where it would be easy to see.
“Are you okay to look after the stray until it’s claimed?” she asked.
“I don’t think I have much choice; Jack seems to have taken a shine to it.”
“One of these days you’ll have to bring your Jack in; I’d love to meet him.”
“I will, one day, when he’s not so busy with work,” Ianto agreed. “In the meantime, I heed some guinea pig supplies and a brush. Poor thing’s fur is matted and tangled, I think I might need to give it a haircut.”
“The long-haired varieties do take a fair bit of grooming to keep their coats in good shape.”
“I’m sure Jack will be happy to help.” More than happy, probably, knowing Jack. Anything to avoid doing his actual work.
It didn’t take long for Ianto to find what he needed, adding a heavy dish for the dried food, and a little hayrack to his purchases. Gathering up his bags, he said goodbye to Anne and caught the bus back to the Hub, where he was met just inside the cog door by Jack, evidently in a bit of a panic.
Ianto stifled a groan; he’d been gone less than an hour! “Now what?”
“Sooty isn’t a guinea pig, it’s a Tribble!” Jack exclaimed. “You fed it and now there are five of them!”
“Tribbles are fictional Jack.”
“Oh yeah? You just wait and see!” Spinning on his heel, Jack strode away.
Bemused, Ianto followed his lover to the kitchen, and sure enough, along with the guinea pig in its cage there were four small, crinkly-furred babies trotting about, two black ones, and two black-and-white. “Huh, looks like Sooty is a girl guinea pig. I thought it felt a bit fat, but I figured it was just well-fed.”
“No, Jack; still guinea pigs.”
“”Thank goodness, I was worried we’d soon be overrun with them.”
“Not as long as we’re sensible,” Ianto assured him. “They can breed fast, but nowhere near as fast as Tribbles.”
Ianto filled the water bottle and hung it on the side of the cage, gave the new mum a big dish of dried food, and shooed Jack out of the kitchen to give the little family a bit of peace. The rest of the team would be arriving at any minute so he set about making coffee. Over in the quiet corner where he’d set up the cage, he could hear the rhythmic rattle of Sooty enjoying a refreshing drink of water; just what the doctor ordered.
The rest of the team, Owen included, were delighted by the new arrivals, but Ianto did his best to keep them from being disturbed too much, although he did quickly and carefully trim Sooty’s overgrown fur while the babies were napping, concerned that it might get in the way when they were nursing.
The babies grew fast, and when they were three weeks old Ianto had to get another cage to put the two boys in to prevent any possibility of a population explosion. Surprisingly, nobody came forward to claim Sooty, and Ianto wondered if it was because her owner had realised she was pregnant. At five weeks, he put three of the babies into two carriers and took them to Anne, who had new homes lined up for them. Jack refused point blank to part with Sooty, setting up a pen in the corner of his office, where she trundled about with her black-and-white daughter, the runt of the litter, now named Minnie, both of them squeaking happily.
The pair were getting spoiled rotten, groomed daily and their long fur regularly ‘pruned’ as Jack put it. From being wary of the hairy black thing that had turned up in his office so unexpectedly, he’d turned into a doting owner and now often did his paperwork with one guinea pig on his lap and the other on the desk. Ianto realised he was going to have to get used to filing reports that had been nibbled around the edges, but it seemed a small price to pay since handing Jack a pile of work to do, plus a guinea pig, practically guaranteed it would get done.
It was surprising how much difference having a pet could make. Torchwood was probably never going to be quite the same. Time would tell whether that was a good thing or not, but Ianto was cautiously optimistic.